[Lessons Learned] Humorous Speech

Random Observation/Comment #396: I have a lot of respect for comedians. They stand up on stage with everyone pressuring them to be funny and judging them with false expectations. Based on how well known they are, they have different level of expectations to constantly make people laugh. On the other hand, what other job lets you stand in front of a crowd making fart jokes?

see lemons laugh

As with most things that I do, it started off with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”  In this case, I said to myself, “Self, wouldn’t it be cool if you wrote a comedy skit and performed it?”  Yes – Yes it would. Challenge accepted.

Writing the Speech – Preparation:

Road rage


How many of you here drive?  Own a car? Drive when on vacation?

Now, I’m from Long Island and I’ve been driving my entire life. I love doing it – the speed, the control, and the freedom of driving is a wonderful thing. The only problem – I’m not a very good driver.  I’m not even talking about the Asian stereotype here so it doesn’t have to do with skill, I mean I’m not a very well-tempered driver. Being in a car and behind the wheel just changes me completely. I turn from a mild-mannered Chinese IT guy into an awful foul-mouthed beast.

Give an example, you ask? Okay. Just the other day, I was in the car with my mom. And I love my mom – she’s loving and level headed all the time, but she’s a terrible drive – she can’t even see the road, she has to look through that little space between the steering wheel and the dashboard and wears two different types of glasses. I remember when I was doing my driver’s test, she was the one grabbing onto the seatbelt for dear life and throwing her legs onto the dashboard.  I thought my middle name was “Watch Out’ because she said “Clemens, Watch out!” 50 times every ride.

Anyway, there wasn’t even an accident, but my road rage was just built up inside me. Before I tell you what happened. You know how everyone has their biggest pet peeve. Some people don’t like wet socks. Some people don’t like it when they have to reschedule meetings 10 times.  Some people hate it when someone stands in front of you and calls for a taxi when you were obviously calling for one first.  Well mine, when it comes to driving is when there’s a long line waiting at an exit and someone just merges into that exit at the last moment.  It’s the worst. I hate it. Those people are selfish and they should die.

Well.. The thing I hate most. My biggest driving pet peeve happened. I was waiting in line like a good person to merge into the George Washington bridge for 30 minutes and I knew it was about to happen. I even saw it happening in slow motion. Before he did it, I literally said “I swear if you merge into my lane, I will kill you until you die.” Of course he did it anyway and then I needed to get out of the car and take out my baseball bat… no no… I did nothing but I knew I would get the most evil look from my mom because I realized she was in the car.  When I looked over, she was giving the guy the finger. It was awesome. I love my mom.

What I especially don’t like about driving is that you can’t drink alcohol. I mean, you can if you’re irresponsible and a terrible person, but you really shouldn’t. I’m usually the guy stuck being the designated driver. And that’s the worst. When you’re drunk and in the moment, it’s funny, but when you’re sober and watching someone, it’s just stupid.  Just being in the bar and drinking water pretending people are interested, but really laughing at them because they’re just being weird.

What I do instead is I substitute alcohol with coffee. While my friends are having 3 beers and a shot of jager, I’m drinking 3 lattes and a shot of espresso. People look over at me and think I have issues because I’m wired. It gets to the point where the guy behind the counter needs to look at me sincerely and say “We’re going to have to cut you. You are being way too productive and you haven’t blinked in 10 minutes. This girl thinks you’re interested because you’re listening to her every word.”

For those that think drinking alcohol and driving is bad. Try drinking 5 cups of starbucks with a car full of drunk people and trying to drive home. It’s a terrible ordeal to stay reasonably within the speed limits and not think your heart is about to explode.  I usually have to drive them home. There’s a particular night, I have to drive my drunk friends home.

So, of course, a cop pulls me over for speeding and he says “hey, did you know how fast you were going?”

“NO! NO! No idea. The first time I’ve done drinking and driving. Drinking coffee and driving.”

And so the cop says, “It’s okay. It happens to the best of us. You’ll be fine. Just don’t do it again. They should make a law out of this. That’s why I’m speeding all the time because I’m always eating donuts and drinking coffee”

What I’m really trying to say is… I think road rage is normal and it’s healthy. Don’t be embarrassed about it.

We all commute in NYC here, and it would be crazy if you just started yelling at someone for stepping into your space or bumping into you by accident.  You can do it in your car because that’s basically like an extension of your mind where you can sing off tune and yell at people, BUT just like you don’t flip out on someone next to you on the subway. You shouldn’t carry a bat in your car and hit their headlights when a stranger cuts you off waiting on line to the George Washington Bridge. I learned that the hard way.

The Outcome:

I gave this speech again at the Toastmasters Area-level and won second place. It was a lot of fun to make people laugh and they were surprisingly welcoming of the speaking style. The other speeches were much more well prepared than mine, but I think mine, in nature, was much more disarming and brute. I gave myself plenty of opportunities in the quotes to mimic other people and use hand gestures.

Lessons Learned:

The content for the joke is important, but I think the delivery and confidence is half the battle. If you set up a punch line and nail it clearly, I feel like there’s no other reaction than for the audience to laugh.  I also found it helps to give speeches in story form. I’ve never been good at memorizing speeches, so the reverse outlines and conversational tone really fits the humorous speech skit.

~See Lemons Hah Hah