Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn’t make sense, but like many of us he’s never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done.
This year he stole the show at the TED mainstage event in Vancouver and delivered a talk that even TED themselves describe as hilarious. But how funny was it? Recording how many times the audience laughed as a group, we get approximately 2.6 laughs per minute. Talking funny is paying off with nearly 3M views already.
On a laughs-per-minute basis, Tim is funnier than the movie The Hangover (2.4 laughs per minute) and, needless to say … a lot more informative!
Combine his high amount of laughter with passion and insightful, inspirational information and we have the ingredients of something really powerful. Is it any wonder we all love it? And he is not alone. Every one of the current top 10 most-viewed TED talks uses humor, and the seven below at levels high enough to make you think twice before looking to a comedy movie to make you LOL.
7 Funny and Informative TED Talks:
1. Mary Roach: 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm–3.4 laughs/minute
2. Seth Godin: This is broken–3.4 laughs/minute
3. Maysoon Zayid: I got 99 problems … palsy is just one–4 laughs/minute
4. Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?–2.8 laughs/minute
5. Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work–2.9 laughs/minute
6. Julia Sweeney: It’s time for “The Talk”–4.6 laughs/minute
7. Bob Mankoff: Anatomy of a New Yorker cartoon–2.9 laughs/minute
The good news for you if you are an aspiring funny speaker is that many of the laughs generated in these talks come from the use of funny images. (eg. 58% in Seth Godin’s talk and 35% in Tim Urban’s). You may not consider yourself naturally funny but you’re certainly capable of finding and inserting images that are.
These numbers suggest modern day audiences may even expect you to.
Some moments from Tim’s talk that show comedic techniques that you can replicate:
0.46: Note how he sets up the image and treats the image as the punchline. The image itself is the joke, not what you say after you show the image.
2.15: Short story included to flip expectations. This did not need to be in there but was likely added for comedic effect.
3.36: Note the build up of the image as likely complex to cause a flip of expectations when the simplified image is revealed. The build up causes the laugh once the obviously less complex image is revealed.
10.15: Break in pattern with inclusion of PHD students. Note how he slows down and also builds up to the reveal word (done with “lots and lots” and leaving PHD students to be the last words in the sentence). This is very much an in joke for the audience, many of who will hold PHD’s or have close friends that do.
13.40: Strong finish with callback to tie the whole talk together
Tim’s talk is awesome and you can learn a lot from the techniques he is using from the world of stand up comedy. As you can see from his audiences reactions and his talk view count some added funny can go a long way.