Archive for March, 2007

President Bush — Using Humor

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Yesterday, at the annual Correspondents Dinner for broadcasters, President Bush delivered something close to a standup comedy routine that was one of the highlights of the evening.  Here’s a review of some of his better lines and why they worked:

“I’d like to thank the Radio and TV Correspondents Association for providing dinner tonight…and I’d like to thank Senator Webb for providing security.” (12 seconds of laughter and applause)
1.  Note that in the world of stand-up comedy 5 seconds of laughter is as big laugh. The even bigger laughs get applause.
2.  Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), had to explain earlier in the week why an aide was carrying a loaded handgun as he tried to enter a Capitol complex building.
3.  Referring to fresh events is normally a hit.  People love a timely joke.

“Well …where should I start.  A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone,” (22 seconds of laughter and applause)
1.  This uses the rule of three, with the third item being the most bizarre.
2.  This line was the funniest line of the routine.

“Ah…those were the good old days.” (9 seconds of laughter and applause)
1.  The technique of a topper is a great way to get laughs, riding on the wave of the previous joke.
2.  Less is more.  Here the real punchline is implied, “things are really bad these days.”  It’s stronger to let the audience “get the joke.”

“Sorry the Vice President couldn’t be here. He’s had a rough few weeks. To be honest, his feelings were kind of hurt.  He said he was going on vacation to Afghanistan, where people like him.”
1.  Cheney’s recent trip to Afghanistan was marked by a bombing near where he was meeting.
2.  Implied is that things have not been going well for Cheney recently.

“You in the press certainly have had a lot to report lately.  Take the current controversy. I have to admit we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you’ve botched it when people sympathize with lawyers.”
1.  Again the power of current events.
2.  The joke plays with the stereotypical joke using lawyers as a target.

“Speaking of subpoenas, it’s good to see Speaker Pelosi tonight (she was at the head table). Some have wondered how the two of us would get along.  Some say she’s bossy, she’s opinionated, she’s not to be crossed…Hey, I get along with my mother.”
1.  The setup uses the rule of three and leads to the punchline “my mother.”
2.  The joke works because it is HIS mother.
3.  And it  it works because Barbara Bush is a strong woman who can take a joke.
4.  And MOSTLY it works because Barbara Bush is a very well-liked former first lady.  If she had been an unpopular first lady, the joke would not have worked nearly as well.

“But between the congress and the press there is a lot of scrutiny in this job.  Not a day goes by that I don’t get scrutineered one way or the other.”
1.  One of the techniques used here is the fabricating of an imaginary word which sounds a little like something else (screw).
2.  This is a good line for the President who is not known for always perfectly using the English language.  So he is subtly poking fun at himself.

“The press is a lot tougher in the second term.  It’s reached the point I sometimes call on Helen Thomas just to hear a friendly voice.”
1.  Helen Thomas, a senior correspondent who has become well-known for her tough questions at live Presidential press conferences.
2.  The principle of absurdity makes the joke work.

“No matter how tough it gets, however, I have no intention of becoming a lame duck President….Unless of course Cheney accidentally shoots me in the leg.”
1.  A call-back to the Cheney joke at the opening of the monologue.

“I’m considering what’s next.  President Clinton wrote a very successful presidential memoir with 10,000 pages or something.  I’m thinking of something really fun and creative for mine….You know, maybe a pop-up book.”
1.  Great word choice.  Pop-up book is more unexpected than coloring book.  And sounds much funnier.

“Consider a number of titles.  Which do you like?  How W. Got His Groove Back; Who Moved My Presidency; Or Tuesdays with Cheney.”
1.  Again using the rule of three and parody book titles.

If you want to watch the monologue here are a couple of links where it’s available:  MSN (look under Most Watched to find Bush Does Standup) or AOL (scroll down to Watch Video).  You’ll have to find the specific clip in order to play it on your computer.

Copyright 2007 by John Kinde

Observational Humor — Case Study #6

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Observational Humor Case Study #6

Here is a short segment of observational humor I used at the end of a Toastmasters meeting last week.

THE SETUP (things that happened during the meeting)

1.  Bill gave a speech in which he talked about the time he spent in the military.  He got a laugh when he said that the military gave him “a career and a wife.”

2.  In Bill’s speech he said that one of his life’s goals was to be “rich, famous, and a couch potato.”  He got a good laugh.

3.  Bill also talked about growing up and said that he is “still growing up.”  Another good laugh.

4.  Frank was introduced as a speaker.  When his introducer shook his hand and started to cross in front of him (a definite mistake in Toastmasters), Frank didn’t release his hand and practically dragged the introducer behind him.  Frank is a big guy.)

5.  I was one of the speech evaluators.  When my oral evaluation was complete, I forgot to stay at the front of the room to wait for the Master Evaluator to shake my hand.  Instead, I immediately headed down the side aisle.  The master evaluator chased after me to shake my hand.  The two of us are the most senior Toastmasters in the club (forty-plus and thirty-plus years in Toastmasters).

6.  During the Observational Humor segment of the meeting.  Frank noted that Steve was wearing shorts and had legs with no sun tan.  Frank said, “And I used to think that I had white legs.  Now I know that I’m not as brilliant as I thought I was.”  A good laugh.

7.  Pam delivered a manuscript speech on “how to give an evaluation.”  The manuscript was prepared by TM International and the text was provided in the speech manual.  Her challenge was to deliver a scripted-speech well.

8.  Our club membership has been growing.  We had several women attending this meeting.  Six months ago Vicki was normally the only woman present at our meetings.


I found it interesting that Bill’s time in the military gave him a career and a wife.  The military also gave me a career.  But I was home sick the day they issued wives.  (Uses the principle “what if…”   We expect that he found his wife the normal way, but what if the military had in fact given him the wife?)

I too had a goal of being rich, famous, and a couch potato.
Well…one out of three isn’t bad. 
(Uses the principle of “something funny.”  Bill got a laugh using the rule-of-three, with the punchline couch potato.  I piggybacked on his getting a laugh by using the principle of a call-back, recalling a previous funny line and adding a topper to it.  I’m also using the principle of self-deprecation, poking fun at myself.  And I’m using the unexpected twist, proud of the fact that I achieved the thing one would NOT want to achieve.  Lots of things make this simple line funny.)

And Bill talked about growing up and that in fact he “is still growing up.”  The same is true of my life.  Everyday, someone says to me, “Oh, will you grow up?”  (The principle is self-deprecation, implying that I frequently get caught acting childish.)

In Toastmasters we learn that when we introduce a speaker, after we shake hands we should not pass IN FRONT of the speaker.  Just trying passing in front of Frank after you introduce him and he’ll grab your hand and drag you behind him!  (The humor principle here is noting something funny that everyone saw, but which wasn’t especially funny until someone focused everyone’s attention on it.)

We also learn that when you’re done speaking, never leave the speaking area unattended until you are met by the person in charge of the next part of the meeting.  You may have noticed that after I presented my evaluation, I forgot to wait for the Master Evaluator to shake my hand.  And Bill ran after me.  Seventy-seven years of Toastmasters experience running down the aisle…for the purpose of giving you a dramatic visual reminder of the proper way to conduct a meeting.  (Again, pointing out something funny that was funnier after the group relived the experience.  Also, it implies that we did it on purpose for the sake of group learning, which of course was not our real intent.  This activates the relationship of real intent/pretend intent.)

I always thought that my web site was great.  Until I saw Steve’s web site.  Then I realized that mine was not so brilliant.  (This was the only line that didn’t get a good laugh.  Maybe I should have set it up better referring back to the previous “white legs” joke to set the scene for where I was going.  The set-up line, someone else’s observational humor comment, happened shortly before I did my observational humor, but if the audience didn’t connect my line with the first joke, then my spin on that joke would not be very funny.  Notice that in most of the previous lines I structured them with a small lead in/set up to “set the scene” and make my observation funny.  In most cases this is an important thing to do.  Then again the “brilliant” joke might have been funny to only me and may not have been funny to the audience no matter how I presented it.)

I loved Pam’s manuscript speech where she read a text prepared by Toastmasters International on how to give a good evaluation.  I’d like to focus my critical comments solely on the content and structure of her talk.  (This was actually an opening observational line I used in the formal oral evaluation of Pam’s talk, and not a line in my monologue.  It got a very good laugh.  It plays with the principle of absurdity, since my evaluation should, and did, focus on Pam’s delivery techniques for a manuscript speech and not on the content over which she had no control.)

Attendance at our meetings has been growing.  Our club used to be known as “Vicki and the guys.”  I arrived a little late this evening, and as I walked into the back of the room I noticed that we had several women in the group.  And I thought, “maybe they’re issuing wives tonight!”  (This uses the principles of the call-back and book-ending.  When possible I like to tie the opening and closing lines together, in this case using the “issue wives” lines.  If you can close a monologue or speech with a reference to something you said in the opening, it will normally be very effective.)

NOTE:  I had two lines that I did not use for the monologue.  I thought they had humor potential, but I couldn’t find a wording that I was happy with, so I left them out.  Whenever you’re doing observational humor, avoid the temptation to use everything you come up with.  Select your best material and go with those lines.  Your final product will be so much stronger.

Humor Skills Articles

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Both Toastmasters and the National Speakers Association are featuring humor skills articles in their March 2007 magazine issues.  Also included in this post are links to resources available on their web sites.

Toastmaster magazine has devoted the March issue to humor, featuring seven articles on the topic of humor. 

Speaker magazine (NSA) has included a seven-page article, Beyond Funny, and a book review of Fun Is Good, by Mike Veeck and Pete Williams.

Visit the Toastmasters and National Speakers Association web sites for free access to humor resources.

Toastmasters web site (articles are in PDF format)
Click on Magazine Articles under Member QuickLinks on top/right of home page.
Click on Article Index for article archives from past ten years. (these archives are in PDF format).

For example, the Year 2006 Article Index features seven humor articles (two of them by John Kinde).

National Speakers Association web site
Click on Knowledge Bank and Resource Center on left side of home page.
Then go to the middle of the page where it says:
–Here to make a withdrawal?  What do you want to learn? (enter HUMOR or another category of your choice)
–What format do you prefer? (magazine articles, books, audio/visual)
It will provide you with a good selection of articles and book recommendations.

Related article:  NSA and Toastmasters

Creative Writing — Humor Skills

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Here are the results from The Arrival Contest.  It was our humor-skills writing challenge for March.  Enjoy!


   You know you’ve arrived when Bill Gates has you picked up and brought to his private estate for dinner.

   You know you haven’t arrived when Bill Gates has you picked up in front of his private estate for loitering.

     Jim Spero, Las Vegas, Nevada


   You know you’ve arrived when the Super Bowl is scheduled so it won’t conflict with your birthday.

   You know you haven’t arrived when your wife misses your birthday because she’s at a Super Bowl party.

     Rob Favero, Lakewood, Colorado


   You know you’ve arrived when your home town re-names the trailer park you grew up in in your honor.

   You know you haven’t arrived when your television debut is a COPS special on location in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

     Patty Kuttai, Victoria, BC, Canada

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

You know you’ve arrived when your picture is on the front of Time magazine.
You know you haven’t arrived when your picture replaces Nick Nolte’s mug shot on the front of the National Inquirer.

You know you have not arrived when you placed first in the humor contest over Internet, but there weren’t any awards this month

You know you’ve arrived when the President writes you a letter in his own handwriting.

You know you haven’t arrived when the President writes you a letter that starts “Dear Fellow Republican” — and you’re a Democrat.

You know you’ve arrived when the governor of your state begs you not to run against her in the next election.

You know you haven’t arrived when the governor of your state begs you to run against her in the next election.

You know you’ve arrived when the newspapers want to interview you about your winning lotto ticket.

You know you haven’t arrived when the newspapers want to know how you feel about the error with your lotto ticket.

You know you’ve arrived when everyone knows you as one of President Bush’s advisors.

You know you haven’t arrived when everyone knows you as Vice President Cheney’s former aid.

You know you haven’t arrived when your gratitude rock says “I quit!”

You know when you have arrived when you are asked by a District court judge to speak to 500 of his most esteemed colleagues at the annual Masonic Lodge Ball.

You know you have not arrived when you have a court order  stating that you cannot come within 500 feet of the local Masonic lodge.

You know you’ve arrived when everyone else waits for your arrival.

You know you haven’t arrived when you haven’t even been invited.

You know you’ve arrived when the maitre d’ at Le Cirque escorts you to your favorite table.

You know you haven’t arrived when you aren’t even asked if you’d like to biggie size your combo meal.
You know you’ve arrived when the National Inquirer prints pictures of your cellulite.

You know you haven’t arrived when you see only your torso on an obesity news piece.
You know you’ve arrived when the paparazzi is following your every move.

You know you haven’t arrived when no one films your interaction with the LAPD.
You know you haven’t arrived when your trail judge is Judge Judy.

You know you haven’t arrived when it’s your face pictured on the milk carton.

You know you haven’t arrived when you’re drawing straws for the last parachute.

You know you’ve arrived when you receive a pat on the back, but not when it’s a kick aimed a little lower. 

You know you’ve arrived when Madam Tussaud’s displays your wax sculpture.

You know you haven’t arrived when “Most Wanted” displays your picture. 

You know you’ve arrived when your in-laws are royalty.

You know you haven’t arrived when your in-laws are rednecks.

You know you’ve arrived when the Red Carpet is rolled out to meet you, unless the colour is from bloodstains.

You know you’ve arrived when the Godfather kisses your ring but you definitely haven’t arrived if you have to kiss your boss’s ring.

You know you haven’t arrived when the neighbourhood dogs wear better jewelry than you.

You know you haven’t arrived when the Modeling Agency only books you for the before shots.

You know you haven’t arrived when you can hear everything your next-door neighbours do and their life sounds much more exciting.

You know you haven’t arrived when your newly divorced ex doesn’t want anything you have.

You know you haven’t arrived when you can’t do anything until payday…in April…2015. 

You know you haven’t arrived when you retire and your partner suddenly joins the workforce.

 You know you’ve arrived when your teenage kids would rather be with you, even if it means they have to do their chores.

You know you’ve arrived when your greatest praise comes from your worse critic.

You know you haven’t arrived when the best investment you’ve made was Enron stock.

You know you haven’t arrived if you dating habits are featured on “Cheaters.”

Fear of Public Speaking

Friday, March 16th, 2007

We’ve all read that public speaking is a person’s number one fear, even greater than the fear of death.  Well that’s not true.  It’s not even our second worst fear.  Or our third.

In my research, I pointed a gun at 100 people and said, “Give a speech or I’ll shoot you.”  They all gave a speech.

The, after I got out of jail, I asked another group, “Give a speech naked or I’ll shoot you.”  And they all said, “Shoot me.”  Of course I didn’t.  It was just research.

Seriously though, I submit there are at least three things that are higher on the fear list than giving a speech:

1.  Death.  Really.  For most of us, we’d almost do almost anything to avoid death.

2.  Public nudity.  Well, it’s our culture.

3.  Singing in public.  Most people would rather give a speech than sing a song in front of an audience.

4.  Going to the dentist or having surgery. 

5.  Giving a humorous speech.  For most people, this ranks higher on the fear-scale than just “giving a speech.”

The truth is, the number one fear of most people is:  Singing a humorous song in front of an audience while naked and dying from a heart attack because you knew that you had a dentist appointment in the morning.

There are many things I’d put higher on my list-of-fears than giving a speech.  Of course, I’m not a normal person.  But then neither are you.  We’re all unique.  Your list of fears won’t exactly match mine or those of your friends.  We’ve all had different experiences that have shaped what we enjoy doing and what we fear doing.  Some people love jumping out of airplanes.  Some love giving a speech.  The experiences you have today will shape the person you are tomorrow.

My journey to where I am now as a public speaker, began as a Freshman in high school.  I don’t know why, but I signed up for our High School’s Public Speaking Class which was otherwise attended entirely by Juniors and Seniors.  With no experience as a speaker, I was thrown into the arena at an earlier age than most and probably benefited from it.

I really didn’t do anything with my public speaking until I was twenty-five years old.  At the time I was in the US Air Force and was invited to a Toastmasters Meeting.  I joined.  And I’m still a member and regularly attend my club meetings.  That step, more than anything else, has pretty much eliminated my fear of speaking.  Sure, I get some butterflies from time to time.  But for the most part, getting up to give a speech is a positive and energizing experience.  If you’re not in Toastmasters, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Then when I was 37, a Toastmasters friend suggested that I join the National Speakers Association.  She had watched me win three Toastmaster District Speech Contests and thought that I belonged in NSA.  So I joined.  It was the step to becoming a more professional speaker.

When I was 48, two friends called, within the same week, to invite me to a couple of improv events.  I joined one of them in northern California and one in Santa Barbara for my first exposures to improv.  I had never even been to an improv show before.  A month later I was enrolled in an improv class.  Three months later I started my own troupe.  It’s the single most exciting thing I’ve done to improve my speaking skills.

Along the way, I’ve had Alexander Lessons, Acting Classes, Directing Classes, Dance Classes, Magic Conventions, Singing Lessons, and more.  Each experience has made me a better speaker.

What next step would take you down the path of better speaking skills?  Be committed to taking YOUR next step.  We all grow in baby steps and it’s our commitment and persistence that helps us overcome our fears and fulfill our highest potential.  Be a lifetime student and take your next step.

Prepare For The Unexpected — Public Speaking

Monday, March 12th, 2007

What do you do if your joke bombs?  If your mind goes blank?  If the fire alarm sounds during your speech?  If you suddenly hear the band playing in the next room?  Some situations are ideal for the perfect humorous quip.  Other situations may depend on your saying the right thing to ensure the safety of those in the room.  The key to doing or saying the right thing depends on your being prepared for the unexpected and your ability to be present and able to think on-your-feet. 

For example if your joke bombs, you could borrow a line from Johnny Carson:  “That’s the last time I’ll borrow a joke from Doc.”  He’d sometimes blame the bad joke on his band leader.  Perhaps you could poke fun at a friend in the audience.

If your mind goes blank:  “And now it’s time for a few words on short-term memory loss.”

If the fire alarm sounds:  Be prepared and be calm in order to provide leadership when it’s needed.  Before your talk, always check out the available exits from the meeting room.  Are the back hallways and stairs cleared and unlocked?  I always check.

The band starts playing on the other side of the sliding wall of your meeting room:  “At great expense, we’ve arranged for live music to accompany my talk.”

The key is to think of all the things that could go wrong during your speech and then think of two or three ways you could respond to each situation.  Prepare to be spontaneous.  You’ll be the hero.

As I was listening to Brad Montgomery’s Got Mirth audio program and it reminded me of a great book I hadn’t looked at in a long time:  What to Say When…You’re Dying on the Platform, by Lilly Walters.  Although the book is 12 years old, the information is as timely as if it were written today.  Good news, it was still on my bookshelf (when I moved to Las Vegas I gave away about half my library but I kept Lilly’s book).  And browsing through it reminded me that I was quoted in the book four times.  It’s an item that belongs on YOUR bookshelf.  Brad’s audio program also has a section on this subject.  I recommend you check out both resources.

Key Words in a Joke — Public Speaking

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Certain words in a joke are keys to making the joke work.  Here is how I define them:

The PUNCH LINE is the string of words, often a sentence, that activate a joke.

The PUNCH WORD is the key word within the punch line that is most responsible for activating the joke.  Sometimes the punch word is more than one word.  Sometimes it’s a phrase.

The TRIGGER WORD is the word that creates the critical relationship link which makes the joke funny.  The trigger word and the punch word are often the same word, but not always.  Sometimes the punch word is the catalyst which sets the joke in motion and allows the trigger word to ignite the funny connection.

Let’s look at three jokes.

Bigamy is having one husband too many.  Monogamy is the same.  (Erica Jong)
The punch line:  Monogamy is the same.
The punch word:  the same
The trigger word:  the same
The relationship connection:  Monogamy is equated with Bigamy, an unexpected relationship.  We’re expecting:  Monogamy is different.

This wall paper is hideous.  One of us has got to go.  (Oscar Wilde on his death bed)
The punch line:  One of us has got to go.
The punch word:  go
The trigger word:  go
The relationship connection:  Self-deprecation.  He’s equating himself with the value of wall paper.  The absurdity of the relationship makes the joke work.  As in many jokes, there is often more than one relationship connection.  Another connection in this joke is:  Being in an-uncontrollable-situation while being-in-control-with-humor.

Take my wife…please!  (Henny Youngman)
The punch line: please
The punch word:  please
The trigger word:  take
The relationship connection:  The two meanings of the word TAKE.  Meaning #1:  For example.  Meaning #2:  Haul away.  In this case the punch word activates the joke by changing the meaning of the trigger word which makes the joke work.  We’re expecting:  “My wife, for example.”  And we end up with:  “My wife…you can have her!”

In nearly every case, the optimum structure of a joke is to put the punchline last.  And normally it’s most effective to have the punch word as the last word of the joke.  When the punch line or word is not the last thing, it becomes buried or disguised and the impact of the joke can be smothered.

Observational Humor Case Study #5

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Here is another case study of an observational humor monologue presented at our Toastmasters Meeting last night.  Observational humor is a formal part of our meeting where everyone in the room can share their humorous observations from the meeting.  It’s led by the Observational Humor Master who wraps up that part of the meeting with a monologue:

Things that happened during the meeting (the setup):

1.  Our Toastmasters club has experienced a lot of growth recently.  We had 25 people in the room instead of the usual dozen.

2.  Bryant gave a glowing report on how we were exceeding our membership goals to achieve distinguished club status.

3.  Our Area Governor, Brandi, was attending the meeting.

4.  During our guest introductions, Randy introduced his wife, “This is my wife Susan, and she isn’t anybody’s girlfriend.” This was a callback to a joke at an earlier meeting where I had said that club President S Frank’s wife was my girlfriend. Randy got a laugh by weaving this into his introduction comments.

5.  One of the other clubs in town that someone mentioned during the meeting is called the “I’ll Drink To That Toastmasters Club.”

6.  The acoustics in the room are not good.  It’s a challenge to project so that the members in the back of the room can hear you.

7.  It was mentioned that it was hard to hear almost all the speakers except for S Frank and Steve who always loud enough to be heard from the back of the room.

8.  Brandy, in her impromptu table topic speech, had a role-play conversation with another person, saying: “I’m not looking for brains, but something more than a rock would be nice.”

9.  Gretchen gave an ice-breaker speech introducing herself to the club.  She mentioned the population size of a small town she was from, saying that it was so small they counted the cows.

10.  In Gretchen’s speech she talked about her French Background.

11.  In Mario’s speech he talked about his Spanish background.

12.  In Steve’s speech he talked about jumping so high, when he was younger, that could almost hit his head on the rim of the basketball hoop.  He mentioned that he once lost his two front teeth when they got caught in the net.

13.  Pam mentioned that it appeared that I had a puzzled look on my face.

14.  Ron was the last one to make his humorous observations before I presented my monologue.  His joke was a funny but very long story.

Here’s the monologue:

Opening remark:  Before I start my comments, I’ll call on Steve to evaluate Ron’s speech.

A.  What a great crowd tonight!  Bryant has been so excited about our growth in membership.  Now he can fill in the Distinguished Club Report without having to count the cows. 

B.  This is a great club.  We may not have the name of “I’ll Drink to That,” but we have the Brandy.  This is Brandi’s favorite club…she’s not looking for a lot of brains.

C.  As you’ve noticed, the acoustics are bad in this room.  Which is a good thing, considering the quality of most of my jokes.

D.  I was sitting in the back row.  During most of the speeches, people in the back were saying, “Huh?”  When S Frank and Steve finished their speeches, the people in the back row removed their ear plugs.

E.  I was amazed at how much I had in common with our speakers tonight.  Like Mario, I speech some Spanish.  Like Gretchen, I speak some French.  Like Steve, I’ve played some basketball.

F.  In fact we were playing one-on-one two weeks ago.  I jumped so high I hit my head on the bottom of Steve’s shoe.

G.  Pam mentioned that I had a puzzled look on my face.  I was delighted that I had SOME look on my face.  (I tend to have a non-expressive face).

H.  Before I close my remarks tonight, I’d like for you to know that I have the most wonderful boyfriend.  Randy would you please stand up.

Notes on the monologue:

a.  I turned on my humor radar during the meeting.  I usually bring a clipboard for taking notes and also to use during the presentation of the monologue.  By taking notes, it helps me to focus on my task of seeing the humor and writing the monologue by the end of the meeting.

b.  I don’t include all of my observations in the monologue.  I select what I feel are the best lines.  I noted six observations which I did not include in the final script.  You’re almost always better off using only the best lines and not forcing all your observations on the audience.

c.  Self-deprecation works well.  That was part of the trigger element in items B, C, F, G.  Those are jokes that poke fun at either me or our club.

d.  The girlfriend/boyfriend has been a running gag since S Frank introduced “his wonderful, beautiful, fabulous wife.”  And in my observational humor, a year ago, I introduced “my wonderful, beautiful, fabulous girlfriend.  Would Lynnea please stand up.”  Last night, Randy went along with the gag and stood and waved to the group.

e.  I thought of using the line “I jumped so high that I lost my front teeth in Steve’s shoe laces.”  But decided that that the direction I chose was cleaner, more direct, and therefore funnier. 

f.  Look at the connections that made the jokes work:
     Joke     Connections
     A         1 and 2
     B         3 and 5
     D         6 and 7
     E         Used the rule-of-three to include all the speakers AND set up the basketball joke
     G         Puzzled Look connected to my reputation as being rather poker faced
     H         The running gag from a previous meeting

Related Observational Humor Articles

Masterful Presentation Skills — Public Speaking and Humor

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

Today I had the amazing experience of watching a master in action, once again.  I attended the Patricia Fripp Speaking and Presentation Skills School.  After a combined 55 years of National Speakers Association and Toastmasters experience, I have to say that the Fripp Speakers School is the best speakers training workshop I’ve ever attended.  Solid content, no fluff and brilliant, laser-focused coaching.  Many of Fripp’s coaching suggestions were laser-focused and amazed those of us in the audience.  It’s no wonder that people take the class again and again.  I attended her November school and this weekend I’m one of the repeat students.  Tomorrow morning I return for the second day of the class.

Although the primary focus of the two-day school was not Humor
Skills, most of the concepts could be applied to make you a more
humorous speaker.  Here are a few gems from Fripp’s speaker school
and some comments on how they relate to the design and presentation of humor.  This article appeared four months ago in our ezine but has not been previously published in our blog.

1.  Never open a speech with a joke!  Great suggestion.  Everything in a speech should have a point and purpose.  A joke, just for the laughs, is out of place in a formal speech. Yes, it’s great to open with humor, but do it with a humorous story that has a payoff which ties into the theme of your talk.

2.  Rapport covers flaws.  When giving a talk, whether you’re
getting laughs or motivating the audience, don’t worry about being
perfect.  It’s nice to be prepared, but perfection is not a requirement.  In fact, an occasional stumble makes you a real person.  Audiences identify with someone who is real. The audience likes someone who is real.  And when people like you, it’s easier to be funny.

3.  Stand still at the opening of your talk.  The eye goes to
movement and not sound.  In your opening you want the focus to be
on your carefully crafted words.  Likewise, when you’re delivering
your humorous punchline, it is best if you are not moving.  Your
set-up is likely  filled with animation and gestures.  And the space AFTER the punchline is delivered, is often punched up with movement, your physical reaction to the punchline, called a take. But the punchline itself is best delivered with no movement. Movement attracts attention and diverts focus from the key words which will activate the laugh.

4.  Eliminate unnecessary words.   A basic rule of humor:  The
fewer words between the start of a funny story or joke and the
punchline, the better.  Keep your wording tight and you’ll get more laughs.  A long, wordy story better have a huge laughter payoff or you’re in trouble.  If the punchline is weak and the setup is long, the expression is that the punchline is carrying too much baggage.  Trim and tighten for best results.

5.  When crafting the opening to a speech, ask yourself, “what are
they thinking?”  That’s also the key to good observational humor.
If you can determine what people are noticing, and what they are
thinking about what they are noticing, you have the seed for a good
humor line.  When you can tap a universal truth, in the form of a
common thought, humor almost comes automatically.  Often all you
need to do is just state the obvious.  They laugh, as they think,
“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing!”

6.  When you have the right words, the speech is so much easier to
deliver.  And so it is with humor.  A well-word-smithed humor story
will have the right rhythm and punch that the delivery will flow
easily and naturally.  You will find it easier to relax and enjoy
the experience of sharing the story without having to stress over
the word selection.

7.  Know your speech so well that you can forget it.  Also with a
humor story, know key parts of your setup and punchline so well
that it comes to you without thinking.  It allows you to be “in the
moment” and connect with your audience.

8.  Specificity equals believability.  A car is funnier than a
vehicle.  A Yugo is funnier than a car.  A yellow Yugo is even

9.  When designing your speech, tie your closing back to your
opening scene
.  Often, I open and close a talk with humor. I call
the process “bookending”.  I like to have bookends on each end of
the speech.  The bookends are similar, that is they match.  In gave
a speech where I open with a funny line involving an 800 toll-free
telephone number.  At the end of the speech I close with a
different 800 phone number story.

10.  Your audience remembers the mental images that you create.
People think in pictures.  Paint a funny picture and your humor
stories will come to life.

11.  Speakers should avoid misusing technology.  A speaker can
misuse PowerPoint, thinking that the computer program is the key
element of the presentation (instead of the actual message and
delivery).  Likewise, I’ve observed that speakers who want to
include humor in their presentations often misuse props.  They rely
on the prop to create and carry the humor, just as a speaker could
rely on PowerPoint to be the main focus of the speech.  For
example, when a red clown nose used to get a laugh solely for the
sake of wearing a clown nose, a speaker is falling short of the
humor potential the clown nose could have if it were blended into a
powerful humor story.

12. The pause gives people a chance to think about what you’ve said
and to internalize it.  In delivering humor, the pause is what lets
people process the relationships and connections that trigger the
laughs.  Without the pause after the punchline, you don’t give the
laughter a chance.  You subconsciously tell people that there is
nothing funny and that they’re not supposed to laugh.  The pause is
one of your most powerful assets when delivering humor.

13.  Use verbal shorthand to give your characters a back-story.
Describe someone or something with a label that brings with it a
rich combination of characteristics.  I have a story about an 80
year old man who gave me some unsolicited advice.  I could say that
I was approached by a  “George Patton style WWII Colonel,” because
as we talked I discovered that he was a retired Colonel who served
in WWII, and that description accurately pictured his authoritarian

14.  Make them like your characters.  As you build your characters,
do more than just describe them.  Give the audience a reason to
like them.  In a funny story, just as the audience needs to like
you, they also need to like and care about the characters you
include in the story.

15.  Your life is a comedy routine.  Develop your own original
humor.  Your life is a goldmine of humorous experiences.  Dump the
jokes and tell your own rich, humorous stories.

16.  When looking for interesting stories from your past, ask
yourself what questions do people ask about your job or past
experiences?  I realized that I have 17 years experience as a
nuclear weapons launch officer and have never included any
experiences from that part of my life in my speeches.  I’ve been working on developing some humorous material from that part of my life since attending the first school and my next speech will include some of this new material.   Certainly there are some story gems from those many years of working at such an unusual job that my audiences would find interesting or fascinating.

17.  A movie must have “five moments.”  What are the “five moments” from your speech that people will be talking about afterwards.  If you use funny stories, some of those “five moments” will most likely be the laugh points in your stories.  People remember best what they laugh about.

18.  If you want to learn something, teach it to others.  She
specifically recommended taking what we learned from the speaking
school and teaching it to others.  I told her I’d write an article about what I learned and apply it to using humor.  She said, “Great idea.”  So here it is.

For more information about Patricia Fripp’s Speaking and
Presentation Skills School visit

Related Articles:

The Use of Timing to Make Your Humor Connect

Humor Presentation Skills — Natural Delivery

Be Funny by not Trying So Hard

Creative Humor Writing — The Arrival Contest

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

The starter seeds or formulas for this month’s contest are:

You know you’ve arrived when….


You know you haven’t arrived when….


For example:

You know you’ve arrived when St Peter says, “Come on in.  We’ve been expecting you!”

You know you haven’t arrived when St Peter says, “I can’t seem to find it.  What was your last name again?”

You know you’ve arrived when Donald Trump begs you not to fire him.

You know you haven’t arrived when you write a Donald Trump joke and he doesn’t care.


Note:  You don’t have to write pairs of jokes, as we did in the examples.  You can write a line for just one formula or the other.  But it IS an extra challenge to write one of each formula (when you HAVE and HAVE NOT arrived) for each joke subject you select.

Check out Writing Humor One Edit At A Time by Paula Frederick.  She was the winner of our February contest.

Thanks to Steve Pavlina for suggesting this month’s theme.

Submit your best lines to by Wednesday, March 14.  Winners will be posted before the end of the month.  Enter the contest just for fun and to become better at creating humor.