I say, I say I say… What did the presenter learn from the comedian?


In the past year I have, with a good friend of mine, Dave Arnold, set up the very successful Cotswold Comedy Club. We’ve run 8 gigs and seen twenty five excellent comedians. As a presentation skills trainer I watch them intently and I always learn from them. Here then are the Ten Top Tips that presenters can learn from stand-up comedians!

Your audience

1)   The “performance” begins from the second an audience claps eyes on you! Comedians work on their approach to the microphone and ooze confidence. They eyeball the audience, smile (unless it’s Jack Dee of course) and start with a welcoming “Hello” “Hiya” or “Good evening.” They then… wait for it… wait for the audience to say “Hello” back! Presenters should do the same.

Ed Aczel

2)   Comedians don’t bother with PowerPoint. Neither should you (unless you really can’t explain something without it!) Ed Aczel uses a flip-chart, badly (intentionally) for comedic effect. Most presenters use PowerPoint as an autocue – comedians don’t.  Some write on the back of their hand (that doesn’t look too professional) but most just learn their material and rehearse lots. Presenters take heed.


3)   The very best comedians engage with their audience. They ask questions, they allow the audience to interact. The audience has a say in where the act goes. Yianni Agisilou banters with his audience but maintains control of the flow and direction of his act. Presenters should engage their audience too.

Gary Delaney

5)   The best comedians pare down the words in their act to an absolute minimum. Gary Delaney has mastered the one-line gag format in a really economical way – there’s no “fat” in his act. A presenter should work at simplifying their message and cutting out anything extraneous. Gary is also adept at tip number six:

6)   Read the feedback from your audience; adapt and change your material accordingly.

Jonny Aswum

7)   The comedians that go down well with our audiences are those who are, smiley, enthusiastic and seem genuinely pleased to be there. Jonny Awsum is a tremendous example. Presenters should be enthusiastic – if not passionate about what they are presenting.

8)   Comedy is a serious business and those who are serious about getting on perform as many gigs as they can and learn from every one. If a comedian is any good it’s because they’ve had hours in front of an audience. It’s the same for presenting.

Milo McCabe
Chris McCauseland

9)   Two of my favourite comedians Milo McCabe and Chris McCausland are masters of the… “pause.” Pausing allows the audience to catch up, reflect on what’s just been said and gives you thinking time too.

10) Great comedians rarely outstay their welcome and often leave the audience wanting more. If things aren’t going well – they get off quick! Presenters should do the same.

4 Responses to “I say, I say I say… What did the presenter learn from the comedian?”

  1. Claire Fuller Says:

    Very easy to read and digest, an interesting article. It is true that most things which appear simple have usually had an awful lot of practise beforehand. A great presentation will usually have some fun/comedy element, New Tricks always ensure that their presentations are memorable for all of the right reasons, humour included.

  2. Ken Norman Says:

    Thanks for your comments Claire.
    Much appreciated.

  3. Young & Strange Says:

    Yianni was at the same venue as us in Edinburgh. He was actually on straight after us everyday. Small world.

  4. Ken Norman Says:

    Blimey – it is a small world!

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