Image source: Ken Cedeno
The Ad Council’s “Leveraging the Laugh” event last week in Washington D.C.featured two architects of funny: Brad Jenkins, Managing Director of viral entertainment powerhouse Funny or Die, and David Litt, Presidential Speechwriter at the White House. Yes, it was a night of laughs—but also learning. Here are some insights on using humor as a medium for your social good message:
1. Go for the goals
In the social good space, “comic timing” isn’t just about how well a joke lands, but how relevant your content is for your audience. Start with the goals you have developed with your partners. Knowing the creative process for turning serious to funny resembled “Communications Strategy 101” was perhaps the most surprising insight of the evening
2. Understand that humor has many forms
Comedy as a genre is just as complex as the messages you convey and the communities you reach. As Brad Jenkins stated “there is a spectrum of funny.” Will you use a meme or mockumentary? Will you channel John Oliver’s satire or Lucille Ball’s slapstick? Consider the multiple forms of humor to deliver that punchline and take your message to heart.
3. Avoid laughing if it hurts your message
Comedy can simultaneously push the envelope and inspire. Still, consider the potential downsides to a joke. If a joke could detract from your issue—David Litt provided this guidance: “Ask if it’s still worth it.” A comedy of errors isn’t just ‘meta’, it’s messy!
4. Answer the hard question: Can you take a joke?
A key question Funny or Die considers when collaborating with a partner is “Can the client or brand laugh at itself?” The very nature of performing comedy relies on some level of vulnerability and a willingness to be in on the joke—even if that means the joke is on you!
5. Think “write stuff” to get to the right stuff
Good comedy isn’t instant, it’s avoid “analysis paralysis” and keep making jokes until you get it right. Both Jenkins and Litt shared the value of writing several bad jokes and hearing less than perfect pitches. Most importantly, be open to criticism and brutal honesty to get the quality you want and the impact you need.
Humor has a place in the most challenging times. As Paula Veale of the Ad Council shared in the “Leveraging the Laugh” opening remarks, “we need more voices, more passion.” With the right approach and application, comedy can help your cause champions applaud even louder.