This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

December 31, 2014

Using humor when teaching a college class

Like most people, I hate hearing jokes. I especially hate hearing jokes told by old people who don't know how to tell them, like teachers. Unfortunately, many teachers, who know that they have a captive audience, torture their students with their awful humor. So, when I started teaching, I vowed not to tell jokes, but instead to just get to the point.

But I knew that if I could get a little humor into my presentations, I would have happier classes, who would pay attention better, and learn more. So I sought advice from a friend of mine who is the funniest guy I know, voice actor +Mike Binder . And from him I learned how to do comedy.

Comedian Bob Newhart once described himself as someone who doesn't say funny things, he says things funny. And so I watched the great masters, like him, and other comedians that I grew up with. To my surprise, they didn't do a lot of telling jokes, but they got a lot of laughs. It was all about delivery, and reaction, and most importantly, respecting the intelligence of your audience. My type of humor, like Bob Newhart's, Johnny Carson's, and Jerry Seinfeld's is called *deadpan*. Like, is he kidding? I mean, he must be, right? Now come on, that's funny.

When I started at The Art Institute of Phoenix, my background was in Graphic Design, which qualified me to teach the classes, and the software, but hadn't given me much experience talking to an audience. But I knew about marketing, and I knew about sales from doing freelance work, and from what I'd learned from my client +JOEL WELDON , so that's the angle I took. I'm hoping that some of my students from the '90s remember me talking a bit like a late-night commercial when extolling the virtues of a particular software program. I would say, *but wait, there's more!* and especially *can it really be that easy? Yes, it can!* I was also trying to be Joel Weldon. If you've ever seen Joel in front of an audience, you know what I mean. He is amazing, funny, and communicates the way everyone wishes they could. The first few times I got spontaneous laughs from the audience I was genuinely surprised. And believe me, a college class is a tough audience - they DO NOT want to be there! Hey, it's school. Who wants to be in school?

All of the classes I taught had computer labs after the lecture, that lasted about three hours. So, about fifteen minutes before the lab ended, I would walk around and let people know that the class was almost over. My goal was to wrap up the class on time, and get out, but I knew that it was at the last minute that people had questions, or wanted to know when something was due. So I said, *Thank you for studying Adobe Photoshop today... I know you have a choice when you fly... the class will be ending in fifteen minutes....* in the way that anyone who has ever heard a Southwest Airlines pilot make an announcement recognizes. And I said it in a very serious tone.

So there you go. If you have any doubts, don't try humor. Please. If you want to give it a try, get some expert advice, and follow it.

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