But I do advise you to crack jokes in your speeches. In fact, if you look back at the title, I said lame jokes! So, wait a minute, why would you want to tell a lame joke? Here’s why.
The art of jokes in speeches
Before explaining the whole lame joke fiasco, let me set up some ground rules for joke telling.
Actually, before that. I’m not a super funny person. I’m not going to teach you how to be funny, cause if I could, I would teach myself. I’m just going to talk about joke telling in debate.
When I talk about a “joke”, I am generally talking more about a witty remark or a quick line, not a story-line joke. Story-line jokes in debate are a bad idea 90% of the time. Not only does it take time, it’s just awkward. Leave those for the ballot party.
In case you were thinking of searching Google for “middle east jokes” and dropping them in round, please close that tab and rethink everything.
Story jokes give a cheesy impression, while witty remarks shine a better light on you as a speaker.
Reasons why you should employ humor in your speeches:
1) Humor creates a connection with the judge. Even if they only smirk, or their eye twinkles, you’ve connected to the judge.
2) It makes you seem more approachable and real. Debaters too often seem like plastic. It also makes the judge associate feeling happy with you.
3) Debate can be hard to watch to an untrained observer, so this helps with their attention span.
4) It makes your speech more memorable.
5) Humor can sway opinions. If the judge disagrees with you, but you can make them laugh, it will start to disarm them. That’s why I always told jokes when my brother was mad at me 🙂
Vary it up. Don’t always use jokes at the beginning of your speeches, since it will look like a template. At the same time, starting one speech with a joke might be good because it sets up success for the rest of the speech.
Having a few ideas of jokes that you can start speeches with is a good idea.
Have a backup statement if the joke flops.
In an outround at Regionals, I tried to paint a funny picture of the affirmative team proposing their plan in Congress (there’s too much context I can’t add here), but it got a very quiet reception. So I just said “that was supposed to be funny”, got laughs, and moved on.
Honestly, I think it is better to make a dumb joke and make a humorous recovery than to not attempt the joke in the first place, since it makes you seem approachable. You want the judge to be impressed by your speaking, but also like you as a person.
This brings me to the answer to the question on your mind. Why a lame joke?
Because in the serious context of a debate round, any kind of humorous remark seems funny, even if it isn’t. The point is not to convince the judge that you’re funny, but to connect with them at a human level. That’s pretty much the only reason I survived debate 😉
Of course, if you have the choice of a funny joke or a lame joke, go with the funny one. But I wrote the title “Crack a lame joke” because I want you as the reader to realize that pretty much anything will suffice. It doesn’t have to be tremendously clever.
Notable exception: cynical people, for example a lot of debate alumni, will not like cheesy humor. Tread carefully.
Don’t be ashamed or intimidated if the judge doesn’t react as boisterously as you would have liked. Sometimes judges think they’re supposed to be completely stone-faced the entire round, and then you find out from their ballot that they loved you and thought you were hilarious.
Stop being so serious.
Some debaters look like they’re debating at a funeral. You should be happy when you hit a team like that—it means the judge will like you more.
Just a heads up, at some point I plan to write up some generic jokes you can use for different situations. Get an update when that happens (and when more tips are posted) by signing up for my email list below!