We know a smile is a universal language, helping to connect people across cultures and traditions. And who doesn’t love to laugh?
Thankfully, laughter presents us with an opportunity to better understand each other. Humour can break the ice among tour guests to inspire a happy, attentive audience. In fact, travelers are more likely to pay attention if they have a reason to — and enjoying a good laugh is a great reason to listen.
Naturally, being a funny tour guide enhances your ability to bridge cultural gaps and bring your group together. With this said, being consistently funny in a group is a skill and one that’s built up with plenty of practice.
Making someone laugh can be one of the most effective ways to connect with them and curate a fun, enjoyable experience for all.
How to deliver funny tour guide jokes
We already know that as tour guides you wear many hats. To be successful, you need to know how to make a commentary in tour guiding, handle groups and demonstrate savvy time management in addition to wayfinding skills.
And while being comedic is an art — thankfully, you can learn how to be a funny tour guide. By sprinkling a few jokes throughout the tour, you’ll find yourself with a receptive audience or an insightful experience.
Guests build connections amid shared truths. This means that they’ll laugh if something you say happens to be both funny and true, in response to sharing a feeling of discomfort and/or pain.
To get a better sense of what I mean, this video with John Vorhaus of the Comedy Toolbox shares basic approaches to becoming funny. Laughter is a result of saying something that contradicts your guests’ expectations and surprises them.
And sure, it may take a few attempts to get your words and delivery just right. As described in the Comedy Toolbox book, being funny is a mix of truth and pain. The secret to being funny? Lean into relatable topics that will lead to easy laughs from your tour group.
Developing a funny tour guide script
When something is true, it’s more likely to make people laugh, as is highlighted in this Tourpreneur podcast and blog post.
And while a script can be useful in setting verbal reminders, some of the best experiences are ad hoc. When working on building up your funny bone, here are a few approaches that are time-tested.
1. Become a storyteller
When it comes to developing savvy tour guide skills, a sense of humour is pretty high on the list. It’s true that storytelling is one of the best ways of relating to one another and forging connections.
To start, you’ll want to become a master at the art of storytelling and bringing your guests into the story. It’s not unlike sharing a story of your travels with family and friends.
Consider this; the first time you share something for the first time, you might leave a few things out or deliver a weak punchline. Keep at it. Continue to experiment with your storytelling skills, making sure to invite your audience into the scene by painting a picture with your words.
2. Choose your hero
Are you hoping to charm guests with a little self-deprecating humour? This tactic can work wonders in making people laugh without being the butt of your jokes.
Aim to encourage guests to arrive early for a little preamble. This is a prime opportunity to try out some lighthearted jokes. Every audience needs to be able to root for the hero, plus you’ll appear humble and likable if you’re not afraid to poke fun at yourself.
3. Infuse misdirection and surprise
Imagine your audience all ears and completely lost in your story where they think they have an idea of where your story is going, and then, whoops, you pull a fast one and deliver an unexpected twist.
The rule of three in comedy speaks to how the first two stated topics are truths, with the third topic being the phony bit. And herein lies the humour. Eventually, you’ll be drawing upon memory, so by the time you’ve shared the story for the fourth or tenth time, it’s dialled in and filled with enthusiasm.
For instance, let’s say you’re chatting with guests about packing for a family vacation. You’re at the airport double-checking that you haven’t forgotten anything. Keys? Check. Passport? Check. Your mother-in-law? Oh no. Cue the laughter.
With this quip being wildly different from the first two topics, is it unexpected and the results? People can’t help but smile from ear to ear.
3. Experiment with over-exaggeration
The great comedian writer Gene Perret wrote that comedy is like pulling the rug out from under your audience. But first, you need to gain their trust to step on the carpet and keep their trust until the end so they won’t step off the rug.“
So let’s say you want a way of framing your delivery to lead to laughs from your guests. The last thing you say before people laugh is the punchline, and you want to leave space to allow your guests to laugh.
4. Improvise with your audience
If you’re not well-versed in speaking to a crowd or coming up with witty one-liners on the spot, it can be challenging to juggle humour with relevant tour facts.
For instance, you might open with a story about the first time you lead this tour and sprinkle in any funny mishaps. Being a funny tour guide requires you to have a willingness to take risks. Sure, maybe your guests won’t laugh. But what if they do?
5. Include your guests in your act
You’ve probably been bored to tears when overhearing a rambling of facts versus stories. Instead, animate the experience for your guests.
This Tourpreneur podcast and interview highlights what makes for a compelling tour. Make things easy by having a pocket setlist, much like what comedians do, jotting down a few funny reminders or facts that guests tend to like.
I can recall attending a live comedy performance once where the comedian was being tested with the front row. A guest insisted on remaining deadpan the entire time.
This prompted the comic to address him directly, asking, “are you having a good time?” The guest nods, and the comic — without missing a beat — responds with, “Yeah? Tell your face.” resulting in the guest and entire audience erupting into a fit of laughter.
But what really makes a tour guide stand out to both tour operators and their guests? A guide who’s ready for anything.
Comedy class 101
A few years ago, I set out to learn the inner workings of comedy. Signing up for a six-week-long comedy course, I committed to performing in front of a live audience as the finale.
While this course was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had, it was also one of the most enlightening. As a result, I’m grateful to be able to share a thing or two about cracking jokes in public. The best part? Having your audience burst into laughter.
During my time in the spotlight, I shared a mix of funny, true stories from my childhood. I found the audience laughed the most when the punchline was short and failed to match what they believed was coming next. One of the first lessons we learned in the live comedy class was how to use the art of misdirection.
In my case, I shared a story of when my younger sister and I were chasing each other around the house. One of us changed directions, and my front tooth collided with my sister’s head, leaving her in tears and me with a grey (dead) front tooth.
I bluntly stated that this look lasted for four years and paused long enough to allow the audience to laugh. I followed it up with a quip about how awkward it can be to be a teenager, causing the audience to chuckle even more because they had a very different picture in their minds.
This was a prime example of a bit of self-deprecating humour infused with the awkwardness of youth — something many of us can relate to. When exploring what will make people burst into laughter, you need to take a leap of faith by allowing yourself the freedom to experiment with your jokes.
Examples of things funny tour guides say
Do you know how people say it’s all in the delivery? When it comes to comedy, timing is everything. Memorable tour guides share a few things in common. First, they know how to command attention and how to deliver a good story. So, all you have to do is focus on how you can lead your guests to a smile.
Adjusting your speaking tempo can make the difference between a line that’s funny or not. Ideally, you want guests hanging onto your every word, which means sprinkling in funny tidbits throughout the tour.
As an example, my husband and I went to a wine tasting in Saint Emilion, outside of Bordeaux. The guide had taken us through a wine tour in French and English, dropping a few funny lines throughout.
We arrived back at the winery, awaiting a decadent glass of 15-year-old wine. Before we were invited to have a sip, our guide used humour to capture our attention to demonstrate how to properly taste wine.
He began by pointing out how we might not want to do this if we cared about our shirt — earning the group’s eyes and ears while ensuring we’d go about doing it correctly. Then, we discovered how to bring oxygen into our mouth while tasting the wine, not unlike blowing bubbles in reverse.
If you’re looking for suggestions on how to be a successful tour guide, you’ll find yourself in good company. The best experience providers care about their guests and go the extra mile of connecting in person.
Timing as a funny tour guide
In the first few minutes of a tour, aim to assess your audience’s sense of humour. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will find the same things funny.
Having a few stories in your head will help you fill any gaps of awkward silence. You can also inquire with your guests where they are from and see if this inspires any witty banter.
Regardless of your approach, ensure you commit to the joke and leave enough space to allow guests to enjoy it from the Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny, Even if You’re Not by John Vorhaus.
To further support an overall positive experience, getting the group on the same page with laughter helps to forge a buffer in the event of something going array.
Aim to create the kind of atmosphere you think your guests will love. People are more likely to be laidback and trusting if you’ve fostered a lighthearted atmosphere to being with. Besides, there’s a good chance you’ll have someone in your group that will pick up on your sense of humour and roll with it.
Funny tour guide resources
For a professional’s take on becoming a better public speaker, explore this How to Become a Better and Funnier Speaker course by David Nahill. It might be just the ticket for learning tactics to boost your confidence. Here are some additional resources to help you forge your path as a funny tour guide:
- Comedy Writing Self Taught Workbook
- The Hidden Tools of Comedy, plus you can learn more here
- Truth in Comedy
On your next tour, give storytelling a try. You might be surprised by your natural abilities and have a lot of fun while you’re at it. For more ways to brush up on key responsibilities of a tour guide be sure to explore the different courses available.
Part of why guests love stories is in how they create bonds and form memories. So, while being funny may not always be easy, if you or your staff are committed to learning how to be the best tour guide, you’ll recognize what clicks for your guests. And sure, it may take a few attempts to get the words and delivery right, but when it does, it’s magic.
Regardless of how you choose to infuse humour in your tours, aim to always leave travelers wanting more. This way, they’ll be hanging off your every word hoping to hear something that will make them laugh.
A memorable tour typically translates to favourable reviews, and who doesn’t want a five-star quality tour guide to rave about?