Why Practice Observational Humor?

So you’re never going to do a monologue?  Does that mean that you’ll never have a use for Observational Humor? 

Here’s the truth.  I don’t practice my observational humor so that I’ll be better at doing humor monologues.  For me, an observational humor monologue is a push-up.  It’s an exercise to build my humor muscle.  It’s a means to an end.  It’s not the end.

This past week I attended a terrific two-hour presentation by NSA National President, Mark LeBlanc.  If you have a chance to hear him speak, don’t miss it.  Inspiring substance delivered in an engaging style.

Although I had no intention of presenting a monologue at the end of the evening, I still decided to “put on my humor hat” and focus on the process of collecting observational humor.  I listened.  I jotted notes.  I looked for connections. 

In Mark’s opening comments he told of his Anti-Boot-Camps where people attend for free.  Then at the end of the camp they write Mark a check for whatever the feel the event was worth.  Marilyn, our NSA Las Vegas Chapter Secretary gave a testimonial about the Camp and said she loved it.  In fact at Mark’s camp she met her husband!

Mark then asked the 20 audience members:  What did they want to learn from the evening’s program?   And several people volunteered answers.

Since I had been taking notes, I was prepared to ask a question.  I waited until about six people had posed their questions.  I raised my hand and Mark called on me:

What I want to know is…when Marilyn attended your Anti-Boot-Camp and met her husband…at the end of the event…how big was her check?”  A big laugh.   The joke implies that such a great benefit (meeting a spouse) would be worthy of a very large check.

Mark was right on top of it.  After the laughter died down, he said:  “She’s still paying me back.”  His joke implies that the value of meeting a great husband was priceless.

Although my line was one I could have used in a monologue, the key point is that I wouldn’t have been prepared with the line if I wasn’t tuned in to the humor-opportunities that were happening that evening.  The fact was that I had been engaged in the process of identifying observational humor, even though I didn’t plan on having a specific place to use it.  Then when a moment of opportunity arrived, I was prepared. 

At a typical meeting, note that I’m not actively looking for chances to contribute a funny line.  A member of the audience can wear out their welcome fast by always trying to be the funny-guy.  If you’ve ever attended a meeting with me, you will probably remember me as someone who normally just quietly listens for the entire meeting.  The advantage of being very selective in your use of humor is that when you do use it, it will probably be funnier.  And when you do use it, people will be more inclined to listen, because of the factors of quality and scarcity.  If you’re always trying too hard to be funny, you will irritate the audience rather than attract them.

I’d encourage you to do the same as I do.  Always be focused on discovering the observational humor connections at every event you attend.  And then be very selective in using your funny lines.  It’ll keep you engaged.  It’ll strengthen your humor skills. And every now and then, when the moment is right, it’ll give you the appearance of being a person with a quick wit.