It's hard not to envy that guy at parties who always says the right thing at the right time -- and has everyone in side-splitting laughter. You may wonder if that's simply natural talent or if it's practiced. It's probably a mixture. While the ability to see and communicate humor certainly comes more naturally to some people than others, anyone who takes a little time to study comedy in social situations can learn to be a little funnier.
Knowing Your Audience
One joke might be hilarious at a work party, but draw a lot of blank stares at a family reunion. What some people might see as clever, others could find offensive. If you truly want to be the life of the party, consider your audience. Think about what you would think was funny if you could get inside other people's heads. If you're not sure, pay attention to what they're laughing about before you jump in with a witty anecdote. You can't always please everyone, but with some discretion you can prevent repeatedly sticking your foot in your mouth.
You've heard of the phrase "sense of humor." Not everyone's sense is the same. Psychologist Chris MacLeod, founder of SucceedSocially.com, says, "I think that someone's sense of humor is at least partially connected to their personality and their world view. An overly serious, uptight person isn't going to have much of a sense of humor. Someone who's more laid back and sees the absurdity in life will probably be more funny." You can't force yourself to be someone you're not. You'll be more effective in capturing and communicating those funny moments when you're confident and comfortable in who you are and what you believe.
Finding Natural Humor
Unless you're on a comedy stage, you usually can't force or create humor. It flows naturally from everyday situations. If you find yourself trying to stage humorous occurrences, you're trying too hard -- and it usually won't work. Finding the humor in everyday moments comes more naturally to some people than others, but it gets better with practice. To learn how to be funnier, take the time to observe comedy in action. Watch popular TV and Internet comedies and try to think about what is making you laugh. Spend time around friends you think are funny and imitate what you like best about them.
Timing and Presentation
You've probably thought about something funny you could have said in a social situation, but too late. Or maybe you've bumbled your way through a joke, but no one got it because you didn't deliver it quite right. If you watch comedy masters, what makes them funny isn't always what they say, but how and when they say it. Practice helps. If you really want to work on your delivery, find some jokes and practice telling them to trusted, forgiving friends. Ask for their feedback. With time, you'll get a feel for what works and what doesn't with different people.
If you say something that is funny but completely tasteless at the moment, you're defeating the purpose of humor. You want to lighten the feeling of the situation, not make it more awkward. While to be funny you sometimes have to put yourself out there and risk sounding foolish, listen to your gut. If what you're saying feels uncomfortable to you, it probably does to other people as well. Try to pick up on social cues if you don't naturally possess that kind of discretion. If you're drawing looks of disgust, you probably need to apologize and forgo that approach.