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The Real Reason Comedians Make Us Laugh

A troll doll. That’s what Jimmy Fallon – host of The Tonight Show, SNL alum, winner of multiple Emmys and a Grammy – credits for his big break. An eyeballs-never-blink doll that’s without a doubt staring at you through the night as you sleep.

How did this creature launch Fallon’s career? Simple. The troll provided a connection between Fallon and his audience. That’s all he needed. Fallon’s first act – impersonating celebrities auditioning to be the spokesmen for troll dolls – set the tone for the rest of his career.


The goal of a comedian is to connect with the audience and make them laugh, but that is easier said than done. They’re more than professional entertainers; they’re professional engagers. And with trolls now living next door to beanie babies in the neighborhood of old trends, today’s successful comedians have discovered a new path to audience engagement. Top comedians today use social media to build unprecedented audiences, and there is a lot marketers can learn from their discipline.

Give Your Audience a Vocal Role

Every Wednesday, Jimmy Fallon tweets out a hashtag topic – such as #ThanksgivingFail, #MyWorstBirthday, #WorstGiftEver and #MyWeirdNeighbor – for viewers to share a personal story about. Without fail, viewers jump at the chance to be heard. Each week, within a half hour of announcing the topic, Fallon’s hashtag trends worldwide. Some of the entries are read on the show that night.

Why does one of the top comedians in the country go out of his way to invite amateurs to write some of his show? Because he cares about connecting with his audience. Week after week he laughs with his audience about their funny personal experiences. If Fallon can utilize social media to give his global audience a vocal role in his show, you can too. Take Fallon’s advice to give your audience a louder voice and a seat at the table.


Treat Your Audience Like They’re Gold

Ellen DeGeneres recently launched her own personal video site, EllenTube. It provides exclusive access to her clips and, more importantly, allows fans to post personal videos (after approval) on the site. Fans no longer have to bank on their YouTube video miraculously going viral in order to get noticed by Ellen.

Ellen’s fans are fiercely loyal, and she goes above and beyond to serve and praise them. Ellen finds everyday people’s stories online – such as a hilarious flight attendant, an energetic child and a squad of hero firefighters – and then has them share their story on her show. She’s a masterful engager. While building your own video sharing website site will probably not best suit your brand, your goal should be to figure out ways to improve the service you provide to your audience. Are you taking the proper time to understand who they actually are? Start now.



Connect Your Audience to Prominent Figures

The other late night Jimmy, Jimmy Kimmel, has a regular segment where celebrities read random mean tweets about themselves. Kimmel’s audience loves watching famous people slamming themselves on national TV and then laughing it off. I mean they really love it; three of the ten most popular late night TV clips of 2014 were from Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweet” series.

Kimmel understands the importance of humanizing prominent figures, and he’s done so masterfully. No other comedian has gotten celebrities to dish out such blunt self-deprecating jokes as Kimmel. The same opportunity exists with brands – your company needs a face and a personality in order for people to care. If your brand had to be a person, who would it be?

Engagement Pros

Comedians make people laugh because they’re experts at giving their audience a seat at the table, at giving them something extra special, and at creating relatable personalities. They create meaningful connections through laughter. What’s your angle?

What do you think about these tactics? Agree / disagree? Seen anything else we missed? Let us know by sharing your comments on Twitter below with #tintsocial !


Karissa Urry is a writer, marketer and brander.  Tweet her @KarissaUrry.