Archive for August, 2007

Cartoon Caption Contest

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Welcome to a new feature.  A Cartoon Caption Contest featuring professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Click here to see the contest cartoon on Dan’s web site.

Here are three captions to get you started:

   – So I said to the bartender:  “I’ll have a grasshopper.”

   – Guido was becoming a pest.  For twenty-nine bucks, the Orkin Man took care of him.

   – Tomorrow night I get to wear the beetle outfit.

To enter the contest:

1.  For some ideas on writing captions, check out the article:  19 Ideas For Writing Funny Cartoon Captions.

2.  Write.  Sleep on it.  Rewrite.  Work with a buddy.  Click here to see the contest cartoon.

3.  Send your best lines to by September 15, 2007.

4.  Enter just for the fun of it and to grow your humor skills.  The best lines will be published before the end of the month.

Also, check out Dan’s Cartoon web site!   It will provide you with a great source of cartoons.  Studying the cartoons will sharpen your humor skills.  You can select from thousands of cartoons sorted by subject category.

So You Made A Mistake!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

A popular topic on today’s blogs is the Miss Teen USA contest and resulting spoofs.  A contestant, Miss South Carolina, draws a blank mind when answering a question, but keeps on talking anyway.  My observations:

1.  It is funny.

2.  At the same time, you can’t help but feel sorry for the contestant.

3.  Here’s the important thing to realize.  It could be any of us.  When the brain freezes we lose control, even if just for a moment.

4.  Hopefully the contestant finds the humor in the situation the day after.  She did a good job in a follow-up interview.

5.  Here’s the big question:  Can you find the humor in your own mistakes?  Can you laugh as hard at yourself as you do at others?  A yes answer is healthy.  We should first and foremost be able to laugh at ourselves!

6.  When you’ve been caught making a big mistake…own it.  Be the first to poke fun at yourself.  It helps to disarm the issue.  There have been several spoofs on the internet about the incident today.  I was glad to see that one of the spoofs was produced by the contestant herself.  Way to go!  I’d love to see her on Jay Leno tonight.  Or on David Letterman doing the Top-Ten.  And in two days I’d recommend an appearance on Saturday Night Live!

International Humor — So You Think You Can Make a Singaporean Laugh!

Monday, August 27th, 2007

This is a  post by my funny friend Eric Feng from Singapore.  As a speaker he has spoken internationally, so I asked his advice on speaking outside of your own borders.  He wrote a terrific article that applies not just to speaking in Singapore, but which is filled with tips anytime you speak to an audience which has a culture or language different from your own.  Take it away Eric!


So You Think You Can Make A Singaporean Laugh! 

By Eric Feng

It takes a lot to make a Singaporean laugh these days. With the rising taxes, erratic weather and high cost of living, there isn’t really much to laugh about.  This is also the same country that made an uproar about Gotcha, a local TV program which is similar to Candid Camera or Just For Laughs, simply because we don’t like to be made fun of.
So when I received an email from a friend of mine, John Kinde, to give his USA readers some perspective on how to deliver a humorous speech in Singapore, my initial reply was, “I think it’ll be easier for me to write an article on why Singaporeans have lost their sense of humor.”  And then I recalled the recent National Achievers Congress that I attended in May. Almost all the speakers were from US and Europe, yet they were amazingly successful in making us laugh. That’s when I realized that Singaporeans are like normal people, or at least we hope to be.  We do enjoy humor, in fact more so in difficult times like this, where terrorism and natural disasters are looming at our doorsteps. I figure that if I can help you find our F-spot, then perhaps you can help revive our sense of humor.
I think the number one rule to making us laugh is to first know our culture. It’s analogous to knowing the audience, more so if you want to be successful in delivering a humorous speech. Knowing our culture includes knowing how we think, knowing what gives us pain and pleasure, knowing what makes us tick.
In Singapore, our society believes in meritocracy. As a result, parents know the importance of giving their children a good start. Often that means sending them to the best schools at all cost, even if it means traveling longer distances or offering their time to volunteer at the school. There is this unsaid perception that if you don’t come from a good school, you won’t amount to anything when you grow up. The whole idea of classifying schools according to their merits inevitably leads to elitism. Students from the better schools think they are smarter than the rest, as a result, they become arrogant. One famous example is the Raffles Institution, also recognized as the top school in Singapore for many years.
So when one of the speakers at the National Achievers Congress, Andrew Matthews, brought up Raffles Institution in his speech, the entire audience roared in laughter. It was in the context of why we are not happy. And one of the reasons is because we aren’t studying at the Raffles Institution. Not only was his speech personalized, it was true! He brought up a truth that most Singaporeans do not admit. And the only way for us to hide it is to laugh!
I also noticed that when foreign speakers attempt to speak our language (Mandarin) or attempt to use Singlish (Singapore English), it almost guarantees laughter from us. Perhaps because you sound really silly trying to speak our language. I suspect that the laughter is also a form of relief that people, like you, care enough about us, to try to speak our language. There is a certain degree of affirmation. So when one of the speakers spoke Mandarin for about a minute, we were both amazed and amused. It was clear that he memorized it but still, it was impressive. The accent was apparent but we love it.
In fact, just three days ago, I did the same thing. I was giving a presentation to the managers of Seylan Bank (in Sri Lanka) and I decided to introduce myself in their national language, Sinhala. And as expected, they roared with laughter because I sounded funny, as one of them said.  Rapport was built immediately and the rest of the presentation became easier to deliver. Interestingly, they volunteer to teach me new words everyday. I suppose they are aching for another good laugh the next time I give my presentation. (grins)
Since we are talking about language, here’s another tip.  When you attempt to speak in Singlish, it can be very funny too.  The vocabulary of Singlish consists of words originating from English, Malay and dialects of Chinese. Though the Singaporean government discourages the use of Singlish in favour of Standard English, we are very proud of speaking in Singlish since we can call it our own. Let me give you some examples.
INSTEAD OF “Hello, this is Joe, did anyone page for me?
SINGAPOREANS simply call up and demand “hello, who page?!”
INSTEAD OF “I really don’t recall you giving me the money.”
SINGAPOREANS simply spread their hands and say “Where got?”
INSTEAD OF “I’d prefer not to do that if you don’t mind.”
SINGAPOREANS simply frown and say “Doe waaan la” (don’t want)
INSTEAD OF “What do you propose we do now that the movies are sold out?”
SINGAPOREANS simply look blurred and say “So how?”
INSTEAD OF “Please make yourselves at home.”
SINGAPOREANS simply steer people towards the food and say “Mai keh ki leh.”
INSTEAD OF “Excuse me, but would it be possible for me to take this chair?”
SINGAPOREANS simply point at the chair and say “Can or not?!”
INSTEAD OF “Hey, put your wallet away, the drinks’s on me.”
SINGAPOREANS simply give a frowned smile and say “Nonid.” (no need)
So during your presentation, if you can pepper your statements with some famous Singlish lines, you are going to be very well liked by us. 
In Singapore, popular jokes are created in the form of acronyms. And that’s because we use A LOT of acronyms. Too many in fact! Our highways have acronyms. Our government agencies have acronyms. Even our mentor ministor is called by his acronym! Here are some examples:
LKY – Lee Kwan Yew (our much revered and feared mentor minister)
HDB – Housing Development Board (the high rise flats we live in are also call HDB)
PUB – Public Utilities Board (where you pay your utilities bill)
GST – Goods and Services Tax (a hot topic these days because of the raise to 7%)
ERP – Electronic Road Pricing (each time you pass a road zone, you pay)
PAP – People Action Party (the ruling government party in Singapore)
Of course, we put a spin to these acronynms. And believe me, there are some truths in the way they are now interpreted!
HDB – Highly Dangerous Building (coz’ we stay very very high up!)
PUB – Public Utilities Board (pay until broke)
GST – Goods and Services Tax (government service tax)
ERP – Electronic Road Pricing (everyday rob people)
And since PUB, GST and ERP were all created by our current ruling government party in Singapore (PAP), it is also conveniently known for “Pay And Pay” government!
We even have one for our famous tourist attraction Sentosa, a beach resort, also known as “So Expensive and Nothing TO See Actually”!
Another fail-safe way to be funny in front of a foreign audience is to make friends with the locals! And get them to tell you what’s funny. Like what I am doing right now. Alternatively you can just hang out with the locals either in the food court or in the pub. Listen in to their conversations. Take note of what makes them laugh. Jot them down. (They may find you weird but who cares?) From your notes, you will begin to find out some of the things that make a typical Singaporean laugh! Go read our local papers (The Straits Times). Check out the columns written by our local writers. Go down to the local bookstores and pick up some Singapore joke books. It will help you tremendously in locating our all-elusive F spot.
Personally I think Americans are a very funny bunch of people with a lot of funny material to share. However, one of the biggest problems we face is appreciating the jokes, especially if it is the set up that we don’t understand. Here’s why. A lot of of American jokes revolve around sports and politics, which Singaporeans may not be familiar with, unless it is soccer. When you use slang like “home run” or “the Yankees” or “bollocks”, we get confused. Sometimes we even misunderstand what you are trying to say. When Pepsi was first introduced to Taiwan, the slogan “Come Alive” was translated into Chinese as a rather sacrilegious message: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Not very promising if you are trying to get the Taiwanese to buy your drinks! Similarly if your audience cannot understand the context of what you are saying, you are going to have a hard time squeezing a chuckle from them. My suggestion is to use local examples as much as you can. And if you have to introduce something foreign, make sure you explain to them what it means before you proceed to telling the joke or anecdote.
Wow… I never thought that I could write so much on the topic of making Singaporeans laugh. Here’s two more tips for you before I call it a day.
Self-depreciating humor still works wonders regardless of who you are speaking to. As a foreigner, there are bound to be a lot of mishaps that happen to you as you interact with the locals here. For example when I was in the States, I tried to hitch  a ride in Yosemite but no matter how hard I tried, no car stopped for me. For a moment there, I thought the Americans…yes, some of you…were racist. It was later that I realized I was doing the hand sign all wrong. Instead of a thumbs up, I gave the incoming cars the thumbs down!!  And yes, quite vigorously too since I was eager to get in the car. No wonder no car stopped for me. I should be thankful that I was not gunned down!
Feel free to make fun of your own people too. If you are an American, go ahead and make fun of the Americans. If you are Chinese, make fun of the Chinese. You are warranted to do so. This simple tip has worked extremely well for me.  It even bagged me a First Place trophy when I competed in Philadelphia for the Toastmasters Division Humorous Speech Contest. My contest speech was titled: There’s Something About Singapore,  and for 7 minutes, I shared about the misconceptions that Americans have about Singapore. And just a few days ago, I made fun of the Chinese race by saying to a group of Sri Lankan managers that all Chinese people look the same. As you know, this is an unsaid consensus. So on my last slide, I put up my picture and explained that this will help them identify me. Again, this made them laugh. So go ahead and make fun of yourself. Best if you can identify all the stereotypical statements they have about your race and then bring them out in a light-hearted way.
Lastly, focus on telling funny stories instead of jokes. Jokes are a one time shot and may misfire. However if your stories do not make the audience laugh, they could still make a point. Furthermore, stories are universal. No matter who your audience is, they will appreciate personal anecdotes.  They create an instant connection and keep your audience engaged and even entertained. So starting from today, begin to collect personal anecdotes or stories you read that are funny. They will form your arsenal of funny material that you can use in your presentation. If you are worried that the local audience may not appreciate them, test them out on a smaller group or even your local guide. Check to see if they are effective and appropriate. If you diligently collect stories that you find funny, I am sure that when the time arises, you will have at least one that will appeal to your audience and have them laughing their heads off. That’s right, even us, the Singaporeans will be no exception.
Check out other excellent humor articles written by Eric Feng.

Cross Cultural Humor — Diversity and Public Speaking

Friday, August 24th, 2007

When I first thought about cross-cultural humor, the idea of speaking outside my own country was the first thing that  entered my mind.  But cross-cultural humor certainly applies to more than just speaking internationally.  Obviously if you’re an American speaking in Australia, you’ll be dealing with differences in culture and language that will have an impact on the laughter response you receive.  But you could be speaking within your own country and also face cultural gaps.  The challenges posed both inside and outside your own borders are very similar.

You might be speaking to an audience in your hometown, and the language you speak could be the audience’s second language.  I’ve spoken to local audiences whose first language was Spanish.  I’ve spoken to deaf audiences.

You could be speaking to an audience that doesn’t connect with your physical delivery.  Your audience could be blind. 

Your audience, because of their ethnic background, could be uncomfortable with extended eye contact.

You could be speaking to an audience that doesn’t respond to your pacing.  A fast-paced speaker presenting in the South may have a “cultural” challenge.

You could have a common language but have differences in race, religion or sex.  If you’re a white Jewish woman, you might have a “cultural” challenge speaking to a group of African-American Baptist men.  You don’t need to travel abroad to have challenges when you deliver a speech.

Here are some elements of the challenges you may face when speaking cross-culturally:

Common Experience:  The challenge with delivering humor is that the laughs are better when the speaker and the audience has a common foundation of experiences.  Common experience often provides the set-up for a joke.  Many jokes require the audience to have a specific bit of knowledge to understand the punchline.  A gap in common experience can be bridged by spelling out exactly what the audience needs to know in the set-up leading to the joke.  This can work, but it’s not ideal because it works against the principle of brevity.

Common Language:  The next challenge is the language itself.  Delivering a humorous talk to an English-speaking audience will pose challenges if you’re from the USA and speaking in the UK, or Australia, or Singapore, or India.  Besides the accent issues, many words have different meanings from one culture to the next.  These same issues apply to a speaker from Boston presenting in Fargo.  Or a speaker from Birmingham speaking in New York City.  A speaker needs to do his or her homework when speaking outside the comfort circle.  Your point-of-contact for the speech should be able to fill you in on some of the local do’s and don’ts and some variations in the meanings of words.  Also examine your humor lines with an eye for possible cultural/language issues and ask your host some questions.  You may want to actually test-drive your humor with a small group or an individual before you spring it on a large audience.

Different Language:  If you are speaking to a non-English speaking audience through an interpreter, the challenges are compounded.  You’re likely to tell a story with words that don’t make sense, with a twist that the audience doesn’t understand, and with timing that is totally lost in the translation!  My inclination in this situation is to use less verbal humor, more physical humor, and more substance and content.  I’m a comedy-magician, and that works well to bridge gaps caused by diversity.

Sense of Humor Differences:  I’ve been on the receiving end of humor presentations a few times.  Having watched several half-hour comedy skits in Vietnamese, I’ve found it’s possible to enjoy the humor even when you really don’t understand the content.  The body language and facial expressions of the actors go a long way in supporting the humor of the scenes.  And watching the audience response is educational and entertaining.  It’s also evident how cultural-senses-of humor are different.  A Vietnamese friend told me that a pie-in-the-face would be funny to an American, but that someone from Viet Nam would not find that funny.  British humor is noticeably different from American humor.  I’ve been told that the French love Jerry Lewis.  Part of that is his physical nature, and part of it is likely due to their cultural-sense-of-humor.  Understanding a culture’s sense of humor takes some study and asking the right questions.

The Physical Element:  A magician’s convention in Tokyo provided me with a study in cross-cultural presentations.  I discovered that the most effective magicians, performing to an international audience, were the ones who had predominantly visual acts.  Illusions and manipulations were good.   Visual comedy magic was even better.  A mentalist act which required lots of talking and translation was usually a dud.

Lessons Learned:
  – Be aware when you’re likely to be speaking to an audience filled with people who are different from you.  Don’t be taken by surprise.
  – Do your homework.  Ask questions.  Use a pre-program questionnaire.  Test your humor on small groups and individuals.
  – Work on your visual humor and body language.  Expressive physical delivery goes a long way to reach across cultural barriers.
  – Always have a clear understanding of the set-up for each joke.  The set-up is just as important as the punch line.  Be sure to include everything in the set-up that the audience needs for them to understand the punch line.  When common knowledge is missing it’s up to you to know it and provide it.
  – If you’re working with a translator, spend time before your talk to discuss the content of your speech, especially the humor segments.  The interpreter may have some excellent advice on what will work and what won’t work for that specific audience.

Related Articles:

Valuing Diversity 
Humor and Diversity

Humor Contest Results — Creative Writing

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Here are the best lines from our Jobs To Please Our Parents contest.  Our panel of six judges selected our top three lines.  For the first time, the best line was submitted by two people who came up with essentially the same line.

Look for something new on September 1.  Our Cartoon Caption Contest kicks off.  It should be fun and features the cartoons of Dan Rosandich.


My Dad wanted me to go to church and my Mom wanted me to become a fashion designer. So now I’m a cross dresser.
     Two people submitted this line!
     Tammy Reid, Colchester, Ontario, Canada
     Jannaka Oxendine, Rocky Mount, North Carolina


My Mom wanted me to become a public speaker but my Dad wanted me to become a carpenter. So I became Emcee Hammer.
     Ken Egervari, Windsor, Ontario, Canada


My Mom wanted me to be an actress but my Dad wanted me to be royalty.  So I became a drama queen.
     Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

My Mum wanted me to become an etiquette teacher but my Dad wanted me to work for the railways.  So I became a civil engineer

My Mum wanted me to work in the army but my Dad wanted me to work in the family cleaning business.  So I became a mine sweeper.

My Mom wanted me to be a florist but my Dad wanted me to sell mattresses.  So I opened a garden center called Flower Bed Nursery.

My Mom wanted me to make costumes for pets and my Dad wanted me to be a barber.  So I became a haredresser. 

My Mom wanted me to be a musician but my Dad wanted me to be a legal advisor.   So I turned into a whistle-blower.

My Dad wanted me to sell wood products but my Mom wanted me to be a tax accountant.  So I opened a lumberyard called W-2 x 4.
My Mom wanted me to become a politician but my Dad wanted me to become a clown.  So I became a United States senator. 

My Mom and Dad wanted me to be a white-collar worker in charge of mass production.  So I became a priest.

My Dad wanted me to be a goat herder but my Mom wanted me to work in child care.  So I became a nanny.

My Mom wanted me to be a man of letters but my Dad wanted me to get a good government job.   So I became a mailman. 

My Dad wanted me to be a truck driver, but my Mom wanted me to be a bandleader.  So I became a semiconductor.

My Mom wanted me to be an astronaut, but my Dad wanted me to be a beer taster.  So I became an astronaut.

My Dad trained me to be a pickpocket but my Mom wanted me to be an actor.  So I became a politician.

My Mom wanted me to be a baker but my Dad wanted me to be a baseball player.  So I became a batter.

My Mom wanted me to be a Dentist but my Dad wanted me to be a tugboat operator.  So I became a tooth ferry.

My Mom wanted me to be a typist but my Dad wanted me to go into management.  So I became a Shift Supervisor.

My Mom wanted me to appear on stage and my Dad wanted me to leave home.  So I took the first stagecoach out of town.

My Dad wanted me to become a college professor but my Mom wanted me to open a daycare center. So I compromised and became a high school gym teacher.

My Dad wanted me to become a policeman but my Mom wanted me to be a firefighter. So I became a middle school lunch monitor.

My Dad wanted me to be a politician but my Mom wanted me to be a millionaire. So I married a Kennedy and moved to California.

My Mom wanted me to be a web developer but my Dad wanted me to get married to a rich actress so I wouldn’t have to find a real job. So I became Spider-man.

Mom and Dad wanted me to be a magician.  So now I perform disappearing acts.

Mum wanted me to work as an entertainer but Dad insisted I learn plumbing.  So I became a Clog Dancer.

Humor Resources

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Becoming a more humorous speaker takes an investment of time and money.  Here are a few resources you might consider.  Some are free, some are not.  The investment you’ll make is worth it.  Once you’ve learned and internalized the techniques, they’ll continue to pay off for years.  And your upgraded skills will provide you a new platform from which you’ll continue your growth.


Patricia Fripp’s Speaking and Presentation Skills School.  Highly recommended.

Charlotte, North Carolina (with Ty Boyd), September 12-13, 2007

Las Vegas, (new workshop for intermediate and advanced speakers only) October 27-28, 2007

San Francisco Bay Area, November 13-14, 2007


Patricia Fripp and Darren LaCroix in Las Vegas, September 17, 2007.  A free event sponsored by the Las Vegas Chapter, National Speakers Association.  You must RSVP.


I recommend you check out The Public Speaking Blog by Eric Feng.  Lots of great information and many links to valuable resources to sharpen your speaking skills.


Visit the site of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.  It’ll provide you with a great source of cartoons and studying the cartoons will sharpen your humor skills.  Dan will be teaming up with the Humor Power Blog to provide a Cartoon Caption Contest.  Stay tuned!

Humor and Advertising

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

A reader recently asked about the use of humor in advertising.  Here are some things to watch out for:

1.  Worn Out Humor.  A really good humor ad is fun to see.  The first time.  Sometimes it’s still funny after the third or fourth time.  But if an ad campaign runs too long, the humor can become more irritating than funny.  A theme can work, such as a recurring character or mascot, as long as the humor itself changes.  Would you enjoy the Sunday comics if they were the same panels every week?  The Super Bowl is normally a feast of humor ads.  These ads are celebrated because they’re well written (most of them), well produced and they’re being shown for the first time.  Freshness goes a long way.  The shelf-life of a humor ad is shorter compared to other types of ads.

2.  Copy Cat.  There is a tendency to see one ad campaign copied by another.  Apparently the thought is that if something is working, let’s clone it.  In my opinion, this is not a great idea.  The humor won’t be fresh and your ads will be stale the very first day they hit the market.  The humor was worn out by someone else’s ad campaign.  Bad idea. There are currently a number of ads, for different products, running on national TV using  the principle of exaggeration and specificity.  For example, you could say “Yesterday he burned the toast.”  Or you could say, “He burned the toast every morning for the last 216 days.”  Although the second might be considered funnier than the first, for the most part, it’s neither funny nor cute.  And when you see the technique run in triplets (series of three) on several ad campaigns, it’s definitely neither fresh nor funny nor cute.

3.  Inside Humor.  Watch out for humor that might be understood only by a small audience.  If that’s the type of humor you’re dealing with, don’t waste money broadcasting it to a general audience.  If you can narrow-cast to your target audience, go for it.  Targeted humor usually works well.

4.  Doing It Yourself.  The worst humor ads are often the ones produced for local distribution and written by the business owners themselves.  They fall into the traps of saving money and being the star of their own commercial.  Get help from a seasoned advertising person with a track record for humor.  Not me…I don’t write copy for advertisements.  A side thought:  A bad humor ad might work if it’s so bad the audience remembers the business name and service (as long as the ad does not damage the credibility or likeability of the business).  How many times have you seen a humor ad, and the next day you remembered the ad but not the name of the business or service?  The bottom line is that the effectiveness of an ad requires more than just an evaluation of the humor quality.  But if you’re going to use humor, why not develop a campaign that IS funny.

Four Related Postings:

Humor and Advertising

Why Humor Advertising is a Good Investment

An Analysis of Humor and Super Bowl Commercials
Using Humor On A Web Site

Observational Humor — Case Study #10

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

These are notes and a monologue from a National Speakers Association chapter social networking meeting. 

**THE SET UP** (What was said or what happened during the event before I delivered the monologue.)

1.  Someone said a famous actor showed up drunk before a play.  The point they wanted to make was that because of his talent and solid technique he was still able to perform his Shakespearean role in a professional manner.

2.  The subject of Life Balance came up.  Someone said that there was no such thing as balance.

3.  Randy said that the only book he could market from a certain publisher was one titled:   I’ll Cook For Sex.

4.  Peter said he needed a good-looking assistant who could keep him going with an occasional poke from a cattle prod.

5.  Jim said that he was the President of the National Listeners Association.

6.  The National Speakers Association has specialty groups called Professional Expert Groups or PEGs.

7.  Someone said they started a Back Pain Relief web site.

8.  Someone said that a Haunted Cane sold on Ebay for $56,000.  Another person expressed great disbelief that anyone would pay that much.

9.  One person referred to another member who was present as the Michelle Kwan of Marketing, then corrected it to be the Carl Lewis of Marketing since she was referring to a man.


We learned from a famous actor tonight that the best way to deliver a great speech is to show up drunk.
(Humor created by twisting the real meaning of the story.)

Contrary to what we heard tonight, there is something called balance.  A balanced diet for example is a Twinkie in each hand.
(Just a silly visual picture.)

I’m writing a book which Randy could easily sell:  I’ll Make You Laugh For Sex.
(This line twisted the original book title by laying my subject expertise, humor, into the title.  This could be twisted for almost any expertise.)

Peter, I’d like to help you refine your want ad for an assistant:  Want an assistant who is handy with cattle prod and looks good in leather.
(Handy is a funny word.  Leather has a humorous connotation which dresses up the Looks Good line.)

Jim, here are some suggestions to get your National Listening Association off to a good start.  First you’ll need to establish some PEGs:
   – Motivational Listeners
   – Inspirational Listeners
   – Humorous Listeners
(For people familiar with the NSA and the professional speaking business, this is a list that brings a laugh.  Remember that observational humor is often good only for the specific audience and place for which it was created.)

It’s important as speakers to realize which PEG group your audience members fit into.  For example, if you have an audience of Humorous Listeners and you’re giving a motivational speech…every time you deliver a profound motivational point…they’re going to laugh.
(A nice topper to the PEG lines joke.)

The second suggestion for the National Listeners Association would be to use the advertising slogan:  When we listen…people talk.
(I twisted the cliche advertising slogan “When we talk…people listen.”  The reversal is so backward that it’s really funny.  This was the funniest line of the monologue.)

The third suggestion would be to refer to yourself as the Michelle Kwan of listeners.
(Excellent response.  An easy line to create.)

I’ve got a great idea for a couple of business web sites:

And I have something I want you to be the first to know about.
This…is a haunted pen.
Normally it would sell for $56,000.
But tonight only…it can be yours for $37,000.

(I paused after THIS to draw attention to the first punch line and build anticipation.  HAUNTED PEN got a huge laugh because I think it was totally unexpected.  It received a very big response.  Then adding the two price lines provided  toppers that also worked well.)

 Are you a subscriber to the Humor Power Tips ezine?  Don’t miss the newsletter’s feature article published every other week.  These feature articles provide humor-skill-building tips you won’t see on the blog.  Subscribe here.

Observational Humor — Case Study #9

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Here is some observational humor from an actual Toastmasters meeting.   After taking notes during the meeting I wrote a monologue which I presented at the end of the meeting.

**THE SET-UP**(what happened and what was said during the meeting before I presented the monologue)

1.  The Toastmaster of the Evening (MC) announced that the theme for the meeting was “New York, New York.”

2.  The Toastmaster of the Evening played part of Sinatra’s song, New York, New York.

3.  The Toastmaster of the Evening (who is a mime and body language expert) said he would refrain from mime and crazy dancing during the song.

4.  TM Bill is well known for racing his Porsche.

5.  TM Mary gave a speech where she told of volunteering to sell beer at the race track to raise money for charity.

6.  TM Tim gave a speech where he talked about the High-Ropes and Low-Ropes teambuilding exercises.

7.  TM Tim talked about climbing a telephone pole and jumping for a trapeze.  The title of his talk was Leap Of Faith.

8.  TM Tim said that when he was on top of the pole it was shaking.  Then he said “wait a minute…poles don’t shake!”

9.  TM Tim talked about skydiving for the first time with an instructor strapped to his back.

10.  TM Ron, during his evaluation of the meeting, said that the Table Topics Master (the member who assigns the impromptu speech topics for the evening) sometimes calls only on the funniest members of the club, and he specifically named three people who often get called on.  He commented that that the Table Topics Master for that evening called on a good cross section of members, which he said was “the high-class way to do it.”

11.  TM Bryant gave a speech on the power of mentorship.

12.  TM Bill has been a Toastmaster member for 45 years.  He is the only member of the club who has been a member longer than my 34 years.


The theme for tonight’s Observational Humor is “Pahrump…Pahrump.”  If you can make it there…you can make it anywhere.
(This was an obvious set up allowing me to pick the name of a local town with a funny name.)

And the good news is that I won’t do any crazy dancing.
(A good line because I’d be the last person in the room that would be expected to do any crazy dancing.)

I went to the race track this past Saturday and ran into some of our club members.
Racing around the track in his Porsche was TM Bill.
The up the aisle came “Beer!  Cold beer!  Getcha beer here!”  It was TM Mary!

(Bill racing his Porsche was a set up line to disguise the real punch line with Mary selling beer.  The Mary as a barker selling beer was a funny line because it would have been totally out of character for her.  She matches the classic definition of a lady.)

On Sunday I was involved with a Ropes Course.  Not the low ropes.  Not the high ropes.  It was the “Soap On A Rope.”
(A crazy line that popped into my head.  It got a good laugh.)

It did include the exercise to climb the telephone pole. 
I’ll tell you about the experience later, in my speech “Leak of faith.”
(A nice play on words using a similar-sounding word.)

My hand is shaking.  I guess that proves that I’m not Polish.  Poles don’t shake.
(I initially thought this might be an obvious joke.  But it got a great response.  It plays with the relationship of Poles to Polish changing the meaning from WOOD to NATIONALITY.  Then I worked it in reverse to construct the joke.)

And a point of advice for members presenting Table Topics in the future.  If you call on S, George or John…that’s the Low-Class way of doing it.
(Very simple line.  Excellent response.)

We had great speeches tonight on sky diving and mentoring.  We can all learn some valuable lessons by being mentored by members who are more experienced.  At the next meeting I’ll be giving a speech with TM Bill strapped to my back.

(This line combines elements of two speeches, skydiving and mentoring, with an absurd visual image.)