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
[Pointing to the next person] You can make a difference in your
[Pointing to third fun person] You can [pause] Well not everyone can
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."