It’s “Blue Monday”, reportedly the most depressing day of the year for countries in the Northern Hemisphere. To help chase away those January blues, we thought we would share our recent interview with leadership coach, speaker and comedy performer Emma Stroud about humour and personal branding.
Which comedians stand out as having a strong personal brand, for you?
Jo Brand – she was one of the first female comics to achieve national success. She has never shied away from who she is and what she believes in – by speaking her truth in her comedy we can all relate to her and her world. Ruby Wax – one of my heroes. Her honesty and integrity has come across in all of her work, this I believe is why she and Jo have had such long careers – an integrity and honesty in their actions and their craft.
How did you discover your own comic voice, and is this a projection of who you are…your personal brand…or a mask that you put on like an actor?
At the heart of being an actor is the portrayal of truth. All of my early training as an actor was all about discovering who I am so I could honestly portray others. This (in simplistic terms) is the difference between a truly brilliant professional actor and an amateur one. This was a revelation to me when I went to drama school in my mid 20’s. I had gone to get even better at having my masks – over those three years of training I had to discover me and lose the various masks I had. It was the most intensive life changing experience of my life. I had started to discover my comic voice when I was 16 – suddenly having humour meant I could find one of my voices and at an all girl school this was helpful! I then explored comedy and still do – I went to Italy and studied clowning, I learnt all about improvisation and continue to study the craft of humour and how to use it. It is not a mask it is a part of who I am and having developed this skill allows me to use humour in all sorts of business and life situations.
What are some good ways people can use to experiment with humour in everyday life or public situations?
When you are relaxed and with friends and family reflect upon what made them laugh and engaged them. We all have different styles and ways of telling stories and not everyone will laugh (this is why we all have different favourite comics for example) – but notice your way, your style. The key for me and humour is about permission – we all can get scared about other people’s reactions, or a “joke” falling flat – its ok. Say your truth with your own clear intent and be you. The more relaxed you are your own style of humour will become more obvious.
Are there any things you suggest not doing (memorising a joke book!?)
Don’t try to be anyone else. Trust in you and your voice. Do not do a compare or contrast – there will always be funnier people in certain situations – that’s ok. Just enjoy you and your sense of self.
Any tips on how you can use humour to de-fuse people who are trying to de-rail you?
When you are comfortable with you and your style of humour, then use it in all different situations. Humour when done with the right intent can be massively helpful in de – fusing any situation. Tips to do this:
Take a breathe before you deliver any line. With pauses comes humour and a change in the energy.
Have your own stories where you gently challenge you and how any audience may be perceiving you – for example I always talk about being short.
Be courageous – using humour takes some courage – just do it, it honestly can make situations so much better.
When should you just accept you’re not funny…or do you believe everyone can be?
Everyone will be able to make some people laugh. It may not be your first asset but it is an asset to everyone – just have awareness that you don’t go into clown mode if you are nervous – humour has to be used when it is appropriate and with a strong sense of clear intent.
Any body language tips for when you’re being funny?
Be open in your body language. Give yourself permission to be free with movements and stand tall in your own shoes.
Finally, when does self-deprecating humour turn from being funny to making everyone feel sorry for you?
There is a fine line between using humour as an advantage vs as a tool that you are hiding behind. This is where the skill and craft of humour has to be developed. Go and invest in a course, learn some impro, try stand up. This is all about you knowing yourself. It is only when we know ourselves that we can feel if this line has been crossed.