The Power of the Right Word

June 25th, 2015

The Power of the Right Word

When writing a joke, the right word can add more punch. Mark Twain said that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Descriptive words. Look for colorful words. Don’t use limp modifiers.  The word VERY is such a modifier. I visited the home where I was raised. Compared to the home in my memory, the actual home was very big. Or maybe instead it was huge. Or maybe, compared to the family home in my imagination, it was palatial. Very is a very limp modifier.  Very big is a yawn generator. Huge is a step in the right direction, but it is a generic size description. Palatial is descriptive and related to home size. We’re getting warm.

Made-up words.
A beater. This is a common word for a beat up old car.
A bomb. This was a term for our family 1953 Pontiac as it slowly turned
from a stylish new car into an embarrassing beater.

Funny words. Referring to marijuana as a drug is a rather bland
description. Cannabis has a K sound and may be a bit funnier. Weed is
funnier. Mary Jane, a little more color. Pot has more POP to it.
Another word, calliope is funnier than organ. And the word captures some of the whimsical qualities of the instrument.
Lake Superior is not as funny as Lake Erie; which is not as funny as
Lake Wobegon; which is not as funny as Lake Titicaca. Some words
just sound funny.

K sounds.
Bing hit in the face with a cream cake is funnier than with an apple pie.
Kinky, is a funny sounding word with a double K.
Macaroon. A K sound buried in the middle gives is a humorous ring.
Cotton Candy, corn dog, funnel cake, are great words for a circus midway, with the K sounds adding some snap. Cotton Candy plays with alliteration.
Kiwi if funnier than orange.
Kinde is funnier than Smith.

Hard sounds are similar to K sounding words.
Jitterbug is funnier than Waltz.
Toyota is funnier than Ford.

Words funny for associations.
Ballet is not funny for the way it sounds, but for tights and tutus we
associate with it.

Crack sounds like the sound it describes, and a bonus, it has a strong K sound.
Whack. You could hit someone on the head but it’s funnier to whack them on the noggin.

So give some thought to the words you use. The right word can kick up the humor value in your jokes and stories.

Contest Results — Rich/Poor

June 21st, 2015

It’s time for the results of our June Joke Contest. The theme is “You Know You’re Rich When…” And “You Know You’re Poor When…”

New Joke Contests are announced on the first of the month.

Look for July’s contest on July 1, 2015.

And here are the top lines:


You know you’re poor when you put your shoes on the wrong feet so they wear down more evenly.

Kaye Newton, Raymond Terrace, NSW, Australia


You know you’re rich when you need no keys.

Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Ilinois


You know you’re rich when you only eat meals that no one can pronounce.

Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illin

HONORABLE MENTION (In random order.)

- You know you’re rich when every Casino Host in Las Vegas knows you by your first name.

- You know you’re poor when every Casino Host in Las Vegas knows you by your first name.

- You know you’re rich when you send your valet to Mars to see if you would like it there.

- You know you’re rich when you hire ten manicurists, one for each finger.

- You know you’re poor when you recycle dental floss.

- You know you’re rich when your other Gulfstream is in the shop.

- You know you’re rich when your address has a street but no number.

- You know you’re rich when you have His and Hers Bentleys…and you’re single.

- You know you’re rich when the golf clubs you buy involve real estate.

- You know you’re rich when “down on your luck” means you just lost $50,000 playing blackjack.

- You know you’re poor when the only way you’ll see foreign countries is by watching the Travel Channel at a Best Buy store.

- You know you’re rich when your bank balance is higher on return from an around the world holiday, and you’ve collected enough air points to go around again.

- You know you’re rich when you have to drop the zeros and use b or t next to your asset balances.

Observational Humor — Case Study ##137 (Video)

June 13th, 2015

Bala, one of our readers, has regularly been doing his own Observational Humor monologues at the end of his Toastmasters meetings in the Netherlands. He has a humor Blog, The Indian Humor Blog, whch is published in the Netherlands. Don’t confuse that with the Netherlands Humor Blog which is published in India.

He recently published his first Observational Humor Video Blog.
Although the video picture and sound are not perfect, and he faces the
challenge of performing the monologue for a small Toastmaster
audience, he is doing a great job and has posted many monologues over the past year. Way to go, Bala.

A couple of suggestions I gave to Bala are to experiment with moving a bit to the right or left to see if you can reduce the back light glare problem. Sometimes a small move, while not eliminating the problem completely, reduces the glare.

And also, I suggested he obtain a wireless microphone which feeds directly into the video camera. Click on this video of one of my recent blog posts to see the difference a direct microphone makes. At the start of the video the MC does not have a mic sending his voice directly to the camera. When I step on stage, his voice is picked up on my lapel mic which is fed directly into the video camera. The difference in sound quality is big.

Here are a couple of my favorite lines, and a couple of suggestions. My
comments should make sense if you visit Bala’s video blog. His blog
post gives context to the jokes. It solves the classic problem of “you had to be there.”

- The line, “Touches my shoulder.” One of my favorite lines. Very nice.

- The line for “4 speeches 4 evaluations.” Excellent.

- On the line, “Eindhoven was 22 percent. It dropped when I moved in.”
My preference is to use an implied punchline. Rather than stating it
directly, I’d say: “It dropped in 2013. I’m not able to analyze why it
dropped in that year because that’s when I moved here.” (pause) It
makes the punchline more complicated to understand, but with an
intelligent audience, which we do have, it makes it a stronger joke.

- On the line, “She has not put on make up.” I might follow with:
“I knew I was going to be the video-master so fortunately, before I
arrived, I was able to put on my makeup.”

Great job Bala. Keep up the good work. It only gets easier.

Humor and the Truth

June 7th, 2015
Truth and humor are a strange mix.
One of the rules of improv is to BE TRUTHFUL.  Often, trying too hard to be funny doesn’t serve you well.  Life is funny enough.
Most jokes, even ones that aren’t true, have a ring of truth in them.
“Here lies W. C. Fields.  I would rather be living in Philadelphia.”   How true.  Wouldn’t we all.   Not that there is anything inherently funny about living in Philadelphia, it’s just that the truth is funny.  We would rather be in Philly than six feet under.

Comic license allows us to stretch the truth, to embellish.

It’s one of the times when it’s ok to lie, just for the sake of the joke and being funny.  When one goes for exaggeration in the extreme, or absurdity, it’s an acceptable lie for the sake of the laugh.  And it’s normally understood by the speaker and the listener that it is not the truth.


When you are just joking and departing from the truth, it can create miscommunication and it may require an apology or the explanation that you were “just kidding.”
Getting a laugh can be a balancing act which requires finding the right mix of truth and embellishment.

New Joke Contest — Rich and Poor

May 31st, 2015

The theme for this month’s joke contest is Rich and Poor.

New Joke contests are announced on the first of the month. The next contest comes out on July 1.

For this month’s contest, Rich and Poor.
The joke formula is:
“You know you’re rich when…”
“You know you’re poor when…”

As an example I’ve written two contrasting lines using Bill Gates as the inspiration for both lines. You do not have to use contrasting jokes, nor do you need to refer to a person or celebrity

- You know you’re rich when you can give a million dollars a year to each of 1000 people for 75 years and still have money left over.

- You know you’re poor when the government could take all your money and it would not be enough to pay the interest on the national debt for six months.

And a few more examples:

- You know you’re Rich when your full name is Richard.
– You know your rich when the monthly interest on your bank savings account is enough to buy a McDonald’s hamburger.
– You know you’re poor when your first Social Security check is a life-style changer.
– You know you’re poor when you’re standing on a steet corner with a card board sign that reads, “Will write jokes for food.”

Get busy. Write as many jokes as you can. Then put them on the back burner and let them simmer. The next day, edit them. Tighten the wording, add more punch. Then pick your 3 best lines of RICH and 3 best lines for POOR. Submit them by June 14, 2015 to If you submit additional lines, they will be eligible for Honorable Mention. Good luck. Have fun.

Professional Speaker Event

May 31st, 2015

Become a Professional Speaker. Achieve your Accredited Speaker Designation. This full-day program, the day before the Toastmasters International Convention in Las Vegas, will be held at the convention venue, Caesar’s Palace Hotel, on August 11, 2015. This program will be presented by your Toastmasters Accredited Speakers.  For more information.

Humor Role Models

May 27th, 2015

The contest theme for the month of May is Humor Role Models.

Contests are announced on the first of the month.

The next contest come out on June 1. 2015.

Here are seven top Humor Role Model submissions. It didn’t seem appropriate to rank them in first, second and third place. So instead, they are shared in no special order, because they are ALL special:


My brother Kevin is a humor sharp-shooter, because his wacky, outrageous, spontaneous witticisms always hit the mark. And his humor is disarming in tense situations.

Submitted by Terry Wall, Washington Township, New Jersey


My mother baked, a great roll model. She introduced me to words, always had Readers Digest around. I honed against my brother. Blame them.

Submitted by Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Illinois


My dad Harry raised me as funny as he. We told jokes, watched and listened to comedians, funny records, read “funny papers,” etc. I learned.

Submited by Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California


Sister John Michael would whoosh into our classroom with a joke or math problem. She taught us critical thinking and how to laugh.

Submitted by Sandy Kampner, Evergreen Park, Illinois


Currently, SE’s corny humor packs a charge. You say “revolt,” he says ”Ohm.” Like Cinco de Mayo is shipwrecked mayonnaise. He’s vegetarian. That’s no bull!

Submitted by David Novick, Dayton, Ohio


DAD JOKES! DAD JOKES! Dad’s boners and groaners and moaners always had us in stitches, especially on long summer road trips and vacations. Thanks, Dad!

Submitted by Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois

Observational Humor — Case Study #136 (Video)

May 25th, 2015

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue. It was presented at a monthly meeting of the Las Vegas chapter of the National Speakers Assn, where I present the humor wrap up at the end of the meeting.

This monologue-case-study blog post includes a video recording. To get the best learning experience from the post, I would suggest reading the SET-UP information first. The SET-UP information gives you the context of the jokes and will help you to make sense of the monologue.  Then watch he video. And last, read the text of the monologue which will include my comments on the jokes.

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

1. The month before, I had opened my humor-wrap-up monologue with a beer bottle gag which received a good laugh.

2. Mike Rayburn included a top-ten list in his opening comments. “Ten Ways I knew It Was a Bad Speaking Gig.” His list included a joke about Obama using a teleprompter, one senior nudist joke, one Amish Joke, two fart jokes, and one joke about one’s fly being unzipped.

3. Jana Stanfield was the first presenter. She said that she forgot to bring her guitar, and when she had arrived at the meeting she said, ”Dang. I forgot my guitar!”

4. Just up the street from the meeting venue is a huge truck stop.

5. Jana’s program included playing the guitar, singing, and a motivational message. We assumed that she ran home and picked up her guitar.

6. Jana told some funny lines about TV news anchors teasing you with minimal information about the upcoming segment, “If you don’t listen, something dangerous will happen.”

7. We were meeting in a church facility, and our meeting room was a recreation room with a big roll-up door, similar to a garage door.

8. Jana told a story and sang a song about someone spending time in South East Asia who met someone on

9. Jana said that clients hire speakers for the person they are. They don’t hire a speaker for his/her topic or subject.

10. Chad Hymas mentioned Oprah.

11. Jana said that opportunity was abundant. Speakers shouldn’t think that they can’t play the guitar and sing in their keynotes because “Jana has their slot.” Her point was that there is room for everyone.

12. Chad placed a live phone call to Mike Rayburn’s wife Tara. He asked for her favorite restaurant. She named a Thai restaurant. Chad said that Mike would be coming home tonight and bringing Thai take-out.


You have two options. The text of the monologue is presented below. We have also included a video of the presentation. The video is primarily presented to give you the feeling of “being there.” I would suggest that you read the SET-UP information first, if you haven’t already done that. It will give you the context of the humor. The video will allow you to exprience of the audience reaction to the humor.

The monologue text:

(Introduction by Mike Rayburn)

We have a few closing words from Mr John Kinde.

(Notice that the microphone picks up two people commenting that I had a beer bottle. It was actually a soda bottle, but it was a brown bottle that looked like a beer bottle. The beer-bottle gag, from the previous month’s monologue, was acting as part of the set-up for my opening joke. For those who remembered the gag from the previous month, it created anticipation for the coming joke. The anticipation increased tension and helped to magnify the joke. For those who didn’t remember previous month’s gag, who didn’t attend the month before, or who didn’t notice the bottle, Jana’s comment “forgot my guitar” was by itself a strong enough set-up to support the joke.)

I arrived here this morning, I said, “Dang, I forgot my beer.”

(Paralleled the comment: “Dang, I forgot my guitar.” Good laugh.)

So I went up to the truck stop and bought one.

(Small laugh.)

Jana was in there buying a guitar.

(The format was Joke, Joke, Topper. This line was a perfect topper. It was totally unexpected. It plays with the absurdity that a truck stop would sell guitars. Yet a touch of believability because it was a HUGE truck stop which probably sold lots of things. And it answered the question, how did she get a guitar so she could present her program. It probably helped that Jana was in the front row and really laughing. She was a great audience.)

Where is my teleprompter.

(Mike’s joke was used to poke fun at the Presidential use of the teleprompter. That allowed me to use the joke in a self-deprecation form.)

My name is John Kinde and I’m a senior nudist.

(A call back to Mike’s top-ten list. I wasn’t sure how strong the joke was, but it got a good laugh.)

I’ll be telling jokes. If you don’t listen, something dangerous will


(The weakest joke of the monologue. It surprised me that it got almost no response. After a slight pause, I just ignored the lack of response and kept moving.)

People have always said to me…for years they said, “Kinde you’re pretty good, but you’ll never speak in a church garage.”

(I wasn’t sure the joke would work. It WASN’T a garage, but had a door similar to one on a garage. I wasn’t sure the audience would make the same connection that I had made. I implied that “I had arrived.” A very good laugh.)

I signed up on and I met a man from VietNam. Now if I can only put that to music.

(The-call back received a good laugh. Then the topper, “put that to music,” got a bigger laugh. Your use of a topper should have a stucture where the topper gets a bigger laugh than the joke lines which set it up.)

I have something in common with Jana. She said that people don’t hire her for her content, for the subject. People don’t hire me either.

(The set-up implies that I also don’t get hired for my topic/subject, but stops short of saying that, suggesting that people just don’t hire me. It is a joke with some risk, because the audience is required translate what was previously said, based on the words I had left out, in order to get the joke. This activates the superiority factor. Fortunately the joke played really strong. I was also using self-deprecation.)

Mike Rayburn was a model tonight for how to use corporate humor.  Here’s the Mike Rayburn recipe for successfully using corporate humor.

Tell one nudist joke

Tell one Amish joke.

Tell two fart jokes.

And unzip your fly.

(A call back which used comic license while recalling his top-ten list jokes. My list stretched the specific content of his jokes. For example, one of his jokes was a “bean” joke, not directly a fart joke, but it was implied. And although he did a “fly” joke, he didn’t unzip one. The lines were close enough, and were increasingly funny to get good laughs.)

I knew I was having a bad gig. I took the stage with my guitar then Irealized I don’t play the guitar.

(A call-back to Mike’s top ten list theme.)

I knew it was a bad gig. I was on Oprah, and she said, “Get off of me.”

(A call-back to the Top Ten list and to Oprah. Absurdity.)

I knew it was a bad gig. I had a dream that I was speaking to 1000 people and when I woke up, I was.

(Absurdity. Very good response.)

I always wanted to be a singing keynoter, but Jana Stanfield had my slot.

(A bit of a groaner. Moderate response. But I never know for sure until I try.)

(Pretended to text Mike Rayburn’s wife on my cell phone.)

Hi Tara. What’s your favorite car. A red Lamborghini convertable?

Mike will be bringing the Thai take-out. He’ll be coming home in a Red Lamborghini convertable.

(A good call-back, humorously suggesting that Mike would have to run out and buy, rent, borrow, or steal a Lamborghini. The audience got the joke immediately, in fact sooner than I expected. They started laughing before I reached the intended punch line. Excellent response.)

Back to Mike.

Creativity Exercise

May 21st, 2015

Loren Ekroth, Dr Conversation (Better Conversations EZine), shared a play- on-words joke which he created from the word Hinterland. While talking to a friend who was performing a one-woman show at a local church, he realized that although she was was not playing on Broadway.  ”She was performing Hintertainment.”

I started me thinking about the play-on-words creative process. We start by defining the key word. The definition of the word will help us focus as we exercise our joke writing skills.

Some of the definitions of Hinterland are:
- Less developed parts of a country.
- The back woods.
- An area more picturesque than urban areas.
- Lying beyond what is known.
- Not near cities and towns.
- Where life is less complicated.
- Inland from the coast.
- Away from metropolitan or cultural centers.
- The definitions of Hinterland are neither good nor bad, they generally
state that the Hinterland is just a place that is different from other

As a writing execise, and with a little thinking, we could come up with a
Top-Ten list:


1. Two small countries can easily become hinterdependent.

2. The Voyager space craft was to make an exploratory fly by of Pluto.
However, before it got there, Pluto was declassified as a planet making
the mission hinterplanetary.

3. The road to the Bridge To Nowhere begins at a remote hintersection.

4. Universities are offering reduced-fee degrees in Political Science with
a focus on Hinternational Relations.

5. There is a movement of people from rural to urban areas and visa
versa. By nature people are hinterchangeable.

6. Moving to a rural setting requires that a slower lifestyle be

7. Is it possible that more conservative religions as a group tend to be
hinterdenominal? And are they more likely to have revivals which are

8. A city psychologist moving to a rural area may need different skills
for hintervention.

9. Agricultural colleges are involved in activities which are

10. If you live in a boring town, doing a word exercise like this is


1. I exercise my mind just for the value of the process. Through exercise the brain gets stronger.

2. A writing exercise develops the ability to make connections and see
relationships. This strengthens your humor skills.

3. I usually recommend working from lists when you have a goal for
creating new humor. In the case of writing jokes based on the word
Hinterland, a person could build a list of INTER words (interact,
intercepion, intercom) from which one would create new HINTER
(hinteract, hinterception, hintercom) words. Usually I try to work from
two contrasting lists to find fresh connections. But in this case we’ll
work with just one list, INTER words.

4. For the sake of the exercise, I normally start out with building a
HINTER list from INTER words which I discover in my own head. It
would be faster and easier to just use a reference source, like a
dictionary, to find a long list of INTER words, but if I force myself to
build a top-ten list just using my own thinking, the exercise will be more of a stretch for me.

5. So step one was to come up with as many INTER words as I could,
and then create a one-liner joke for each word, switching INTER to
HINTER. I completed a list of ten jokes doing this process.

6. Step two was to go beyond my list of ten and make a longer list.
Humor writing is a numbers game. The more lines I can write, the more
I’ll have to choose from when I pick my ten best lines for the final list.
One technique to Go Beyond is to look in the dictionary under INTER
and see how many words I could identify as candidates for writing a
joke. I found 28 more words which I hadn’t used in my original top-ten
list. I know I could have written 28 more joke lines, one for each new
word. Instead I quickly scanned the list and picked six which looked
like excellent possibilities for creating new jokes. And in a short writing
period, I came up with six more joke lines.

7. The process of taking INTER words and turning them into HINTER
jokes is not your usual joke writing process of looking for connections
from two different lists. Instead you have a HINTER word which is a
new punch line. You then work backward to create a set-up which gives context to the HINTER word. Your goal is to create a set-up which gives meaning to the new punch word.

8. As I looked over my new list of jokes, I realized that most of the lines needed some structural editing. The punch word, in my initial effort, was not normally at the very end of the line. So he next step in the creative process was to re-write the lines so that the punch word was always at the end. That was easy to do, it just took a deliberate focus to do the editing. Line #4 didn’t sound right with Hinternational as the last word, so I ended that line with Hinternational Relations.

9. Now I’m ready to create the final produce, the Top-Ten list. I’ve
written 16 lines. It’s my job to predict which ten lines are the best and
belong in the final Top-Ten list. Having over-written the number of
jokes…needing ten and writing sixteen. I’m ready to de-select the
weakest jokes. The challenge in joke writing is NOT to know what’s
funny to you, but to know what will be funny to your listener or reader.
It’s a guess, you never know for sure. But the more you edit, the more
educated your guess becomes, and your choices become funnier. This
skill becomes important when you have written two or three Observational Humor lines and you want to pick the best one to open a speech.

10. The top-ten list you found earlier in the article is he result of this
writing exercise.

11. Some people challenge their mind to cross word puzzles. Some play video games. Some master the Rubic’s Cube. Some play trivia games. I look for a seed idea, often from something I see or hear, such as the statement: “She was performing Hintertainment.” Then I challenge myself to write a Top-Ten list on a theme. For me, it’s more fun than watching a TV drama. It keeps my brain active. It helps to focus my humor radar.

The Contestant Interview–Case Study #135 (Video)

May 10th, 2015

Here are a couple of simple observational lines I’ve used during speech contest interviews.

To be ready with an observational line when you are being interviewed after a competition, attempt to create a funny line that will answer one of the standard questions being asked of each contestant. Typical questions like, “What is your home club?” And, “Is there anybody you’d like to thank?”

At a contest last month, someone who was interviewed before me mistakenly said Los Angeles when he meant Las Vegas, our hometown.  The mistake got a big laugh.

So when I was asked, “You’re a member of Power House Pros?” My reply was, ”Yes.  Power House Pros of Los Angeles.” A big laugh. A perfect line.

A simple observational line could be based on the observation that you drew the speaking position which qualified you to speak last (when that happens to be the case). And the question: “Is there someone you would like to thank?” The answer is, “Yes. I’d like to thank the other speakers for warming up the audience.” That’s good line which has worked for me in the past.

Another technique is to create several observational lines, and hope that something inspires you during the interview to use one of your prepared lines. At a typical meeting I can usually come up with eight observational lines. And the odds are good that one of them will fit into the interview if I’m alert to the opportunity.

A basic technique is that you pay close attention to the contestants being interviewed before you and look for things to which you can connect for the purpose of getting a laugh. The more recent the set-up event link is, the stronger the line will be. Being relaxed and in the moment allows you to pay attention and look for links both before and during your interview.

The contestant interview is one of my favorite parts of a contest. It ranks right after hearing my name announced as the winner. And since that’s a rare event, that puts the interview at the top of the my list.