I was a motivational speaker for a large healthcare organization. Just before the speech, several staff members came up to me laughing under their breath suggesting I should poke fun of the CEO because he was passing gas in the coffee room.
I asked, don't you think he would be publically offended? They unanimously reported that he, along with the whole audience, would find this hilarious.
Obviously, I would never poke fun of the CEO in this way. However, it does give me valuable clues to this audiences unique sense of humor. In this case, the group loved "black humor" which is often taboo for other groups.
Black humor, also called Gallows Humor, pokes fun at gross, unpleasant or painful experiences. Things like bodily fluids and function are up for grabs in this humor style. Gallows can also laugh at serious matters like war, disease, crime and more.
Working in healthcare, black humor is often part of the job, because they deal with people (and bodily function) every day.
The other clue to the audiences unique humor is they like to poke fun at each other. Any audience who feels open to joking with (or about) the CEO obviously has a very informal atmosphere where poking fun at each other helps them maintain their sanity.
Poking fun at any audience member is tricky, it has to be done with taste and tact. Erring on the side of caution, lightly bringing up nuances or clues to the group's culture can create a bond and unite the team. However, if you go too far or publically embarrass people, it will backfire.
As funny motivational speakers learn, the audience loves to be a part of the comedy, but not in an embarrassing way.