Archive for February, 2008

Cartoon Caption Contest — Being Funny

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Time flies.  It’s time for the March Cartoon Caption Contest. We feature the artwork of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Remember, we announce a new Cartoon Caption Contest on the first of the month.

And we announce a new Joke Contest on the 15th of the month.

Here’s this month’s cartoon and three captions to get your thinking process started.

Pirate Cartoon

I recommend you always floss after you plunder.

No kidding?  You used to be a dentist?

Great news!  I can save one tooth.

Challenge yourself to create a few captions for this cartoon.  Submit them to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by March 15, 2008.

Visit www.DansCartoons.com for a huge directory of cartoons organized by categories.  Check with Dan about creating custom cartoons for your book, web site, newsletter, T-Shirt and more.  Write to Dan at Dan@DansCartoons.com.

Observational Humor — Case Study #20 — How To Be Funny

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Here’s an analysis of an Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a Toastmasters club meeting.

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

1.  The theme of Presidential Trivia was announced by Bill Parker.  As the Toastmaster of the meeting, he transitioned from one part of the meeting to another with interesting trivia.

2.  Someone mentioned club-member Darren LaCroix’s mantra of “Stage time, Stage time, Stage time.”

3.  A speaker mentioned how Americans and Australians use different words to describe things.  For example, it was noted that a toilet in America would be a lou in Australia.

4.  Speaker John Bernstein mentioned that he was almost named after his uncle Lewis.

5.  Someone mentioned the cliche, “Time heals all wounds.”

6.  A speaker gave a technical speech which he called his ALOHA speech, an acronym.

7.  In a piece of Presidential trivia it was noted that the shortest Presidential inauguration speech was 135 words long.

8.  A Toastmasters club meeting includes short impromptu speeches called Table Topics, normally about 60-90 seconds.

9.  Before we did the Pledge of Allegiance, it was noted that we were outclassed by the way the High Noon Lectern club did the Pledge with great enthusiasm.

10.  Bill Lusk always stands out as the most energetic voice in our club when reciting the Pledge.

THE MONOLOGUE

Here’s a piece of presidential trivia.  Zachary Taylor logged more miles campaigning by stage coach than any other President.  His campaign advisor, Darren LaCross, said the key to success was: “Stage time. Stage time. Stage time.”
(The joke plays with the double meaning of the word STAGE.  Huge laugh.  The joke was made stronger by the fact that Darren was attending the meeting.)

John shared that he was almost named after his uncle Lewis.  In which case we would know him as Lou Bernstein.  Actually, that’s the difference between an American name and an Australian name.  In America he’s a John.  In Australia he’s a Lou.
(An excellent connection between comments made in two separate speeches.  Plays with the double meanings of both John and Lou.  Very big laugh.)

I knew someone who was such a jerk that within 30 days he was fired from his job, divorced by his wife and rejected by his dog.  Time wounds all heals.
(Twist of a cliche.  This was an old pun I had heard years earlier.  I created the set-up.  It worked well.)

I enjoyed Ed’s Aloha speech.  It was a sequel to last month’s Bonjour speech and a lead-in to next month’s Sayonara speech.
(To me, an obvious pattern for a joke.  A good laugh.)

It’s true.  One President actually gave a 135-word inaugural address.  He thought, “Do you solemnly swear?” was a table topic.
(The joke answers the question, “why such a short speech.”  It also tailors the answer for a Toastmasters audience.  Very good laugh.)

Here’s the secret to outclassing High Noon Lectern’s Pledge of Allegiance:  We need to clone Bill Lusk.
(A good closer which recognizes the enthusiasm of a long-time club member.)

Thinking Funny — Cartoon Caption Contest

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Here are the top lines from the February Cartoon Caption Contest.

Our contests feature the artwork of Dan Rosandich.  Visit his web site to see how he can create custom cartoons for your next project, book, newsletter, website, T-shirt and more.  www.DansCartoons.com

And now for the best lines.

February Cartoon

** FIRST PLACE **

Dad, can I go to the movies before I practice my drums?
     Donna Jaffke, Kokomo, Indiana USA

** SECOND PLACE **

Here are some fresh bills hot off the press…buy something at the convenience store and let me know if they work this time.
     Ken VanDrese, Escanaba, Michigan USA

** THIRD PLACE **

Is this for caddying or for turning your bogies into birdies?
     Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

The Patriots lost, Dad.  Now pay up.
I gotta tell you…that was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen anyone eat. I’d say that was worth at least $5.
And remember next time to move the garden hose BEFORE mowing my lawn.
Here’s the deal. I can give you $20 now or I can pay for you college education. Pick one.
I need a bigger allowance dad…Starbucks raised their prices.
The sub prime mortgage market has hit everybody hard but you signed the note!
$10 to listen to your Toastmaster’s Speech, $10 more and I’ll do an evaluation.
$20 and your wife thinks you’re coaching little league on Saturdays.
As you consider payment, I hope you’re conversant with the state’s Child Exploitation laws?
Right Mr Katt, you’re the expert and I never fixed your computer.
Only $5 more and I’ll program your VCR.
I wonder if Donald Trump started with a tightwad Dad.
Son, it’s your 18th birthday, and it’s about time you grow up.  Here, get yourself some HGH.
Dad, I don’t want my allowance anymore in American money. Yesterday the dollar fell to its lowest point in seven weeks against the Euro.
Downloading pictures from your digital camera…$10.00
  Downloading Music to you IPOD…$20.00
    Telling your wife you did it?…$157.23

Observational Humor — Case Study #19

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

This an Observational Humor Monologue presented at a Las Vegas Chapter meeting, National Speakers Association, featuring Patricia Fripp and Dan Maddux.

THE SETUP (what happened and what was said during the meeting, before the monologue was presented)

1.  Dan told us of a speaker who was addressing the American Payroll Association and mistakenly referred to them as the American Plumbers Association.

2.  Fripp used the term Happy Gigsters to refer to a certain group of speakers.

3.  Judy Moreo shared a story about a car salesman, a blind speaker and herself.  Here is a condensed version.  The salesman didn’t like the way his prime rib was cooked and switched plates with the blind man without asking.  The punchline came from the blind man:  “Apparently Honest Bob didn’t like the way his food was prepared.”

4.  At the start of the meeting, Peter announced he was getting married and that he met the special person while attending a Las Vegas show with Fripp and me.  Fripp said that she wasn’t Peter’s date and it got a good laugh.

5.  Dan referred to speakers who use promotional material with old photos as “dated speakers.”

6.  While coaching a speaker, Fripp referred to the speaker’s stance as Girlie Legs and recommended a stance that gave a more stable foundation.

7.  A speaker attendee, Rique, mentioned that “Beauty is an Inside Job.”

8.  Fripp, in one of her signature stories about a man named Larry, several times used the punchline:  “Lareeeeey!”

9.  Fripp told about being in a Ladies Room and being approached by a woman who asked, “Are you British.”  And then added, “Aren’t you Patricia Fripp?”

10.  Dan Maddux told of someone who had fabricated a testimonial with his name on it.  He stumbled onto the bogus testimonial during a Google search.

11.  Dan told us of inappropriate gifts he had received.  Among them were advertising pieces with a speaker’s name on them, and a bottle of massage oil.

12.  Dan told us of a speaker who gave half a speech and then said, “If you want to hear the rest of the speech, the sponsor will have to bring me back again next year.”

THE MONOLOGUE

It’s great to be here with the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Plumbers Association.
(An easy joke making an obvious switch of names.)

I feel so at home being in a room full of Happy Geezers.
(Again a nice switch of wording.  A little bit of self-deprecation here, implying that I am a geezer.)

We have a lot of first-timers at today’s meeting.  One thing that we learn at NSA is to never steal anyone’s material.  If we see something we like, we need to adapt it to be able to use it.  Here’s something I’m going to add to my next talk:  “Last week at a speech I was seated at the head table.  On my right was Honest Bob the car salesman.  On my left was a gorgeous motivational speaker.  It seems that Honest Bob wanted his prime rib well-done.  And the waiter gave him one that was rare.  The waiter gave me one that was well done.  I couldn’t believe it, but Honest Bob took my plate and switched it for his.  I leaned over to the gorgeous motivational speaker and said:  ‘It appears that Honest Bob thinks I’m blind!'”  I made the story mine.
(I initially had this bit near the end of the monologue, but decided to move it near the top because it was so strong.  A total of three good laughs with a huge laugh at the end.)

At the start of today’s meeting it was announced that Peter is engaged to be married to a person he met at the George Carlin show which he attended with Fripp and me.  Fripp wanted you to know that she was not Peter’s date.  And I want you to know that I was not Peter’s date.  I mention this so that Dan Maddux won’t think that Fripp and I are Dated Speakers.
(Added a topper to the Fripp line.  And then linked the whole thing to Dan’s later reference to dated-speakers.)

Coaching prepares is to be at our best.  I attended the Arnold Schwarzenegger School of Public Speaking where I learned to not use Girlie Legs.
(I chose to run a set of three call backs.  Legs, Lipstick, Larry.  The theme of “techniques I used giving a speech,” gave it structure.)

And Rique taught me that just before I begin a speech, I eat three tubes of lipstick…because beauty is an inside job.
(Taking something literally gave me the twist.)

I used those techniques the last time I gave a speech and the audience looked at me and said…Lareeeeey!
(Her frequent use of the punchline gave me the setup.)

I was in the Men’s Room during the lunch hour combing my hair.  A stranger came up behind me and said: “Are you British?”  I said, “No I’m not.”  And he replied, “For a second there I thought you were Patricia Fripp.”
(A nice reversal.  The lines worked great.)

I’m adding a testimonial to my web site tonight. “You are the funniest speaker I’ve ever heard.”  Dan Maddux.  I’m going to mis-spell Maddux so it isn’t searchable on Google.
(Simple joke based on the technique of claiming to have done something that had been identified as a no-no.)

If you’re interested, I’m selling Massage Oil with your name on it.
(Linking two unrelated things made this joke work.)

That’s the first half of my monologue.  If you want to hear the second half, you’ll have to find a sponsor to bring me back next month.
(A perfect closer.)

What Speakers Can Learn From Gymnasts

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

On February 9, I attended the gymnastics Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas.  Defending Olympic all-around champion Paul Hamm of Waukesha, Wisconsin, was the winner.  This was the first time Hamm had competed in a full all-around event since the 2004 Olympics.  I’m always inspired by the performances of world-class athletes.  They show us what’s possible and encourage us to dream of what might be achievable in our own lives.  I always try to search for life-lessons that would apply to public speakers.

Here are ten lessons to be learned from the gymnasts that apply to speakers:

1.  Having a coach.  All gymnasts have a coach.  Even the champions at the top of their game have coaches.  Being a speaker is no different.  You need a place to practice and get quality feedback and coaching.  Top professional speakers use high-level coaches.  Many speakers get feedback from participation in Toastmasters.  A speaker going-it-alone will not likely achieve their potential.

2.  Warm up before you perform.  The gymnasts warmed up in each of the event areas taking a total of 90 minutes.  In addition, they spent time stretching before the formal 90-minute official warm-ups began.  As a speaker, it’s critical that you warm up your voice and body before taking the platform.  If you don’t warm up before you take the stage, you’ll warm up in front of the audience.

3.  Visualize your success.  Many of the gymnasts went through a mental visualization of their routine before approaching the mat.  You could see their mental gears turning and they appeared to be in a trance state.  As a speaker you can visualize your connection with the audience, getting the response to your humor, and the positive response at the end of your talk.  Visualize your success before it happens.  See it, hear it, feel it.

4.  Connect with the audience before you begin.  Before the gymnasts began a routine they made clear contact with the judges.  Eye contact and a raising-the-hand gesture were part of the routine before they started their exercise.  Starting an exercise while the judges had their heads in the score-sheet, while still judging the previous competitor, would be an obvious mistake.  Likewise as a speaker, before you begin speaking, pause a moment to connect with the audience.  Make eye contact.  Receive an acknowledgment from the audience that they’re ready to receive you. 

5.  Support from buddies.  Just as the gymnasts have workout buddies that cheer them on from the sidelines, speakers also can receive support from their speaking buddies.  Humor buddies can help you sharpen your humor and stories as you prepare your speech.  Friends can give you great support when you perform at a comedy club open mike night.  In a speech contest your club members will often be your buddy-system when you compete at an area contest or higher.  Cultivate a network of support buddies and never take them for granted.

6.  Audience energy.  The gymnasts receive energy from the audience.  The audience cheers them on before they start, provides them energy during their routine and gives them an ovation after a job well done.  A speaker receives energy from their audience.  As a speaker, you’re never presenting a monologue.  Every speech is a dialogue.  There is always a two-way conversation with energy flowing both directions.

7.  Ta Dah!  At the end of a great routine, the gymnasts almost always strike a victory pose and soak in the response of the audience.  As a speaker, don’t be in a rush to leave the speaking platform.  Give the audience a chance to express their appreciation with applause and other positive feedback.

8.  Being the best doesn’t mean being the best at everything.  Paul Hamm won the All-Around Championship.  In the six events, he was the best at two.  On one of the events he was ninth best.  As a speaker, you should strive to be as good as you can be in all areas.  But it’s normal that you may be tops in some areas and not others.  You may be terrific with eye contact, but less accomplished in physical energy and gestures.  You may be great in humor but not quite as good as a story teller.  Know your strengths and weaknesses.  And work on keeping strong skills in all areas.  But remember that you can be one of the best speakers without being the best at everything.  Professionalism doesn’t require perfection.

9.  There is always room for growth.  On rare occasions, a top gymnast may receive a perfect score.  I don’t know if a perfect score has ever been attained on all events in a competition.  Probably not.  There is always room for growth.  As a speaker, if you complete your most awesome speech you’ve ever given or win a high-level contest, just think of it as a new platform for jumping toward your next, even greater challenge.

10.  The value of competition.  The gymnasts are inspired and challenged by entering competitions.  It’s not the same as practicing in the home-town gym.  They’re pushed to be their best.  Toastmaster speech contests are also a great challenge to reach new levels of excellence.  A contest is less about winning than it is about growth.

Writing A Joke — Humor Contest

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Quirky Clothing Contest 

 Your challenge this month is to connect individuals or groups of people to items of clothing.

You can search for things they have in common.  Or look for things they do not have in common.

 Start with groups or occupations.  Or start with clothing items and work the other direction.

 Another approach is to start with funny sounding group or clothing names.

Here are some examples:

Boxers like belts and socks…but boxers never wear briefs.
Firemen don’t like blazers or smoking jackets.
Longshoremen wear Dockers.

Put on your humor hat and go to work.  Submit your best lines to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by February 27.

Joke Contest — Favorite Foods

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Here are the winners from our Favorite Foods Contest. 

We had lots of great submissions this month.

We announce new Joke Contests mid-month.

Our Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month.

And now for our top lines:

**FIRST PLACE**

Polygraph test administrators like Whoppers.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA.

**SECOND PLACE**

Interrogation officers like grilled sandwiches
     Arun Ramkumar, Chennai, India.

**THIRD PLACE**

Spyware programmers like cookies.
     Mike Truland, Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

Windows users are learning to like apples.
Contortionists like pretzels.  
Workers like Paydays.
Astronomers like Milky Way bars.
Eskimos prefer Snow Cones.
Brothers of grooms at wedding receptions in Paris make French Toasts.
Veterinarians like Hush Puppies.
Men of the cloth prefer Angel Food Cake.
Military personnel strive for scrambled eggs on their hats.
Shoemakers love cobbler.
Smokers wish they loved cold turkey.
Jewelers love carrots.
Rock N Rollers love Meatloaf.
Mathematicians love pie.
Lumberjacks love chops.
Drummers love beets.
Numismatics love penne and mints.
Truck drivers love Big Macs.
Fishermen love Whoppers.
Safe robbers love crackers.
Eskimoes love chili.
Limo drivers love rolls.
Poker players love chips.
Lawyers like tortes.
Carpenters like pound cake.
Twister players like pretzels.
Liberals like leftovers.
People in small houses like cottage cheese.
Humorists like wry bread.
Mr Royce likes rolls.
John Wayne likes True Grits.
Major league baseball hitters like batter.
Vacillating people like waffles.
Pacifists like peace and carrots.
Romans likes Caesar salad.
English teachers like alphabet soup.
Television performers like couch potatoes.
Sailors like Submarine sandwiches.
Crime fighters like Hero sandwiches.
Doctors dont like apples…they’re bad for business.
Electricians can’t resist Currants.
Cartoonists love Peanuts.
Racers like fast food.
Recovering alcoholics hate cold turkey.
Colonels love chickens.
Gamblers love big steaks.
Hunters like poached eggs.
Encrypters like scrambled eggs.
Newyorkers love big apples.
Stage actors love Ham.
Gardeners love Gummi worms.
Sky divers hate summer squash.
Pet Shop owners love Hushed Puppies.
State police love expresso.
Cheney hunting buddies better like duck.
Singles love dates.
Santa must have a jelly belly.
Bankers like lots of bread.
Herb loves Rosemary.
Big carrots are a girl’s best friend.
Burger King loves Dairy Queen and they live in a White Castle.
Priests have a prayer for lettuce.
Golfers like tea time.
Girl Scouts have grown out of brownies.
TV writers would like a popular cereal.
The sound effects crew eats up canned food.
Boy Scouts like Thai Food…KNOT!
Comedians love cracked crab.
Seismologists love Milk Shakes.
Government spies love tap water.
Train drivers like Subway.
Professors like Teacher’s whiskey.
Train conductors like sardines.
Door to door salesmen love Ding Dongs.
Psychologists love Nutter Butters.
Superstitious people love Lucky Charms.
Magicians love Trix.
The Judges favorite was Life.
Female wresters love Jello.
Jugglers avoid Butterfingers.
Cowgirls love Jolly Ranchers.
Pop stars love Poptarts.
Masochists desire a good Dream Whip.
Pick pockets prefer finger foods.
Playboys love fresh tarts.
DA’s love dishing out just desserts.
Teachers love smarties and don’t like Dum Dums.
TV addicts love cereals.
Comedians enjoy a good Roast.
Boxers love battered opponents.
Swimmers love lifesavers.
Hipsters love a square meal.
Midwives love a meal that’s home delivered.
Bus drivers love a Double Decker.
Karate Masters love their chops.
Mensa members love brains.
Politicians gag on humble pie.
Bad Spellers Love W&Ws.
Climbers love a Mountain Bar.
Charlie Brown loves York’s Peppermint Patty.
Swimmers love a dip.
Legislators like pork.
Computer hackers like cookies, and love sharing them with unsuspecting people.
Chess players like Chex cereal.
Cowboys like Trail Mix.
Everyone on Gilligan’s Island liked Ginger.
Weightlifters like beefcake and mussels.
Amateur radio operators like ham.
Physicists into the laws of motion like fig newtons.
Auto mechanics like V8 juice.
Bolsheviks didn’t like White Russians.
Dracula likes to have a Bloody Mary.
On their days off bakers don’t like bacon.

More On The Superbowl Ads

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Lightening Bug in the UK sends us this question:
“What would you say is the difference in consumer response rates between ‘straight’ ads and humorous ones?”

There isn’t a black-and-white answer.  It would take a measured study to get a scientific answer.  Sometimes a humorous ad won’t out-pull a non-humorous ad.  There are always some non-humorous ads near the top of the polls after a Super Bowl game is over.  But here are some observations.

1.  Ads that attract interest will be more successful than ones that don’t.  When an ad makes people laugh, they’re more likely to pay attention to it.  Humor definitely attracts interest in this MTV/entertain-me world.  The most successful non-humorous ads are the ones that touch the emotions.  People want to be moved one way or the other.

2.  Viral ads are a plus.  People are more likely to tell others about the ad.  You can’t beat word-of-mouth to bump up the effectiveness of an ad.  Great humor ads create a buzz…and we see it happen on the Super Bowl.

3.  Memorable ads are more effective.  A high-quality humor ad is hard to forget.  I remember ads from  previous years.

4.  Generally speaking, humor increases trust and decreases skepticism.  Both are good factors when it comes to sales.  Even if the humor doesn’t directly sell the product, people like to do business with people and companies who have a sense of humor.

5.  Humor can be risky.  If the humor mis-fires, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.  To work well, the humor must be high-quality and tailored to your target audience.

6.  Many other factors come into play.  Humor may be great, but the product being sold also must stand out and be memorable.  Sometimes the humor totally smothers the advertising message, and that would have a negative impact.  I’ve frequently watched a funny ad, and when it was over I couldn’t answer the question, “What were they advertising?”

Humor and The 2008 Super Bowl Ads

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Public speakers can learn valuable lessons from watching the Super Bowl.

Humor Sells.  Advertisers sponsoring the dozens of ads must know something.  They’re spending $2,700,000 for a 30-second ad.  Two-thirds of the ads featured humor as the main hook.  Humor must sell.

Humor Creates Buzz.  Super Bowl ads have gained the reputation of being one of THE things to watch during the game!  Some people take their bathroom breaks during the game so they don’t miss the commercials.  The network even pointed you to a website where you could watch the commercials again or send your friends. 

Using the Topper.  Several of the commercials used the technique of adding a topper line, one final punchline, just when you thought it was over…another laugh line.  A good technique which keeps people watching.  In the list of best humor commercials below, the most notable topper ads are indicated in CAPS.

The Host Network Uses Humor Too.  Fox used humor in their commercials to promote their shows and tied them into the Super Bowl theme:  Prison Break, House (not included on the website summary), American Idol, Moment of Truth.

The Audience Feeds You Energy.  When speaking, the audience sends positive energy to you.  Note that the half-time entertainment which featured Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers brought hundreds (thousands?) of fans onto the field to stand in front of the stage, waving their arms in the air and singing.  It increased the audience connection of the performers many-fold.  An empty field in front of the stage would have been an energy draining void.  Never underestimate the power of the audience to energize your talks.

Top Humor Commercials On The 2008 Super Bowl:
1.  BUD LIGHT FIRE (1st quarter)  My favorite ad.
2.  Tide To Go (2nd quarter)  Bizarre, but I liked it.
3.  BUD LIGHT FLYING (3rd quarter)  Same joke theme as the Bud Light Fire commercial.
4.  BUD LIGHT ACCENTS (2nd quarter)  Used a running gag from one of last year’s top commercials.
5.  Planters Nuts (2nd quarter)
6.  Vitamin Water (3rd quarter)
7.  BUD LIGHT CAVEMEN (3rd quarter)
8.  ETrade Baby (3rd  quarter)
9.  Diet Pepsi Max (1st quarter)
10. Bridgestone squirrel (1st quarter)
11. Fed Ex (2nd quarter)
12. Toyota Corolla (2nd quarter)
13. GARMIN (2nd quarter)
14. Sobe (2nd quarter)
15. PEPSI STUFF (2nd quarter)
16. Etrade Balloon (4th quarter)

Related Posts:
Analysis of 2007 Super Bowl Ads
More Analysis of 2007 Super Bowl Ads
A Preview of 2007 Superbowl Ads

Super Tuesday — Political Humor — Candidates Going For The Laughs

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Politicians either have the humor touch or they don’t.  But if they don’t have it…they CAN get it.  It’s not that someone has to be born with humor talent.  It’s often a learned skill.  But it can’t be learned overnight.  And a coach or a writer will not make you the star jester of the political circuit with some tips and some lines.

Those of us who are not on the campaign trail can learn a lot from those who are.  As business leaders, sales people, supervisors and just ordinary people dealing with a variety of personal relationships…humor is a key success tool.  The basic principles that will work for a politician will quite likely work for us too.

Start Early.  The earlier you start working on your humor skills, the better you’ll be.  Hopefully a politician started to seriously work on his or her humor skills when they ran for city council 25 years ago.  As a speaker, I’m better at humor than most.  And that’s because, compared to some of them, I have a 30-year head start.  I began a committed study of humor in 1977.  If you haven’t made that commitment, there’s no better time to make it than NOW.  And just about anyone can learn to be funnier.

Humor To Relieve Stress.  Stressful situations are often ripe for humor.  Wit came naturally to Ronald Reagan. After he was shot on March 30, 1981, he said, “Honey, I forgot to duck,” when he saw his wife Nancy in the hospital.  That hit me as a flashback to one of his roles in a cowboy movie where the gun slingers duck to avoid the bullets.  And to the surgeon, Reagan quipped, ” I hope you’re a Republican.”  He didn’t have a speech writer handing him a fresh joke.  It was his nature. 

Little Laughs Are Good.  You can’t always hit a home run with your humor.  A little humor is better than none.  Rudy Giuliani, at a speech in Tampa, Florida, on December 15, talked about simplifying the tax code.  “We’re going to develop a single page, one-page optional tax form. How about being able to do it all on one page? Wouldn’t that be great?  Ok. The print may be a little small.”  Not a belly laugh…but funny.  Hillary Clinton at a stop on her 99-county tour of Iowa, remarked that her staff was referring to her helicopter as a “Hill-A-Copter.”  Not knee-slapping funny.  But cute. On NBC’s Today Show, December 19, After discussing religion and politics, Meridith Vieire said to Mike Huckabee, “I know you are a very, very busy man. I thank you for your time. And you know what? Merry Christmas, sir.”  Huckabee replied, “And Merry Christmas. I hope it doesn’t get me in trouble.”  Little laughs add up.

Humor Show That You Are a Real Person.  Someone who can laugh at himself or herself comes across as genuine.  Hillary Clinton ran a Sopranos spoof campaign ad that was a change of pace.

Diffuse Attacks and Negative Issues.  Ronald Reagan is famous for his classic one liner to set aside the age issue during a debate with Walter Mondale.  “I will not make age an issue in this campaign.  I will not exploit, for political purposes, my opponents youth and inexperience.”  Gerald Ford is a great example of someone who was the target of a lot of humor but who was not, himself, a funny person.  He used humor very strategically to diffuse the humor about his apparent clumsiness.  Another good example of a not-so-funny president is George Bush doing a great job as a stand-up comic at the national press dinner in Washington.  The lesson learned, if someone is going to make fun of you, beat them to the punch and poke fun at yourself first.

Be Willing to Laugh.  It’s not always easy to find and deliver great punchlines while maintaining a presidential-like dignity.  An alternative is to keep your sense of humor and be willing to laugh out loud at funny things other people say.  Hillary Clinton reacted to Harry Smith on CBS The Early Show, December 17, when he mentioned that she had turned 60 and added “sorry.”  Clinton laughed and said “Stop the cameras!”  Most candidates are pretty good at laughing out loud.  The question is, how do you look and sound when you laugh?  Be open to feedback from your coaches and advisors.  If you laugh like a chipmunk or snort like a pig, wouldn’t it be nice to know?

Less Is More.  Don’t be too eager to be funny or you’re likely to shoot your self in the foot.  And be aware that you may often be within range of a microphone when you least expect it.  Ronald Reagan, one of our most humor-skilled presidents, got caught not realizing he was actually speaking into a hot mike when he said:  “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”  Select the right moment.  And know that you’re never off camera or off the record.