Archive for February, 2006

You’re Not Funny — Keeping a Positive Perspective

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Last month a reader cancelled his subscription with a note:
“You’re not funny.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that.  Nor will it be the last.

I’ve had over 200,000 people laugh at me, mostly at my programs.
And in my office you’ll find a shelf with 100 trophies which say
I’m funny.  But regardless of how I fill a meeting room with
laughter, there will always be people who think I’m not the
slightest bit funny.  Some people say that 2% of people won’t like
you no matter who you are or what you do.

Not to mention the fact that this newsletter isn’t about the jokes.
I’m not normally trying to be funny.  And I hope our dearly
departed subscriber is happily laughing somewhere else on the web.

Intellectually knowing that a small percentage of people will not
like us, no matter what we do, doesn’t keep us from flinching when
we receive negative feedback.  We want to fix the situation.
Explain why they’re wrong.  Win them back. Even though the better
solution is to bid them goodbye, wish them well, and thank them for
the feedback.

I replied by thanking him for the feedback and referred him to
three websites which were focused more on jokes and comedy.

Last month, a humorist friend experimented with a bold Ezine
headline, using a borderline, four-letter word to attract
attention.  Receiving a small number of complaints, he chose to
respond to his entire list, apologizing for his choice of words.
And then someone complained, accusing him of being self-promotional
by apologizing!  You can’t win.  The bottom two percent live there.
They’ve moved in, paid their rent for years in advance and they
can’t be evicted.  Don’t waste any of your emotional energy trying
to change that.

So when you receive a negative comment:  Say thank you and move on.

If you must focus on the pointed feedback, spend your time
searching for the growth opportunity. How can the feedback make you
a better person?  How can it enable you to work better with other
people? Can you find some humor in the situation?

A good approach is to remember that the other person is always
right.  Their truth is their opinion based on their perception.
And they’re entitled to their viewpoint.  And your truth is simply
your opinion.  Nobody owns the truth.  Although we usually think
that WE do.  And we’re wrong.  All we own is our opinion. 

Opinions are neither truth nor fact.  Your opinion is right.
The other person’s opinion is right.  And the one who copes with
the difference is the winner.

So when you’re delivering humor from the platform and you receive
negative feedback (maybe they don’t laugh or a heckler contributes
his or her opinion), don’t flinch. Don’t apologize.  Don’t explain
the joke.  Don’t assume you failed.  Here is what may have happened
while you were speaking:

1. Your listeners might have been quiet Norwegians, like me,
laughing on the inside.

2. They may have been sleepy.

3. They might have been worrying about personal problems.

4. They may have been trying to think of a tactful way to give
their phone number to the attractive stranger sitting next to them.

5. They may have eaten the wrong combination of foods for lunch.

And here’s what they may have been thinking while listening to your
speech:

1. “I could do better.”

2. “I should have written that speech.”

3. “You remind me of my ex-spouse.”

4. “I dare you to make me laugh.”

5. “My life stinks.”

Get the picture?  It probably isn’t about you.  It’s normally about
their needs and shortcomings. 

And since it’s likely that the negative feedback is coming from
that 2% of bottom feeders, ask yourself, “Is it likely that THEY
are winners who are happy, successful, balanced people with lots of
friends?”  Not likely.  Therefore, they have not earned the right
to push your buttons. They do not deserve the right to control your
emotions. They are not significant.  They don’t count.  Never let
them ruin your day.

And even if it is you…get over it.  I always figure that it’s not
their job to give me strokes.  Look for the lessons.  Learn and
grow.  That’s what makes you thrive.  They’re giving you a gift.

And one final thought.  When you recognize how other people’s
negative comments affect you…make a commitment that YOU will not
be one of those cellar dwellers.  Get into the habit of giving more
compliments than criticism.  This takes focus and effort.  You’ll
feel better.  The people around you will be happier and more
productive.  And you’ll find that fewer negative people will live
in your neighborhood.

Creativity and Humor — A School of Fish

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

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 
grain).
A hail of cabbies.  Double word meaning for hail sets up the visual picture of lots of cabbies or “raining 
cabbies.”
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 
names.
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 
was:
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!

Welcome to the Humor Power Blog

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

The Humor Power blog and website will give you skills for better thinking, better speaking and better living.  A sense of humor is not about telling jokes, it’s a way of looking at life.  This humor site is not about the jokes, it’s about giving you life-skills that will empower your success.

 1.  Better Thinking.  Humor is perspective.  It’s about connecting concepts and ideas which are often considered unrelated.  Focus your humor radar and you’ll develop a thinking style better suited for coping with daily challenges.  Positive humor increases optimism.

2.  Better Speaking.  Humor is one of a speaker’s most valuable tools.  It helps keep the attention of the audience.  It increases likeability.  It drives home key points and sells your ideas.  It makes your message memorable.

 3.  Better Living.  By honing your sense of humor you become a better leader.  Your relationships are strengthened because people love to be around others who make them laugh.  Humor is essential for success and happiness at work and home.

4.  Contests.  On the 1st of each month, we will sponsor a new humor writing contest.  You’ll submit your entries by the 15th.  We’ll post the contest results and analysis to the blog on the 20th.  This will provide you a valuable learning tool, stimulate your creativity and tickle your funny-bone.

 5.  Articles.  For featured humor articles visit: www.humorpower.com/articles_free.html.