I believe that humor has two parts: the ART of Humor and the SCIENCE of Humor. (Pal and fellow corporate comedian Mark Mayfield helped me articulate this point.) It is totally possible to teach the Science part of humor… the anatomy of a joke, some easy techniques that are just formulas… they work for any audience. And we can talk about how to learn the art.
But that second part, the ART of Humor is a toughie. Yes, I can (or any studied humorist can) help others become more funny. Yes, I can help you make your presentation less dense, and I can help you can connect with your audience. And I can help you understand and immerse yourself into the art of humor.
But in the end, you’ll have to teach the ART to yourself. And not everybody will master it.
So… yes, humor is teachable… but only to a point.
What do YOU think? Can you teach (or learn) how to be funny?
Well having studied directly under Brad Montgomery on a few occasions (not physically under, but, well you know what I mean) I definately think that humor can be learned. Whether he knows it or not Brad is truly one of the masters!
In fact, I have spent most of the last year of my life blowing off my MBA studies and reading books, watching films, and attending conferences to learn to be funny. As part of my learning I am now teaching others to be funny and I believe that humor can certainly be learned!
However, as with anything else that can be learned, I believe you then have to apply the discipline to use what you have learned and exercise your new skill. That is the part that most people never get around to; being disciplined to sit and write and then disciplined to try it on stage.
Humor can be learned exactly as math can be learned; and it can be forgotten exactly as math too. To master anything it takes discipline to work at it everyday to strengthen your funny bone (or your math bone or whatever).
So I would say that “art” is more often a term used by amateurs as a way of describing the unexplainable high level of skill of a professional (like Brad Montgomery or Jerry Seinfield) that in reality is just the output of their discipline. When you love something, it is easy to be disciplined about it-even without noticing. You’re a champion!