So you think you’re funny huh? Good. Because confidence is key In HI. If you want a joke or action to make the judges laugh you have to not be embarrassed about doing/saying it. You are the performer, the entertainer. If you just walk up and tell jokes no one will laugh. You must keep your audience engaged in the characters and scenes and then your jokes will start to land.
Now… where does one find a book that has rich characters and is funny?
The last thing you should do is copy a HI from youtube or google “Funny Books”. This will get you nowhere. Instead, we are going to go over Luke Crory’s (That’s me) Foolproof steps to picking an HI.
- Know your Judges. NOT know your audience. The amount of laughter in a room means nothing if the three judges right in front of you aren’t laughing. I’ve had a judge turn around and say “SSSHHH” to the audience because she didn’t think the speech was funny and the audience did. Highschool humor isn’t the same as homeschooled moms. Keep this in mind. I’ve found Grown-ups and moms tend to prefer older books and things that they relate with. Stay away from books that have “Public school” “Iphones” “Bratty children” basically anything that could bring negative energy into the room. Happy or light hearted stories always do better, especially in a Christian League.
- Read the Ballot. Most ballots read something like, “Presents a selection of literary merit that demonstrates excellence in substance and style.” When it says “literary merit” this doesn’t mean it has to be Shakespeare, it just means not a worthless trash book that is written just for laughs like ‘Dave Barry’ books for instance. Your piece has to be able to survive the preliminary rounds. No one laughs in preliminary rounds. (I’m warning you now- let me repeat that… NO ONE LAUGHS IN PRELIMINARY ROUNDS…) so make sure you pick a piece that is at least interesting. Classic literature does go along way. Also, you get bonus points if you can give life, energy and humor to a classic piece.
- It’s all about Cutting. Cutting is so crucial to whether your piece will be found funny or not. Take “Little Women” for instance. If you stick to the story it could be very boring. But if you go through the whole book and find funny situations for an interesting story arc… the blocking and characters would bring the piece to life. Pro tip: Plays/stage adaptations tend to have more humor and are extremely easy to cut. Plus it doesn’t get rid of the literary merit. Usually judges can’t even tell the difference.
- Amazon. If you look up a book on Amazon it will say “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” under this tab it has great suggestions If you are looking to browse options. Simply spending a half hour looking at famous authour’s suggested books is a great way to find old classics or new gems.
These are some steps to follow or keep in-mind as we enter the new season. Let me end this article by saying this; Don’t pick a piece You don’t really care about simply because you think it will do well. It won’t. I did this one year for HI. I picked a book I thought was funny with literary merit simply because I wanted to win. I didn’t break. I thought the jokes were funny but when no one laughed I was embarrassed about the speech and I hated it so much that I dropped it at the next tournament.
Good Luck everyone!
Luke Crory is one of Lasting Impact!’s newest alumni coaches. As a professional actor, he understands getting into your character, the importance of setting the scene, as well cutting an interpretive piece. Sign up for a coaching session with him, or one of our other amazing coaches.