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Event Overviews and Resources 11: Humorous Interpretation (Feat. HI Tips from Jayden Roccaforte)

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources. Today we're looking into Humorous Interpretation - and maybe we'll get a few laughs! Here to help us navigate Humor is National Champion interpretative competitor and Cheyenne East Speech Senior Jayden Roccaforte.


Humorous Interpretation is an individual event in which a competitor chooses a short story, a play, a cut piece from a larger text, or just any other published piece and then interprets this piece in a performance up to ten minutes long. It is, of course, meant to be a humorous performance.

Here is a description straight from the NSDA competition guide:

“Humorous Interpretation is designed to test a student’s comedic skills through script analysis, delivery, timing, and character development. Competitors may portray one or multiple characters. No props or costumes may be used. Performances can also include an introduction written by the student to contextualize the performance and state the title and the author.”

Humor is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Very often at tournaments, Humor is the most attended by spectators in final rounds. And, while it is a super fun event, it is anything but a simple event for competitors. There are some big time challenges for folks who take on this event. Competitors are essentially going for a one-person performance that is funny and tells a meaningful story. Usually competitors balance a number of characters, the actions of the scene, no costumes or props (of course) - just themselves, body, face, voice, timing, spirit, volume, energy - to pull it off. Competitors do all of this and still want to find a way to deliver a funny and heartfelt performance for the audience and judge.

Monologues are not generally super successful on the Humor scene because they don’t usually bring the opportunities for range, creativity, and energy in a piece (although there are always exceptions and for novice performers a monologue might be a good choice). Varsity performers generally want to cut a script with multiple characters. Creative approaches are key for performers with multiple characters. Pops, movements, sounds, blocking, and transitions that make sense and are engaging - all of that makes for a strong humor performance.


Five hot tips for Humor competitors from senior Cheyenne East interpretative superstar and good friend of the podcast, Jayden Rocceforte:

1. Piece selection

When deciding on a piece, try not to focus on what’s necessarily funny! Focus primarily on what you personally enjoy! After all, it’s easier to make a piece that you like funny than it is to make yourself like a “funny” piece. As for good qualities a piece should have, look for something the audience can relate to on a human level; not only will relatability make the piece funnier to the audience, but more heartfelt moments can shine through to them as well. Ask yourself why a person wants/needs to watch YOUR humor!

2. Characters

The most fun and most challenging aspect of humor is playing different characters. Make sure that the number of characters you have in the piece aren’t too much to handle. Characters themselves each need to have their own body stance, voice, face, and movement. Over the course of the school year these characters can evolve, but the most important thing to focus on immediately is making sure the audience can tell the difference between your characters.

3. Environment

Each performance tells a story that can take place over hours, days, or even weeks! It’s important that the audience can see the world the characters are living in, and the environment of each scene. This can be accomplished by having characters interact with objects around them, or by simply mention the environment in the dialogue. For example, if two characters are talking with each other in the kitchen, one character can be pouring a cup of coffee while the other washes dishes. It’s small interpretive decisions that can build a world around your humor and add realism to your story.

4. Reactions

An important and often overlooked aspect of humor is the facial reaction that characters can have to each other! When looking at your script and the way characters interact with each other, think about how characters react to certain lines. If one character says something embarrassing, then the other character could be trying to hold back laughter. This strategy not only helps with comedic timing, but it can encourage the audience to see the humor in the situation as well. Make sure you aren’t just reading lines in different voices. Each character should have their own attitude and reactions to a situation.

5. Perform Outside of Tournaments

Over the course of the year, performers should be constantly growing from week to week. In between tournaments, it can only help to show your piece to coaches, classmates, family, and anyone who will watch. Not only does this give a performer practice to make perfect, it can also allow an additional outside lense that can provide ideas for improvement, whether it be a funny joke to include, or a criticism on the cutting of the piece. Performing as much as you can can only help.

Thanks so much to Jayden for the gift of these tips for Humorous competitors!


Looking for more Jayden on One Clap? You are in for a treat! I will link to his special episode and a couple other great episodes that will help interpretative competitors here:

Jayden Roccaforte, 2020 Prose National Champion, Knows the Power of a Powerful Story

Saga McAllister and Coach Ashley Schulz Get to the Heart of Interpretation

Interp Standout Justin Woolsey's New Speech & Debate Documentary to Debut on YouTube

Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the One Clap Podcast wherever you listen! Watch for new episodes of One Clap, Rock On! Debate, Coach Connection, Long Winter's Clap, and Speech Love!


More links to helpful resources for Humorous Interpretation:

NSDA Competition Guide:

Suggested Source Material for Interpretative Events from NSDA:

Speech Resources Video from the 2020 Wyoming Coaches Conference, Presented by Marcus Viney and Ashley Schulz:

Introduction to Coaching Dramatic and Humorous Interpretation from NSDA:

What to Expect Competing in Humorous Interpretation from NSDA

Resources for Humorous Interpretation from Judge Training:

Humorous Interpretation Resources from

Sample Interpretative Ballot from NSDA:


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