Ep 208: How to be Funnier with Darren LaCroix

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Many of us believe that, for the most part, being funny is an innate skill that cannot be learned, but today’s episode might just change your mind.

Darren LaCroix is a legend in the world of public speaking and is especially well-known for his deft implementation of humor. In today’s episode, we get together with Darren for a jam-packed conversation on humor, comedy, and the tremendous amount of work and dedication it takes to become proficient in the art of stand-up.

We hear from Darren about how he first got into public speaking, why initially he was so intimidated by being humorous on stage, and how he learned that anyone can acquire the skills needed to be funny.

Tuning in you’ll hear Darren break down the differences between humor and comedy and why it’s important to discern when to use which.

Learn why the first step to comedy is training yourself to identify opportunities for humor, as well as how to hone your delivery skills.

Later, Darren explains why it’s important to understand tried-and-tested comedy formulas and how to implement them successfully as well as why identifying what’s top of mind for an audience is crucial.

We had a fantastic time talking with Darren and unpacking his knowledge and expertise.

For all this and much more, tune in today!

KEY POINTS FROM THIS EPISODE

  • Introducing today’s guest Darren LaCroix.
  • Why humor is so important in public speaking.
  • How Darren learned that humor is a skill that can be acquired.
  • The type of work and research that goes into doing stand-up comedy.
  • Why you need to learn to think like a stand-up.
  • How to train your brain to recognize humorous scenarios and how to structure your delivery.
  • Why the first step is identifying whether or not something is funny.
  • Darren’s tips for identifying opportunities for humor.
  • Creating humor for your specific audience.
  • The difference between comedy and humor and when to apply which depending on the situation.
  • Why formulas are valuable for writing humor, and how to implement them.
  • Why identifying what’s top of mind for an audience is a major part of constructing humor.
  • How to employ callbacks in your comedy.
  • Why understanding the power of dialogue is crucial to delivery.

TWEETABLE MOMENTS

“People who are the class clown people are the naturally funny people.’ He said, ‘that’s one skill set, but if you handed them a microphone and put them in front of a group of 100 strangers, they couldn’t make them laugh.’” — @DarrenLaCroix [0:03:59]

“We need to think the way funny people think. And what we’re saying is we’ve got to look at it the way they look at it.” — @DarrenLaCroix [0:08:15]

“You probably watch comedy now and after you learned it, you can see the joke coming. You can see the twist, you can see the punchline, why? ‘Cause you’ve trained your brain to think in a funny way.” — @DarrenLaCroix [0:09:53]

“Let me differentiate between comedy and humor: Comedy cuts down, humor lifts up. ‘Comedy cuts down’ means there’s a victim, means where we’re making fun of someone. Well, you can’t really do that in the corporate world, unless it’s the competition.” — @DarrenLaCroix [0:13:54]

“So the first step is [to] go and learn formulas and then you’ll start noticing patterns.” — @DarrenLaCroix [0:20:07]

“The way I define it is a setup is creating an expectation, a punchline is changing that expectation.” — @DarrenLaCroix [0:21:54]

“You’ll be a better storyteller if you can identify the beginning emotion, the end emotion, and make sure you convey it through dialogue using body language.” — @DarrenLaCroix [0:31:19]

About Darren LaCroix

After a failed business in 1992, Darren LaCroix took the stage in a Boston comedy club and bombed miserably. It was horrible. The headliner that night told him to “keep his day job.” Friends told him that his dream of making people laugh for a living was crazy and stupid. He didn’t listen.

He may have been born without a funny bone in his body, but Darren possessed the desire to learn and the willingness to fail. These were the essentials for achieving his dream. This self-proclaimed student of comedy is living proof that anything can be learned.

Less than nine years later, in 2001, Darren LaCroix outspoke 25,000 contestants from 14 countries to become the World Champion of Public Speaking. He did it with a very funny speech. Some said it was one of the best speeches in the history of the contest.

Since that victory, Darren travels the world demystifying the process of creating a powerful presentation. His story has inspired audiences in 45 International cities including faraway places like Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, Malaysia, and Taiwan with his inspirational journey from Chump to Champ. He is passionate about showing people that if you are a sponge and have the right mentors, anything is possible.

He is the co-host of the Unforgettable Presentations podcast and also the coauthor for two books, Laugh & Get Rich and the Speaker’s Edge. Through his live workshops and online programs, Darren works with presenters eager to learn what it takes to connect deeply with their audiences. As the founder of StageTimeUniversity.com he shows presenters how to be unforgettable.

LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

Darren LaCroix

Darren LaCroix on LinkedIn

Darren LaCroix on Twitter

Stage Time University: Be a Sponge

Stage Time Workshops

Mark Brown

Craig Valentine

Ed Tate

Stand Up Comedy: The Book

Darren LaCroix gives his Winning Speech at NSA

AJ Vaden on LinkedIn

AJ Vaden on Twitter

Rory Vaden

Rory Vaden on LinkedIn

Rory Vaden on Twitter

Take the Stairs

Brand Builders Group

Brand Builders Group Free Call

Brand Builders Group Resources

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Stitcher

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Apple

RV (00:07): Hey, brand builder, Rory Vaden here. Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this interview as always, it’s our honor to provide it to you for free and wanted to let you know there’s no big sales pitch or anything coming at the end. However, if you are someone who is looking to build and monetize your personal brand, we would love to talk to you and get to know you a little bit and hear about some of your dreams and visions and share with you a little bit about what we’re up to see if we might be a fit. So if you’re interested in a free strategy call with someone from our team, we would love to hear from you. You can do that at brand builders, group.com/pod call brand builders, group.com/podcast. We hope to talk to you soon. RV (00:54): Well, if you go back to the very beginning of Rory Vaden speaking career, one of my mentors told me I needed to join Toastmasters, and that was how I would get stage time. And shortly after I joined Toastmasters, I learned about a contest called the world championship of public speaking. And one of the legends of Toastmasters who I then made my mentor is who you’re about to hear from today. His name’s Darren LaCroix. He was the 2001 world champion of public speaking for Toastmasters, but he was one of my personal mentors early in my career. In fact if you come to our world-class presentation craft event, and then I start talking about humor, I share the story of how I spent my last thousand dollars on buying a ticket to Darren’s class and then buying an airplane flight to go see him in California in a hotel. RV (01:50): It was like the last I had in my checking account as I was coming out of graduate school. And it was the best thing that I ever did. Darren’s training on humor, which is not the only thing he talks about. He teaches all sorts of things around presentations, mechanics, and business. And we’ll talk about stage time university and some of the other things that he’s got going on, but, but that commitment to come and spend a few days with him changed my entire career. And the things that I learned from Darren have stuck with me for years and years and years. And we’ve never actually made the time to go back and do an interview. And I saw him last week at the national speakers association. I said, buddy, we got to bring you on to share the secrets. So welcome to the show. DL (02:32): Hey, thrilled to be here. Rory and I, as I told you, before we even started, I am so proud of you and what you’ve done and what you’ve created. There’s nothing cooler to a mentor than seeing the students surpass the mentor. You have stolen the pebble from my hand. RV (02:50): Well, I really appreciate that, man. I you know, you and ed Tate and you know, Craig Valentine and Mark Brown, I mean, you guys were, I really learned the craft of speaking and specifically with you. And when I often tell your story, I, it most comes up just around humor because that was, that was the thing. Like for me, that seemed the most unrealistic. Like I knew when I said, if I’m going to win the world championship of public speaking, like you have to be funny. And I said, I’m not funny like that. So that was, that was like this big roadblock. And also to be a professional speaker. I was like, this is going to meet my biggest dilemma. Like my biggest barrier is that I’m not funny. And then I met you and you had gone through all of this work and this research of figuring out and making it, making it practical of going, actually, this is a skill it’s not, it’s not just talent. So do you still believe that? I know it’s been 20 years since DL (03:59): I believe it more than ever, you know, that’s the one thing you’re either born funny or you’re not, and that’s a, that’s a big myth. I remember when I first was working up the courage to ask a comedian for advice to go through this crazy thing. Cause I just like, you was not funny. I was quiet. I was shy. I had no business being on a stage and I just decided I was at such a low point in my life. I’ve got to just try it because I can’t live with the regret of wondering what if, and I asked this comedian, that was, he was a headliner, never been to a comedy show before. And I said, what do I need to do? And he asked me a question. He said, are you funny? I said, no. And he said, good. And I’m like, good. DL (04:40): What do you mean? Good? And he was the one that first explained that people who are the class clown, people are the naturally funny people. He said, that’s one skillset. He said, but if you handed them a microphone and put them in front of a group of 100 strangers, they couldn’t make them laugh. He said, but that skillset can be learned. You know, I turned into Scooby doo. I’m like, what? You know, he just handed me an ounce of hope. And as you know, just like I told you, number one, he said, go get the book. And I’m like book, there’s a book about standup comedy. And so, yeah, of course his books about everything, but I wasn’t thinking that way. And you and I both got the book by Judy Carter, stand up comedy, the book and going through the exercises. I realized comedians don’t want you to know that they actually go through a lot of work to get there. But what I learned was the structure of comedy, the structure of humor and that just like anything can be learned. And eventually I was able to find a way to make it work for me and my style. RV (05:44): Yeah. Well, and I, I did read that book as well as every other book that you recommended. Yeah. And then, and then wrote one. And, and I, I actually, after I went through all those, I, one of the reasons that I wrote, and this is, you know, Darren knows, but nobody else does because my very first book, people think take the stairs was my first book. Because we set the world up to be that way. It was my first traditionally published book and our team, you know, we did the huge bestseller launch and all that stuff. But I actually wrote a book called how to be funny, to make more money, which was a self published book before that Darren remembers, that was how I paid my bills in the early days. And I was disappointed with a lot of the books that I read because they weren’t as straightforward and practical. RV (06:29): They felt still artsy and not science-y. But when you taught it to me, I felt like, yeah, there’s there’s structure here. There’s a, there’s a, there’s a systematic process to the, to the, to the whole game of, of of comedy. So can you talk about what that is? You know, just like what, what, what is the premise like you even say that because you go, even the class clown, can’t grab a mic and suddenly make everybody laugh. I think that is that’s worth everybody knowing. And so when you dive in or you think about, okay, what is it then that makes an audience laugh and what is the work that comedians are doing that they don’t want us to know about as a part of like, you know, getting to that place. DL (07:17): Yeah. I have presenters and speakers come to me like I got to write a funny speech. How do I write a funny speech, especially in Toastmasters, around humorous speech contest time. And they’re like, what’s funny, what’s, what’s a subject. What’s a funny subject. I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t know your life. And just like you and I went through the Judy Carter book, she said, what are your flaws? What are your failures? So Craig Valentine. And I say, what are your failures, your flaws, and your first, your failures, your flaws and your first. So again, it’s understanding the process, a class clown. If you force them to go up on stage in front of a hundred strangers, what they would do is they’d go do movie quotes. They’d do characters, they’d rip off Robin Williams or Jerry Seinfeld. And they’d tell other people’s material. DL (08:03): Well, that’s, that’s illegal. It’s not right. And you would never get booked as a speaker or a comedian if you’re doing other people’s material. I remember in my early days of standup by Saara, I was studying Robin Williams, so much word for word and writing out his jokes. And I was doing an open mic night. I saw this guy go up for his very first time. And he was literally doing Robin Williams, word for word. And he bombed. And that was a whoa, it’s not just the words. It’s the character, it’s a persona. And it’s also coming from your life. You know, one of my first jokes written out of the Judy Carter book was what’s a failure. Well, my subway sandwich shop, you know, that was a huge failure. And then she walks you through a process and understanding the delivery part of it, the attitude part of it. DL (08:53): I think, you know, Rory, when people telling stories, whether they’re funny or not, but it’s that storytelling bringing it to the point of dialogue where we hear thoughts or their internal thoughts, or we hear the conversation. That’s where the vibrant emotion is. So I looked at my $60,000 debt and she said, okay, brag about it. I’m like what brag about it? And that’s not how normal people think. So if you’d agree with this, that funny people think differently than if we want to be funny, or we need to think the way funny people think. And what we’re saying is we’ve got to look at it the way they look at it. And that’s what you discovered. That’s what I discovered was there’s processes that comedians and humorous go through to create the humor. And then there’s still some testing and tweaking and testing and tweaking great jokes. DL (09:50): Aren’t written, they’re rewritten, great speeches. Aren’t written, they’re rewritten. But most people, when you see somebody on their own comedy special, or on one of the late night comedy shows or tonight show or something, you’re seeing the culmination of years and years of one little five minute routine, you don’t see the work. And I think that’s the thing. If you’re willing to put in the work, you could make something funny. You know, the fastest way would be to hire a humorous joke writer, but still you’ve got to own the material they’ve got to interview you. They’ve got to dig it out of you. And then you could have somebody quote, unquote, punch it up, but you still have to deliver it. And so the Judy Carter joke, as you know, my Mark Brown story, that wasn’t even in my championship speech. And mark said, Hey, you know, your speech is about failure. DL (10:40): We need a failure. And I’m like, oh well, I used to do this joke about my shop. And he said, go ahead and do it. And I delivered it right there in the board room. No one else is around. And I said, you know, I don’t want to brag, but I took a $60,000 debt. And in six short months I doubled that debt. And so, you know, but it’s a bragging about failing and without the structure and understanding from Judy Carter and going through the exercises like, but when you go through the exercises, what you’re doing is training your brain to look for those things. I mean, you know, you probably watch comedy now and after you learned it, you can see the joke coming. You can see the twist, you can see the punchline. Why? Because you’ve trained your brain to think in a funny way. RV (11:27): Yeah. And I, I think, you know, you’re, you’ve, you’ve mentioned a couple of components here that I want to draw out for everybody because you know, the way that I’ve kind of even teed up this conversation is the writing of the joke, right? Like, okay, how do you write the joke? But you’ve already touched on that. A huge part of it is the delivery of the joke and the persona. But then there’s this other part, which I P I think people overlook and even I overlooked for a really long time, which is that identifying the opportunity as the first, like the first key step is to identify, oh, there’s something funny here. And I think it’s like, if you could, it’s, if you can capture it, like, if you can set this alarm, like, ah, there’s something around it, and then you can run it through the mechanics of writing it. RV (12:20): And then you get enough stage time, which, you know, I’m surprised we’ve made it a few minutes into this conversation. And we haven’t talked about the Darren LaCroix mantra is stage time, stage, time, stage, time. I mean, that was the thing that was just drilled into my head and thousands of Toastmasters over years and years and years just hear Darren say stage time, stage, time, stage, time. Cause that’s the delivery part. Like you can’t learn the delivery part without just practicing, but coming back to identify, because I’d like to talk about writing and then maybe delivery a little bit as well. Now you, you said earlier, you know, your failures, your flaws and your first. That’s awesome. I’ve never heard you say that before. Where was, where was that? 20 years ago when I needed it. So are there any other tips you have around identifying the opportunity? Cause it’s, I think that’s kind of what, what, I didn’t know, which I do now, and you’re alluding to it is that there, nobody just sits down and goes and writes this brilliant line. Right? It’s, it’s a process that we take people through and if we can go, how do we, how do we identify? Is there anything else around like us noticing it? Yeah. DL (13:32): And I know your audience, there’s a lot of people who are presenters. There are entrepreneurs, there are coaches here listening. So one of the ways is if you can create some humor for your specific audience and we’re, we, I don’t know if you knew this early on. When I came from a stand-up comedy into keynote speaking, I basically had no speech. It was just, what is the humerus? So what I would do is I took my clean jokes and I turned them into corporate jokes. And then I was just, I didn’t have enough content for 45 minutes. So what I did is I overcompensated and I customized about them because I still had a day job. And I had a lot of time. Cause I wasn’t speaking that much. So what I would do, one of my secrets leading into what your question is, is I would always call up the clients. DL (14:22): And I would ask for 10 names of people who are being in the audience, not just the board of directors, I want the people on the ground, whatever that means in that organization or association. And I want to interview them. And what I ask them is what are your pet peeves? And then I’ll ask them, what are your frustrations? It’s pretty much the same question, but it actually kind of like jumps into a little different part of their brain because humor, okay. Different. Let me differentiate bringing comedy and humor. Comedy cuts down, humor, lifts up comedy. It cuts down means there’s a victim means where, you know, we’re making fun of someone. Well, you can’t really do that in the corporate world, unless it’s the competition. That’s, you know the exception then they’ll love you, but humor lifts up. So when we mean lifting up, what are we talking about? DL (15:12): Well, we’re talking about a release of tension. So finding the humor is where is the tension? Where is the tension in their lives? So if I’m talking to a bank, okay. At that bank, where is there tension? If I’m talking to entrepreneurs, where is there tension? Okay. So for entrepreneurs, it might be their employees or staff. If I’m talking to employees or staff, it might be the boss. So where is that frustration? So we need to find where the tension is in order to release it, find where it is order to release it. And then one of my favorite principles, I don’t know if I learned this before I worked with you or after, but I call it the registration desk principle. When I go to a convention or conference, when they’re live, I go to the registration desk and when no one’s around, I pull aside the people who are working the desk and I say, why are people complaining about because their complaints are their frustrations. DL (16:07): So I’m not looking for one rogue thing I’m looking for. What is that commonality? So just to give you a quick example, one, I was speaking to save international society for the advancement of value. Engineers still don’t know what that is, but that was, and it was in San Antonio, Texas, and you know, every convention and conference, there’s the tension of those people, the engineers, but there’s also the tension of the event. So I was asking them and at first they said, no. And then they said, well, yeah, everybody can’t find a, one of the meeting rooms HASI and the G. And I was like, oh, that’s interesting. Cause all the meeting rooms are in one area, but they had one more meeting room and it was way off the beaten path. So when I walked up there on stage, I said, you know, good morning, Hey, if you’re looking for HASI and the G and boom, okay. DL (16:58): Because it is the common frustration. It is top of mind, I got them. And then I just tagged it. I said, just go out the back door, go through the kitchen. It gets a laugh, go out to Crockett avenue, go about a mile and a half down. When you get to the Alamo, take a right. And they were just rolling, but I identified their tension and that would work anywhere else or would it I’m speaking at the Rio and I was speaking for contours express. These are owners, entrepreneurs, owners of a workout place that used to be, I don’t even know if they’re still in existence, but they were the, the competition to curves, you know? So a woman’s workout place and they’re all the owners and they’re here in Vegas at the Rio. If you know the Rio if you don’t know the Rio, there’s like one tall of rooms where all the rooms are. DL (17:52): And then the convention center, you’re going to walk a mile and a half down a hallway, take a right walk, another mile and a half, take a left, walk another it’s far. And so the cool thing about being a middle-aged bald guy is I blend in and nobody notices me before I go on stage. So I just go in and I’m listening, I’m listening. And I hear women. It was 99% women. I hear women in the hallway. They’re wearing their heels. They’re like, wow, this is a long walk. Oh my gosh, I should’ve wore my sneakers, dah, dah, dah, dah. And so I go up on stage and I say, Hey, welcome to the Rio. Isn’t it beautiful. And everybody claps. And I say, I don’t know if you know this or not, but Rio is actually a native American term, which stands for long flip and hall. RV (18:40): And in that moment, boom, boom. DL (18:43): He loved it. And you know, it won’t work in anywhere else unless there’s a similar frustration. So RV (18:51): Go ahead. Well, how do you, so, so I love this, cause this is, you could add this to your list of apps, right? You’ve got your first, your failures your, your flaws, your failures, your first, the frustrations. So like, so how do you write it now? What is one thing that you know, these are, these are such great examples. And in my experience, this is also true. That anything that is real-time in the moment, it’s like, it doesn’t even have to be funny. Like, all you have to do is mention Hacienda G it doesn’t matter how you get there. You just say HASI and to G you know, couldn’t find it. Like, it, it, it’s hilarious is that basically all there DL (19:32): Is it’s about them. Well, that is easy. That’s a first step. And the more you do it, but again, just like you, the more you study it, the more you can identify, but you also have to be careful that you’re not upsetting the event planner. You know, if you’re brought in as a speaker. So I always go and have a conversation with the person who paid me, not the person who works for the person who paid me and I run it by them just to make sure I said, look, they’re already upset. They can’t find Hacienda. G like, if I can relieve that tension, you’re going to get less complaints later on. If you don’t want me to bring that up, that’s fine. It’s your call. So I kind of run it by them. And usually they’re like, oh, please do something. Cause they’re complaining. DL (20:16): Anyway. So, but as you know, going through the books like that, what most people don’t know, but comedians do is that there are formulas. There are comedy formulas that we learn that you go through. So Rio is a native American term means long flip and hallway. Well, Robin Williams, believe it or not, even though he’s unbelievable at what he does, nobody was better at improv than him. And he would just, you know, fire things off like that photographic memory, but even used formulas when the formula works. So knowing the formula and then how you can take that frustration and pop it into a formula. So for example, Robin Williams had a joke that was a divorce coming from the Latin term, meaning to rip a man’s genitalia out through his wallet. But it’s the same exact formula. What’s the word. Okay. Rio. They were all in his divorce. And then you take the term and I call this, I didn’t invent the formula. I just noticed it. And I named it redefining the redefining formula. So I redefine a word named that the audience is aware of, but I redefine it tying into the frustration of the audience. Right. So that’s just one example, but knowing the formula, so first step is like, Hey, go and learn all the formulas and then you’ll start noticing patterns. Yeah. RV (21:48): Yeah. And, and, you know you teach the formulas, we teach them that we’ve come to. But you know, I think all of them, all of these formulas kind of come back to this one idea, which is around the, like basically predicting the brain predicts what it thinks it’s going to hear. And when you say something different than that, that’s kind of like, that’s kind of like the twist now, the thing that’s cool about the F the frustration part of this is like, you don’t even have to know the formula. You just have to, you just have to say it. Once, you know, once you know, the formulas, it’s super powerful because you can, you can, you can kind of like quickly fill in the blanks for things, but on, on that one, w would you say that half, half the battle, at least half the battle is just identifying, this is what everyone’s talking about. This is what they’re frustrated about it. And you just kind of like, bring it up. Yeah. Yeah. DL (22:43): That’s 80% of it. I would say because you’re, what’s top of mind set up and a punchline. So a setup is already in the mind of the audience. So what we’re looking for is what are they thinking about? What’s top of mind. Now, if I go back to a convention or a conference two years ago, of course, COVID, isn’t even on the radar screen now it’s top of mind, but now it’s also over done. You want to puke when you hear the word pivot, you’re like, oh yeah, that’s a brilliant idea. So, anyway, it’s knowing what’s top of mind, but again, asking the question. So frustrations change over time and going back to what you just said, the twist, the best analogy I’ve ever heard was George Carlin. He said, it’s like a train going down, a train track. You can see clearly and exactly where the train is going. DL (23:31): You see the tracks, you know, the train is going that way. We laugh when our mind is successfully tricked. We laugh when our mind is successfully tricked. And what that means is we laugh when the train is derailed. When we an expectation, what I say, the way I define it as a setup is creating an expectation. A punchline is changing that expectation. So in my championship speech, I talked about Dr. Goddard’s rocket launch, and I said, the rocket took off and it went vertically and I do a big motion, really enthusiastic. And then I say, landed in Auburn. So I create the expectation the rocket went far, but then I do a very matter of fact delivery that it landed in Auburn, RV (24:18): Right. Where it took off. Yeah. And that’s, I mean, there’s, there’s there, there’s so many great moments in that speech, which I think is that it’s on, is that on YouTube? Can you go just Google, Darren LaCroix, 2001 world championship speed is still, is still on there. So not, not all every year is up there, but certain ones are, and yours is one of them DL (24:37): For the rights to put it up there. Yeah. RV (24:39): It’s just, it’s it’s it is literally just classic. I mean, seeing the, the punchline after a punchline. The, the, the other thing that I wanted to talk about in terms of identifying slash writing is callbacks. So frustrations and callbacks to me have a very similar I guess like characteristic of one another, which is that you don’t really have to know the formula. You pretty much just have to comment on the thing and everybody laughs you know, that you got frustration. So can you, can you talk about what a callback is? Cause I think callbacks are one of the easiest ways to get laughs immediately, if you literally just know what it is and just like, you just gotta like flip the switch in your brain and go, okay, I need to be looking for callbacks. Can you, can you talk, talk us through the concept? Yeah. When DL (25:34): I get to a convention or a conference, I try to get there and spend a day with the people at the convention, just sitting there listening and observing. But what I’m looking for is what are those big emotional moment or what are the funny moments? Like if a speaker has a funny line and it’s lampshade, like I want to in my speech, see if I can hide it, but then bring up lampshade because it’s gotta be an automatic trigger. So a callback is literally calling back or referring back to a word or a moment. Now we don’t want to just call back to anything. We want to call back to either big emotion or big laughs. So I always, if I’m not able to be there a day ahead of time, I will literally walk around asking people, Hey, what was the funniest moment? What, what do you remember? And it’s looking for commonality, that’s the key I’m looking for commonality. If one person thought one thing was funny. That is not enough. We’re looking for that commonality. So, eh, I don’t know if you were there, but in 2002 I was speaking, I was doing ouch, my winning at the NSA convention from the main stage and it was in Arizona and they had this big opening pomp and circumstance and a guy’s riding in on a horse. Do you remember this RV (26:57): Guys? I don’t know if I was there. DL (26:59): Okay. Guys riding in on a horse, playing a banjo and it was a big pomp and circumstance opening. It was great. He was awesome. He was talented and the horse goes right up to the front of the stage and he’s playing his banjo well in the middle of the song, the horse poops, but he’s got, but he’s got a bucket on, but the horse overshoots the bucket. Oh. And now, and so yeah, it was a funny moment. It’s like, Hey, it’s a horse. That’s what horses do. So I got Michael on, I don’t know if you know, Michael on a pass world champion, ed Tate and a couple other people. And I sat down and I was like, okay, tomorrow morning, I’m speaking on this stage. How can I use that? How can I call back to that moment? So I’m looking at the opening of my speech. DL (27:44): And if you remember, I CA well, I came out and I follow my face in my winning speech. And I give Potter my speech intentionally from the stage. So I do it the same way. I always do it. And then I just go, is this where the horse did it? And it was an 11 second laugh. It was the biggest laugh I’ve probably ever got then people in NSA, still talk about that moment. I’m like, this was a setup from God, you know, like to be able to do my speech the next day, where I fall on my face and the horse pooped the night before and everybody, sorry, you know, that’s the thing is if everybody didn’t see it, it, wouldn’t be funny, really looking for that universal callback in that situation. So if there’s a speaker who talks about microphones and you know, the microphone fell in the toilet, you know, you want to, okay, how can I use it? How can I call back to that? So you look in the middle of your speech or maybe at the opening, how you can connect. Cause it’s taking that emotionally charged moment and tapping into the goodness, the good energy of that moment. So it’s one of the simplest, most powerful things that anyone can do. The callback. RV (28:55): Yeah. That’s and if, if I were to follow you, I would go, oh, Darren LaCroix laid off, fell on his face and was laying on stage. That would be an opportunity potentially for a call back. Like, I wouldn’t know exactly in that moment, just like you didn’t in about the horse, but you go, this is a big moment that everybody saw. Everybody will remember this moment. And so that’s where you identify, I love what you said. I did not know that backs, that backstory that you said, okay, you identified it. And then you grab some of your buddies and said, Hey, this happened, how could I use this? And again, it doesn’t have to be the, the beautiful part about both frustrations and callbacks is they have to be brilliantly written, like 90% of the game is just like mentioning it. And I, I love that. So I want to ask you about delivery too, but before we do that, so I got one last question about delivery. Darren, where should people go? I know we’ve had, this has been an awesome deep dive in, into the world of humor, but you teach storytelling stage mechanics, like all the components of also, you know, creating speeches, getting books for your first speeches. Where, where do you want to send people to, if they want to learn more about what you’re up to? Sure. Thanks for DL (30:19): Asking. If you want to know the top 10 mistakes speaking mistakes, I’ve been coaching for two decades all around the world, executives, speakers, coaches, and just go to be a sponge.com and it’s a free download. It’s a PDF and yes, you would get my newsletter. So if you want to just get the PDF and opt off, no worries. Just do it. And also the top 10 virtual mistakes. If you want to know about my [email protected], RV (30:47): I love that. So we’ll put a link there to be a sponge.com. You can download that. All right. So we talked about identifying a couple of tips on writing when it comes to delivery, what would you say is the, the, the biggest thing that you have to know or understand about delivering the moment like delivering the punchline? You know, the joke, the set up like just the, you know, standing on stage and saying, saying the bit. DL (31:16): Yeah, to me, the biggest thing is understanding the power of dialogue. You know, I had been a Toastmaster for seven years in four clubs work my butt off part-time professional, but it wasn’t until I met my coach, Mark Brown, where he showed me that I was telling my stories in the past tense. What I needed to do is bring the audience into the moment. In the first version of my speech, I told people about telling my parents, I wanted to be a comedian. He said, no, no, no. Bring us to the moment, let us hear it, which is dialogue. And then piggybacking on that, my delivery, like one of the places I stand out, every speaker has their skills as a coach and as a speaker and one of mine is character delivery. But what I do well is I convey the emotion, body language, not gesture. DL (32:04): A gesture is a rehearse body movement that has no emotional connection to the moment. So what I teach people to do is go watch a Pixar movie, but keep an eye on the eyes of the two dimensional character on stage, because they, the shape of the eye changes with the emotion of the character. When we’re delivering, we need to say it in dialogue, whether it’s internal or external, but we need to convey the emotion of the moment. And then the third biggest thing is we need to show a shift of emotion. So if the story, if we’re telling a story for business purposes, for entertainment purposes, the heart of the story, there’s a shift in emotion. So I always get people, identify the emotion at the beginning of the story and the emotion at the end of the story. And if there’s no change of emotion, that’s not the story. DL (32:58): You have the wrong part. There has to be some shift and at least one character. So to show that, you know, you can record yourself and go back and watch the recording shut off the sound and would, you know the emotion of the character. Now, you don’t, I’m animated, but that’s just me and my style. You’ve got to do it your way in your style. But when I went home to tell my parents, I want to be a comedian on stage. It was. So I was all excited. Imagine, you know, my parents’ reaction after stretching their budget to help me through college. And I go home and I walked in the door, mom, dad, I want to be a comedian. DL (33:37): I was met by silence. Ouch. So if you’re listening to the podcast, you couldn’t see my face change, but you probably heard it in my voice. Same thing. They’re connected. So I come in excited. So if I was to break down that story, just break down your story, look at your characters, name, each of the character and that one, there’s three characters, mom, dad, and Darren. And what’s their emotion at the beginning. Okay. Mine’s excited. Okay. Mom and dad, they don’t even talk, but they have a beginning emotion, which is they’re anticipating what their son’s going to say. They’re eager. They want to hear. And then boom, I asked that question and mine goes to shock. There’s Kosta, shocked and dismayed. So in that tiny little 17 second story, there’s a shift in at least one character. So if you you’ll be a better storyteller, if you can identify the beginning emotion, the end emotion and make sure you convey it through dialogue, using body language, RV (34:34): Love it. Love it, love it. Y’all this is just the beginning. There’s so much to explore here. Obviously we’ve been students of it, our whole career, myself, a J our team. There’s, there’s so much just in the mechanics of presentations that everybody thinks they’re a great speaker. When they, when they come to work with brand builders group, nobody said like, very few people are like, oh yeah, I need help with my speech. Everybody goes, oh, no, I got that part down. And it’s like, you have no idea. Like you have no idea the level of crafting, and it’s not just what Darren does or what we do. Like you said, it’s Robin Williams. It’s Jerry Seinfeld. It’s it is every like the greatest orators on the planet are that way, because they have worked at this. They’ve had stage time, stage, time, stage, time, they’ve been coached through it. RV (35:25): They, they, they work onlines, as Darren said, grade lines, aren’t written they’re rewritten. And anyways, Darren, thanks for giving us a little bit of insight into that today. And some practical things that we can do to, to be funnier. I’m so grateful for you, man. And the impact that you’ve had on my life our life, you know, and then yeah, now the, the hundreds of members inside a brand builders group that we’re trying to help, you know, go make a difference in the world through the stuff that you’ve taught us. And man, we just wish you the best. Thanks buddy. DL (35:55): Thanks for having me and congratulations on all your success.

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25 of the World's Most Recognizable Influencers Share Their Tips on How to Build and Monetize a Personal Brand

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