Handling Declamation Humor

All Declamations should have humor in them.  Obviously, a serious piece with a heavy topic might only offer a chuckle or two; any more would border on inappropriate.  However, even a dark subject needs to have a line of comedy or lightheartedness.  Too much depression wears on an audience, but one laugh can reel them in again.  Performing a piece with one or two funny bits is relatively easy, but how does one handle a speech that is satirical or one which uses comedy to question serious issues?  Soon the Declamation becomes a juggle between pulling off the comedy WHILE not missing the message the speech holds.  The mixing of two genres can be touchy.  Switching between a laugh and a somber moment can cause a speaker difficulty, so here are a few things to remember:

  • Be sincere. Part of what makes a satirical/humorous speech work is the honesty behind the clown.  Okay, so your speech is full of laughter and addresses a tough subject through comedy.  So what?  You are still talking about an issue that is monumental to those afflicted or involved.  What is amazing about comedy is how an audience learns through watching the misfortune or misunderstanding of the lead/narrator and laugh about what typically is a grave matter.  We connect and see ourselves in the lead/narrator, and we can do that only when they are truthful and mirror us.  Be funny but remember to be human. 
  • Timing. Because there are two genres mixed together, knowing how to time when/how to unleash the joke is imperative.  Unfortunately, timing is one of those things that is hard to learn or explain.  Timing is relative to you, the material, and the feeling of when something is right.  Fortunately, this is Declamation and even comedic speeches are still mostly formal--meaning you do not have to be one of the Marx Brothers to deliver a humorous speech.  You will have to work on pacing (with pauses, tempo) and dynamics to discover the best way to deliver a joke, but the speech's natural rhythm should assist you...as well as responses from practice audiences you perform in front of in rehearsal.
  • Know when to be serious. This is still Declamation; even a comedic piece should be relevant and hold a message.  Therefore, most comedic pieces will have sections were things get deep.  Know how to recognize these and use them as a means to add variety.  Become the honest, intelligent, serious speaker once again.  Not only will it at gravity to your speech, it will show your speaking range and will certainly impress.   
  • Don't overdo it. Funny is about pushing limits but knowing when not to cross the line into stupidity or going too far.  No one wants to see a Declamation reenactment of Dumb and Dumber.  Save that over-the-top humor for Humorous Interpretation or Duo.  Even in moments when you can ham it up, know when you are getting excessive and just...don't. 

Selecting a comedic Declamation can be a risky and tricky maneuver.  You are choosing a genre that is generally considered lower than drama AND you are mixing humor with potentially serious topics.  This can be disastrous if you select this course thinking being funny and honest will be simple.  If that is your mindset going in then chances are you are doomed.  However, if you approach your Declamation passionately, with good work habits, and a positive attitude you can survive and possibly create the funniest, deepest Declamation your circuit offers.