Funny Business: Is Everybody Doing it?

Modern day speakers are expected to be entertainers. Every one of the current top ten most viewed TED talks moves the humor needle, and many of them considerably.

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As business, entertainment, and comedy become ever more intertwined, savvy startups, leading ad agencies, and Fortune 500 firms alike are turning to humor as the ultimate tool for being memorable amidst the ringtones and vibrations of modern life. It appears top business speakers are no different.

If we apply a laughs per minute scoring system to Ken Robinson’s talk, the most viewed on TED at the time of writing, he gets enough laughs to rival an up and coming comedian. Recording how many times they laughed as a group we get (give or take a few for personal opinion and questionable math) approximately 2.8 laughs per minute. For comparison when the same system was reported in Forbes as applied by Lovefilm, a London-based video streaming service, these were the top funniest movies of all time. Importantly this does not take into account how big the laughs were but just the frequency.

    1 Airplane! – 3 laughs/minute
    2 The Hangover – 2.4 laughs/minute
    3 Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! – 2.3 laughs/minute
    4 Superbad – 1.9 laughs/minute
    5 Borat – 1.7 laughs/minute
    6 Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy – 1.6 laughs/minute
    7 American Pie – 1.5 laughs/minute
    8 Bridesmaids – 1.4 laughs/minute
    9 Shaun of the Dead – 1.3 laughs/minute
    10 Life of Brian – 1.2 laughs/minute

On a laughs per minute basis Ken is funnier than the Hangover and a hell of a lot more informative! Combine his high amount of laugher 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 ten most viewed TED talks moves the humor, and many of them considerably.

Top 10 General TED Talks. (Not the top 10 funniest importantly)

    1 Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity – 2.8 laughs/minute                                           

    2 Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are – 0.9 laughs/minute

    3 Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action – 0.27 laughs/minute

    4 Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability – 2.1 laughs/minute

    5 Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight – 1.1 laughs/minute

    6 Mary Roach: 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm – 3.4 laughs/minute

    7 Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do – 1.3 laughs/minute

    8 Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation – 0.82 laughs/minute

    9 Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology – 0.44 laughs/minute

    10 David Gallo: Underwater astonishments – 1.1 laughs/minute

    (12) Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work – 2.9laughs/minute (My own personal favourite)

Mary Roach’s talk about female orgasm generated more laughs per minute then the funniest movie ever made. Tip for the gentlemen here: If you haven’t seen it and you are asked if you familiar with Mary’s talk while in the presence of female company, at least fake it, and nod enthusiastically. The power of vulnerability delivered by a researcher generates more laughs per minute than all but 3 of the worlds funniest movies. Body language with Amy Cuddy is not far off Life of Brian, a timeless 1979 British comedy film starring and written by a whole comedy group. Yes these numbers are loose, are meant to be tongue and cheek, don’t factor in an allowance for the varied running times, do not allow for for level of laughter generated (and I am sure the movies generate bigger, more laugh out loud lines) but the underlying point is there for all to see. Top TED speakers are using humor and some extremely well. (Watch some examples here)

Our New Top 5. Where Hollywood Meets TED

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Expect TED the movie: “Information for an ADD nation”, Featuring a host of star speakers. Coming soon to a theatre near you.

Most business speakers are completely boring so by incorporating even a few laughs, your presentation will stand out from the crowd like many of the best TED talks do. High laugh per minute accounts will translate into an entertaining and engaging presentation.