Humor, Creativity, Originality

Is there such a thing as too funny in lecture?

Sir Ken Robinson has a marvelous point about the creativity in the classroom. He’s also a proponent of humor, naturally.

I’d embed it, but I’m having trouble with the relevant code. Watch it here.

After watching it, although an extreme example — is there such a thing as too funny? You really should watch Sir Robinson’s talk on creativity before replying. Trust me.

Does his humor detract? Does it distract? Does the audience get so caught up in his straightforward, likable idiom that they pay less attention to his message?

We watched this in my godforsaken 5-hour credential class. We addressed our concerns.

“I don’t think there’s ever a thing such as ‘too funny,'” one said. “It’s late at night, and we’re tired and we want to go home. But this guy gets us interested again.”

But what did you learn? asks my inner devil’s advocate. What brave, new understanding? What good does humor do for a lecturer or teacher if there is little to no recollection of the topics addressed one week later?

“I think he crossed the line, sometimes,” another said. “It’s possible to cross that line and simply get unfocused.”

Was his talk unfocused? He certainly jumped around, but he got back on track not too much later.

Need we objectives, consistent focus and train-like determination? Or does a loose approach work with students? What about when we throw subject-matter content in the mix?

I’d argue that the effectiveness is determined by the intention, but that’s a coward’s way out of this discussion — stating the obvious.

What intention is best for humor? What intentions are incompatible with it?


  1. In my first year of teaching I did experiment with asides and humor during the regular part of the lesson. Unfortunately, my main feedback (fortunately I asked only a week later) was it was “confusing”.

    Now when I am in the main part of a subject I aim to be laser-focused, and I save the more interesting material as hooks and closers.

  2. I just watched his talk again. He certainly used the humor as a hook in the first half, but in the last half he simply kept out of jokes, more interested in the content of his presentation.

    I think delivery of the humor is what’s important, or the context. I tend to reserve humor for rapport between myself and students, focusing the lecture on pure content.

    That’s my approach, yet. It’s hardly infallible.

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