The Power of Storytelling

Richard Kim at Contest
By Richard Kim, CC

Richard Kim won 1st Place at the Fall 2007 Conference Humorous Speech Contest!

I remember once seeing a famous comedian bomb during a performance. Barely a twitter of laughter from the audience during his entire fifteen minute set. It was every comedian's worst nightmare and it was painful to watch. I thought to myself, that's something I would never attempt to do.

I realize a six minute speech is not the same as a fifteen minute standup routine, but, for me, the pressure to be funny is still terrifying. It's often said that comedy is more difficult than drama. The feedback is instantaneous. Either something is funny or it's not.

Not that I don't have a healthy sense of humor. But my style of humor works best in private with friends who know me well. Expressing humor publicly is another matter. I'm not a natural joke teller. In the two and half years I've been a member of Westside Toastmasters Club 638, I've been Joke Master once.

The beauty of Toastmasters is that we can extend ourselves, try new things, feel free to fail in a safe, supportive environment. The humorous speech contest was another opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone far out of my comfort zone. I entered our club contest with absolutely no expectation of winning. I simply wanted to face the fear of not being funny.

My favorite speeches are ones that tell good stories and I decided early on that instead of trying to come up with funny jokes, I needed to create a speech with all the elements of a good story.

First, start with a compelling teaser, have a story line, throw in a few reversals, embark on a journey of transformation which culminates in a revelatory climax and finally ends with a satisfying denouement. You know what I mean.

If the story is funny, all the better.

As I advanced through each contest, the experience became less stressful and I had my own journey of transformation. By the time I reached the District Conference, I was no longer terrified of not being funny. I was calm, confident and eager to tell my story.

This short article appeared in the Winter edition of "Toast of the Coast" newsletter.