Is self-deprecating humor bad?
This is one of those questions that often have a clear consensus.
If you ask someone in the self-improvement community, they are going to be like:
‘Of course, it is bad! You should never put yourself down. Especially in front of others.’
I’m of a different belief.
I believe in certain situations, self-deprecating humor can help build rapport faster.
Especially if you are very good-looking or very powerful.
Allow me to share a funny story…
There was this one tailgate that I threw a while back.
This was in my junior year of college.
I was expecting 100 people to show up.
But 500 people showed up.
The guy who was supposed to take pictures was drunk in the first 15 minutes of the tailgate.
So, I snatch the camera from him and realize I have a job to do.
As I’m taking the pictures, I need to coordinate different groups of people.
Some people are taking a while to pose together.
They are trying all of these different poses, and I lose my patience.
I jokingly say:
‘Alright, you guys aren’t Vogue models. You guys need to chill.’
They bust out laughing.
When I made fun of them like that, they didn’t get mad.
I wondered why.
It’s because I had the camera.
In some ways, I had the power.
I was telling them what to do, and they listened.
So I started making fun of more people in a joking way.
They started laughing.
They were like:
‘Haha, you are so funny.’
My behavior kept going until I saw a girl standing by herself.
I went up to her and was like:
‘I see you have no friends. Let me take a picture of you to give you some company.’
When I said that, she snapped at me.
She began yelling.
‘What the hell, calm down! I was just joking.’
But she was mad nevertheless.
I learned something that day…
Is Self-Deprecating Humor Bad?
‘Your story was funny and all Armani, but I don’t see what the lesson was.’
Me either, initially.
But what I realized later was that context is very important when it comes to humor.
Initially, I was making fun of groups of people.
When they were surrounded by their friends, they felt good.
It was a tailgate-like atmosphere.
So, the humor was well received.
But with the solo girl, I found out later she was new to the state.
She didn’t have any friends in the new area.
Me calling her out like that got under her skin.
‘And? How does this relate to self-deprecating humor?’
It deals with self-deprecating humor because context is key.
The context becomes very important when you are:
- Good looking.
- Or a person of power.
Who Can Use Self-Deprecating Humor?
If you are really good-looking or very wealthy, others are somewhat intimidated by you.
They view you in a high regard.
For the looks aspect, humans are visual creatures.
They process tons of information with their eyes.
When they see you with your height, chiseled face, or curvy body:
A mental gap is created.
They put you on a pedestal.
Then they begin looking up at you.
Same thing if they are aware of your wealth/power.
A separation is created.
This can get annoying if you are a good-looking or wealthy person.
It feels like others are being fake around you.
Also, their jittery body language makes you nervous as well.
Now it’s a game of knowing that some self-deprecating humor reduces that mental separation in their mind.
They stop glorifying you.
They begin humanizing you.
Now both of you can relax.
How to Apply Self-Deprecating Humor
Too much self-deprecating humor is not good.
If you are just making fun of yourself left and right…
Then it’s going to make the whole situation awkward.
View self-deprecating humor like seasoning.
A dish that is well seasoned doesn’t need to be overdone.
When cooking, the correct measurement of salt dashed in the dish ONCE will have the intended effect.
Likewise, in an interaction, 1 joke poking fun at yourself is more than enough.
There was this mastermind that I was asked to speak to in Tampa.
My speech topic was about how to make a friend.
I thought it was a strange topic.
When I got on stage, I automatically sensed the mental barriers.
The audience members often view the speaker in a high light.
So, in the opener, I talked about how I was awkward growing up.
I would always sit by myself in the school bus and bob my head to the music.
I highlighted my awkwardness, then began.
This caused the audience to laugh.
They sensed the irony of a speaker who was supposed to speak about social skills openly admitting he was awkward.
However, that humanized me and the message was well received.
One joke poking fun at yourself will build rapport much faster.
Especially if you are of power in the situation.
Who Should Stay Away From Self-Deprecating Humor
Now with all that being said, let me share who should stay away from self-deprecating humor:
- The people who are currently struggling with confidence.
If you are currently in a low point, then poking fun at yourself will just make the situation awkward.
Another group of people who should stay away from it are the people with cold delivery.
If you are making fun of yourself in a matter-of-fact sort of way, then others are going to get weirded out.
This move is a dynamite.
- Self-deprecating humor in the right hands will build rapport.
- Self-deprecating humor in the wrong hands will make things awkward.
To be safe, avoid this move unless you consider yourself very good-looking or powerful.
For more practical insights into humor, be sure to check out my class on Comedy 101 on Skillshare.
This class on Skillshare will teach you:
- What is humor?
- How to slowly become funnier.
- How to tell a joke.
- The power of smiling.
- The art of watching comedians.
Along with plenty of other topics!