Controversy About Using Canned Jokes In Public Speaking

Spanked! Picking Apart The Controversy About Using Open Source (AKA “Canned”) Jokes In Public Speaking

Everything that I am about to share with you in this article revolves around the ignorance fueled controversy that involves this question:

Should you or should you not use open source jokes in presentations and speeches?

open with a joke controversySeriously, if you will give me just a few minutes

I’m going to demolish this controversy with some good old fashioned, solid information.

Based on my own professional experience, my answer to the question is a resounding YES — open source jokes should be humor resources that anyone involved in public speaking should have at their disposal.

However, I make that recommendation with specific conditions that must be met.

Otherwise, trying to use open source jokes in public speaking is about as good of an idea as trying to eat soup with a toothpick.

Let me explain why I say this and expose the cause of the controversy surrounding the use of open source jokes — which are also known as “canned” jokes or street jokes as they are known in the world of stand-up comedy.

Note: The term street joke is used by comedians to differentiate between common, everyday open source jokes “told on the street” and stand-up comedy jokes. These terms are used interchangeably in this article.

The Controversy

Let’s assume that you are involved in public speaking in some capacity and would like to do something to “punch up” your presentations with some humor.

Anyone involved in public speaking knows that having the ability to generate audience laughter on demand is a major plus, particularly when it comes to getting paid speaking work.

This is especially true because public speaking audiences tend to automatically EXPECT any unknown presenter to be highly proficient at causing audiences to lapse into a coma. This is based on an extensive past history that readily supports that expectation until proven otherwise.

So you consider using open source jokes to bring some levity to your public speaking.

On the surface it seems that using street jokes could be a great way to break the ice at the start of a talk, provide a laughter break in the middle and/or be a powerful way to end a speech or presentation with a a big audience laugh.

But then you do some research online and you will find what appears to be (on the surface) compelling arguments for avoiding using open source jokes for reasons such as:

  • Since you have heard the joke you want to tell, chances are that some portion of your audience will have already heard the joke as well.
  • If you are not a comedian, you really aren’t qualified or capable of delivering an open source joke that will generate audience laughter.
  • There are better ways to add humor to public speaking than using common street jokes.

The problem with that article (and others like it) is that while it appears to come from a foundation of solid knowledge, the reality is that unbeknownst to most readers…

There are vitally important details and information that has been omitted and there is a dependency on misinformation and partial truths to justify the position for not using open source or “canned” jokes when speaking publicly.

The end result is a misleading narrative based largely upon ignorance and a lack of credible expertise in the area of effective spoken word humor.

That’s not a personal opinion — that is my professional opinion.

And while I am not very good at most things in life (I have two ex-wives who will readily verify that condition in a heartbeat)…

I have earned the reputation of being one of the top experts on the planet when it comes to spoken word comedy and humor, backed by decades of real world experience in all areas of public speaking.

To be frank, I can tell you how spoken word comedy actually works to generate laughter down to the syllable or gesture.

And I should also point out that much of my training material involves UNTRAINING people to help them overcome the false perceptions and inaccurate beliefs that they acquire (just like I had when I started out in stand-up comedy) about how comedy and humor really works for audiences — just like those presented in The Buckley School article.

So let’s take a look at using open source jokes in public speaking from a bit more informed perspective, shall we?

A More Complete View Of The Situation

Before I move forward, please note:

Anyone who is NOT properly prepared to generate audience laughter in ANY public speaking environment — regardless of the methodology used — is always at an increased risk of flopping in front of audiences as a result.

So let’s take a look at some issues associated with using open source jokes during a speech or presentation.

In general, joke telling is a self-taught skill. And because it is self-taught with little, if any informed guidance or solid instructions to enhance the process and increase the chances of success, only a relative few are very good at it.

As a matter of fact…

Most people who think they are good joke tellers ARE ACTUALLY NOT very good at it offstage and certainly not good enough at it to get the laughter results that they want from an audience of strangers during a speech or presentation.


  • They don’t know the secrets for selecting the best open source jokes, particularly those that can be easily transformed into unique, personalized humor material.
  • They don’t know how to skillfully edit street jokes for brevity, verbal delivery or personalization.
  • They don’t know how to prepare to flawlessly deliver a properly processed street joke, capitalizing on their own natural speaking style and expressive attributes.
  • They don’t know the simple techniques for proficiently incorporating open source jokes at any part of a speech or presentation — at the beginning, middle or end.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop many from trying to use their less-than-optimal joke telling skills for their public speaking and getting less-than-optimal results in the process.

I suspect this is most likely the primary group of people who are the main target of The Buckley School article that I linked above.

However, the problems with their perspective and supporting arguments in that article that I see are these:

Due to a serious lack of expertise in the matter, they are obviously unable to identify the actual causative issues involved or provide any sort of credible corrective action — so their overall solution is to simply don’t do it.

That’s no different than saying you should completely avoid playing basketball because many times the ball just won’t go into the hoop.

As I said in the beginning of this section:

Anyone who is NOT properly prepared to generate audience laughter in ANY public speaking environment is always at an increased risk of flopping in front of audiences.

That includes trying to use street jokes if you don’t really know what you are doing to get the best results possible.

Note: Lesson 1 in my new course exposes the most common mistakes that people make when they tell a joke and is available for immediate public review.

Now let’s look at the other side of this coin…

Valid Reasons For Using Open Source Jokes

Professionally speaking and based on many years of experience standing before audiences…

I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that street jokes that have been carefully selected, properly edited, personalized and rehearsed for delivery can be very powerful, on demand laughter generation resources that EVERY speaking professional should have at their disposal.

I am talking about a readily available, powerful supplemental laughter resource for use in addition to the use of original humor, not as a replacement for it.

Here are some of the reasons why I am a big fan of using street jokes in public speaking:

1. You don’t have to become a comedian in order to get big audience laughs from delivering a street joke.

The primary “skill” involved outside a prepared delivery is being able to find and select high quality jokes that will have the best potential laughter impact when delivered.

Hint: It’s not about whether a joke “reads” funny either — it’s more about being able to recognize specific punchline attributes.

Other than that, it simply involves some easy-to-apply knowledge and a willingness to rehearse a carefully selected and properly edited open source joke before it is delivered it to an audience.

2. There is a particular type of street joke can be easily transformed into a personalized short story.

Armed with the right knowledge and process…

Reality based situational street jokes that don’t involve talking animals, guys walking into bars, etc. can be easily turned into funny, personalized short stories that are a minute or less in duration.

Check out the Example page for a male and female audio example of an edited and personalized street joke with a customized intro for use in the middle of a speech or presentation.

The key advantage to using personalized versions of this particular type of joke is that your audience won’t know that you are actually delivering a joke, even if some of them may have previously heard the joke before (or at least until the punchline is delivered depending on the joke being delivered).

For anyone who may have heard a joke previously, they would have heard it in its original form — not the personalized version which provides remarkable camouflage and uniqueness for the presenter.

And even though I have been teaching this very easy to implement personalization process for years, very few people know about it.

3. Open source jokes can usually be easily tested for their ability to generate laughs in casual conversations before they are used in public speaking.

This is one HUGE advantage that tends not to be as readily available for original humor material because:

a. Original humor can be more specific to the content of the speech or presentation, making associated humor aspects less recognizable to those who are not familiar with the core topics or content. Subsequently…

b. Open source jokes tend to be easier to introduce into a casual conversation and doesn’t require a larger group dynamic to work well like original humor does.

A street joke that has been transformed into a short, personalized funny story could also be easily tested in a Toastmasters meeting environment — again, no one would be aware that an open source joke is being used if it is delivered properly.

4. Street jokes can be used to illustrate key points in a humorous way.

Every single open source joke has some sort of underlying issue that is the foundation for making the joke funny.

If you know what to look for, you can use this aspect to choose specific jokes to bring attention to key elements in your public speaking content and generate audience laughs at the same time.

It is also this aspect that can allow a presenter to easily incorporate virtually ANY appropriate and funny street joke with purpose at any point in a speech or presentation.

5. Once an open source joke has been audience tested and proven to work well to generate laughs, it can literally be used effectively for years with different audiences.

I know this to be a fact because I personally had a small quantity of about a dozen processed street jokes that I used for YEARS for corporate comedy gigs and speaking engagements with great success.

But unlike most who attempt to use street jokes in a public speaking environment, I came to the table prepared, specifically…

I knew what to look for in a joke. I knew how to edit those jokes. I knew how to be prepared to deliver those jokes. And I knew how to effectively incorporate those jokes into public speaking.

Make no mistake — I was NOT a “natural” joke teller (and I am still not — if I want tell a street joke even in a casual conversation I have to properly prepare and rehearse it first to get the laughter results that I want).

And I was hit and miss at best until I learned the secrets — secrets that are actually available to you now if you want to check it out…

Victory Loves Proper Preparation

From my own professional experience, I can say with great confidence that street jokes have come to rescue for me on too many occasions to count throughout my public speaking and stand-up comedy careers.

Bottom line: Open source jokes can be valuable supplemental humor resources that anyone involved in public speaking should have at their disposal.

That’s one of the reasons why I developed the Street Joke Secrets For Public Speaking course that reveals everything a person should know about finding, transforming and delivering select open source jokes at any juncture in a speech and presentation.

Lesson descriptions and more are available on the Course Details page.

I tend to be a straight shooter when it comes to the information that I provide people, particularly when it comes to information people are going to use to take action to generate audience laughter.

If you are involved in public speaking, you can either see the value in using edited and personalized open source jokes to generate audience laughs or you don’t.

If you do see the value, then in order to get the best possible laughter results you must know…

  • How to select the best reality based, situational open source jokes that can be quickly and easily transformed into unique, personalized humor material.
  • How to skillfully edit jokes for brevity, verbal delivery and to add personalization.
  • How to prepare to flawlessly deliver a properly processed street joke, capitalizing on your own natural speaking style and expressive attributes.
  • How to effectively incorporate open source jokes into at any part of a speech or presentation with ease.

As I mentioned before — victory loves proper preparation. Otherwise, your best bet is to probably avoid attempting to use open source jokes in your public speaking.

Thank you for your time and I truly wish you the best in your public speaking adventures!

One last thing before you go…

I also have a blog that I started not long ago dedicated to adding comedy and humor to speeches and presentations that you can find here if you are interested:

Articles About Adding Humor To Speeches
Discover the most recent articles by comedy expert Steve Roye for adding humor to speeches and presentations using proven stand-up comedy strategies.

Steve Roye is one of the world's foremost experts in the field of spoken word comedy development and delivery for stand-up comedians and public speaking professionals alike. For details about Steve's diverse background and extensive experience, click here.