Creativity and Humor — A School of Fish

Original Humor — Creating Funny Lines

It’s creativity time.  And another humor writing contest.  Remember, it’s not about the jokes…it’s about fine-tuning your humorous thinking and writing skills.

Last week, I was watching a PBS TV program where they were mentioning the various names by which groups of animals, birds and fish are identified:  A herd of cows.  A gaggle of geese.  A school of fish.

A light bulb went on.  My humor brain asked the question:  “What if groups of people each had their own group name?”

A pork of politicians.
A skeleton of dieters.
A sting of satirists.
A lone of popes.

And then I thought, Aha!  A contest!

Here’s your challenge. Write some funny lines using the formula:
A (group-name) of (group), such as you see above.  Your challenge is to create names for groups of people. 

And here is a fun idea: The last time we sponsored a contest, a Toastmasters Club had their own writing contest.  Consider having a mini-contest for your work group or club.

To help you get started, here are ten ideas for stimulating your creative process for this challenge.

1. You can start with a group (politicians) and look for an applicable group-name.

2. Or you can start with a group-name or attribute (pork) and look for a group that matches.

3. Ask yourself, “What is the key characteristic of this group?”   There is only one pope living at any point in time:  A lone of popes.  Doctors keep you healthy:  A well of doctors.

4. Take a key characteristic or attribute and use a thesaurus or synonym finder to find connections.

5. A rhyming dictionary is a great creative tool to find fun sounding connections:  A clobber of boxers.
6. Alliteration works well but is not mandatory.   A cackle of comedians.

7. Look for both positive and negative links to the group.  The creation of humor lines could be for praise or satire:  A sage of psychics.  A scam of psychics.

8. An interesting technique is to find a group name that blends with the “A” that starts the sentence:  A lone of popes.  A loof of social climbers.

9. It’s a numbers game.  Don’t be satisfied with the first group-name you think of.  Look for subtle connections, sometimes they are funnier. The more names you can create for a particular group, the better will be your best name.  And remember, although I’ve used a few examples here, there are at least hundreds (or thousands) more which could be created.  If this is like past contests, we’ll receive over 300 entries.

10. Edit.  Sleep on it.  Edit.  Have fun.

11.  Before you look at the contest results that follow, challenge yourself to create some lines on the theme.  Happy writing!

Contest Results (followed by Analysis and Lessons Learned)

You responded with over 650 entries.  More than double the number of entries of 
past contests.

The top entries were:

First Place — A giggle of girls.   Sharon Rhoton, Dallas, TX

Second Place — A smorgasbord of dieters.   Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia

Third Place — A grewp of illiterates.   Jim Spero, Las Vegas, NV

Note: Two people submitted “A giggle of girls” but one did not include his/her name.  I’ll credit our other creative writer in a future issue if I hear back from him or her.

Our Humor Power Past Contest Winners 3X5 Card of Fame
1. Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, CA
2. Terry Wall, Washington Township, NJ
3. Sharon Rhoton, Dallas, TX

Seventy-three runner-up entries for your enjoyment.
A gag of jurists
A pound of carpenters
An assembly of loners
A plot of funeral directors
A retreat of generals
A hurl of bulimics
A proug of dyslexics
A hush of librarians
A crack of chiropractors
A totem of Poles
A covet of wife swappers
A still of moonshiners
A cut of barbers
A fore of golfers
A spark of electricians
An objection of lawyers
A lure of advertisers
A frolic of fools
A fermentation of winos
A protective of parents
A clog of plumbers
A credit of accountants
A bag of grocery clerks
A hole of ditch diggers
A gag of jokesters
A snob of social climbers
A glow of arsonists
A poof of magicians
A pomp of royals
A yaggle of yodelers
A morass of managers
A wag of weather forecasters
A pain of mother in laws
A bluff of poker players
A ring of telemarketers
A google of programmers
A pride of gay people
A blaze of firemen
A cloud of meteorologists
A kettle of chefs
A skinny of super-models
A wave of greeters
A hoy of sailors
A nit of wits
A herd of cowboys
A heard of ear doctors
A hail of cabbies
A firmation of Yes Men
A karen of carpenters
a huckleberry of Finns
a splat of painters
A peal of attorneys
A forgiveness of sinners
a deity of atheists
A brat of boys
A slammer of spammers
A thong of streetwalkers
A yank of jerks
A Smedley of Toastmasters
An explosion of terrorists
A sortment of nuts
A buttering of Toastmasters
A Karma Sutra of Newlyweds
An excuse of losers
A horn of shoemakers
A bushel of dates
A line of checkout clerks
A hill of bean counters
A dusting of housekeepers
A ring of jewelers
An expulsion of expatriates
A split of schizophrenics
A tangle of teens

Contest — Lessons Learned

1.  Quality writing is a numbers game.  In our two contests last year, the winners of each contest (Nancy and Terry) were the persons with the most entries submitted.  Not a coincidence.  In this contest, the top three places went to people who each submitted more than the average number of lines.  Of all the contributors, on average each submitted about 10 lines.  Jim submitted 18.  Sharon submitted 46.  Les submitted 188 lines! 

2. Go deeper.  When you do creative writing, and you think you’ve run out of ideas, write ten more.  The deeper you go, the more likely you’ll uncover a gem.  Are your chances of winning the lottery better with one ticket or 188 tickets?  Sometimes someone who buys only one ticket wins, but not normally.  Interestingly, the unknown person who tied for first place with “A giggle of girls” only submitted one line (but may have written more and 
submitted only the best line). 

3.  Funny ideas seem to have no limits.  Of 650 entries, amazingly there were only five duplicate entries.  As a group, we could come up with over 10,000 different lines.  I’m sure of it.

4.  Good humor is subjective.  Of the five judges (speakers and improv players), none selected the same line as their favorite.  I was not a judge and I noted that my favorite line was not one that was chosen by the judges.  If we had five different judges, the top three lines would probably be three completely different lines.

5.  The judges loved MANY of the lines.  It was interesting to hear the laughter in the room as they read the entries and made their selections.  Due to space I only listed about 10% of the lines submitted.  Many of the ones not listed for Honorable Mention were also very funny.  So don’t be frustrated if your favorite line isn’t listed.  A wonderfully creative effort by all who contributed.

6.  Analysis.  Here are some observations about some of the lines created for the contest:

Double Meanings.  One of the key principles of humor is the connections and relationships which are linked. Group names with a second meaning were rich in humor potential. 
A wave of greeters.  While wave relates to greet, it is also a descriptive word for a group (amber waves of 
A hail of cabbies.  Double word meaning for hail sets up the visual picture of lots of cabbies or “raining 
A yank of jerks.  Double word meaning of jerk sets up the group name.

Onomatopoeia.  Look for group names that consist of sounds to add an auditory dimension to the humor.
A splat of painters
A slammer of spammers
A crash of cymbalists

Splitting an Existing Word Pair.  Look for names, word pairs and phrases that can be split to create group 
A karen of carpenters
a huckleberry of Finns
A nit of wits
A forgiveness of sinners

Homonyms.  Sound-alike words offer twises for humor possibilities.
A herd of cowboys
A heard of ear doctors
I would combine these two lines to make:
A herd of ear doctors.
One of the theories of humor is that people find something funny when they “figure it out for themselves.”  It is sometimes referred to as the superiority theory of humor.  Don’t give them everything.  Give them the clues and they love it when they “get it.”

Tweak the Spelling.  Don’t necessarily settle for the first spelling of a group name.
A firmation of Yes Men…could be changed to
A formation of Yes Men.  A subtle connection to affirmation when read aloud.
A thong of streetwalkers.  A nice twist on throng with the R deleted.

Inside Jokes.  Using inside information known only by a small group is a plus and a minus.  An entry I loved 
A Smedley of Toastmasters
To most Toastmasters this is a great line within the context of the theme (referring to the founder of the organization, Ralph Smedley).  To an outsider it would not be funny.  But if you’re writing custom lines for a specific audience, use the inside information to create terrific lines.

The Flip Side.  A giggle of girls…might suggest:
A brat of boys
Or look for totally opposite meanings within your line.
a deity of atheists

Adding a Qualifier.  Sometimes you can add an adjective or adverb to give the connections in the line a better link or twist.
A hoy of sailors…could become:
A hoy of Spanish sailors

That’s it for this contest!