Observational Humor — Case Study #12

Let’s take a look at an observational humor monologue I presented at a National Speakers Association chapter meeting in Las Vegas.  The guest presenter was Glenna Salsbury.

THE SET-UP (what happened and what was said at the meeting before I delivered my monologue)

1.  Glenna coached several speakers in the afternoon.  The last two speakers told stories about relationships with attractive men when they were younger.  They were the last two speakers before I delivered my monologue, and the very last speaker said she had a crush on the cutest guy in high school.

2.  Glenna said that one of the first things women wonder when seeing a woman speaking from the platform is, “How old is she?”  Then Glenna told us her age.

3.  Glenna talked about a speaker who talked fast and delivered high content.  This frustrated audience members because they couldn’t take notes fast enough.

4.  One speaker, during the coaching, told us that a guidance counselor in school told her that she would be wasting her time going to college. She now has a PhD.

5.  Glenna told about a man who was struck by lightening while wearing a Timex watch.

6.  I picked Glenna up at the airport and on the way to the hotel we started talking about Billy Graham. 

7.  Glenna told us that the fish Orange Roughy was also known as Slime Heads.

8.  The night before the meeting the officers of the chapter take the guest speaker out to dinner.

9.  Glenna told us that she was not a biblical scholar.

10.  Glenna told us a story from the bible about a group that was starving and was saved by Quails falling from the sky.

11.  Pam, a member of the audience, told us that her employees were so loyal they would throw themselves under a bus for her.   She also said she had fired some of her best employees.

12.  Glenna talked about “raising the bar.”

13.  Glenna talked about great stories making at least two organs squirt.

14.  Glenna mentioned the subject of getting dehydrated.

15.  Glenna told the story of gorilla watching in Africa.  The tour guide said when confronted with a male gorilla to:  Drop to the ground, lower your eyes and eat grass.

THE MONOLOGUE (presented at the end of the meeting)

When I was in high school…I had a crush…on the cutest guy in the class.
(I used the twist of saying the opposite of what would be expected.)

For the benefit of the women…I’m 90.
(Exaggeration is good for a laugh.)

If you haven’t seen me before, I’m a slow speaker.  Which I know will frustrate many of you.  Because I won’t say anything you’ll want to write down.
(I love this structure.  First, reversing the fast-speaker for slow-speaker.  And then linking that situation with implied low-content…self-deprecation…and the frustration that there is nothing to write down.  A great laugh.  This is a bit of a “thinking joke” which I sometimes call time-released-humor.  When you’re aware that a joke has that quality, you must be prepared to wait an extra beat for the laughs to give the audience time to process the joke.)

When I was young, a counselor told me: “You’ll never be funny.”
(A good laugh, but was delivered primarily to set up the following line.)

Then one day I was struck by lightening…while wearing a Timex.
(The punchline is implied…the event of being struck by lightening made me funny.)

I picked Glenna up at the airport yesterday.  On the way to the hotel we started to talk about Billy Graham.  Glenna said that she had heard that he is always accompanied to his hotel room to make sure there isn’t someone in the room.  So when we got to the hotel, I felt obligated to go with Glenna to the 13th floor to make sure Billy Graham wasn’t in her room.  When we opened the door to the room, I saw two 30-year old studs.  But I checked in the closet and under the bed.  And nooooooo Billy Graham.
(I really like this sequence.  The expectation is that I’d check the room for an unwanted man.  The absurdity of looking for Billy Graham makes the first joke work.  The second joke, is that two studs in the room were OK.  And then another topper bringing Billy Graham back into the picture.  I intentionally extended the vowel sound of NO to good effect.  An excellent laugh.)

Last night the board had dinner with Glenna at a really nice restaurant.  We feasted on Slime-Heads with Lemon and Capers.
(Linked the board-dinner with a call back to the fish Glenna had mentioned.)

Glenna talked about Quails falling out of the sky.  I thought she had said WHALES fell out of the sky.  That didn’t strike me as strange…since she had already told us she wasn’t a biblical scholar.
(The funny thing was that I really thought she had said WHALES.  So I wrote it down, thinking it was strange that nobody laughed.  Then as she continuted with the story, I realized she was talking about QUAIL, the bird.  I didn’t immediately have the joke, but jotted down the observation and played with it, eventually coming up with a good joke/topper sequence.)

Let me clarify what Pam told us today:  She fires her best employees because she can’t stand the thought of them throwing themselves under a bus.
(This combines two separate comments into one good joke.)

As a result of Glenna’s talk I’m going to “raise the bar.”  My back bothers me every time I bend over to pick up a drink.
(A literal interpretation of a standard expression.)

In closing, I’ve learned three things about humor:
  –  A great joke makes one organ squirt.
  –  A really great joke will dehydrate you.
  – If you tell a joke that doesn’t work:  Crouch down, lower your eyes, and smoke grass.

(This combines three observations and ties them into the humor theme of the monologue.  The triplet form works well to set up the final twist playing on the alternate meaning of grass.)