Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Warning: Humor Can Be Hazardous

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Warning: Humor Can Be Hazardous

Article excerpt

"In his presentations, my boss is frozen in time--still telling blond, sexist and racial jokes, unaware of how this affects his reputation. He thinks he's funny! Interestingly, he reads your columns and has circulated them among the staff as suggested reading. So, my thinking is that if you write about humor, he might benefit."

--Sue from Indianapolis Humor in any business presentation is far more serious than many speakers realize. While audiences enjoy laughter, humor can have an enormous impact on not just an audience, but a career.

When those "hysterically funny" jokes don't go over, speaker credibility and respect can be in serous jeopardy. Does this mean you avoid anything funny? Of course not. There is a place for laughter in many speaking situations. But as the following story illustrates, humor is potentially dangerous.

A funny thing happened on the way to the vault

Ted, president of a community bank in a Los Angeles suburb, invited me to hear a speech he was making to a group of lawyers and accountants.

It was an audience of about 45 professionals, all in business attire. The CEO and several members of Ted's board of directors and major shareholders were also present. He was introduced, immediately took off his coat and tie, rolled up his sleeves, and then removed a batch of new $20 bills from his pocket. "Would anyone like some samples of money I took from the vault, this morning?" he asked with a straight face.

"It's free and brand new. Come-on, really, I want to give you guys a few twenties," he repeated to a mute and incredulous audience.

His 30-minute presentation was spiked with lawyer and CPA jokes, everything read, word for word from a yellow legal tablet. Ted was blissfully unaware that half of the audience had quietly snuck out--those who did not fall asleep--and he seemed mystified when there were no takers to his "Any questions?" ending.

"Whadya think, Beav? Not bad, if I do say so myself!" he proclaimed afterward, beaming with satisfaction. …

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