Archive for December, 2007

Cartoon Caption Contest — Creative Writing

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Here is the new Cartoon Caption Contest featuring the artwork of Professional Cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Take the challenge to create a funny caption for this cartoon.

Our new Joke Writing Contest will be announced on January 15.

Here is this month’s cartoon and a few captions to get you started:

Alien Cartoon

   Looks like no intelligent life here.
   They must be the politicians.
   I thought you made a reservation for a non-smoking planet.

What would one alien say to the other?  That’s your challenge.

Try to come up with several captions.  Put them on the shelf for a day or two.  Then rewrite to sharpen the humor. 

Work with a humor buddy.

Refine your captions and then select your best lines and submit them to by January 15.

Visit the web site of Dan Rosandich for a directory of great cartoons.  Contact Dan for custom cartoon work for your book, web site, business card, greeting card, T-Shirt, or any other project. 

Standup Comedy — A First Timer’s Experience

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I received this note from Amit Sodha, a computer network engineer from London, UK:

“I’m a regular reader of your blog and I most definitely find it useful for the coaching and radio work I do from a day to day basis!  I first came across your blog when I saw transcript of Steve Pavlina’s routine for his Toastmasters Area Contest and learned a lot just from reading his work. I’m actually doing some stand-up this weekend, it’s my first attempt and I’ve just written a blog post about it.”

Here is a link to his post before the performance.  He had signed up to do a 15-minute set for a special charity fundraiser.  Normally, a first-timer at an open-mike would do about 5 minutes.  So 15 minutes is a stretch.  In a practice run he tried out 6 minutes of his material and got ONE laugh.  He had his work cut out for him.

His performance was a hit.  Here’s a link to his post after the performance.  He amazingly ended up doing 25 minutes!  And he spent 40 hours preparing for the event.

He shares his thoughts on:   

  Use of notes
  Preparing the audience to receive comedy from first-timers
  The importance of the opening joke
  Using blue humor (it can work in the right comedy club environment)

This is an excellent chance to learn from the experience of someone stepping onto the comedy stage for the first time.  He had a fun time and would encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

Creative Humor Writing — December Cartoon Caption Results

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Here are the top captions from our Holiday Cartoon Contest featuring the art of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Look for our next Cartoon Caption Contest on January 1, 2008.

And our next joke contest will be announced on January 15, 2008.

Here are the top captions selected by our panel of judges.

Holiday cartoon


I’m wearing it to the ACLU party.
    Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA


Before writing Shirt Slogans I wrote political speeches.
    Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia


I got it from my secret Santa.
    Melanie White, Rowlett, Texas, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

So it’s a dumb name for a bowling team.
It’s not easy being a Jewish Christian Pagan Orthodox Buddhist.
Its better to be indirect than indecisive.
Of Course it’s vague, the stupid designer forgot the to Whoever.
I never have to change my shirt.
Sweetheart, you wanted me to get a one-size-fits-all jumper.
And then I was chased by a group of angry nuns!
I know it’s vague…something about separation between church and state.
Instead of responding I just point to the shirt and they leave me alone.
Dammit Mrs. Clause, I was already half way around the World before I realized I forgot my beard!

Visit Dan Rosandich’s web site for thousands of cartoons listed by category.  Dan will create custom cartoons for your book, website, TShirt, or any other special project.

Observational Humor — Case Study #16

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Here’s a short Observational Humor monologue presented at a Toastmasters meeting yesterday.

THE SET-UP (what was said and what happened before the monologue was presented)

1.  A speaker talking about sales presentations suggested pumping yourself up before a sales call by saying to yourself, “I like myself.  I like myself.  I like myself.”

2.  The grammarian introduced the Word Of The Day, CELEBRATE.  We were told that it was a transitive verb.  A couple of members indicated that they didn’t know the definition of Transitive Verb.

3.  A fire-safety engineer gave a speech on smoke control.  He specifically focused on smoke control in high-rise buildings.

4.  An evaluator, while suggesting that a speaker should had used more energy in his delivery, asked the question:  “Would an audience want to listen to that all day long?”

5.  Clark told the story of a boss who told him, on his first week on the job, “Come see me in two weeks and I’ll share with you the secret of success.”  Ten years later, he was still waiting to be told that secret.


(as I was standing to speak) I like myself.  I like myself.  I like myself!
(I thought, why not pump myself up before my monologue.  Perfect opener.  Big laugh.)

When the Word Of The Day was introduced, I thought:  “What a strange word.”  Then I realized the word had an R.
(I got the laugh letting the audience figure out what that word was.  I knew that for some of them, that word had already crossed their mind, and I could tell from their reaction that I was right.  I needed to keep the structure short, and not too wordy.  The letter R needed to be at the very end of the joke.)

Until I realized that there was an R, I was thinking:  “Celebate…is that a transitive verb?”
(A topper.  And yes, it’s really spelled Celibate…but close enough for the sake of the joke.  Comic license.)

Let me give you a fire safety tip for the next time you check into a hotel.  Do what I do.  Always ask for a non-smoking room.
(A clean and simple connection which plays with a double meaning.)

I have to admit, I’ve often asked myself: “Would anyone want to listen to me all day long?”  And that’s why I don’t speak all day long!
(There is humor in the truth.  I’m not a high-energy speaker.  I normally only do speeches which are one hour in length.  Although my humor adds the audience appeal and energy…it works well to poke fun at yourself even if you’re exaggerating or stretching the truth.)

Clark, since you gave a humorous speech today, I’ll share with you the secret to using humor…if you’ll come see me in two weeks.
(A perfect closer.  I paused before the punchline, while actually feeling a need to rush it a bit because I felt the punchline was too obvious.  But the pause helped magnify the punchline and it was a perfect closer.  I think maybe a couple of people saw it coming, but most did not.  The risk is that someone would give the punchline before I did!  The trick is to just relax and listen for the rhythm of the audience response.)

Games People Play — Creative Joke Writing

Friday, December 14th, 2007

This month’s contest theme was suggested by Steve Pavlina.  It’s called Games People Play.

Here’s how it works.  Look for matches in the format:  (Occupation or group of people) love to play (game).

For example:  Convicts love to play Life.

You can create lines with real games.
You can create lines with fabricated games.
You can mix and match game elements.
Or try anything else you think works and fits the theme

Some examples.


Court defendants love to play the game of Sorry!
Police officers love to play Blackjack.


Drug addicts love to play Crackgammon.
White collar criminals love to play Steal-A-Fortune.


Nathan’s Hot Dog Champions love discovering Col Mustard in the Kitchen.
British tabloid writers love it when the Queen’s Bishop jumps the King’s Knight.


1.  Start by looking for connections. 

Make a list of as many games as you can think of (Poker–Battleship–Jacks–Pool). 

Make sub-lists of aspects of those games (Monopoly–Railroads–Hotels–Play Money). 

Make a list of people and groups (Lawyers–Texans–Bugs Bunny–Donald Trump).

2.  Look for links to connect ideas from the lists you created.

3.  Draft some joke lines.  Let them sit overnight.  Rework the lines.  Bounce them off a humor buddy.

4.  Select your best lines.

5.  Submit them to by December 30, 2007.

6.  The best lines will be published before mid-January.

Creative Humor — Joke Writing Contest Results

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Here are the top lines in our Quirky Writers Joke Contest.

Watch for the next Joke Contest announced on December 15.

And our new Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the 1st of the month.

Here are the best lines selected by our panel of judges (speakers and improv players):


Prisoners write letters using long sentences.
   Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA


Travel author writings seem to be all over the place.
   Jim Spero, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA


Cowboys draw.
   Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

An obsessive shopper writes an auto-buy-ography.
How do invisible ink writers know when they’ve run out of ink?
The pawn writer wrote about two queens and a bishop on a dark Knight.
The mountain climber wrote up his journal whereas the high diver wrote everything down
In writing his biography, Hulk Hogan wrestled with credibility.
The texting teenager was thumb writer.
The lyricist wrote her saddest songs using blue ink.
An undertaker moonlighted as an underwriter.
The inline skate wrote with a rollerball pen.
The attorney for the underwear company penned his briefs.
The food critic’s article contained hash marks.
Song writers don’t write letters they just write notes.
Skywriters use plane paper.
Would an underwriter be promoted to overwriter?
Archeologists dig hieroglyphics.
Bill board designers sign.
Book publishers print.
Witches know how to spell.
Prisoners write in pen.
Historians write with permanent markers.
Writers for Playboy know that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Movie reviewers write with a Flick of the wrist.
The Bellagio hotel concierges always use a fountain pen.
Neon tube benders write using sign language.
Medieval writers mainly punctuate with just one period.
Mohammed Ali knocked out two reports in a couple hours.
Stephen King writes his books in the Queens English.
Hairdressers lose track of appointments if they don’t use their highlighter pen.
Writers with straight hair often use permanent ink.
Obituary writers use markers.
Babies sometimes use play pens.
Alcoholics send a message in a bottle.
Sailors write in cursive.
There are 104 keys to writing a successful blog.
Captain Hook writes in short hand.

Inside The Creative Mind of a Joke Writer

Monday, December 10th, 2007

The World’s Greatest Book of Chicken Jokes…And Other Fowl Humor, by my friend Sol Morrison from Santa Barbara, is not only a fun joke book but it can also be used as an excellent text book.  He has a gift of being able to see the funny twist to create humorous connections.  Sol, by the way, was one of two people who started me in comedy improv.  I played with him in the Santa Barbara Improv Troupe for four years.

At first glance, when you think “Chicken Jokes” you think of punch lines answering the question:  Why did the chicken cross the road?  For Sol, that question is just the starting point.  He is great at switching, substituting and reversing to get fresh angles for jokes.

In writing The World’s Greatest Chicken Jokes, Sol took on the challenge of not including a line he had seen or heard before, and kept to the discipline of creating his own, original humor lines.  In fact, he created over 2000 lines, and about 1000 of them are included in the book.

“I approach humor as a scientific experiment,” Sol tells us.  “I change only ONE element, and then see where it takes me.”

For example, take:  Why did the chicken cross the road? 
Switch that to:
Why did the chicken cross the picket line?
Why did the chicken cross the park?
Why did the chicken cross the dance floor?
Get the idea?

Then you look for more places to do some switching:
Why did the cat cross the road?
Why did the politician cross the road?
Why did the astronaut cross the road?
This could be switched to other animals, occupations, specific people, etc.
You start opening new windows of opportunity for humor.
This is Sol’s technique for brainstorming which he calls Brain-Blasting.

“For example,” Sol tells us, “it might lead you to:
Why did the lion cross the road?  To get to the other pride.
Why did Hugh Hefner cross the road?  To get to the other bride.”

Then Sol suggests exploring the NEGATIVE:
Why DIDN’T the chicken cross the road?  Because she was chicken. (blame that line on me!)

Then Sol recommends to start switching using a basic journalism technique:
Why did the chicken cross the road?  Becomes…
When did the chicken cross the road?
Where did the chicken cross the road?
How did the chicken cross the road?
Who did the chicken cross the road with?
What happened when the chicken crossed the road?
Sol suggests that “you approach it is if you were interviewing the chicken!”  Great idea.
The book gives you hundreds of examples of where this type of thinking can take you.

And there’s more!  Next switch for other “chicken” words:
Why did the chick cross the road?
Why did the egg cross the road?
Why did the hen cross the road?
They he takes this thinking one step further with a section on:
Why did the Hen-ny Youngman cross the road?

Next try a switch by adding an adjective:
Why did the rubber chicken cross the road?
Why did the spring chicken cross the road?
Why did the fried chicken cross the road?

In the book he uses the vehicle of a Top-Ten List to answer:
Why did the chicken double-cross the road?
And he comes up with twists like…
To make it a road more traveled.

He features a Cock-A-Doodle-Do matching game making connections like:
Milkman — Cock-A-Doodle-Moo
Classical Pianist — Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
He has a long list.

You’ll also enjoy the original cartoons featured throughout the book:
Receptionist in a doctor’s waiting room looking at a chicken and an egg.
“Who came first?”

And there’s a Humpty Dumpty section, a rhyming section, around-the-world humor, and more.

The World’s Greatest Book of Chicken Jokes is a joke book.  But it’s more than that.  Besides making you laugh…and groan…it will give you an inside look at what makes a humor writer’s mind tick.  It will give you insights on how you can switch, substitute and reverse elements of a joke to create your own fresh connections and humor lines.  “To get to the other side” isn’t the end of the joke…it’s just the beginning!

To quote Dr E.E. Giblet, Professor of English, Stanford University:  “Humor aside, taken purely as an exercise in wildly creative writing, Chicken Jokes…is a testament to the extraordinary malleability of the English Language.”

The book sells for $9.95 plus $2.00 shipping (CA residents add sales tax) and is available from publisher Phil Morrison:
Jester Books
3 Monte Vista Road
Orinda CA 94563

Observational Humor — Case Study #15

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Here’s an examination of an Observational Humor monologue presented at a Toastmasters meeting.

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

1.  An evaluator critiqued a speaker’s clasped-hand gestures.  “If we we stuck a daisy between your fingers and laid you on the table…you’d look dead!”  Big laugh.

2.  A new member gave a speech about his business which serves largely the Hispanic community.  The Spanish language became a running gag for a few speakers later in the meeting.

3.  The Grammarian had selected PLETHORA as the word-of-the-day.  The theme of the day was Being Big.  The Toastmaster of the Evening (MC), before he introduced the Grammarian to give the word-of-the-day, used the word PLETHORA.  He didn’t know it would be the word-of-the-day.  It was just a coincidence that he used it.

4.  The word PLETHORA was introduced, defined, and its Latin roots were mentioned.

5.  A speaker shared the story about Roger Bannister running the mile under four minutes.  In the year after that milestone event, 30 people ran the mile under four minutes.  The next year, 300 people broke the four minute barrier.

6.  A speaker shared that every time he would tell people he was going to do something, they’d usually say: “You’re crazy.”  He would then proceed to be wildly successful at it.

7.  A speaker told of her younger days when the hot jock at school, Bob Baxter (not the real name), wouldn’t “give her the time of day.”

8.  Randy, our Treasurer, told us that being the club Treasurer was an easy job.

9.  Randy, in a speech about the club’s history, praised long-time member Bill Lusk, who was not present (he arrived after the speech was over).  Randy said that Bill was the only person who could correct the facts in his speech.

10.  This was the meeting before Thanksgiving.  A couple of people mentioned what they were thankful for.


If I don’t start talking…I’m going to look dead.
(Deadpan delivery.  The line worked for me since I’m a low-key, laid-back speaker.)

We should change our club name to Hablemos Espanol Toastmasters.
(Several call-backs to the Spanish language during the meeting set this up.)

You may not know it but Plethora, the Word-Of-The-Day, actually has Spanish roots.  It comes from PLET which means many and HORA which means hour.  It means many hours…or abundance.
(A gibberish definition.  Not true.  Just made it up for the laugh.)

Tonight was the first time in history that a Toastmaster of The Evening opened his remarks with the word PLETHORA.  In the next 12 months, that will happen 30 times.
(This was a perfect tie in.  The group was very amused that the TM had, just by chance, used the word.  The Roger Bannister comparison was perfect.)

I remember years ago when I told people I was going to become a humorist.  They said:  “You’re crazy!”  That’s why I’m so good at it.
(Joke and a topper.  Big laugh.)

I ran into Bob Baxter last week.  I asked him:  “What time is it?”  And he gave me the time of day.
(Plays with the double meaning of “gave me the time of day.”  It got a bigger laugh than I expected.)

Randy told us the truth.  Being treasurer is an easy job.  I’m treasurer of the National Speakers Association Chapter.  All I have to do is:  Collect the money.  Deposit the money.  And go to the roulette wheel.
(An easy triplet.  A good laugh.)

Bill Lusk was late today.  Actually he wasn’t planning on coming, but his ears were burning.  And he needed to be here to correct the facts in Randy’s speech.
(A good connection between a speech and a late arrival.  Joke.  Topper.  Excellent laugh.)

In closing, I’m thankful…that you laughed at my jokes!
(A good closer.)

Creative Humor Writing — Cartoon Caption Contest

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

It’s time for our December Cartoon Caption Contest.  It’s a great holiday-spirit cartoon by professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Watch for our Cartoon Caption Contests on the 1st of each month and our Joke Writing Contests on the 15th.

Here is the cartoon.  We’ve also included some sample captions to get your creativity flowing.

December Cartoon

It may not be warm…but it’s politically correct.

I’m wearing it in case I run into what’s his name.

Ditto?  Are you being sarcastic?

Take the challenge to create your own captions for the cartoon.  Submit your best entries by December 15, 2007, to  The top captions will be posted before the end of the month.

Visit Dan Rosandich’s web site for great cartoons and information on how he can create original cartoons for your special project.  He specializes in cartoons for books, newsletters, web sites, T-Shirts.  You name it…he can probably fill your need.