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Public Speaking Course: 

Rule of Three

Out of everything you will learn in your public speaking course, the rule of three is the most pervasive in the construction of humorous situations.

You will see it over and over because it's so simple to use, it's powerful and it works (see I just used it there in a non-funny situation). Most of the time in humor the Rule of Three is used in this way: The first comment names the topic, the second sets a pattern, and the third unexpectedly switches the pattern which makes it  funny. Here's a few examples from brochures advertising my seminars:

In the "How to Get There"; section

* From Washington, D.C. take Rt. 50 . . .
* From Baltimore, MD take Rt. 95 . . .
* From Bangkok, Thailand board Asian Air . . .

* By Metro take the Red line . . .
* By Car take New York Ave. . . .
* By Steamship take the Chesapeake Bay

While in front of a group I point to an audience member and say "You can make a difference in your company."
[Pointing to the next person] You can make a difference in your
[Pointing to third fun person] You can [pause] Well not everyone can do

The Rule of Three is also used in constructing bits (see bits article
on this website).

Three jokes or one-liners on one topic is enough to create a rise in
the audience, but not enough to tire them about that subject. As you practice what you learned in your public speaking course, don't forget that the Rule of Three is good in non-funny situations too. Even Old Abe Lincoln used it twice in the powerful, but short, Gettysburg Address: "We cannot
dedicate. We cannot consecrate. We cannot hallow this ground"; and that "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."


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