Archive for November, 2007

Cartoon Caption Contest Results

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Our November Cartoon Caption Contest was fun and we received many entries from around the world.  A panel of nine judges (speakers and improv players) picked the top entries.  Our Acme Air cartoon was created by our talented cartoonist Dan Rosandich. 

Here are the top captions:

ACME

** FIRST PLACE **

Sir, I need photo identification with you clothed.
     Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia

** SECOND PLACE **

Don’t worry sir…95% of our passengers arrive at their destination safely every day.
     Ken VanDrese, Escanaba, Michigan, USA

** THIRD PLACE **

I need your name, address, and next of kin.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

What’s wrong? Never felt a cattle prod before?
I heard you had extra leg room, so I brought along my extra leg.
The under-inflated ego support group? 2nd door on the right.
Oh my! We don’t fly to Flasherville.
Please remove your nipple rings sir and step thru the X-ray again.
Sorry for the delay…Our mechanic is working late at the carnival.
A cheap ticket?  You’re in luck, we have a wing seat left.
You brought the replacement navigation system?  But that plane just left!
Sir, 3A is both a window seat and an aisle seat.  It’s a small plane.
Tickets please. Your hypnosis is not working.
Our pilot liked our tag line, “Always Ahead”, so much that he took off ahead of time. 
No refunds on travel insurance, after you’ve flown.
Our pilot didn’t really crash…he backed into a mountain.
Parachute or not, it’s excess luggage.
Sir, a ticket takes you where your charm can’t.
I’m sorry sir, you and your cat will have to fly coach.  Only coyotes are permitted in First Class.
Yes, Mr Smart, we left a message on your answering shoe that your flight has been cancelled.
Your pilot will be Captain Roadrunner and your lead flight attendant will be Wile E Coyote.
Fly Akme Air where stare-down contests are our way of saying thank you.
You’re looking forward to a flight with a good meal followed by a relaxing cigarette!  When was the last time you traveled with us?

Visit Dan’s website for a huge listing of cartoons by category.  If you need custom cartoons for your book, speech, newsletter, or website, check with Dan at www.DansCartoons.com.

Observational Humor — Case Study #14

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

This is an examination of Observational Humor presented at an NSA chapter meeting featuring speaker Robin Creasman.

THE SET-UP (What happened and what was said during the meeting before the monologue was delivered.)

1.  The presenter, Robin Creasman, spoke of the value of being bigger than life when you’re presenting or performing.  His theme was about helping us to become Rock Stars in the speaking business.

2.  A chapter member suggested that if Robin could make John Kinde bigger than life, that there was hope for him (the speaker making the comment).  Everybody laughed.  I’m known as a very low-key, understated speaker.

3.  After sharing a personal example, the speaker said, “But I don’t want this program to be about me.” 

4.  The speaker shared several speaker video clips to illustrate his points.  One featured a speaker who opened his speech standing on a chair.  Another featured a speaker who delivered part of her speech wearing bunny ears.

5.  A coaching student shared that she came from a family of 13 children.

6.  A coaching student shared that, while growing up, she looked like a fat Willie Nelson.

7.  A coaching student shared a story about a man at work who wore pink pants.

8.  A coaching student shared a story about a survival game where contestants were dropped in the Gobi desert.

9.  A coaching student shared a story about someone’s bra setting off the airport security equipment.

10.  Robin asked early in the program, “What do you think of when someone says, Rock Star.”

11.  A member of the audience said that sometimes she could be a jerk.  Everyone that knew her countered that she was a super-nice person.  Ron (a coaching student) said, “I can teach you to be a jerk!”  He got a big laugh.

THE MONOLOGUE

What you are now watching is Norwegian-style “bigger than life.”
(Delivered in a deadpan style.  Self-deprecating humor playing off my low-key style.)

But I don’t want this to be about me.
(A call back reference to something said earlier in the meeting.)

OK.  It’s all about me.
(Setup for a sequence of jokes about me.)

I’d stand on a chair…but I forgot my bunny ears…and we don’t have an ambulance standing by.
(Two call back lines referring to video clips and one line of self-deprecation hinting that I’d hurt myself if I stood on a
chair…which is probably true.)

You may not know it, but I was the 13th child.  And that was hard, because my parents only had three kids.
(A call back to 13th child.  Followed by an unexpected and illogical twist.)

It wasn’t easy growing up looking like a skinny Willie Nelson…in pink pants.
(Flipping the FAT to SKINNY and adding the topper.  Be willing to say silly things about yourself.)

Then when I was twelve…my parents dropped me in the Gobi desert.
(The line was totally unexpected.  It also happens that Gobi is a very funny word.  It contains two hard consonants. 
That makes it funnier than Sahara which is made up of soft sounds.)

Problems followed me into my adult life.  Just last month, while going thru airport security…my bra went off.
(A silly visual picture.  No…I don’t wear a bra.  But, Hey, this is humor.)

But enough about me.  Please welcome Norwack The Magnificent.
(This a transition setup for the Answer Man humor delivery vehicle where the answer is given first, followed by the
question.  This format was popularized by Johnny Carson and Steve Allen. I’ve found that this format can be good for a complete humor routine or at least a triplet, a set of three jokes.  I’d never use the Answer Man form for a single joke.  It’s the series of jokes in the same format that gets the audience understanding the joke structure and sets the rhythm for a good response.)

The answer is:  Fred Flintstone.
And the question is:  Who do you think of when someone says Rock Star?

The answer is:  Ask Ron.
And the question is:  What is the difference between a pull and a jerk?

The answer is:  Maury Pauvich, Howard Stern, and Robin Creasman.
And the question is:  Name a Talk Star, a Shock Star, and a Rock Star.

(The Flintstone joke works because of the Bedrock and Stone Age Connection.  Presented as an example, it seems telegraphed and obvious.  But in practice, the punchline seemed to have surprise value and got a good laugh.  The jerk line sneaks up on the audience by playing with the double meaning of the word jerk.  The last question is as perfect closer because it builds tension by linking the guest speaker to two controversial people, and then says something nice about him.  This type of closer joke almost always gets the affirmative response of “Ahhhhhhhhhh,” seeming to say “isn’t that nice!”)

International Humor and Public Speaking Tips

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Eric Feng, a bright, energetic, young public speaking coach from Singapore has added a new feature to his site, The Public Speaking Blog.  Every week for the past four weeks he highlights the Top Five Public Speaking Articles To Read.  He’s an avid reader, screens many of the blog posts and articles which appear on the internet each week,  summarizes the best for you, and provides you a link to the original article. 

Earlier this year, Eric wrote an article on international humor, for our blog, called, So You Think You can Make A Singaporean Laugh.  Recently he posted another cross-cultural humor article on his own blog:  Who Says Sri Lankans Aren’t Funny People?  Eric is currently living in Sri Lanka and shares his experiences at a speech contest in that country.  He shows us how everyone has a sense of humor and observes what makes it tick.

Quirky Writing Styles — Joke Writing Contest

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Quirky Writing Styles — Joke Writing Contest

It’s time for our November joke contest.

Ask yourself, “What could be a humorous twist about the writing style of a certain type of writer or author?”

To get you started…

Here are some examples:

Ghost writers pen their books in invisible ink.
Writers for Field And Stream are always fishing for the right word.
The results of theater auditions are always type-cast.
Gas station owners write their memos with un-leaded pencils.
Gandhi wrote with India ink.

Get the idea?  It’s fun and stimulates your creative thinking.

You can work from a couple of different directions.  Start with a type of writer and look for the style twist.  Or start with a type of writing style and then search for the writer or author who might use that style.  Or go off on a tangent and come up with something using a totally different angle.

Write your ideas.  Edit and rewrite to make them funnier.  Pick your top lines and submit them to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by November 28, 2007.

Political Humor — Awkward Moments

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

On Monday, November 12, Senator John McCain received a question from a woman in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  It was a crude and politically incorrect question using the word Bitch.  Here are some excerpts from that news conference. 

Woman:  How do we beat the bitch?

McCain:  May I give the translation?

Man in audience:  I thought she was talking about my ex-wife.

McCain:  That’s an excellent question.

McCain:  I respect Senator Clinton.  I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat party.

Here’s a link to the news conference so you can watch it for yourself.

From a Humor-In-Speaking point of view, here are my observations:

1.  For starters, the woman asking the question unintentionally was shooting her candidate in the foot.  In her “moment of personal truth” or in an attempt to get a cheap laugh, she put her candidate on the spot while the cameras were rolling.  Speaking before you think can get any of us in trouble.  Trying too hard to be cute and funny often backfires.  Once it leaves the mouth it’s too late to take it back.

2.  The audience reacts with nervous laughter.  It was an awkward situation.  A man in the audience tries to diffuse the tension with an ad lib reference to his ex-wife.

3.  Let’s look at what John McCain did well, and not so well, in responding to the question:

GOOD JOB

   – He paused before respoding, to gather his thoughts.

   – He tried not to laugh while at the same time he was trying to think of a humorous way to disarm the question.

   – After the ad lib from the audience, McCain’s body language says, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

   – “I respect Senator Clinton,” was the right thing to say.

NOT SO GOOD

   – His response made it clear that he understood the reference was describing Senator Clinton.  That reaction says, “Well, we all know who she’s talking about.”  While that might be true, on the surface, it appears to buy into the use of the label.  More on this later.

   – “That’s a good question.”  While the essence of the question, how-do-we-win-the-election, was good; the way it was asked was inappropriate, outside the local bar.  He makes the poor choice of saying “that’s a good question” probably in the interest of saying something that would avoid putting down his supporter who asked the question.

   – “I respect Senator Clinton,” was followed by “I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat party.”  This is the infamous YES…BUT structure where the second part of the sentence cancels out the positive effect of the first part.  It appears to say “I respect Senator Clinton, not for the person she is, but for the support she might receive from her Democrat party.”

FINAL ANALYSIS (It’s easy to be a Monday Morning Quarterback)

4.  John McCain was put in an awkward position by a supporter.  Overall, considering he was improvising in the hot-spot, he did a fair-to-good job of handling it.  Not a great job.  One alternative way of responding might be: “Well, for starters, I wouldn’t use that word.  I respect Senator Clinton.  The good news is that a recent Rasmussen poll shows us with a 3 point lead in a head-to-head match-up with the Senator.” 

That structure attempts to put the B-word in it’s place, separates him from the word without directly criticizing his supporter (the political tightrope), gives an unqualified statement of respect to Clinton and ends with the true punch-line:  A poll showing a 3 point lead.

5.  What about the issue of implying that he knew that the statement was a reference to Clinton?  If we’re honest, we know that nearly everyone, Democrats included, knew to whom the woman was referring.  But that by no means equals agreement with the use of the word or with the accuracy of the label or delight with the question.  Understanding the question and agreeing with the choice of words are two very different issues.

Names and Places — Joke Contest Results

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Here are the top entries from our Places To Meet Friends joke writing contest.

Remember, our Cartoon Caption Contest is announced on the 1st of each month. 

And our joke writing contest is announced on the 15th. 

Take the challenge to stimulate your creative thinking and submit a few lines.

And now for our top lines:

** FIRST PLACE **

At the bank, I saw Bonnie Ann Clyde.
     Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia

** SECOND PLACE **

I’m in a French exercise class with the instructor Jacque Strap.
     David Bianco, Rowlett, Texas

** THIRD PLACE **

Phil R. Rupp works as a gas station attendant.
     Gary E Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland

** FUNNY-BECAUSE-IT-REALLY-HAPPENED WINNER **

I called our local council to complain about my neighbors noisy roosters and was put on to Mr Crowe!
     Anna Stonnell, New Zealand

HONORABLE MENTION

I go the improv to see Hugh Moore.
I get assertiveness training from Mae Bea Knott.
I go to the pet store to get Kitty Bartholomeew.
I go to the cherry orchard to see Zee Pitts.
When the police take me away, I get to hear my Miranda Wright.
I bought a living room set from salesperson Otto Mann.
Mark S. Mann works as a police sniper.
At the Mortuary I met Paul Bearer’s assistant, Doug Graves.
At Acme Adhesives, I saw James Bond.
At the Seaside, I saw Sandy Beach and C. Shells.
In the Whitehouse garden, I saw George’s Bush.
At the Aussie diner I saw Cook Aburra.
The Spaghetti Emporium is the place to meet Al Dente.
At the Gallery I was introduced Art Major and Art Sellers.
At the speakeasy I got a bang out of meeting Tommy Gunn.
Every October, I look forward to seeing Hal Loween.
Have you met Justin Time? He’s the city’s most reliable taxi driver.
At the physics fair, I learned at lot from Krystal Ball.
At the charity fundraiser, I meet Benny Factor.
At work I rely on my courier, Dee Liver.
At the musical store I met Dee Minor and Bea Major.
At work, the most stubborn employee is Don Key.
I went to the Casino to be introduced to Lotta Cash.
I looked but Dan Druff wasn’t at Hair Revival.
I’ve had a change of attitude since I’ve met Will Doo!
At Vegas I want to acquaint with Winsom Cash.
At Microsoft, I crashed into Bill’s Gates.
I went to the castle to see Frank and Stein.
There’s something off-putting about Bea Ware.
In China Town I met Rick Shaw.
The attorney said it was Frank Lloyd’s right.
James’ Watt lit up the presentation.
Breakfast was great with Chris P. Bacon.
On our driving holiday we often saw Dusty Rhodes.
For fish bait, I dig worms with Earl E. Bird.
I dig holes with my co-worker, Archie Bunker.
The dentist told me to avoid Ginger Vitus.
After dinner, I enjoyed chocolates with Hazle Nutt. 
The police are on the lookout for Moe Lestor.
At the bar, Bud Wieser was great company.
At a political convention, I met Adam’s Handler.
At the Tenpin Alley I saw that David Bowles and then Tara Bowles.
I bought suntan lotion from our local pharmacist, Sam Brownback.
While trick or treating I saw old Candy Bowles but I hear her daughter Candy Cains is very sweet.
At the local church I learned to love my friends Faith, Hope and Charity Moore.
At the hospital benefit, I met Doctors Drew Blood, Fanny Payne and Willet Hurtmore.
At the collector fair, I saw Ann Teak. She holds up well considering her age.

Observational Humor — Case Study #13

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Let’s look at some Observational Humor created during a Patricia Fripp Good-To-Great Speakers Workshop for intermediate and advanced speakers.  Fripp is one of the most respected executive speech coaches in the world.

THE SET-UP (What happened and what was said before the observational humor monologue was delivered.)

1.  Some of the students were members of the National Speakers Association (NSA).  Some were not.

2.  Fripp is a successful speaker coach and often does her one-on-one coaching in a hotel room.  Some of the students jokingly referred to meeting Fripp in their hotel room.

3.  A student said that, when she was a child, her school’s Headmaster had called her Dad and asked him to rush over to pick up his daughter.

4.  One student had the nervous habit of stroking his beard while he spoke.  Fripp said, “I hope you pet your wife like you pet your beard.”

5.  Fripp suggested an exercise to improve your range of gestures is to never use the same gesture twice.

6.  Fripp announced that an optional event Sunday night was to attend the Craig Ferguson concert.  In fact, she said, “I scheduled this weekend workshop because Craig Ferguson was performing in Las Vegas this weekend.”  (It was my first time to see him perform.  He was terrific.)

7.  I noticed that the lectern at the workshop venue (The White House in Las Vegas) was made entirely of clear plexi-glass plastic.  You could see through it.

8.  Between workshop days, some students partied, gambled, saw shows.  One student had casino chips taken from his pocket by a pickpocket.

9.  Fripp suggested that people not use the word STUFF.

10.  Fripp makes up words which are a spin-off from her name.  For example, “You’ve been working hard.  You’ve earned yourself a Fripp-teen minute break!)”

11.  One student told us that an environmentally-friendly area of California had banned hunters from using lead bullets because they would eventually poison the ground water.

THE MONOLOGUE

I met Fripp 24 years ago when I joined NSA.  But I feel cheated.  Back then she wasn’t meeting men in their hotel room.
(Since “meeting Fripp in a hotel room” almost became almost a running gag earlier in the morning, it was an obvious choice for a joke.)

It’s amazing that I now entertain people for a living.  When I was a child, the Principal called my dad and said:  “How soon can you come pick up your son?”  My dad said, “What’s wrong?”  The Principal said, “He’s not funny!”
(My structure was clearly a parallel to something a speaker had said earlier in the day.  That makes people wonder, “What’s he going to do with it?”  It’s a line that works well, because I don’t look like a person who would be funny.)

I’ve learned a lot since then.  In fact we’ve even learned a lot just today.  For example:
   1.  Pet your wife like you pet your beard.
   2.  Never use the same gesture twice (slapping myself on the backside).
   3.  And we learned that we came here this weekend to see Fripp.  And that Fripp came here to see Craig Ferguson.
(I used the triplet structure.  The Beard-line was funny enough by itself.  All I had was to repeat it.  The advice not to use the same gesture twice, let me to wonder, “What’s the strangest gesture I could possibly do?”  Slapping my backside was strange enough.  And it was a big gesture with a sound, one they could not miss.  I considered sprinkling strange gestures throughout the monologue, but decided against it, thinking it would detract from the rest of the humor lines.)

By the way, here’s some interesting trivia.  The lectern here at the White House was bought at an estate sale…at a nudist colony.
(I had noticed this lectern at previous functions at this venue and the nudist-colony connection had occurred to me.  This was the first time I used it.  And it was one of the funniest lines of the monologue.)

A lot of you had fun last night.  Some of you gambled.  Some went to shows.  I live here…so I went to bed.  Well, not right away.  When I got home I had to futs around a little.  And then I went to bed.  Are you familiar with the expression “futs around”?  It means to do little unimportant things. The word FUTS by the way, is not approved by Fripp.  It’s not in the Fripptionary.  FUTS is STUFF spelled backwards!
(In my search for humorous connections, I frequently explore words and names to see what they spell backwards.  And I also couldn’t pass up the chance to play with Fripp’s name.)

Some of you are not members of the NSA.  You should consider attending the NSA convention in New York City this coming summer.  There are three good reasons to attend:
   1.  Nobody will steal your casino chips.  Because you won’t have any casino chips.
   2.  In New York City it’s against the law to shoot speakers…with lead bullets.  It poisons the hotel carpets.
   3.  And if you attend the NSA convention, there is a 92% chance that your hotel room will be visited by Patricia Fripp.
(All three jokes received excellent response.  Another triplet. Joke one was a punchline followed by a topper.  Two laughs.  Joke two.  Was a joke, followed by two toppers.  Joke three was a callback to my opening joke about Fripp/Hotel rooms.  A strong close.)

When Humor Crosses the Line

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

I learn best by doing.  I learn by making mistakes.  And this especially applies to using humor.

Let me share a lesson learned.  It may save you similar mistakes.

I regularly do an Observational Humor monologue at the end of every Toastmaster home-club meeting I attend.  Over the past thirty years, I’ve delivered thousands of observational humor lines. 

Our Toastmasters club has a great reputation for high-quality Observational Humor.  At the last meeting three members crossed the line, just a tad.  Once the joke leaves your lips, it’s too late to take it back.  It’s a concern even when you’re among “friends” and moreso when you have guests present.

Let me share my inappropriate line first.  Then I’ll share lines from two other Toastmasters.

SET-UP:  A member told us that he had seen a news item that said someone had an ear grafted to his forehead in the name of art.  Unrelated, another member in response to a bad joke said:  “Someone open the window!”

MY JOKE:  “We were asked if an ear grafted to the forehead was art.  Technically, it’s called Forehead Art…or F-A-R-T.  Which gives you my answer to whether or not it’s art.  And I second the motion to Open A Window.”  In my mind, it was safe to use because I didn’t SAY the word.  And I followed it with two toppers…good humor structure.  It’s easy to find logic to justify our choices.  In retrospect, I’ve decided that it was a joke series that I should have omitted.

SET-UP:  A member was evaluating a speaker who had quoted his wife.  He attempted to use a high-pitched woman’s voice as he spoke her words.  The evaluator felt that he should have used his own natural voice instead.  The evaluator said “When you were doing your wife, the voice would have sounded better using your own natural voice.”

THE JOKE:  A club member said:  “My mind was wandering until I heard the evaluator say:  ‘When you were doing your wife!'”   The joke implies that he interpreted a sexual reference into what he had heard.

SET-UP:  Our timer, who times the segments of the meeting, was a new member whose name is Gaye.

THE JOKE:  A club member, at the end of an otherwise excellent monologue, concluded with:  “And I just realized that our timer was gay!”  First of all, it’s taking the liberty of poking fun at someone’s name.  That’s very personal territory.  Secondly, the target of the joke was a relatively new member, having joined two months ago.  And another big factor, it implies that there is something funny about being gay.  That gets us into the area of psychology, sociology, religion, self-esteem and more.  But I’d suggest that, at the least, the joke takes us out of the boundaries of political correctness, and would be offensive to many.

So where do you draw the line?   The first thing is to realize that laughter isn’t the green light.  The fact that people laugh doesn’t indicate whether or not humor is appropriate.  There are other tests that give you the right answer.

My conclusion after reflecting on some of the jokes of this meeting is:  Before you deliver a joke, ask yourself the question:  “Would I use the joke if I were delivering it at a corporate event where I was being  paid a substantial fee as the guest speaker?”  This is one litmus test that I could use to arrive at a “NO” answer for all three of these jokes.  There are other relevant questions that would disqualify the jokes as well, but the “corporate test” is a good measure of appropriateness.

And always remember the sage wisdom:  “When in doubt…leave it out!”

Cartoon Caption Contest — Creative Humor Writing

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

It’s time for our November Cartoon Caption Contest featuring the artwork of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Here is this month’s cartoon.  It could be at an Airline, a Heating/Airconditioning office, a business that sells air, or??

ACME Air

Take the challenge.  Put on your humor hat.  Write a few captions and submit your best ones.

Some sample captions to get your creativity flowing:

  – I’m sorry.  We only fly between Alaska and Maine.
  – Our draft special is only during happy hour.
  – Mr Akme is unavailable.  He’s in a tropical depression.

Here are some ideas on creating cartoon captions.

Submit your best captions to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by November 15, 2007.

We’ll recognize the top submissions before the end of the month.

Need illustrations for a book?  A cartoon for your holiday card?  Looking for a few laughs?  Visit the cartoon site of Dan Rosandich for thousands of cartoons in dozens of categories.  Dan will customize cartoons for your personal needs.