Humor me

I came across an interesting post [Laugh, and your learners laugh with you. Maybe.] by Cathy Moore discussing the use of humor in training. She mentions that most customers are very opposed to using humor (of any type) in training. I would agree with her that there is a perception that anything laid back will not be taken seriously by the audience. This has definitely been my experience with our corporate clients. Admittedly we have worked extensively in the Pharma/Biotech industries and they appear to be more serious in their approach. I am wondering if there are industries where humor is more widely used in online training.
Again, I agree with Cathy that humor is easier to use in a classroom setting mainly because the feedback from the audience is instantaneous. In a classroom setting you get feedback right away and if your joke flops you can move on very quickly changing your approach/speaking style-this is obviously not the case for online training.

Something that Cathy didn't touch on and that one comment mentions briefly is the multi-cultural nature of the training audience. This makes it trickier as humor definitely differs from country to country and even more so from area/region to region. It is VERY difficult to develop a course that will be funny for the entire audience. Actually, now that I think about it there are also substantial differences in how the different genders perceive humor. I am always amazed at how specific advertising campaigns really highlight these differences. Quite regularly my wife and I sit at the TV and I crack up at a Miller beer commercial and she is sitting next to me looking perplexed.

Another area that really limits the use of the humor is the environment of political correctness. Let's face it; much of the humor that is really funny may offend some group of your audience. This means that much of the humor is scaled back and becomes corny, rather than funny.

I would say that humor can be used, especially if the audience is small and homogenous. The more diversified the audience the more difficult it is to pull off humor.