Archive for February, 2007

Remembering A Joke

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Hear a great joke and later you can’t remember it?  I often have that problem too.  Here are some things I do to help me recall the funny line or story.  This post was inspired by Martha Warren who posted a blog comment on February 23 with a question about how to remember a joke.  Thanks Martha!

1.  Create a visual image.  Let’s create a joke and examine it:   Why did the elephant cross the road?  It was just following the chicken.  OK.  I didn’t say we’d create a funny joke.  But let’s look at what we have here.  It’s a story that we can put in pictures.  If this is a joke that you want to remember, picture the elephant crossing the road following a chicken.  Often  we think and remember in pictures, not in words.

2.  Make a link.  The trick to remember the first joke is to remember the picture you created.  So you need to create another picture to help you remember the elephant picture.  Here’s how it works.  Let’s say you’re in a fast-food restaurant and you hear Fred tell the elephant joke.  You decide you want to remember it, so you created a picture in your mind.  You now want to create a trigger to get you to the elephant picture.  When your meal is finished, you know you’ll be leaving the restaurant and getting in your car.  Visualize that when you insert your key into the car door you hear a loud noise, look up, and see an elephant crossing the road following a chicken.  Presto, you remember the joke.  Adding the loud noise into your story/picture helps to make the image even more vivid and more memorable.

3.  Extend the string.  If you have more than one joke to remember, string your links together.  Let’s pretend Fred told you about the winner of the Twisted Movie Titles contest:  So White — Seven dwarves teach a princess about diversity issues.  Step one, create a visual picture of this joke.  The princess is white, so white that it is blinding just to look at her, you wish you had sun glasses.  She is surrounded by seven dwarves.  Because of the joke, you may want one dwarf to be black, one to be white, one heavy, one thin, one in a wheel chair, one with a white cane, both male and female.  You get the idea.  Now the challenge is to remember THIS picture.  A new link:  The chicken is crossing the road to be with So White.  You picture the chicken, wearing sunglasses,  running across to be with a blinding-white princess who is surrounded by seven diverse-looking dwarves, etc.  Get the picture?  Or rather, get the pictures?

4.  There is no limit.  Say you hear another joke from Fred.  Dentist and motivational humorist Charles Jarvis was once asked:  “What should I do for yellow teeth?”  His answer, “Wear a brown tie!”  The picture:  A person with a large smiling mouth and yellow teeth.  Maybe you want to picture his teeth as lemons.  The more vivid the picture the easier it will be to recall the image.  The necktie he is wearing is brown, and is so long that it stretches out in front of him where the dwarves are standing on his tie.  Another link.

5.  Put yourself into the picture.  Some other tips for remembering the funny line or story.  When you create your story, make it a story that is happening to you.  It’s easier to remember a story where you are actually experiencing what is happening.

6.  Recall time.  Time comes to leave the restaurant.  Oh no!  I’ve forgotten those three wonderful jokes that Fred told me while we were eating.  What to do?  Don’t worry.  You walk to your car.  Take your keys from your pocket.  As you start to place the key into the door lock…boom!  You hear a noise and look up…there’s an elephant crossing the street.  Oh my, he’s following a chicken that’s wearing sunglasses!  They’re running up to a radiant much-too-white princess surrounded by diverse little people.  The little people are standing on a big brown tie which is being work by a guy with a big smile and very yellow teeth.

7.  Burn it into memory.  Sometimes I’m in a long program or a meeting and have a string of humorous observations I want to remember.  I create my pictures.  Then link them together.  And then replay my linked stories in my mind several times as I sit and listen to the remainder of the lecture or meeting.  Then when I leave the meeting hall and hit my trigger (key in the car door in this example), presto!  The images pour forth and I’m able to recreate the lines, stories, key points that I wanted to save. 

8.  Short term memory.  This memory technique can help you with both short and long-term memory.  My preference is primarily to use it as a tool for short-term memory (for the purpose of remembering jokes) and when I’m near paper and pen, I write the jokes down for long-term retention.

9.  Block your joke telling and storytelling.  This is a tip that comes from the theater.  Actors learning their lines for a play, often start by blocking the movement on stage before they memorize their lines.  That is, they get the physical movements of the scene committed first, then they work on the lines.  It will help you in joke telling to have a specific gesture to emphasize the punch line.  Also, if you have characters and dialogue, can you play the parts and act out the story with movement and sounds?  Every joke is different, and some jokes may lend them self to doing this, some may not.

10.  The idea outline.  When I’m presenting a program, I create an idea outline of the main points and stories of the talk.  Then I rehearse the talk and burn the outline into my memory.  I don’t actually use a written script.  I’m not trying to memorize anything word-for-word.  But with enough rehearsal, I can actually see the written outline in my mind.  I know what is at the top of note card number two, for example. 

11. This works.  Try it.  In the example we used, we created links to recall three totally unrelated jokes.  The link technique is exactly what I use when I need to remember a string of unrelated funny lines.  For a more detailed look at the linking process, and other memory techniques, get a copy of The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne.  He’s a memory expert and this is one of the classic books on the subject.

12.  Check out Seven Tips for Telling a Joke, by Brad Montgomery.  It was featured on our Feburary 20 blog post.

Seven Tips for Telling a Joke

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

By guest author Brad Montgomery, CSP

To be honest, I think that most presenters should avoid telling jokes.  But on the other hand, telling jokes around the water cooler or on the porch while sippin’ lemonade is a time-honored tradition.  If it was good enough for Gramps, why ain’t it good enough for us?   But if you are going to tell jokes, you should do it right.

1.  Make sure you actually know the joke.  Practice it!  Tell it to your kids, your spouse, and your dog. Trust me, you want to tell the joke a few times before you do it for real.   Nothing will make you look like a bigger idiot than telling a joke wrong.

2.  Scan the internet for jokes to AVOID.  Don’t tell jokes that everybody has heard…if your joke is all over the internet, then this is a great joke to AVOID.

3.  Shorter jokes are better.  I know, I know.  You think you’re a great story teller.  But trust me, your audience will appreciate you for NOT adding all of the colorful details and fluff.  Just tell the joke.  Shorten it if you can.

4.  The punch line comes last.   And I mean last!   Nothing should come after the punch-line.   Consider this joke done well. Why Did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.  Now, the same joke when the punch-line is not last.  This is much worse.  (I know, that joke is pretty bad on it’s own, but… you get the idea.)  Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the other side of the road which was on a long block because he wanted to get to his chicken coop.  See?  Punch-lines should be last.  Period.  NOTHING comes after the punch.  (Except for your silence and their laughter.) 

5.  Keep it clean.  And I mean crystal clean.  If you wouldn’t tell it to the Queen of England (who probably doesn’t like jokes much anyway) then leave it out.  Seriously.  If you have any doubt whether you are “crossing the line,” then don’t tell it.   Think of it this way:  If you tell a joke to 10 people and 9 of them laugh, then you’ve still alienated a friend.   Don’t do it.

6.  If you are telling a joke as part of a presentation, don’t take credit for the joke.  You can do that before the joke with something like, “Here’s one I read on the internet.”   Or after the joke with something like, “That old joke was on the internet, but it reminds us to…. (follow with a point.)”  If you don’t let people know that his joke is from the internet, you risk looking like a fool.  I guarantee that at least a couple of people in every audience already know your joke, and if you want to earn and keep THEIR respect you need to make sure you don’t (tacitly) claim that joke to be yours.

7.  Don’t steal jokes from stand-up comics.  Unless they are dead.   Jokes are material, and it is how they earn a living. If you tell it, copy it, email it…whatever…you devalue the joke for them.   Besides, it’s bad karma.

Brad Montgomery is offering my Humor Power subscribers a terrific new audio product that teaches humor skills to presenters of all types (speakers, trainers, salespeople, entertainers, financial advisors, teachers, etc.)  It’s a terrific program with excellent, practical, how-to tips you can use in your next program…I have a copy myself.   If you want to learn from a total pro who is also a top-flight teacher, click here.

To enjoy another Brad Montgomery article, You Can’t Use Humor Until You Get Over the Fear Of Failure, subscribe to the Humor Power Tips Ezine.  He’s our guest author for the Mid-February issue which will be available only until March 1, 2007.

Contest Results — Twisted Movie Titles — Creative Humor Writing

Monday, February 19th, 2007

What a fun contest!  Over 500 entries.  We’ll be sharing about 65 of them with you.  Your favorite may not be at the top of the list.  Your favorite may not even be on the list.  Even our eight judges (speakers and improv players) don’t all agree with the results.  I submit cartoon captions every week with some friends to the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest and we always wonder why OUR lines are not selected!  That’s the subjective nature of humor.  The true fun and value comes from creating your own lines.  Terrific humor writing by all who entered this month’s Twisted Movie Titles Contest.  The writers who submitted the top three entries will receive gifts from blogging expert Ted Demopoulos.  Enjoy reading the lines we’ve listed below:

FIRST PLACE

So White — Seven dwarves teach a princess about diversity issues.
     Paula Frederick, Scituate, Massachusetts

SECOND PLACE

DOS Boot — A comedy about a German U-boat having a problem starting up a very old IBM computer.
     Gill Krebs, Charleston, South Carolina

THIRD PLACE

Butch Cassidy and the Lapdance Kid — In 1903, Butch opens a strip club near a mining camp in Carson City.
     Frank Roth, Washington DC

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

Just look at all that sand! — Prequel to Dune.

When Hairy met Sally — A love story between a man and his electrolycist.
 
Ben-Her — A transsexual musical.

Crappy Days — Just the lousy parts of 1950’s America.

Pilates of the Caribbean — Suck in your gut for an adventure on the high seas.

Pulp Diction — Evil professor, cute coeds, the power of enunciation.

The Umpire Strikes Back — A sports epic whereby the Stars Wars team challenges the entire galaxy to a baseball game.

The Wizard of Bras — The story of the founder of Victoria’s Secret.

The Perfect Strom — The biography of America’s oldest Senator.

Saving Ryan O’Neal — Based on a true story of uncontrollable anger and a dysfunctunal family.

You’ve Got Spam — Sequel to You’ve Got Mail.

Mission Impossible III — Perfect Marriage starring Tom Cruise.
 
Conan: The Domestic — Forced to abandon his barbaric lifestyle, Conan takes a job changing dirty diapers.

Raiders of the Lost Bark — Indiana Jones’ adventures take an unexpected turn when his intrepid companion, Lassie, goes missing.

Mystic Liver — Hannibal Lector is drawn to the charms of a fortune teller.

The Green File — Only the principal knows what goes on your permanent record.

Some Like It Lukewarm — An updated version of the Monroe Classic.

L.A. Coincidental — A psychic gossip columnist is a serial killer. 

American Beautyrest — A documentary following the production of the last mattress made in America.

Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb — A bio-pic of Roger Ebert.

12 Angry Men: My year coaching in the NBA

Fantasy Rhode Island — Mr Roarke’s supernatural island isn’t even an island.

It’s a Wonderful Slice — Clarence helps himself to angel food cake.

Old Cellar — Gripping story of home canning and the vacuum seal process.

Stinky Feet — Happy Feet in smell-o-vision.

Flamer Vs Flamer — The tragic story of  the rise and turbulent demise of the guys from Queer eye for the staight guy.

Fantastic Fore — Tiger woods autobiography
                     
Bored Free — Screenplay taken from the campaign voluteers journals that traveled with Al Gore on his 2000 election year tour.

A Star Is Bjorn — The story of a  Swedish tennis player who stages a comeback after many years off the circuit.

Tombs of Endearment — A pair of lovers in a movie about their construction of elaborate mausoleums for their loved ones.

Zorba the Geek — The story of an international computer hacker in Crete.

The Turd Man — Joseph Cotton arrives in post-war Vienna to start an organic fertilizer business.

The World According to AARP — Robin Williams stars in the tragic story of the senior-citizen movement.

Florence of Arabia — A cross-dressing hero strategically aids Bedouins in their battle with the Turks.

The Umpire Strikes Back — A sports epic whereby the Stars Wars team challenges the entire galaxy to a baseball game.

Oh, Godzilla — A Sci-Fi monster flick starring George Burns and John Denver.

The Da Vinci Coed — The mystery of who Mona Lisa is, tracked to a student at the Sorbonne.

The Pun Also Rises — A classic tale of wisecracking people trading shaggy dog stories at bullfights.

Sergeant Dork — A nerdy, ridiculous jerk captures a whole German platoon.

Bambo:  A sequel to the famous story about a cute fawn who grows up and seeks revenge against his mother’s killer.

Gobi Dick — A sea captain hunts a white whale in a Mongolian desert.

Waiters of the Los Tarque — Government spies pose as wait staff at a popular Mexican restaurant where they hope to discover the secret recipe for Los Tarque’s famous Chimichanga de Pollo.

Merry Gull on 34th Street — An errant seabird imbibes from a broken bottle of tokay.

The Angina monologues — A story that really tugs at the heart.

Romancing the Bone — Rin Tin Tin begs for a treat.

Romancing the Sharon Stone — Behind the scenes film clips from Basic Instinct starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone.

Judy and The Beast — After a divorce from Punch, she finds a kinder gentler husband.

Because I Said No — Nancy Reagan speaks out again with a stronger message on the war against drugs.

Repeat — Re-release of Shampoo.  Watch for the exciting sequel, Condition.

Free Willie 4 — The personal stories of four male nudists. 

Presidential Predator — Monica’s Story.

Dim — Little Miss Sunshine visits The Dark.

10:30 to 2:30 — Dolly’s now working in a Government office and answers the question of what to do with a 3 hour lunch.

Bean Laden — Terror at the Chilli eating contest. Not for the weak stomached.

The Codfather — Getting down and greasy at the Fish and Fries Shop.

The Big Sleazy — Rosie’s and Donald’s love hate relationship.

Semis — Bigger than cars. 

No Expectations — What’s happening in the public school system.

Journey to the Bottom of the Earth — Life Downunder.

Pontoon — Life on the water.

Eye’s Glued Shut — Justice again proves it’s blind.

Politicians On A Plane — Quick, let the snakes loose.

Sushi – Japanese version of Free Willie.

Smile Power

Friday, February 16th, 2007

I found a great article on The Power of a Smile by Debra Moorhead.  She shares her experiments and experiences with a smile. You’ll enjoy it.  It will encourage you to think about your smile…and to improve it.

Related Humor Power articles:

Add Smile Power To Your Life

The Smile Myth

Humor Skills and Public Speaking

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Riding the Wave

It takes less energy to move a body already in motion than to move a body at rest.  Likewise, it’s much easier to keep an audience laughing which is already laughing, than it is to get a seriously stone-faced audience to start laughing.  We’re talking about the principle of momentum applied to humor skills and public speaking delivery.

Here are some tips related to momentum and humor:

1.  It’s a good idea to include humor in your formal introduction.  When your introducer uses a couple of laugh lines while introducing you, it warms up the audience and gets them laughing.  It sets them in motion.  It gets the wave started.  And your opening line will be funnier when the audience has already been laughing.  Look for some humor you can slip into your introduction.

2.  The principle of momentum is understood when arranging the agenda for Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contests.  Often times the Toastmaster of the event (the MC) will use humor to get the audience laughing.  If this is not the case, the first speaker will be at a disadvantage.  She or he will be speaking to a cold audience and, in effect, will be the audience warm-up speaker for the other contestants.  It’s important that the Toastmaster of the Contest not be the humor star of the event.  The person filling that role should use just a bit of humor so the audience is ready for the first speaker.  That sets the scene and gets the wave rolling for the contestants to shine.

3.  The Wave Principle gains power from the common experience of the audience. Here, the contagious-nature-of-laughter principle comes into play. One person laughs.  Then two more people laugh, because the one person next to them is laughing.  And then more people laugh.  In a very large audience, the wave principle becomes even more noticeable as the wave of laughter washes over the entire audience.  The experienced humor presenter is comfortable riding the wave.  He or she takes time to let the wave flow and is careful not to step on the laughter.  Let the audience laugh.  Stop talking.  And then resume your speech just before the laughter dies.  Do not wait until the laughter is completely gone.  You want to keep the momentum and energy going.  Therefore you don’t want to stop the wave at its peak, nor do you want to let it die completely.

4.  The Wave Principle also applies to observational humor.  One of the observational humor triggers is the category I call “Something Funny.”  As a trigger for observational humor, this does not imply that YOU say something funny, but rather that you notice something amusing that someone else says (before you take the platform) that tickles the funny bone of the audience. This sets things in motion.  And later in the program when it’s your turn to speak, there will still be a ripple you can use to get the wave rolling again.  This also is an example of the common-experience factor in action, which was mentioned in paragraph 3; the audience had the common experience of laughing together at something funny earlier in the program, which primes them to laugh at your observational remark.

5.  The principle of the Topper is based on the Wave Principle.  A topper is a joke riding on the coat tails of another joke, usually on the same theme.  I remember a great set of lines by the flamboyant Donald Maltby (Philip Charles MacKenzie) in the Showtime sitcom, Brothers, from the early 1980s.  Donald hated boxing, and is introduced to a boxer.  His response, while trying to be friendly and positive, is:  “Oh, boxing!  My favorite sport…where people hit each other…in the head.”  This is a good example of the structure: Joke-Topper-Topper.  Success also depended on delivery with the right attitude, with perfect timing, by a colorful character.  But the structure is also one of the reasons that these lines worked so well.  The sequence of Joke-Topper-Topper is usually designed so that each topper in fact “tops” the previous line, hence the name Topper.  Keeping the momentum and building on it.  The lines ride the wave and add energy to it.  And the laughter flows.

Humor and Advertising

Friday, February 9th, 2007

A recent poll in USA today (February 5) ranked the Super Bowl commercials.  I sorted their rankings through my listing of the humor based commercials.  Seventy-three percent of the Super Bowl commercials used humor.  However, in the Top Ten, ninety percent were humor based. 

Budweiser/Bud Light ran the most commercials of which all but one where humor based.  Eighteen percent of all the Super Bowl commercials landed in the Top Ten.  But seventy-five percent of the Budweiser/Bud Light commercials made the Top Ten.

The Top Ten had approximately twice as many humor-based commercials when compared to the Bottom Ten.

On their popularity ranking scale, the humor-based commercials averaged a score of 6.94.  Non-humor-based commercials averaged a popularity score of 6.61.

Humor gets attention.  Humor is remembered.  Humor entertains.  Humor sells.

But writing a great piece of humor is no simple task.  Take for example the ad ran on Super Bowl Sunday by Rolling Rock (apparently not during the game, I couldn’t find it on any of the lists of commercials).  They ran an ad which apparently fell so flat in a ratings poll that they ran an apology in USA Today (February 5).  Or maybe the whole thing was a scheme for PR and a viral ad campaign.  Whichever, personally I thought the ad was cute, well written and I liked it.  However, had I been advising them on whether or not to run it, I would have voted against it.  The ad titled “Man Thong” is about a man coming to work in an office where he discovers that the men wear no pants, only thongs.  Our male dominated, hetero-sexist, and generally-sexually-conservative American culture would be unlikely to warm up to such an ad.  Granted, many will like the ad.  But because of cultural bias and taboos, the choices made in the ad were risky.

Lessons learned:

1.  People love humor and it sells.  It sells in commercials.  And as speakers, we need to remember that it sells from the platform.

2.  The strength of humor comes from the relationships and strong writing.  And it comes from pacing and delivery.

3.  Sexual, body part and bodily function humor is often an uncreative attempt to be funny.  But even when the writing is good (as in the Rolling Rock ad), it’s still a risk because of our cultural attitudes.  Generally, the risks aren’t worth the rewards, especially for public speakers. 

The Richest Man Speaks — Humor and Public Speaking

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Bill Gates spoke in Las Vegas on January 7. I wrote a post immediately after the speech. Here’s an update of my thoughts a month later.

Before his speech started, I expected that his talk would open with humor. As I watched him speak it was obvious that, although brilliant, he is not a comedian. In fact his use of humor from the platform was minimal, but he made it obvious to me that he does have a good sense of humor. Remember that a sense of humor is more than just telling jokes. And even in a speech that is far from an-award-winning example of humor from the platform, there are some good lessons to be learned.

If you’re not a funny person, opening a speech with humor, or more specifically jokes, can be risky. Additionally, this CES keynote speech posed three more risks.

First, the audience was more diverse than cohesive, coming from a variety of backgrounds and not really knowing other members of the audience. Humor often depends on a certain degree of common experience, which was pretty much lacking at this event.

Also, as the opening keynoter, there was little chance to use a situational or observational piece of humor. About the only common experience of the group was waiting together in one line, then moving to another line, then another…before entering the hall.

Add to those challenges, the size of the audience and the hall were far from ideal for presenting humor.

So using humor to open the speech was a quadruple challenge for Bill Gates. 1. Not a funny speaker. 2. Non-cohesive audience. 3. The opening speech of the event. 4. Huge room and audience.

Here’s how he handled it. He had a 3-4 minute video slide-show which introduced him. An excellent choice. The video was the vehicle for carrying his opening humor. It had clips from previous keynotes, repetitive phrases, talk show interviews, bloopers, dancing, goofing around…all designed to gently poke fun at him while also humanizing him. He didn’t need a big credibility building introduction, as he is already a legend. The humorous, fun-style introduction video was perfect. Although the slide show was not knee-slapping humor, it was the funniest part of the talk and helped convey that he was a real person. From watching it, we knew that he is more like us than he is different from us (if we don’t compare bank accounts). And it was much more effective than a traditional written introduction.

During his 70 minutes on the platform, he had maybe 6-7 light laugh lines. Comedy coach Jim Richardson would refer to them as “titters” to distinguish them from solid laughs. He poked fun at himself and other Microsoft founders adding just a bit of a light touch to an otherwise mostly-techno talk. A humor and presentations coach would definitely recommend more humor in a talk of that length.

The keynote speech was posted online, but the humor-value of the speech is almost totally missing from the video link. First, the introductory slide show segment was not posted. It appears that they posted a music-video commercial which I don’t remember seeing at the live event (or if I saw it, it wasn’t memorable). The actual introduction video slide show is not provided on the internet link. Secondly, since the audience had no microphone, and also because the laughs were small, most of the audience response to the humor was not picked up on the recording, making it appear that the laugh lines were falling totally flat, when in fact that was not the case.  He opened with a joke about his keynote two years in the future being about infectious diseases, referring to his philanthropic work.  It got a laugh but the response was almost totally missing from the video recording.

Bill Gates is definitely not a powerful, dynamic or funny speaker. But in my opinion he IS a connected speaker.  The opening slide-show to introduce him was a great choice. And it was obvious that throughout the talk the audience was quiet and listened. In a huge room, maybe 4000 people, there was no significant distracted chatter. He didn’t take himself too seriously. The audience respected him and liked him. And I knew that he had a sense of humor…in spite of not being particularly funny.

Lessons learned:

1. If you’re not especially funny and you’re preparing a speech, get help. I’m certain Bill Gates had help with the opening video.

2. If you’re the opening speaker, tune in to your surroundings, the audience experience before the speech, opening comments before you’re introduced. Look for a chance to use observational humor.

3. Don’t try to be too funny if you are not. Be yourself and the audience will like you.

4. Poke fun at yourself. It makes you human.

5. If you’re recording the talk on video, remember to have a microphone on the audience.

6. Remember that being good at using humor doesn’t happen over night. There is no magic pill. You can’t buy the skill even if you had a billion dollars. But at the same time, remember that a sense of humor is NOT telling jokes. It’s a way of looking at life.  If you have a good sense of humor it will normally shine through even if you’re not a humor professional.

Super Bowl Commercials and Humor

Monday, February 5th, 2007

The big game is over.  Congratulations to the Colts fans.  And congratulations to Budweiser and Bud Light, The King of Super Bowl Commercials.

The big winner of the ad-fest was HUMOR.  Seventy-three percent of the commercials were driven by humor.  Seventeen percent counted on high-tech special effects.  Ten percent were designed with traditional ad structure or heart-strings emotional appeal.  See previous post on Why Advertisers Use Humor in their Super Bowl Commercials.

It was interesting to note that near the top of the popularity list were the three ads with talking animals:  Gorillas, Lions and Rodents.  There’s a saying in show business:  Never follow an animal act or children.  I would assume that an ad with talking babies would have also been a hit.  Like animals, they also have universal appeal.

Budweiser/Bud Light had the most ads during the Super Bowl.  You’d figure they know something about advertising.  And they do.  All of their ads were winners.  Seven of them humor driven and one ad pulling on your heart-strings.  About the same ratio as the entire field of ads overall.

All of the Super Bowl Ads are available for viewing online.

Here are some things we can learn from the commercials:

1.  In reviewing the ads, we find that many humor tools, triggers and principles are demonstrated by the writers. 

2.  For example, the tool of the topper.  This is normally used by a comic where one joke line rides on the tails of another.  A joke followed by another one on the same theme.  In advertising, time is precious.  A topper is sometimes added at the end of the commercial, after the ad content and main humor is completed.  It’s like a cherry on top of a sundae.  Sometimes the toppers are so subtle and unexpected that you can miss them if you aren’t looking for them.  The great value of the topper, whether in an ad or in a speech, is that it encourages people to keep listening and watching, because they never know what great thing is just around the corner.  Examples are:

   — First Quarter, Bud Light, Rock Paper Scissors, “Low Five!” 
   — First Quarter, Bud Light, Wedding, “So what do I owe you?”
   — Fourth Quarter, Bud Light, Hitchhiker, “and a chainsaw!” (Note the choice of WHO delivers the line.  Also you hear the chainsaw in the background.  Nice touch.)

3.  Self Deprecation is a good tool.  People are endeared to those who can poke fun at themselves.
   — Fourth Quarter, T-Mobile, My Favs, “Is this your dad?”

4.  Use of a strong character.  This is a common tool in comedy.  Remember to develop strong characters in your telling of stories when delivering a speech.

  — Second Quarter, Doritos, Cashier (And they slip in the topper at the end, “Clean up, register six!”

5.  Running a theme with changing styles or genres, or as the case in this commercial, dialects.  This is similar to a repeating scene game played in improv comedy.

    — Second Quarter, Bud Light, Classroom (Plays with dialects in a likeable, friendly way.  Also notice the number of times the product name is mentioned.  This is a key to advertising, driving home the product.  You don’t want to run a cute ad and have them forget who sponsored the commercial!”)

6.  The principle of absurdity allows you to do something silly and not be offensive because it’s too far from the truth to offend anyone.  This commercial uses a what-if technique. (What if the slap replaced the high-five or the handshake?).
   — Second Quarter, Bud Light, Slap

7.  Being careful when using borderline subject material.  One area where this applies is when attempting humor on sex and bodily functions.  In this commercial they draw a parallel to erectile dysfunction.

   — Third Quarter, Sprint, Broadband (I would normally not attempt this in an ad, but what does work for me in this commercial is that although they’re suggesting a comparison with ED by innuendo, I felt they were largely poking fun at commonly seen ED commercials with the downtrodden-to-smiling transition.  This makes it a parody, which I think works OK.)

8.  Different strokes.  I’ve made no attempt to rank order the ads.  What is one person’s funniest ad is another person’s dud.  I know that some of the ones that I liked best were not ranked high in the voting.  And some of the highest ranked ads were ones I didn’t think were the best.  Visit the ad site and you’ll find some commercials that you’ll love that weren’t included in this article.

9.  Remember…always be a student of life!

Humor and The Super Bowl Commercials

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching.  In fact, it’s this weekend.  And as usual, the highlights will be:  The game, the half-time entertainment, the commercials and the office pool.   Not necessarily in that order!  It’s the rare television event where the commercials are highly anticipated and where they fetch record-breaking price tags for 30 seconds of airtime.  In fact the financial investment seems to come with bragging rights.

I’ve not had any preview of the commercials, but here is what I would expect to see on Sunday.  Seventy-five percent of the commercials will be driven by humor.  Add another fifteen percent which will rely high-end, digital, mind-blowing special effects (some of the humor ones will also feature some of these special effects too).  The remaining ten percent will be straight-forward sales efforts, some with a heart-strings emotional appeal.  In almost all the commercials, the driving force will be the Entertainment value (with a capital E).

Humor in advertising is a good investment.  Here’s why:

1.  Humor gets attention.  That’s especially critical on Super Bowl Sunday.  The commercials have to break through the chatter of the pre-game hype, the game, the entertainment, the other commercials and the people drinking beer.

2.  Humor gets remembered.  We’re talking about viral advertising here.  The aim is to create the buzz that will make the commercial the talk of the office on Monday morning.  They want it to be so good that people will be watching them again on the internet.  If the commercial is great, the advertising fee will give them more than just the initial 30 seconds of airtime.

3.  Humor sells.  It creates credibility and trust.  And when you combine the elements of getting attention and being memorable, you have a winner that rings the cash register.  That’s why the ad spots get big bucks.

4.  Sophisticated humor outsells crude humor.  Recent television ad campaigns have featured fart humor, pee humor and kick-in-the-groin humor.  That’s a reflection on the difficult task of creating quality, high-level humor and the tendency to take the easy way out, going for a cheap laugh.  I would expect and hope to see better on Sunday.  The Super Bowl audience is sophisticated and deserves better.

After the game festivities are over, I would expect to find a website on the internet where you can replay all the commercials.  I’ll look for it and if I find it I’ll write another post with a link and a post-game review of the commercials and we’ll see how far off target my predictions are.  Enjoy the game and be a student of the commercials.

Humor Skills — Creative Writing Challenge

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Twisted Movie Titles  — Humor Contest

Your challenge for the February contest is to create original movie titles.  These will be movies which do not exist.  Your title should be followed by a short sub-title, OR followed by a one-line TV-Guide-type description of the movie.

Here are a few examples:

Your movie twists could combine two actual movie titles.

     The Wizard of Jaws.  Dorothy and Toto visit the world of Captain Nemo.

     It’s a Wonderful Knife.  Modern day remake of Psycho soon to be a holiday favorite.

     The Green Smile.  The Grinch graduates from charm school.

Or your twists could work with a character or celebrity name.

     Psychic Powers.  A lame comedy featuring the clairvoyant brother of Austin Powers.

     Crouching Tiger.  An educational film on the art of lining up golf putts.

     The Elton John.  A travelogue tour of the pop star’s master suite bathroom.

Or your twists could look for an unlikely sequel.

     Moorhead.  The little-known sequel to Fargo.

     Bored of the Rings.  A long-unanticipated sequel to the trilogy.

     The Olivia Newton John.  Sequel to The Elton John.

Or your twists could simply play with synonyms or rhyming words.  Note that most of the previous examples played with synonyms/rhymes and added another twist element.

     The Sound of Muzak.  Terror in a glass elevator.

     Silence of the Hams.  The day that comedy died.

     Malice in Wonderland.  Lobbyists in Washington.  An inconvenient truth.

Or come up with your own twist for a movie title.  You’re not limited to the themes listed above.  They were provided only as examples to get you started.

Creativity tip:  Start with a list of current movies, your favorite films and famous big-screen classics.  Next, make a list of celebrities.  Then start to look for connections, twists and relationships.

To enter the contest:

1.  Create your original and humorous movie titles.

2.  Pass your ideas by a friend or humor buddy.

3.  Sleep on it.

4.  Select your best lines.

5.  Submit your entries to HumorPowerTips@aol.com by February 15, 2007.

6.  The winner will receive a copy of the just-released What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting by Ted Demopoulos.  The book features real-life advice from 101 people who have successfully leveraged the power of the Blogosphere (The Humor Power Blog is featured in chapter eight). Click here for a review and another review of the book both published in The Biz of Knowledge Blog.

The two contest runners up will receive Ted’s new Blogging Tips booklet.  Check out Ted’s blog about Successful Business Blogging.  His blog featured a recent post about John Kinde’s first year’s experience as a blogger.