Archive for March, 2008

How To Read Our Newsletter and Blog

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Here is some information on how we put together our Newsletter and Blog posts.  It will help you scan them to find information that is of interest to you.

If you’re a regular reader of the Blog, nearly all the links in the Newsletter are to Blog posts since the previous issue of the Newsletter.  As a Blog reader, what IS new for you in the Newsletter is the feature article provided in the Newsletter text (not a link).  Each featured article averages about 1000 words.  If you were a Blog reader and NOT a newsletter subscriber, you would miss 24 featured articles each year.

If you’re primarily a Newsletter reader and read the Blog posts only through the Newsletter links, the Newsletter allows you to quickly skim and click only on articles of interest.  For example, if you’re only interested in joke contest results…the links are clearly marked and you can quickly find them and skip everything else. 

The articles written for the Newsletter have not previously appeared in the Blog.  After one year, I occasionally review and update some of the Newsletter articles and post them to the Blog for the first time.  The Newsletter subscribers get the information first.  However, most of the Blog posts are first-time articles which have not been previously posted anywhere else and are available to Newsletter readers in the form of links, two weeks after their publication.

Click here to subscribe to the Newsletter

Thanks to all our subscribers.  We appreciate your interest in humor and the kind notes you send our way.  Be sure to let us know if there is anything you’re not seeing that you would enjoy reading about. 

One More Funny Pirate Caption

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Okay, now open up and say “aaaarrrrggghhhhh”…

It’s a funny line.  And I meant to include it in the Honorable Mention list.

I also indended to include an explanation with the results post.  And I forgot.  We normally get an average of 400-500 submissions.  And surprisingly, we rarely have duplicates.  In a normal contest we might have one line duplicated in all the entries.  In the pirate contest, over 20 people submitted jokes with “say arrrrrrgh” as the punchline.  Good writing.  I like the line.  The problem with recognizing the line with so many duplications is that when you publish it as a top-three line, 20 other people are thinking “hey, that was MY line!”  Or, as an Honorable Mention, they’re thinking, “there’s my line, but they changed the words a little.”  A second consideration; with so many people submitting the line, it was considered by the judges to be too obvious.  In my opinion, however, it’s good writing and is funny.  I had intended to publish one of the variations as an Honorable Mention with an explanation.  Arrrrrrrgh!

The full results post immediately follows this post.

Writing Humor — Creative Caption Contest

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Here are the results of the Pirate Cartoon Caption Contest featuring the artwork of Dan Rosandich.

There were lots of great lines, making the judging difficult.  Congratulations to the winners.

Our next caption contest will be announced on April 1.

And mid-month, our next Joke Writing Contest will be announced on April 15.

Here are the top lines:


You have lost a leg, a hand and an eye… and you want to know if this will hurt?
     Tim Dumas, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA


So, what do you do for a living?
     Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia


How long have you worked for Disney?
     Cindy Tebo, Catawissa, Missouri, USA
HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

You picked a bad day to be Johnny Depp’s stand in.
Since I quit caffeine I haven’t had to hand out any more eye patches.
One more gold filling and the buried treasure will be in your mouth!
Novocain, gas or rum?
I’m lucky…I can put my hook down before rubbing my eyes.
You make me suffer from hook envy.
Want to hook up later?
One tooth can be saved, but the other two must walk the plank.
Painless dentistry…ha! That’s for gentleman pirates!
They say size doesn’t matter, but your hook IS bigger than mine.
Spit your teeth out and open wide.
How often do you floss your tooth?
Say, I bet you have a mean right hook!
I know you get lonely at sea, but please remove your hand from my leg before I hurt you.
Buccaneering, gunrunning and plundering…I tried them all but the money wasn’t as good as dentistry.
Well if you can’t pay…the next best thing I can do is give you some pain medication and a set of Billy Bob teeth.
Well, I’ve never had anybody ask if they could have this hook, but if it reminds you so much of the one you had as a baby, I guess I could make an exception!

Check out the web site of Dan Rosandich for ideas on adding great cartoons to your next writing project!

Storytelling and Public Speaking

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Internationally-known Story Coach Doug Stevenson has posted a video on YouTube which brings to life 9 steps from his Story Theater Method.  The video is fun and instructional and it’s less than 10 minutes in length.  It illustrates creating a story that is a movie in the minds of the listeners.  You’ll enjoy it.

Here are the 9 Steps.

Step 1:  Set the scene.
Step 2:  Introduce the characters.
Step 3:  Begin the journey.
Step 4:  Encounter the obstacle.
Step 5:  Overcome the obstacle.
Step 6:  Resolve the story.
Step 7:  Make the point.
Step 8:  Ask the question.
Step 9:  Repeat the point.

Here’s the link to the video.

Check out Doug’s website for more information on the Story Theater Method.

Observational Humor — Case Study #21

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

This is a review of an Observational Humor monologue presented at an NSA meeting featuring guest speaker Aldonna Adler.

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

1.  Aldonna mentioned that many speakers caught the flu at a recent NSA Speaker Palooza meeting two weeks earlier.  She said that’s why she might not be as perky as expected (she’s a very energetic speaker).

2.  An inside joke at my chapter is that I look like Mr Rogers.  (Not really…but my soft-spoken style is similar to his.)

3.  It was mentioned that all speakers can, at times, be “vanilla.”  Gaye joked that even she (an African American) could be Vanilla.

4.  Aldonna asked:  “Does anybody else get a rush when they cross a task off their Task List?

5.  During a break, the men noticed that the men’s room was filled with Santas.  They were having conference down the hall.

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7.  Twice during the meeting Aldonna referred to PPP twice (Previously Poor Person AND Patient Partnership Program).

8.  A question was asked:  “What does divorce cost?”  And it received a big laugh.

9.  It was noted that when people appear not to like us, it’s just that they’re preoccupied.

10.  It was noted that doing a teleseminar is like speaking to a group of people in their shorts.

11.  Someone said that there was a business selling PhDs for $125.


I attended Speaker Palooza two weeks ago.  Which may explain why I’m not as perky as you expected.
(This call back worked because I linked it to my low-key style.  A bit of self-deprecation.)

Like you expect perky from Mr Rogers.
(A call back to an inside joke.  Again poking fun at myself.)

I’m perky and Gaye Freedman is vanilla.
(A good connection.  A good call back.  A good laugh.)

(crossing off joke on my notepad)  Does anybody else get a rush when they cross a joke off their list?
(I was surprised that the action of crossing off the joke got a good laugh.  That was probably due to the effect of Riding-The-Wave.  They were already laughing at nearly everything I said.  The spoken line turned out to actually be a topper.)

What an unusual day.  I walked into a men’s room filled with Santas.  I wandered down the hall to see what kind of sessions they had at their conference. 
  – Elf Management
  – Ho Ho 101
  – I’m OK…You’re a Brat
(The Santas provided a VEHICLE for creating a list.)

I spoke to the US District Court in Des Moines a few months ago.  This is my lawsuit.
(This got a laugh, but was used primarily as a set-up for the following two jokes.)

That was a PPP.  A Pretty Painful Pun.
(A call back.  Worked well.)

I learned today that I in my suit I’m good looking, sophisticated and professional.  What concerns me is, what does that say about me when I’m NOT wearing a suit?
(Self-deprecation.  A good laugh.)

The program today was great.  I learned what’s funny and what’s not.  And I learned a lot about audiences.  Today’s funniest line was:  “What does divorce cost?”
(An observation.  A chance for the audience to laugh at themselves.  A good laugh.)

And I learned that if people don’t laugh at my jokes…it’s because they’re preoccupied!
(A call back.  A good laugh.)

When we put today’s workshop into action…in three months we’ll be speaking to guys in their shorts.  I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight.  And as soon at morning comes, I’ll jump on the phone and order my $125 PhD.
(Nicely wrapped up the monologue with “here’s what I’ll get out of today’s program.”)

Writing A Joke — Creative Humor Writing Contest

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Here’s the theme of this month’s contest:  What if we filled traditional jobs with non-traditional people?

Here are a few examples:

Astronomer — Hire a space alien.  At least it might know when a planet is a planet.

Time Management Expert — Hire a well-dressed nun.  It’s all about having good habits.

President of the United States — Elect a baby.  When he or she makes a mess everyone thinks it’s cute.

Look for your own connections.  You can start with a job and search for the unusual person to hire.  Or you can start with a type of person and look for a unique job to put them in. 

Submit your best lines to by March 29, 2008.

Personal Growth — Speaking Skills

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Oh no!!!  Not another observational humor monologue!

I realize that few readers have an interest in writing observational humor monologues.  And I also realize that because of the You-Had-To-Be-There factor, reading a transcript of a monologue from an event that you did not attend probably doesn’t make you laugh.  So why do I publish them?

Writing about creating and using humor can easily result in something that looks and sounds like a lecture.  Nothing but theory becomes an exercise in mental gymnastics.  It’s not especially interesting and it’s difficult to link the theory to real-life examples.  You’ve probably heard the E.B. White quote, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”

So the question becomes, “how to teach and learn humor without feeling like you’re in a lecture hall?”  I use observational humor monologues as a teaching tool.  Hopefully it’s a vehicle which brings humor techniques to life with real-world examples of humor in action.

My improv troupe had a workshop last week.  Ten of us met to practice the principles of good improv comedy.  Nobody in the group has a dream of becoming a main-stage player at Second City or being discovered by Saturday Night Live.  Most people take improv classes because they are fun, because they teach skills which apply to success in life, and because they help people become better public speakers.  It’s not about the improv…it’s so much more than that.

Likewise, members of a Toastmasters Club did not join because they intend to become a professional speaker.  They join for the fun and to gain some skills that will make them more productive and competitive in the workplace.  It’s not primarily about public speaking, it’s about leadership, growth, and personal communication.

Within a Toastmasters Club, members have the opportunity to compete in several contests every year.  It’s not about the contests, it’s not about winning.  People participate in the contests to improve their skills. 

You don’t enter a Cartoon Caption Contest or a Joke Contest with the intent of becoming a professional writer.  You most likely do it to sharpen your creative skills.  Maybe you do it just to have fun.

People don’t go to the gym to become a body builder.  They go to the gym simply to be in a little better shape than they are today.

So it is with studying Observational Humor Monologues.  It’s not about creating the monologue.  It’s about discovering the Ah-Ha’s which help you make the connections needed to create your own fresh humor.  It’s about the possibility of closing a PTA meeting with just one observational humor line.  It’s about brightening a staff meeting with just one small quip which you create out of nothing.  It’s about relaxing a prospect at a sales presentation because you can react naturally with humor, even if it’s only once.  It’s about opening a speech with just one observational humor line.  It’s about becoming better at using humor…just a little bit.  Studying Observational Humor Monologues, you slowly begin to see how humor connections are made.  One step at a time.  We grow in baby steps.  And the exciting thing is…the better you get…the faster you get better.

So remember, it’s not about the monologue.  It’s about something much more important…you and your skills.

Creative Humor Writing — Joke Contest Results

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Here are the results for our most recent Joke Contest:  Quirky Clothing.

The next contest will be announced on March 15.

Our next Cartoon Caption Contest will be announced on April 1, no fooling.

Now for the top lines of the Quirky Clothing joke writing contest:


School principals love suspenders.
     Arun Ramkumar, Chennai, India


Journalists prefer permanent press.
     Andy Dolphin, Mount Barker, Western Australia


High-rise construction workers never wear low-rise jeans.
      Randy Hunt, Chicago, Illinois, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

Pole vaulters love their jumpers
UK policeman wouldn’t be without their bobby socks.
Lady service station attendants don pumps.
Lady furriers wear mules.
Lady apartment leaseholders wear flats.
Rock and roll fans love blue suede shoes.
All families love ties.
Alcoholics love cocktail dresses.
Strippers love their birthday suits.
Archers love bow-ties.
Geneticists love Jeans.
Jockeys love, well…jockeys
Karate fighters love black belts.
Pirates love silver Long Johns.
Coffee drinkers don’t like T-shirts.
Cyclists love pedal pushers.
Policemen don’t like hoods.
Border security police don’t like breeches.
Pool players like clothes with pockets.
Fitness trainers like sweaters.
Fire eaters like hot pants.
G-men wear V-neck T-shirts.
Sir Galahad wore a nightshirt.
Herpetologists wear boas.
Talk show hosts like wraps.
Shady salesmen like fleeces.
Electricians are comfortable in Shorts.
Audiologists don’t like earrings.
Employees like to be vested.
Computer users boot up every morning.
Gardeners hate to snag their hose.
Bridge builders like suspenders.
Gamblers love purses.
Musicians like headbands.
Poker players like straight jackets.
Railroad builders like ties.
Apologetic people like saris.
Hungry people like scarfs.
Plumbers like clogs.
Cooks like stovepipe hats.
Canal builders like Panama hats.
The Loch Ness monster has 10 Ness shoes.
Sweat shop executives wear sweat suits.
Lawyers carry their briefs and wear lawsuits.
Dr Spock wants mothers to go strapless.
PI’s wear sneakers.
Insurance claims adjusters don’t like slips.
General Patton slipped into tank tops.
A true champion never wears ties.
Baby boomers now wear Grannie bloomers.
Painters often put on an extra coat.
Australians wear down underwear.
Alcoholics love a good belt.
Masochists love a sock or two.
Nobody looks snappy dressed in a nappy.
Attorneys wear legal briefs.
People with barking dogs wear hush puppies.
Ditch diggers wear trench coats.
People who are always exhausted wear fatigues.
Diligent people never wear loafers, but bakers do.
Do not wear slippers on freshly waxed floor.
Garment workers don suspenders and brace themselves with a stiff belt whenever company negotiators flip-flop, skirt the issue, hem and haw and talk through their hats.

Country Western Humor

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Here’s a funny Country-Western song bit by Aaron Wilburn.  It’s called: If My Nose Was Running Money.  I think you’ll enjoy it. 

It’s a good example of creating humor using the double meaning of words.

How To Be Funny — Public Speaking

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

What Makes You Funny?

Does it help to look funny when presenting humor from the platform?Yes.  But the good news is that if you don’t look funny, that can help you deliver your humor too!

1.  Physical appearance.  If you look funny, that’s a plus when it comes to delivering humor.  Jay Leno has this going for him. Compared to Dave Letterman, Leno is a funny looking guy with a caricature-like and almost cartoonish face.  If you have a large nose, high forehead, ears that stick out, or some other characteristic that makes you look different from the norm, you have the possibility of bringing a smile to someone’s face before you say or do anything.

2.  Props.  You can alter your physical appearance by what you
wear, your makeup, and your props.  Lucille Ball, already gifted
with a funny look (don’t equate funny-looking with not-attractive),
accentuated her humor appeal with makeup which made her eyes look
even larger than they were.  Clowns are a great example of apparel,
makeup and props to create the funny look.  Some improv troupes
depend to a certain extent on apparel and props to generate laughs.
The players wear off-beat outfits and they use wigs and other props
to enhance their stage work.  My improv troupe makes an artistic
choice to be prop-neutral and clothing-neutral.  We wear totally black outfits.  This choice challenges us to make the strength of our performance depend on our fundamental improv skills.  This is the same choice we make when we always keep our material clean.  Props and blue material might both get laughs, maybe even more laughs, but we deliberately choose not to use them. It forces us to be better.

3.  Your reputation.  Most good humor presenters have this element
working for them.  A classic example is Bob Hope.  The band would
hit his theme song, “Thanks For The Memories,” and as Bob would
walk onstage the laughter would begin without him doing or saying
anything.  His reputation preceded him.  And by the way, he had
physical looks which were funny too.  Think of your favorite comic.
The audience also probably laughs at him or her just watching the
person take the stage.  You can LOOK funny because they EXPECT you to be funny.  Your positive track record gives you an edge.  This
advantage will help you get stronger laughs with weaker, lines than
someone who is totally unknown to an audience.  This is a plus I have working for me in my local Toastmasters club.  People expect me to be funny based on my past performance.  Know when you have this working for you and let it give you confidence.

4.  Your actions.  Your mannerisms, gestures and pacing can also
make you look funny.  Many humorous speakers depend primarily on
this factor to help them look funny.  Facial expression and the use
of the pause are the two most important delivery elements that give
you an advantage on the platform.  Some coaches recommend that being BIG with your voice and movement is the key to getting laughs.  But if that isn’t you, and being genuinely you is critical, you can apply the rule of less-is-more.  I’ve found that what you DON’T do can get laughs.  I’m in the contest cycle for Tall Tales in Toastmasters. In my speech I say the most off-the-wall things with a totally straight face.  It works perfectly.  Nothing big.  Huge laughs.  Identify your own style and use it to your advantage.

5.  The non-funny look.  This is also a plus.  Humor primarily
works because of relationships, connections and lack of those
elements.  Therefore if you ARE funny, having mastered both
structural content and delivery techniques, the fact that you don’t
look funny is a plus.  In fact, it’s a significant advantage, just
as looking funny is as significant advantage.  How wonderful.  You
win either way.  I have this element working for me when I speak to a group who doesn’t know me.  They’re thinking, “this guy doesn’t LOOK funny.”  And the pleasant surprise comes when I am funny.  It magnifies the humor.

6.  Me and You.  Where do we fit into this equation?  I don’t look
particularly funny.  Think: Generic guy-next-door.  Think: Mr
Rogers.  Check out my web site ( if you don’t
believe me. (Don’t equate not-funny-looking with not-attractive.)
I don’t especially rely on props.  Occasionally I’ll wear a subtle
Mickey Mouse necktie, but nothing over-the-top to get a laugh.  My
reputation works for me in the local area.  As a minor-celebrity,
not famous mind you, many of my audiences expect me to be funny and behave in a way that ensures they will not be disappointed.  This
may happen to you, for example, in staff meetings at work or at
Toastmasters meetings, if you are consistently funny.  My physical
delivery work for me.  After twenty-five years of studying humor,
I’ve become an overnight success in doing the right things, from a
delivery standpoint, to make me look funny.  The skills are pretty
much internalized and come almost automatically.  And the non-funny
look is definitely an asset when I need to win over an audience
of strangers.  I’ve often had the comment, “Looking at you before
the talk I had a hard time believing you could be funny.”  This
magnifies the effectiveness of my humor. Your set of skills and
assets will be different.  That is neither good or bad.  But used
well, your skills and assets are a plus for you too.

7. An evaluation.  Run through paragraphs one through five and
analyze where your strengths are.  Is there anything you can do to
tap into any of the areas to strengthen your skills at winning the
laughter?  Can you look funnier?  Can you add more punch to your
delivery?  If you don’t look funny, can you develop a dead-pan
skill to take advantage of this trait?  As you become better at
humor, your reputation will start to give you an edge with
audiences which have already been treated to your humor. 

8.  Be funny.  Have fun.