Losing A Speech Contest

November 17th, 2015

Here is an inspiring internet posting by Laurette Lynn.  She lost a Toastmasters speech contest, and like all of us, she had to deal with the sting and disappointment of losing.  Her reflections on the experience are like a great movie.  The essay illustrates how we can deal with a challenge, be frustrated, and yet learn from the experience. It’s all about dealing with the upset and coming out a stronger person in the end.

Here are Laurette Lynn’s words

Humor Power Article:  So You Lost a Speech Contest?

Stand-up Comedy Open Mic Contest

November 13th, 2015

The Second-Annual
Stand-Up Comedy Open Mic Contest
Sponsored by PowerHouse Pros

Don’t miss this fun night of laughter.
Monday, November 30, at 6:15 pm

Special Persentation: What Agents are Lookng for in a Comedian.

The location is 920 Pilot Road in Las Vegas.
Join us for an evening of fun. If you miss it…we will have the last laugh!

Observational Humor — Case Study #142

November 8th, 2015

Here is another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a meeting of the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Speakers Association.

First, we will look at the set-ups for the jokes. Then review the jokes.  And finally, we’ll look at what made the humor work.

The goal of studying Observational Humor is to develop your talent of creating just one original, fresh joke to include in your presentation.

The SetUp (What happened and what was said during the meeting,
before he monologue was presented.)

1. I was moving slowly due to stiffness.

2. Mike Rayburn played a difficult song on the guitar. He said: I do
that…because I can.

3. Mike Rayburn has played Carnegie Hall multiple times.

4. Debbie Allen said that every speaker’s first book usually sucks.

5. Debbie has written eight books.

6. Have a current photo in your promo materials so that when you show
up for an engagement, you look like yourself.

7. Debbie is one of the most successful and most highly paid women
speakers in the speaking business.

8. This is my second year to close every chapter meeting with an
Observational Humor wrap-up.

9. Sophia (chapter President) gave a thank you gift to Mike Rayburn
(immediate past President). She said Mike had it all, and the most
meaningful gift she could give Mike would be to write a check as a
donation to his church.


(I approached the front of the room very slowly. Not to setup a joke but because I was very stiff.)
I have an advantage over many speakers. When I give a one-hour keynote, I only need 30 minutes of content.
(The joke received less laughter than I thought it would. My voice
wasn’t strong that day, and I got feedback after the meeting that I was hard to hear. I should have been wearing a microphone.)

I’m not going to sing and play the guitar…because I can’t.
(A reversal of a call back.)

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Buy tickets to see Mike Rayburn.  

(Self-deprecation and also compliments a talented member.)

My speaking career is on track. I’m writing my first book…which will suck.
(self deprecation.)

I’ve written eight books. No…I ate my first book. I was hungry.
(Plays with sound-alike words EIGHT/ATE. Ate my first book was a
joke. I was hungry was a topper. And self-deprecation.)

My career was going great…until I showed up looking like myself.

(A call back. Unexpectedly applying prior advice twist to myself.)

And soon I’ll be ranked in the top-five of all women speakers.
(Silly but fun. A good laugh.)

How to get mentioned in one of John’s wrap-up monologues: Do or say something brilliant. Do or say something stupid. And keep doing it until you see John write something down.
(Absurd advice, since it’s unlikely any member of the audience was
wondering how they could be mentioned in the monologue.)

Sophia, I don’t have everything. You can make a check out to me.
(A call back. And self-deprecation.)

New Joke Contest — Just One Letter

November 1st, 2015

The Difference Just One Letter can Make.

Can you name a menu or food item, and by adding, substituting, or deleting just one letter, turn it into something very different?

New contests are announced on the first of the month.

Here are three examples of what it could look like.  Put on your creative cap and see what you can come up with.

If a chef served French food at an Auto Repair Shop it would be known as Wrench Food…or maybe even Mr Good Wrench Food.

A Power Lunch with chips added would become a Poker Lunch.

If a fruit-stand burglar left his fingerprints on the Blue Berries they
would become Clue Berries.

And let’s avoid the cheap route to humor by turning Corn into Porn, or Crab into Crap, and other borderline switches. Let’s keep our jokes in the category of clean Corporate Humor.

Write as many lines as you can and submit your best three for our Top Three recognition selected by our panel of judges. You can submit more than three lines. The extra lines will be eligible for Honorable Mention.

Submit your entries by November 14, 2015, to

Our next contest will be announced on December 1, 2015.

Humor Contest Results — Expanded Books

October 25th, 2015

It’s time for the best lines from the October Humor Contest.

New contests are announced on the first of the month.

Next month’s contest comes out on November 1, 2015.

This month’s contest took the three winners from last month’s Simple or Complex book titles. We challenged our readers to provide chapter headings for the three book titles. The Book Titles were:
– Meatloaf Slicing to Wow Your Friends.
– Ninety Days to a Better Three Months
– How to Fix Your Roof With the Tree that Fell on It

Here is a peek at the inside contents of the books.



Chapter 33 and 1/3: Carving to Meatloaf’s Greatest Hits.
Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois

Chapter 41: Beyond the Loaf–Turkey and Roast Beef
Sandy Kampner, Evergreen Park, Illinois



Chapter 9: Life After Bankruptcy.
Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California

Chapter 90: Practice Makes Perfect – Go Back to Day One.
Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California



Chapter 1: Exploring Your Roots.
David Novick, Dayton, Ohio

Chapter 12: Using Tree Remnants to Open a Branch Office.
Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Illinois


Teamwork in the Music Business–Part 3

October 18th, 2015

The last in a three-part series by Terry Wall.   He interviews Jorma Kaukonen , Lead Guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane.

Part 3
Part 2
Part 1


And Here are Tonight’s Contestants

October 15th, 2015

Last night on Jeopardy, Matt Jackson who looked like he would be another Ken Jennings, got knocked off off after 13 games and $411,612 in winnings. I didn’t want to see him go. The guy who beat him, Michael Baker, also impressive, lost tonight. Go figure. As important as quick reflexes, knowledge and focus are, you can’t beat luck. Just having the right questions can make all the difference. With the right questions, even I might win one game. But two games, highly unlikely. Skill and knowledge still count for a lot. “And the categories for today are
Norwegian Foods, Magicians, Comedy Skills, Las Vegas, French Language, and 1965.” On my first round, “Alex, I’ll make it a true Daily Double.” Then again I could get, “And the categories for today are Greece vs Sparta, Calculus, Kangaroo Bones, 18th Century Classical Harpsicord, GORT (and we all know what that means), and Love Notes in Hebrew.” Right after break, John will go first because he’s in third place. But there’s still a lot of time. There wouldn’t be enough time if my opponents were wearing straight jackets and were blindfolded.

Observational Humor — Case Study # 141

October 15th, 2015

This article will be a good learning tool on the subject of creating original humor. We begin with an Observational Humor monologue created at the end of a Toastmasters meeting by Bala (Balakumar Shanmugam), Author of the Indian Humor Blog, which is published in the Netherlands. Don’t confuse it with the Dutch Humor Blog which is published in India.

We will begin with the original monologue delivered on September 16. 2015. Following that we’ll look at my edits and changes to the monologue. And last Bala and I will discuss the differences between the two versions of the monologue.

This article illustrates a few thoughts on creating humor:

1. Two heads are better than one. This is why many humor presenters have a humor buddy, someone who will provide feedback on their humor writing and delivery.

2. You can turn almost anything into a humor exercise. In this case we take a monologue delivered at the end of a Toastmasters meeting. Since this is one-time-use humor, it would be easy to toss it in the trash or throw it into a file or a drawer. A better choice is to realize that you can learn a lot from editing it even though you will never actually present it again. The cliche is that the value is in the journey, in the process, and not in the arrival at the destination.

3. It should also be noted that editing a monologue after it’s presented, is easier than writing it on-the-fly just before it’s presented. After the fact, you have a more leisure time to study the monologue, do more than one edit, work with a humor buddy, and create a more carefully crafted monologue.

4. The classic comment is still true. In the analysis of a joke, the humor often is lost.

5. John says, “two heads are better than one.” Bala says, “three heads are funnier than two.”

6. For people who are serious about their humor, this process of editing, just for the sake of doing it, is fun.

So let’s get started.

When you listen to an Observational Humor Monologue, it’s nice if you were actually there. You’ve heard the expression which follows someone sharing something funny that happened. And the person listening to the story doesn’t laugh. The explanation is, “Well you had to be there.” To make the monologue make sense to you, we will begin by giving you the set-up for the jokes. What that means is that we will first give you what happened and what was said during the meeting, before the monologue was delivered. This will provide you the set-up for the jokes, the context which will help you understand the humor. It will make it more like “you were there.”

THE SET-UP (What happened and what was said during the meeting before Bala delivered the monologue.)

1. Floris gave a speech in which the topic was TBD (To Be Decided). He gave the audience three topics and asked them to choose one.

2. Justina, the host, asked the audience to give a big round of applause whenever the speaker was coming to the stage or leaving the stage. She said she is a big fan of applause.

3. Bogdan read a letter from Toastmasters International Headquarters which announced that our club was a distinguished club. He first said that the letter was addressed to him (since he’s the president) but later said, “It’s actually addressed to all of us.”

4. Eindhoven, the city where we live, is in a state called Noord Brabant.

5. Justina said that sometimes we have barbeque at Toastmasters.

6. It had rained heavily the whole day. Generally, it rains on most days in the Netherlands.

7. Floris explained the dangers of cloud computing. Maria asked Floris a question: “How can I retrieve the data in my laptop (not in the cloud) if my house burns down?”

8. The Table Topics Master, leader of the impromptu speech part of the meeting, said that in the year 1752, on the Gregorian calendar, September 2 was immediately followed by September 14, eleven days were lost. The topic was: “What would you do if you had 11 extra days in a year?”

9. Floris also explained that a 3D printer can be used to make innovative objects.

10. On the agenda, there was no 3rd speaker. There were 1st, 2nd, and 4th speakers, but the 3rd speaker had dropped out.

11. Bogdan told a story about a rich man and how he planned to get his daughter married. He called all bachelors in the surrounding area. He announced a contest which used a pool full of alligators and other dangerous animals. The person who jumps in and reaches the other side first can either get 1 million in cash, or 1000 acres land, or marry his daughter. As soon as he makes the announcement, one person jumps and reaches the other side. The rich man asks him if he wants 1 million. He says no. He asks if he wants 1000 acres of land. He says no. He asks if he wants to marry his daughter. He says no. Finally he asks, “What do you want?” The reply, “I want to know who pushed me into the water.”

12. Most speakers talked overtime, exceeding their alotted time limits.

13. There were two guests named Brent and Noor. The host, Justina, asked them to introduce themselves. They started talking together, for which Justina said, “Not together. One after another.”


My humor monologue topic is TBD. I will give you three joke formats. Choose the one you want:
First: Yo mama so fat.
Second: A Toastmaster walks into a bar.
Third: Why did the chicken cross the road?

(The audience says Number 2)
Ok, so Three it is.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Someone pushed it.

A Toastmaster walks into a bar. Justina asks everyone to give him a big round of applause.

(I remove a letter from my pocket.)
I received a letter, addressed to me. No, addressed to all of us. Oh wait. Forget it. It’s a love letter I got from a girl.

Maria, don’t worry. Your house will never be on fire. In the Netherlands, it rains 24/7.

If we had a guest named Debra, it would’ve been great.
(After saying this, you write De Bra on the board. Actual delivery of this line got a huge laugh.)

(I write Noor, a guest’s name, in front of De and Brent, another guest’s name, next to Bra. So it looks like Noorde Brabrent.) That’s our state.

What would I make with a 3D printer? A 3D speaker. (Write 3D speaker on board. Then add an R before the D to make it a 3RD speaker.)

Bogdan, I want to reveal a secret. I was the one who pushed you.

A lot of speakers went overtime. To finish this meeting, we’ll need an extra 11 days.

You may clap now. Not together. One after another.


My Observational Humor Monologue is TBD. I will give you three joke formats and you will choose the one you want me to use.

First…A Toastmaster walks into a Bar.
Second…Why did the chicken cross the road?
Third…Yo Mama says.

OK, so THREE it is (or whatever number they pick).
Why did Yo Mama ask why the chicken crossed the road? Because there was a Toastmasters meeting in a bar on the other side…and a Toastmaster had pushed the chicken in that direction.

A Toastmaster follows a chicken and Yo Mama into the bar. Justina asks everyone in the bar to give the chicken a big round of applause.

Why didn’t the chicken join Toastmasters?
Because the club loves Bar-B-Que. And because he didn’t know that he could quickly become a CTM, a Chicken Toastmaster.

(Taking a letter from your pocket.)
I got a letter today. A love letter from a girl…And it’s addressed to all of us. That probably increases our chances of a double date.

Maria, don’t worry. Your house will never be on fire. In the Netherlands, it rains 24/7.

If we had a guest named Debra, it would’ve been great.
(After saying this, you write De Bra on the board. Actual delivery of this line got a huge laugh.)

(I write Noor, a guest’s name, in front of De and Brent, another guest’s name, next to Bra. So it looks like Noorde Brabrent.) That’s our state.

What would I make with 3D printer? A 3D speaker. (Write 3D speaker on board. Then add an R before the D to make it a 3RD speaker.)

Bogdan, told us a story, but it wasn’t a joke, it was something that actually happened to him… Bogdan, I’m sorry I pushed you.

A lot of speakers exceeded their time limits. We would have almost had enough time to finish this meeting, if we had added 11 days.

Now it’s time for you to clap. Not together. One after another.


John: Both monologues open with a call-back to the TBD comment. This is such an unusual choice (letting the audience to pick a monologue theme), that just the premise is likely to get a laugh. Bala, you’re not required to use the audience’s choice, and you don’t. I like the direction you take in the first monologue. The audience picks TWO and you say “OK, so THREE it is.” A bold choice worthy of a laugh. I took a different approach, rather than verbally denying their choice, I liked the idea of using all three choices in your answer so that no matter what number they picked, it would be included in your response.

Bala: I gave the audience three joke-format choices that everyone is familiar with, and which are funny.

“My Observational Humor Monologue is TBD. I will give you three joke formats and you will choose the one you want me to use.”
(As a call-back to one of the speeches during the meeting, just stating that premise is likely to get a laugh.)
John: I made a change to the choices you offer the audience.
First…A Toastmaster walks into a Bar.
Second…Why did the chicken cross the road?
Third…Yo Mama says.
I think YO MAMA is the funniest sounding line and the best choice for the third item in the triplet. Let the audience pick any of the three. Then I’m suggesting that you be prepared with a joke that combines all three joke formats. Note also that I changed the MAMA line to avoid the “fat joke.” I wouldn’t recommend using that joke theme unless it were being used as self-deprecation aimed at you, the presenter of the joke. That not being the case, I would choose to avoid the fat-joke.

Bala: You are right. Just the premise, by itself, was enough to get a laugh. The first choice had them laughing. I agree that making Yo Mama the third choice because it is the funniest format. And deleting the fat-joke is the safe and the right choice.

John: Right from the start I wanted to actively use the chicken and the Toastmasters theme (Because there was a Toastmasters meeting in a bar on the other side.) And then right on its heels, A Toastmaster follows a chicken and Yo Mama into the bar. And then, Justina asks everyone in the bar to give the chicken a big round of applause. The jokes tie the format-choices together and get the monologue rolling. And they paint an absurd picture (Three BLANKS Walk Into a Bar). And they provide a call-back to Justina’s applause comment.

Bala: Initially I felt that mixing the formats might be confusing to the audience, but here I feel it’s nice to mix all 3 formats. You just take the characters – Toastmaster, chicken, and Yo Mama – from the 3 formats and have them walk into the bar. Three people walking into the bar is funnier than one person walking into the bar. And Justina asking the audience to give a big round of applause for the chicken is absurd, especially when there is a Toastmaster walking in too. So, it’s funnier than the original.

John: At first, it might be confusing to the audience, but allowing them to sort things out and “get the joke” activates the superiority theory of humor and works on strengthening the joke. This works best with smart audiences.

Bala: I noticed that you include some jokes which aren’t really Observational Humor. What are your thoughts on doing that.

John: Right…the CTM joke really isn’t an observational joke. But it ties in with the TM and the Chicken theme. And it’s pretty much a one-time-use joke, and as such it has the power of an observational joke, a joke which the audience feels was written just for them. Sometimes I enrich a monologue with jokes out of the theme just for the sake of the laughs, but too much of that and you’re presenting a prepared stand-up comedy routine, and the observtional elements of your presentation lose their punch. Also, I will sparingly use a prepared line or two, fitting the circumstances, to fill in what would otherwise be a shorter observational program.

Bala: The love-letter joke works better with the “addressed to all of us” hidden until the end of the joke. The absurdity is funny.

John: I love your word-play connections of guest names with Noord Brabant and with the 3D Printer and the missing 3RD speaker. If we were having an observational dual, I would have been thinking, “I wish I had thought of that!” Brilliant links. Jokes with that type of structure come with risks. You need a smart audience to “connect the dots” and get the joke. If the audience is not sharp, the reaction you’ll get is, “Huh?” But I know that your club has the ability to recognize more sophisticated humor.

Bala: That’s the superiority theory of humor in action. The jokes got very big laughs. In the construction of the lines I had to borrow the name of Debra to make the joke work. The word DE in Dutch means the, making the line a bit edgy, but in my judgment, OK to use. The actual delivery of the line got a huge laugh. My club serves as a sharp audience. If I were in the audience, its sharpness would be diluted.

John: You tell the well-worn joke of “who pushed me into the alligator pit.” Since you’re going to confess to pushing your friend and want to drop yourself into his story, I chose to switch the joke to a real-life experience. And I switched the admission of guilt to a quick apology. And I choose an implied punchline, implying that the push was INTO THE WATER.

Bala: A lot of speakers exceeded their time limits at the meeting. Your revised monologue made light of the situation by using the punchline that an extra eleven days would ALMOST have been enough time to give the speakers the time they needed.

John: “Now it’s time for all of you to clap. Not together. One after another.” A call-back and silly suggestion. Silly is good and a nice way to close a humor monologue.

A final note: Create your own exercises by writing and editing something just for the practice. Just for your own eyes. Just for the fun of it. And don’t forget to find and use a humor buddy to bounce off your funny ideas making them even funnier.

Bala’s and John’s Blog links:



Observational Humor — Case Study #140

October 8th, 2015

Here is another Observational Humor monologue which was presented at the end of a Toastmasters meeting. First you’ll be able to read the set-up for each joke. Then I’ll share the joke. Next I’ll briefly comment on what made the joke work. Although the examples of Observational Humor are in the context of a Toastmasters meeting, the skills apply just the same to any meeting you might be attending. It’s a useful skill to develop. When you can drop in an observational line into any presentation it makes the content of your whole talk feel fresh and original.

THE SETUP. What happened and what was said during the meeting
before the monologue was presented.

1. At the start of the meeting, the Sgt At Arms announced directions for
finding the rest rooms. “Exit the meeting room and turn right, turn
right, turn left, turn right and turn left.”

2. The emcee joked that “there will be no flash photography during the
meeting. In other words there will be no flashing.”

3. A speaker said that while he was on a picnic he tripped over an ant.

4. Bobby told a story of meeting a young man who was homeless and
had no job.

5. A speaker told of someone who retired in middle-age, and then went back to work when they got older.

6. Bill Brown, a club member, was attending the meeting.

7. Bill Lusk told us he collects Porsches.

8. We had several guests, and a larger number of members. The
average age of our members was much higher than the average age of our guests.

9. We had a near-record amount of rain fall the day of the meeting.

10. A member was assigned an impromptu speech topic on why the
average family has 2.5 children


At the beginning of the meeting, you were given confusing directions to the rest rooms. The simple directions are, if you aren’t in a room with a toilet, keep looking.
(The vague directions to the rest rooms was partly done for the sake of the humor. It got a laugh, and provided a good set up for my joke.)

I also wanted to correct the instructions at the start of the meeting. It’s OK to flash me.
(Good call back using the double meaning of the word FLASH.)

This past weekend we had a family reunion in a park. I wasn’t watching where I was going and I tripped over my uncle. No…that’s not right…I tripped over an Aunt.
(Good joke using a sound-alike word ANT/AUNT.)

Bobby, the young man who you met was just ahead of his time. He
retired first and was planning on working later.
(The joke links the job-less man with the mention of retiring early.)

If Bill Brown married Vanna White and they had a daughter…she would be Betty Beige.
(Playing with names. Look for names that have double meanings as
names and noun/verb/adjective.)

And I discovered one more thing I have in common with Bill Lusk. I also have a porch.  (Again I was playing with a sound-alike word Porsche/Porch.)

It’s wonderful to have so many guests tonight. I’m sure that those of you attending for the first time have noticed that when you join
Toastmasters…you get old.
(Self-deprecation or group-deprecation.)

We had a record rainfall yesterday. Someone started building an Arc in the parking lot. Fortunately we had half men and half women at the meeting, so it would be easy to re-populate the earth.
(Links the heavy rain with the Arc and couples, two-by-two. And this
joke also sets up the next joke.)

Then Philip arrived late and we had an odd number of people. That’s OK. We would be able to have a half child.
(This could be considered a topper, where the previous joke serves as a set up for the joke that follows. Call back to the half-a-child. Good
response made it a nice closer.)

One Person’s Joke is Another Person’s Serious Comment

October 1st, 2015

A Facebook scam has resurfaced which convinces people to paste text onto their Facebook wall thinking that it will protect them from from those who would mis-use their personal data. My response is usually to write a humorous parody or spoof of the scam. I did that recently posting a piece using, and mis-using, many legal terms to poke fun at the original scam. Here is the post:


As of today at 15:45, Coordinated Universal Time, my privacy will neither be an accessory nor an accomplice for ad hoc admissibility of the aforementioned arraignment. Accordingly, the absolute discharge of encumbrances by all and sundry sisters of the covenant shall apply. Ad hoc trustees shall be subject to arrest or arrested development, in perpetuity, or until the age of consent or the age of Aquarius, whichever comes first, except after C. Bona fide causation suggests that the plaintiff’s briefs be examined in chambers for intestate malfeasance. To avoid malicious prosecution for manslaughter, or womanslaughter, subject to insidious caveat emptor warrants, be acquitted accordingly. With regard to my profile or other personal information, this admonition remains in effect four score and a fortnight. Amen.


When I saw the scam posting several weeks ago, I got the idea to write a spoof. The original scam posting was written so as to look authoritative and credible. It dropped the right words. It touched the fear button. It wasn’t funny. Yet it made you wonder: Why would someone be inclined to follow the recommended steps in he scam?

I started thinking that I could write my own parody of the original scam text. I decided that my structure would be Legaleze-Gibberish. I started by building a list of legal terms. I had a list of terms more than twice what I actually used. Then I started writing sentences which almost sounded like they made semse, but they didn’t. The key to doing that was to honor the type of word I was using (noun, verb, adjective) but to make no connection with the word’s meaning. If read with conviction, it sounds like it means something even though it doesn’t. As I wrote, I strayed from legal words when I saw other connections. For example:
– Sisters of the covenant
– Arrest or arrested development
– Age of Aquarius
– Except after C
– Womanslaughter
– Briefs be examined
– Four score and a fortnight
– Amen. On a whim I closed the piece with AMEN. Nonsensical.


My post strikes most people in one of two ways. Either they are totally confused. Or they think I am brilliant. Their responses are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong…they’re just different. People who are good friends, who are intelligent people, and who have a sense of humor, can see life differently from me. They laugh at different things and see an alternate version of the world. The things that make them laugh may be connections that don’t strike me as funny. We’re entitled to our differences. How boring the world would be if we were all identical. One person could look at a Facebook posting, think it’s funny, and wonder how anybody could possibly think it was a serious post. At the same time, another person could look at it as a serious attempt to share necessary information which couldn’t possibly strike anyone as funny.

Add to the mix, even when I see something which strikes me as funny, you probably won’t see me laughing. I appreciate humor but rarely laugh. That may send mixed signals to people, making them believe that I’m serious when in fact I’m making a joke or internally processing some humor.

Humor is not a one-size-fits-all skill that we’re born with, nor a talent that we learn. It’s a gift that allows us to see relationships in different ways. If someone you know says something which confuses you…If they’re joking but you think they’re serious, or if you think they’re serious but they’re joking, both are form of mis-communication. Say something, and you can both learn from the experience. No kidding. What are your thoughts on this subject? Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.