Humor to Avoid
The overriding principle is that you should not tease the audience about beliefs that are important to them or about any topic that is currently upsetting them. In addition, never use the following types of humor: Racist, sexist, religious, puns, any type of off-color humor, or humor about physical or mental disability.
I was preparing a presentation for a large hotel chain and from my pre-program work I uncovered a topic that was ripe for humor. The hotel chain and the franchisees were having some clearly ludicrous contract negotiation problems. When I approached the meeting planner about the topic, he told me that the franchisees were pretty upset about the way things were going. My comments, even though they were funny, might make them think about a painful
situation. I chose to cut them. Why should I take the chance? It was also another good lesson in clearing humor before use.
When it comes to the nevers mentioned above, there are established pros who get away with ignoring them. Dr. Jarvis has been doing a hilarious bit on religion for twenty years without a problem. But, he has done the bit thousands of times and knows exactly what he is doing during the rest of the presentation to be sure the audience is receptive. I've talked to him recently and he tells me that people are so sensitive now he uses extreme caution when using the bit.
Learn more about public speaking humor!