3 Public Speaking Secrets of Comedians

The Public Speaker explores the techniques that comedians practice to be memorable performers. Learn how these secrets can help make you a better speaker.  

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #246

One of my friends has a natural knack for delivering a punch line. I think she could be a stand-up comedian if she weren’t already a teacher.  In fact, I think part of the reason why she’s such a good teacher is because she is able to have fun and make her students laugh.  ;


In my mind, comedians are the kings and queens of public speaking.  They are expected to engage the audience, leave them consistently laughing, and do this all without the aid of PowerPoint, notes, or a lectern.  I think there is a lot to be learned from comedians.  In this episode, we’ll cover 4 public speaking secrets comedians won’t tell you.

Secret #1: Be Comfortable With Yourself

For a comedian to be successful they must understand who they are and how they are perceived by others. Comedian, Rory Albanese, told me the most important advice for anyone stepping on stage is to be comfortable with themselves and who you are.  He told me in our interview that if you aren’t comfortable, the audience will notice, and in turn that will make your audience uncomfortable. I know that opening up to a roomful of strangers is a huge risk, but it's an important one to take if you want to be successful from the stage. 

What does this mean for everyday presentations?  If you are a naturally funny person, then include humor in your talk, if you are naturally very serious, then be serious on stage. If you get super excited about geeky things that most people don’t get excited about (or maybe don’t even know about), don’t be afraid to let your super geek shine!  If you are naturally cynical like Louis Black…well, maybe you should save that for you debut on the comedy stage. The point is that the more comfortable you are being exactly who you are, the more the audience will be able to connect with you.  

Secret #2: Share Stories From Your Own Experience

On stage it’s important to connect with your audience—to be likable. The best way to do that is to share your own personal experiences.  Many comedians start their act by sharing an embarrassing story that allows the audience to see the comedian as an “average Joe”—just like them.  For many comedians telling personal stories is their entire act— Louis C.K., Chris Rock, or Carlos Mencia – all come to mind.

For a speaker, you want to tell stories that demonstrate your connection both to the material and to the audience. If the stories you tell don’t resonate, people won’t care about the point you’re trying to make.

For example, you may want to share how you got interested in your topic or your experience with the topic.  What is most important is to share your particular perspective—what is it that you notice about the topic.  Audiences crave your point of view, your ideas, your perspective. The audience wants to know how your thoughts are different and how your thoughts are the same as them.

Comedians know that sharing personal stories and observations really works because these stories are unique to each person and allow the audience a glimpse into who you are.  Anyone can speak on a topic, what makes it unique is your perspective—your voice.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.