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Public Speaking Course: 

Rule of Three

Here's a great tip from my public speaking course. This is tip is called the rule of three and is most effective to create humorous situations.

I see it used all the time since it's so simple to use, is very powerful and works well (see I just used it there in a non-funny situation). Most of the time in humor the Rule of Three is used in this way: The first comment names the topic, the second sets a pattern, and the third suddenly switches the pattern which makes it  funny. Here's a few examples from brochures advertising my seminars:

In the "How to Get There"; section

* From Washington, D.C. take Rt. 50 . . .
* From Baltimore, MD take Rt. 95 . . .
* From Bangkok, Thailand board Asian Air . . .

* By Metro take the Red line . . .
* By Car take New York Ave. . . .
* By Steamship take the Chesapeake Bay

While in front of a group I point to an audience member and say "You can make a difference in your company."
[Pointing to the next person] You can make a difference in your
department.
[Pointing to third fun person] You can [pause] Well not everyone can do
this.

The Rule of Three is also used in creating bits (see bits article
on this website).

Three jokes or one-liners on one topic is enough to create a rise in
the audience, but not enough to bore them about that topic. As you practice what you learned in your public speaking course, don't forget that the Rule of Three is good in non-funny situations too. Even Old Abe Lincoln used it twice in the powerful, but short, Gettysburg Address: "We cannot dedicate. We cannot consecrate. We cannot hallow this ground"; and that "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

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