Archive for February, 2006

Be Funny By Not Trying So Hard

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

The harder you try to be funny, the less funny you will be.  

Trying too hard to be funny works against you.  It sets up a confrontational feel to your delivery.  You feel as though you are challenging the audience to laugh.  The attitude is that it’s important to “make them laugh!”  That if you do not succeed then you are not in control and you fail.  It sets up an expectation that the laughs MUST come.  And you feel a disappointment when your expectations are not met.  You tell a joke.  You get no laughs.  You give the audience the “look of expectation.” When delivering humor, do not beg.

It is a clear lesson that we learn on the improv stage.  The harder you try to be funny, the less funny you will be.  We call it gagging.  Going for the easy or obvious joke.  You start to gag. You start to choke. Better to relax and be in the moment.  Connect with others in the room.  Let the humor flow from your character, your stories, what you do with your body, how you pause.  And the audience will like you more when you are less “in their face” with the humor.

So when you deliver a funny line (one that YOU thought was funny) and the audience does not laugh, just realize that they are gently correcting your faulty assumption.  They are making you a better presenter the next time you step on the platform.  They are doing you a favor.  They are coaching you to eliminate the joke or change it.  When you are greeted by silence, pretend you were serious.  After all, a well delivered humor line should come as a surprise.  So if they don’t laugh, it’s your secret.  And maybe use a stock line like, “the reason I told you that story was…” And make a learning point.  Pretend that you never did expect them to laugh in the first place, and keep moving.  They will never know!

Remember one of the key secrets of the good humorist.  Less is more.  Do not try so hard and your humor will usually flow with a more natural and powerful style.

 

 

Turning Good Humor into Great Humor

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Making your humor lines funnier.

Now that you have a collection of good humor lines, use here are some ideas for reworking your humor ideas and developing them into something even more funny.

1.     Tag team writing.  Most sitcoms are written by teams of writers.  Find a humor-buddy to bounce your ideas back and forth.  One twist leads to another and the chemistry of the writing group grows material which would otherwise be hard to create.  This is an especially good technique for creating lines for our Humor Power monthly funny-line contest. 

2.     Common wisdom in writing is that “good humor is not written, it is rewritten.”  The brilliance comes out in the second, third, fourth version of your material.  So write it down and sleep on it.  Lie in bed in the morning for an extra five minutes and let your brain search for new connections.  Your brainwave patterns allow for a deeper creativity just before you fall asleep and just after you wake up.  My best creativity time is when I lie in bed in the morning, just before getting up.

3.     Put it in the computer.  Print it out and write all over it.  Make changes and repeat the process.  The material gets better with each rewrite.

4.     Read it aloud.  See how it sounds.  Humor in the spoken word is not identical to the written word.  You normally want to have a conversational feel to humor whether it’s written or spoken.

5.     Multi-tasking.  I have brainstormed ideas while driving my car.  My digital voice recorder is the key to saving ideas.  Also a key is to do the advance work of outlining the specific areas I am going to brainstorm.  Use this technique only where it is safe to do so.  I never divert my attention in city driving or heavy traffic.  Also, look for ways to brainstorm while folding clothes, doing dishes, weeding the garden.  Put your mind to work while doing brainless tasks.

6.     A quota system.  When developing ideas from a seed, give yourself a quota of lines to write.  Most seasoned humor writers apply this discipline to their writing.  When you find an area in a talk, for example, where you want one or two funny lines…write ten.  If you think you can write ten lines, then make your quota twenty lines.  It’s a numbers game.  The more lines you write the better will be the one or two lines that you eventually use.

7.     Treasures from the trash can.  As you probably know, when brainstorming do not censor your ideas.  When you are tempted to throw an idea in the trash, write it down.  Let the thoughts flow.  A mediocre line today may be the building block for a terrific line tomorrow.  In the brainstorming process, save everything.

8.     Create funnier laugh lines by using these ideas.  Remember that in the brainstorming and editing process: Fair becomes good. Good becomes better. Better becomes brilliant.  Brilliant makes you shine.

Finding Your Perfect Match With Humor

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Recently, someone I know created a web site to meet Ms Right.  In
his site he shared in great detail who he was and what he was
looking for.  A great idea and nicely written with lots of humor.

After reading it, the humor side of my brain started asking me
questions.

If I were designing my own personal web site, would it be
appropriate to include Google Ads.

Reasons for listing Google Ads.

1. If readers were bored with my biography, they would have a place
to go.
2. If readers loved what they saw and they sent their friends to
the site to check me out, their friends could shop for wedding
gifts while they were there.
3. If the site got no responses, at least I’d make a few bucks on
the side.

Reasons for not listing Google Ads.

1. The ads would probably be more interesting than my biography.
2. They might run ads for someone else’s personal web site.
3. They might run ads for divorce attorneys.

That got me thinking about seven years ago when I was creating my
own internet personal ads looking for the right person.  Did you
know that when you tell people you’re looking for someone with
three eyes, people with only two eyes will respond to your ad
anyway?

I also discovered that a generic ad, maybe 25-50 words, usually
received no response.  So I experimented with a long-form ad, over
1000 words.  And would you believe that I included lots of
humor?  Every time I posted the longer ad, I received around 50
replies.  I’m not sure whether they were attracted to me or to my
writing!

In my ads I included an Online Personals Dictionary with dozens of
convenient translations of typical ad phrases into real-world
language.  This was a tongue-in-cheek “public service” to help
people understand what personal ads were really saying.  Here are a
few samples:

In shape = Round is a shape.
Swimmers build = A whale swims.
Honest = Will immediately stop chatting with you once you tell them
your age.
Open minded = Brains fell out years ago.
Good looking = Able to look at things really well.
Handsome = A quote from his mother.
Educated = Will treat you like an idiot.
Masculine = Looks like a caveman.
Age is relative = Looks like your uncle.
Athletic = Watches sports on TV.
Visits gym = Loves looking at self in the mirror.
Likes quiet evenings at home, candlelit dinners and walks in the
rain = Not an original thought in his head.
Long-term relationship = More than two weeks in length.
Love at first sight = When two lonesome, non-selective people meet
for the first time.

In the ad, throughout my self-description, I would drop in an
occasional bit of humor:
“I’ve never robbed a bank.  Neither have you.  Convenience store
OK.”

The response was overwhelmingly positive.  I only received one
negative reply in three posting of the longer, humorous ads.  One
person suggested I was bitter.  The writer was probably very much
in need of a laugh. The response told me it was definitely not a
match for me.  The ad was doing its job.

The good news is that I met the love of my life through an online
ad.  I now have a terrific relationship and we laugh together every
day.

Humor Writing Skills — Merger Contest

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Here’s a creativity stimulator game we use for my improv troupe. 
It’s called Mergers.  It can be played at an improv workshop, a
Toastmasters meeting, a party, a family gathering, or alone while
driving your car when there are no distractions.

First you pick a target company, such as Wal-Mart, or Baskin
Robbins, or Toys R Us.  Second you try to create imaginary
mergers with other companies.  After you announce the merger
you add a tag line which becomes the punchline. The tag line
could be a slogan, an advertising theme, a subtitle for the new
business.

The challenge is to create as many different mergers with the
same company as possible.  Create one merger.  Then create
another.  Then another.  Just when you run out of ideas, create
one more merger. Then start the process over with a different
company.

Connections to look for are: 
Current advertising campaigns. 
Current slogans. 
Common words between two merging companies. 
Rhyming words.  Words with double meanings.
Ways in which the companies are the same. 
Ways in which the companies are different. 
Product or service similarities or differences. 

You’re practicing basic humor writing skills,
because humor is primarily relationships and connections.

Here are some examples: 

Toys R Us is merging with Back Street Boys.  Their new
company will be called Boys R Us.

Toys R Us is merging with a past-life-regression expert. 
Their new slogan is:  Toys Used To Be Us.

Toys R Us is merging with a Shakespearian Threatre. 
Their new slogan is:  Toys B Us.

Some of your lines will be good.  Some will be bad.  Don’t
worry about the quality of the lines, just let your creativity
flow.  It’s the exercise that is the important thing.  In time,
the quality will come as a result of your improved writing
talent which comes from doing the practice.

This is a fun game to stimulate your creativity, to see
connections or to warm up your mind on your way to a talk. 

So let’s do a contest with Mergers: 

Keep in mind that the exercise is not about the jokes.  The real focus
is on developing your skill in seeing the funny connections
around you.  The real value is in the process and in the
learning.  Creating a funny line or two is just a side-benefit.
So if you don’t like contests, give it a try anyway.  It’s not about
competition.  If you come out of the contest with a better
sense of humor.  You win!

The format is:  (blank) is merging with (blank) and (punchline).

1.  The first blank must be either Disneyland or the Internal
Revenue Service (the government agency in the USA that
collects income taxes and conducts audits).  You can write
entries for either company or both companies.

2.  The second blank is any other company.  Look for
connections which will give you a funny punchline.  You
don’t have to limit yourself to companies.  You could have
a company merging with a country, a person, an association,
a religion, etc.  Open yourself to the possibilities.

3.  The punchline is an advertising slogan, a new product, a
new CEO, an operating policy, etc.  You are not limited to a
specific category.  Exercise your creativity to see what you
can come up with.

4.  You are limited to either Disneyland or the IRS
as your starting parameters.

5.  Write your lines, then sleep on them.  Edit them
the next day.  Repeat.

6.  The trick to writing some good lines is to write
many lines.  Set a quota.  Maybe 10 lines. 
Or more.  And then submit your best lines for
the contest.  The more lines you write, the
better will be your best lines.

7.  Put on your humor hat and get busy writing!
And then study the results and analysis which follow:

***********************

Here Are The Merger Contest Winners

Congratulations to everyone who entered.  We had 80 entries. 
It was very competitive.  A panel of seven judges selected the
top three entries.  The judges were a group of speakers and
entertainers.

The contest was in the format of:
(blank) merged with (blank) and (punchline).
The first blank was limited to Disneyland or the IRS (Internal
Revenue Service).  For non USA readers, it is the agency that
administers the federal income tax system.

First Place
Disneyland is merging with China.  Disney’s most famous
character will be Mousie Tongue. 
Submitted by Terry Wall

Second Place
Disneyland is merging with the organ donor bank.  The new
name is DisneyGland.
Submitted by Nancy Lininger

Third Place

The IRS is merging with Case Knives to create tax cuts.
Submitted by Randy Mitchell

Fourth Place

The IRS is merging with the US Army and expects all citizens to
“pay all that you can pay”.
Submitted by Pattie Hansen

Honorable Mention (in random order)

Disneyland is merging with The Waterfront Cleanup Agency. 
Their motto is No Blight on the Seven Wharfs.

The IRS is merging with Nike and the slogan? Just pay it!

Disneyland is merging with IBM because they need a
computer to go with their mouse.

The IRS is merging with Florida Citrus Commission and
now every day is like a day without sunshine.

*********************************

Analysis of Some Funny Lines

Let’s take a look at 15 of the submissions and examine my
attempt to rewrite the lines for humor impact.  Here are some
things to realize as you review this exercise:

a.  Don’t underestimate the value of an exercise like this.  You
can learn a lot about humor by dissecting it and analyzing how
to improve it.

b.  Humor is subjective.  Sometimes you will prefer the original
line to my attempt to improve it.  The contest judges were not
unanimous in their selections of best jokes.

c.  My selection of a line to rewrite does not imply that the
original joke was not good.  Quite the opposite.  In most cases the
original line is excellent.  And in all cases, the original line
gave me a terrific seed to work with to create my own line.
Without the original line, my new version would have never taken
form.

d.  In many, cases my rewrite is shorter than the original.  The
basic principle of editing is to get your writing down to the
essentials. That applies to humor as well.

e.  In some cases, rather than rewrite the line, I simply used one
of the words from a line to trigger a completely different line.
This is the advantage of combining your creative efforts with
another person.

f.  We’ll look at the original line as submitted.  Then we’ll see
my rewrite effort.  And then I’ll include some short comments about
the edit.

****
Original
The IRS is merging with Xerox to create many returns.

Rewrite
Disneyland and the IRS merged with Xerox to create many happy
returns. 

Comments
I wanted to use both companies listed in the contest.  I wanted to
play with the Happiest Place on Earth.  When I saw “many returns”
the holiday cliche of “many happy returns” popped into my head. 
So I paired it with the Disney slogan.

****
Original
The IRS is merging with Case Knives to create tax cuts.

Rewrite
The IRS merged with Ginsu Knives to create tax cuts.  But wait. 
That’s not all….

Comments
Changed knife company to Ginsu for two reasons.  First, it’s a
funnier sounding name.  Second, the Ginsu commercials have
been the subject of many humor parodies.  Their familiar phrase
(that’s not all) makes a good topper for the joke.  Two laughs in
one joke.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with Congress.  Nobody will notice the
merger, since both organizations are full of goofy cartoon
characters.

Rewrite
Disneyland merged with Congress.  Nobody noticed, since both
organizations have always been full of characters who are goofy.

Comments
Restructured and also moved the punchword to the end.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with Chrysler.  Now all rides will have
air bags.  And, Goofy will replace that airbag Lee Iacocca in the
Chrysler ads, and will be more convincing.

Rewrite
Disneyland merged with Chrysler.  Now all rides will have air
bags.  They managed to clone enough Lee Iacoccas for every ride.

Comments
Tightened the wording.  Also, it’s usually funnier to imply
something than state it outright.  The theory is that it is funnier
when the reader/listener gets the joke without extra help.  It
falls under the Superiority Theory of humor.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with Iraq. For this park, Disneyland only
issues annual passes, but that means you have to stay there for a
year.

Rewrite
Disneyland merged with Iraq.  Now an annual pass means you have
to stay there for a year.

Comments
Tightened the wording.  Ask yourself, how can I cleanly get to the
punch as quickly as possible, without losing the necessary setup.

****
Original
Disneyland will have a reality competition to determine who gets
to play Pinnochio in a new movie.  The competitors are George
Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Moore, and Patty Sheehan.

Rewrite
Disneyland merged with United Artists to produce a new Pinnochio
movie.  Competitors for the lead role are George Bush, Donald
Rumsfeld, and Michael Moore.

Comments
I like the original, but I feel that the rewrite is stronger.  It
conforms to the merger theme.  The wording is tighter.  Lists are
usually funnier in sets of three, so I eliminated one name.  It
sets a pattern of right-wing, right-wing, left-wing, which provides
the comedic twist.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with NASA, and taking over the Space Shuttle
program.  Safety is bound to improve.  When was the last time
someone got killed on Space Mountain?

Rewrite
Realizing that nobody had ever been killed on Space Mountain,
Disneyland merged with NASA, and the Space Shuttle safety program
improved by 783%. 

Comments
Specifics are generally funnier.  I liked Space Mountain but didn’t
feel it was suitable as a topper for the punchline.  I think it
works great as a setup line. 

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with The Apprentice.  It will involve two
teams of characters from Disneyland in full costume.  We’ll see
that even Disney characters are backstabbers when they’ve got a
chance to work for The Donald.  Of course, The Donald now refers to
Donald Duck. Carolyn’s replacement is Daffy Duck.  George gets to
stay.

Rewrite
Disneyland merged with The Apprentice.  After the first episode,
most viewers thought Donald was a quack.  And they thought Carolyn
was Daffy and that George was goofy.

Comments
Distilled some great ideas and tightened the wording and made the
punch words more precise.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with the nuclear weapons watchdog agency,
the IAEA.  The agency’s slogan will be, It’s A Small World After
All.

Rewrite
Disneyland is merging with NASA and will feature an actual trip to
the moon to look at the earth.  Their slogan will be “It’s a small
world after all.”

Comments
The Small World idea triggered my line with NASA.  I feel is
provides a good visual link to the Small World punch line.

****
Original
 Disneyland has recently merged with NASA.  Shortly thereafter the
entire park was shut down due to a piece of chewing gum stuck to
one of the turnstiles.  Upon reopening several days later, the
lines at the popular theme park are now visible from orbit.

Rewrite
Disneyland merged with NASA.  Now the lines at the park are visible
from orbit.

Comments
Tried to distill it to the best part of the joke.  The long lines
at Disney are legendary.  I also like the chewing gum line.

 ****
Original
Did you hear that the IRS is merging with the Church of
Scientology?   In other news Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie
Alley recently announced they’ve all become born-again Christians.

Rewrite
The IRS merged with the Church of Scientology.   Tom Cruise
announced he was becoming a born-again Christian.

Comments
Lately, Tom Cruise has been in the headlines the most.  Tightened
the words.  Remember the principle of Less Is More.  Lists are best
when used to present a comedic twist or break in the pattern.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with Timex to create magical moments.

Rewrite
The IRS has merged with Timex to create tax payers who take a
licking without the kicking.

Comments
The Timex idea triggered my line using the IRS.  I took the
familiar phrase, takes a licking but keeps on ticking, and went
searching for a word (to replace ticking) that would fit into an
exaggerated audit situation.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with Disney World.  Only problem is that
Cinderella’s pumpkin must be modified to meet California automotive
energy standards.

Rewrite
Disneyland officially merged with California.  Cinderella’s pumpkin
was modified to meet the strict emission standards.

Comments
Restructured and tightened.

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with Star Trek and we can go where no man has
gone before.

Rewrite
The IRS is merging with Star Trek and is going where no auditor has
gone before.  But the return is guaranteed to be EZ.

Comments
The Star Trek idea triggered a line for the IRS.  I initially wrote
the joke without the last line, but felt that it was missing
something about either the trip or the destination to make it
stronger.  I pulled the words “return and EZ” from familiar IRS tax
language, both having double meanings which could be applied to a
journey. 

****
Original
Disneyland is merging with Pampers Diapers and others do not need
to know how scary some of the rides are.

Rewrite (two lines)

1.  Disneyland merged with Pampers so they could design rides which
were even more scary.
2.  The IRS merged with Depends to prepare people for next year’s
tax rates.

Comments
1.  I rewrote the punch line of the Disneyland joke to take the
amusement park beyond the status quo to the next level.  This
employs the principles of extrapolation, exaggeration, and what if.
The rewrite also moves the punch word to the end.  (Actually, the
real punch line is implied.)
2.  The Pampers idea also triggered my line for the IRS.  I changed
Pampers to the more appropriate product of Depends, the adult
undergarment, even though Pampers is probably a funnier sounding
word. 

Customized Humor to Make Your Programs Sparkle

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

1. Arrive early for your program so that you can be totally
prepared and relaxed.  By being completely set up for your program
early, you can watch and listen for opportunities to build
observational humor lines.

2. Put your humor hat on.  The only way I can create customized
on-the-spot humor is to be focused on that specific task.  The
observational lines don’t simply fall from the heavens!  I need to
be deliberately paying attention, with pen and paper in hand,
taking notes.

3. Check out the venue before your program.  Is there something
unusual or funny about the meeting room?  About the hotel?  About
the front entrance?  About signs that are posted around the meeting
facility?

4. Before your program begins, listen to all the speeches,
introductions, door prize drawings, and other remarks.  Look for
humorous connections.

5. While you are speaking or performing, listen for audience
feedback and other happenings (the siren from a passing emergency
vehicle, the band in the adjoining room, etc).  Don’t be on
auto-pilot.  Audiences do not make emotional connections with
robots.  React in the moment to the unexpected.  The audience will
love it.  Anticipate unexpected situations and be prepared with
humorous responses.

6. Always be tuned in to everything around you and look for the
funny relationships.  The reward will be great humor that has a
magical power to bond you to the audience.

Humor and Presentation Skills — Be A Lifetime Student

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there was a student at UC
Berkeley.  He knew that the University of California was a great
place to get a quality education.  But he soon found that the
Berkeley campus was a surprise a minute.  He just never knew what
he’d see around the next corner. 

So, it didn’t take me long to realize that I should always carry a
camera.  I would see people of every description. People dressed as
hippies.  People dressed as nuns (occasionally they were nuns).
People who forgot to dress. National guardsmen with rifles at the
ready, bayonets fixed.  Helicopters dropping tear gas.  All caught
on my film.

A regular on the campus was an evangelist nick-named Holy Hubert.
I don’t know who gave him the label, probably the students.  But I
wouldn’t rule out the possibility that it was self-given, a marketing ploy, good branding!

The interesting thing I observed on the main plaza in front of
Sproul Hall next to the Student Union and cafeteria, sort of the
town square for the campus, there were many speakers, activists,
entertainers and exhibitionists.  I became a student of “who
attracted the crowds…and why.”  If I saw a war protester, next to
an evangelist, next to juggler…I’d watch to see who was attracting
the crowd.

Holy Hubert was always a crowd getter.  Here’s what the crowd
pleasers had:

1.  Enthusiasm that was contagious.  Lack of enthusiasm is black
and white.  Enthusiasm is full-spectrum color.

2.  Boldness that made you want to watch even if you disagreed.
Commitment is magnetic.

3.  Interaction with the onlookers, rarely just a monologue.  Ad
libbing and chatting with onlookers is powerful.

4.  Excellent eye contact that made you feel connected.  The crowd
gatherers were not robots.

5.  Extemporaneous style that made it feel fresh.  Being in the
moment is a huge plus.

6.  The ability to draw a crowd right from the start.  Crowds then
build on themselves.

7.  They were physically expressive; most of the time they were
“showing” and not just “telling.”  More specifically, they were
almost always expressive with their face.

8.  They were usually funny.  If they weren’t funny, they were at
least fun.  Drab presentations turn audiences into pillars of salt.
You give them nothing interesting and fun…they give you nothing
in return.

9.  The ability to take themselves lightly.  Terminal seriousness
from the platform is not a crowd magnet.  I have a photo of “Holy
Hubert” holding up a sign with his nickname printed on it.  If you
can’t poke fun at yourself, you are probably not fun.  If you’re
not fun, you’re speaking to the wind.

The key for success in life is to always be a full-time student.
Study and analyze what you see.  Understand what you see.  Become
an expert on human relationships, connections and psychology.
Learn the secrets of being a superstar communicator by studying the
best…and in the process you’ll become better.

Write A Funny Line — Toaster Contest

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

I enjoyed a recent Allen Kline newsletter, Mid-Month Mirth Memo.  He stimulated my creativity.  He had a list of jokes on a theme.  Here was one of them.

If Xerox made toasters, you could toast one-side or double-sided.
And successive slices would get lighter and lighter.

Check out his Ezine at humor@allenklein.com

My brain immediately went into motion creating some of my own funny lines on the same theme.

If Web designers made toasters, they would include pop-ups.

If the federal government made toasters, they would come with 500 pages of instructions and cost $1800.

If McDonalds made toasters, every child under six would want one.

If Kentucky Fried Chicken made toasters, every slice would come out extra crispy.

If Philip Morris made toasters, as soon as you plug it in, it would start smokin’.

If Las Vegas made toasters, you’d lose your bread but have fun anyway.

Successful comedy writers usually set a quota for the number of jokes they will write on a specific subject. 

Some of the jokes will be good.  Some will be really bad.  A few will be great.  It is a numbers game.  Usually the longer you write, the more gems will pop into your head.  And you will find that meeting your quota gets easier every time you sit down to write.
 
I can easily write ten lines on almost any theme.  Last year, the President of my Toastmasters Club had a cartoon caption writing contest every meeting.  I always submitted ten captions.  One meeting I told him, “I could just as easily write 30 captions.”  So the next week I submitted thirty.  I could probably write 100.  The first time you do 30 sit-ups, it may seem a challenge.  By continuing to exercise on a regular basis, you will soon be doing 300 of them, without great effort.

And now the contest:

1. Put on your thinking cap.

2. Challenge yourself with a quota of ten humor lines which will fit the “If BLANK made toasters…” format.
 
3. Then pick out your best lines and compare them to the lines listed later in this post.

4. Happy writing!

*************************

We had a great contest with 141 entries.  The quality of the humor writing was excellent.  The challenge was to write funny lines on the theme: *If BLANK made toasters…* 

Here are our top jokes:

First Place Winner
If financial planners made toasters, the bread would pop up and down but turn out just fine in 5 – 10 years.
Nancy Lininiger

Second Place
If Social Security made toasters, we’d worry if there would be enough people to put bread in when we want toast out.
Terry Wall

Third Place (tie)
If telemarketers made toasters, they would ONLY work in the middle of your dinner.
Bob Minott

Third Place (tie)
If a religious figure made toasters, they would be made for prophet.
Sharon Janis

Honorable Mention (in random order)

If casino moguls made toasters you’d put in two slices of bread and get back one.

If Wyle E. Coyote made toasters they’d char the the user instead of the bread.

If bread made toasters, they would sell them as “portable tanning salons”.

If Cinderella made a toaster at 12pm it would turn into a deluxe oven.

If Bob Barker made a toaster the “price would be right.”

If CPAs made toasters, every crumb would count.

If cats made toasters, the bread would come out only when it wanted to.

If Al Gore made toasters, he would claim to have invented them.

If Martha Stewart made toasters they would be a good thing.

If Harley Davidson made toasters, they would be noisy & expensive & need frequent repairs, and only the coolest people would buy them.

If Microsoft made toasters, the first year they would cost $5000, but every year after a better one would come out for half the price and half the size of the previous year – everyone would buy one – and by 2010 we would have personal, hand-held toasters that we could not live without!

If Baptists made toasters they’d all be waterproof – for total immersion.

If Barbie made toasters they would be labeled: “Toast goes in here”.

If Kellogg made toasters they would snap, crackle and pop.

If the military made toasters they would have a 100 year surplus in
warehouses throughout the country.

If an OB clinic made toasters they would take 9 months to toast an 8 pound loaf of bread

If Q (from Bond Movies) made toasters they would look like something else and they would explode in the wrong hands.

If the US Airways baggage handlers made toasters, your toast would end up in Cleveland. 

If Las Vegas made toasters, you’d have to put in a LOT of bread before any came back.

If the Mafia made toasters you would have to give them your bread or you’re toast.

If military contractors made toasters, they would coast $18,000 each, weigh 172 pounds, and burn the toast EVERY TIME!

Observations from the judging:

1. The judging panel consisted of thirteen members (improv players and Toastmasters attending a humor workshop).

2. The quality of the jokes was excellent.  The judges were often laughing out loud while reading the entries.

3. I had each judge rank order their five favorite jokes.  Twenty six jokes received votes. 

4. Reviewing the judging pattern, I came to the conclusion that most judges considered many of the jokes to be funny and very close in quality, making it hard to make a quality differentiation between one joke and another.

5. Only one joke ranked in the top five jokes of at least half the judges.  It was the winning joke and received votes from seven of the thirteen judges. 

6. I also concluded that appreciation of humor is a very personal and subjective thing.

7. Congratulations to those who submitted.  Excellent work.

Some useful humor techniques that were used in creating the Toaster jokes:

1. The key is finding relationships:  Things that are similar and different between items, words, concepts, and categories.

2. Finding a common link:  Financial Planners and Toasters, connecting stocks and toast going up and down.  Social Security connecting input/output.

3. Finding differences:  The short length of time to make toast compared to the long time for financial

investments to mature.  Telemarketers work at dinner and toasters work at breakfast.  Length of time to make toast versus making a baby.

4. Similar sounds:  Toasters made for prophet (profit).

5. Playing with double meaning of words:  Every crumb would COUNT (addition versus significance).

6. Looking for a twist with a what-if:  What if BREAD made toasters. A very clever choice which leads to humor choices.

7. Connecting toasters with common marketing slogans:  The price is right.  Snap Crackle Pop. 

8. Connection with something funny from the past:  Al Gore inventing toasters.

9. Laying the qualities of one category onto another:  Microsoft, Harley-Davidson, the Military, and many other examples.

10. These are not the only principles involved in making these jokes tick, there are others.  Just remember that the common key is to look for the connections and relationships which trigger and activate the joke.  The better you understand that principle, the easier it will be for you to write funnier material.

A Humor Delivery Tip

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

A great way to deliver your punch word (the key word at the end of
your punchline which triggers the laughter) is to connect it to
some form of vocal variety.  Here’s a technique to take it a step
further.  Think of vocal variety as something connected to your
physical delivery. For example, let’s say that your punch word is
“Help!”  Try saying the word.  Listen to how it sounds.  Now try
this.  Raise your hands above your head. Wave them back and forth.
Open your eyes wide.  Raise your eyebrows.  Now, while doing those
actions, say the word “Help!” again.  Can you hear a difference in
the delivery? You can’t help but deliver the word with more life
and energy.  That’s why you should remember, when delivering your
punch word, to connect the vocal and physical delivery for greater
punch and more impact. It’s not what you say or do…it’s what you
say AND do!

A Humor Journal

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Here’s a resolution which will help focus your humor radar.  Commit
to starting a humor journal. All you need is a simple notebook.
Every night you set aside just five minutes to reflect on the day
and make some quick entries.  What did you see or hear that was
funny today?  Did something happen today that could provide humorous story material for a future speech? When you faithfully take time to make regular entries, the easier it will be to tune into the
humor around you.

Humor Skills — Blank Book Title Contest

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

This contest was inspired when I accidently sent a blank email to my entire subscription list.  I responded

immediately with a contest.  Here’s the email I sent anouncing the contest:

**************************

What do you do when you receive a blank ezine?

a. Be happy because you can read it quickly.
b. Believe it is a do-it-yourself ezine…and write your own.
c. Cancel your subscription.
d. Keep your sense of humor.

It seems that a random blank issue from the Humor Power Tips
computer-in-the sky was sent to our list of subscribers four
hours ago.  If you were half as surprised as I was…then I
was twice as surprised as you. Thanks for smiling with me.

How about a contest.  The winner’s prize: When you tell your friends you won…a blank look. It’s all just for the fun of it.

So here it is:

You pull a book off the shelf.  You open it and the entire book is
blank.  You look at the cover and see the title.  What is the title
of the book?

Example titles:
What Men Know About Women
A Politician’s Guide To World Peace
National Geographic’s Arctic Winter Landscapes

Put your humor hat on, write your own blank-book titles, and then compare them to the winners listed below.

***************************

The response to our contest was amazing.  Over 300 entries.
And here are the winners!

First Place in Our Blank Book Contest — A 27-Way Tie (in random
order)

The greatest story never told
The Ten Best Things To Say To Someone When You Are Angry
A guide to Successful Marriage by Elizabeth Taylor
Exposed: Inside a photographers dark room
Why Being Lonely, Afraid, and Broke is Fun and Fulfilling
Loving Responses to ‘Get Over It!’
Best Short Stories Written In Invisible Ink
Real Reasons Your Metabolism Keeps You From Losing Weight
Smoking and How It Helps You to Attract the Love of Your Life
Much Ado About Nothing
A Study In Minimalism
A Book of Fill In The Blank
A Book No one Can Argue With
The Sequel To The Last Word
Accidentally Click Delete
Gifts Greater Than Life
What happened before the big bang?
Atheist Plan For Life After Death
2021 Social Security Benefits
How To Win The Lottery
Tricks to Teach Your Cat
What Deer See in the Headlights
Humor Power Tips Award Nominations
My Experiences With Writer’s Block
Times in Life when it is Inappropriate to Pray
Top 100 Blank Book Titles
The CEO Manual of Ethics and Moral Standards