How To Deliver Jokes In A Wedding Speech

How To Deliver Jokes In A Wedding Speech


The other day, I had a call with a Father of the Bride.  As a C-level exec, he makes presentations all the time, but they’re not funny so he’s feeling out of his element.

His main question –

“How long should I pause after a joke?”

Well, there's no official answer for that question.

See you next week with another helpful tip! 

Ok, fine. Let’s go a little deeper. 

If you put a gun to my head (which seems like a real over-reaction,) I’d tell you that the ideal pause time is roughly the time it takes for you to say in your head, “one, and.”

But, the real key to improving your comedic timing is understanding WHY you’re pausing.

Most importantly, it gives your audience a chance to laugh – without obliterating the next line in your speech. 

If people laugh and you don’t pause, that laugh is going to step on the next thing you say. You’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating your speech (or you’ve paid me good money to do so,) so I assume you want people to hear every word of it?

With a speech that has a lot of jokes, that next thing you say is particularly important – it’s probably the set-up to your next joke. 

And if people can’t hear the set-up, they can’t laugh at the punchline. Without the right set-up, punchlines don’t make any sense. 

Here’s just the punchline of one of my favorite classic jokes: “Read the card!” Are you laughing? 

So, yeah. Pausing is important. 

Now, with all that said, when it comes to pauses, there can be too much of a good thing. 

Don’t deliver your joke and then stare expectantly at your audience, refusing to move on until they laugh – y’know, the way your boss does. “Good one, sir!” 

Next time you’re working on a toast or speech, go through it and think about -- or even mark -- the spots where you would laugh if you were in the audience. Some laughs will be big, some will be subtle. They’re all good, and they all count. 

What should you do if your joke doesn’t get a laugh?  Don’t get in your head. Just keep moving. Think of it as a small stumble on the sidewalk. You know, the one where you do a quick jog and jump back into your normal walking rhythm as quickly as humanly possible. “Nothing to see here.” Your audience will only be uncomfortable if you’re uncomfortable. 

Want a masterclass in pauses?  Watch your favorite comic perform and pay attention to their timing. A few of my favorites: Wanda Sykes, Kathleen Madigan, Dave Chapelle, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, Mike Birbiglia and Chris Rock.

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Hi, I'm Beth. I'm a comedian, an Emmy-winning comedy writer, and the founder of Authentically Funny Speeches.

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