Archive for April, 2008

Creating Humor — Cartoon Caption Contest Results

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Here are the top captions from our Bug Court Cartoon Caption Contest.

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

Our next Joke Writing Contest is announced on May 15.

Our featured cartoonist is Dan Rosandich.  Visit his web site,, for great cartoons and information on creating custom artwork for your next book, newsletter, T-Shirt, or other project.

And here are this month’s top captions:

Bug Court


Your Honor, you must find my client innocent of the flower shop theft charge. Anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant.
     Derek Bly, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada


I object, your Honor.  I’m a litterbug!  What was I supposed to do?
     Randy Hunt, Chicago, Illinois, USA

** THIRD PLACE (tie) **

For my first witness I call “the fly upon the wall.”
     Andy Dolphin, Mount Barker, Western Australia

**THIRD PLACE (tie) **

Then along came a spider…
     Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

– If I had wings I’d take my case to the high court!
– I oppose bail on the basis that Mr Moth poses a flight risk.
– Mister Centipede was at least one hundred feet away when the crime took place.
– I’m not nervous…I’m a Jitterbug.
– On one hand he looks guilty, on the other hand it’s circumstantial, on the 3rd hand he wasn’t there, and on the 4th hand…
– A little mercy your honor, I have a wife and 4,000 kids to feed.
– Are you kidding?  5 days in jail is a life sentence!
– Yes! I was a witness. The sky darkened and then a giant shoe…
– I will show the jury how the victim was simply enjoying some breakfast when he was struck with a rolled-up newspaper.
– Makeup will do you no good!   This show’s gotta air tonight!  And where’s Judge Judy?
– Your Honor, my client and I do not consider a bunch of Dung Beetles, Black Widow Spiders and Stink Bugs a jury of our peers!
– Beetle Bailey is appearing in this court under false pretenses.
– I am petitioning the court to put a bug in the house.
– Your Honor, I would like to submit this document as exhibit A but I am afraid that it is fly paper and I can’t get loose.
– 98,676 witnesses at the colony can’t all be wrong.
– Mr and Mrs Mantis were married; therefore his death was a joint venture agreement.
– The court will see, the defendants only crime was to respond to natural urges.
– Since Greg the grub’s metamorphism, he has failed to be identified in any line up.
– It’s not a fair jury; seven of the twelve are gardeners!
– If the glove is snug it must be a bug!
– Your Honor, the accused is charged with a heinous act of insecticide.
– We need an adjournment; three members of the jury are building cocoons.
– My client pleads for leniency…it’s not easy being a centipede with a shoe fetish!
– What is the sentence?  12 days of jail!  Couldn’t you just outright say ‘twice the lifetime’?

Observational Humor — Case Study #22

Friday, April 25th, 2008

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

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

1.  The impromptu segment of the meeting (called Table Topics) featured food products, mostly canned and boxed items from Trader Joes.  The person delivering the off-the-cuff talk was asked to create a commercial for the item.

2.  A speaker talked about profiling customers.  A mention was made about “adult children of alcoholics.”

3.  A speaker talked about the many hats we wear as small business persons; sales, accounting, supply, janitorial, etc.

4.  A speaker mentioned his web site.  “When you type it in, no hyphens, slashes or underscoring.”

5.  Someone joked that we were fishing for new club members using fish hooks.

6.  Our club is about an hour’s drive from Pahrump, one of the cities in Nevada where brothels are legal.

7.  A speaker confessed she had a stack of unread books which was so high that she couldn’t jump over them.  She suggested that a way to catch up on your reading was to get up one hour earlier each morning.

8.  A speaker mentioned Mr Drysdale, the banker on The Beverly Hillbillies TV show from the 1960s.

9.  The week before the meeting I competed in a Tall Tales competition where I gave a speech claiming I was a space alien.


Today’s Observational Humor session is brought to you by Trader Joe’s.
(It was obvious that they were really NOT the sponsor.  A funny callback.)

We’ve completed a profile of the type of people who do Observational Humor.  They have offspring who are the adult children of alcoholics.
(The logic structure of the punchline concerned me.  I wasn’t sure people would get the joke.  But it worked immediately.  Right after delivering it, I did a take, a facial expression indicating that I wasn’t really sure what I just said.  It was a subtle self-deprecation joke.)

I am an Observational Humorist, a speaker and a janitor.  My web site is  That’s with a hyphen, a slash, and an underline.
(The web site line works because it contrasts the simplicity of the web site name, Humor Power, with the made-up complexity of the punctuation.)

It was suggested that we use a fish hook to get new members.  There is a club in Pahrump that does that.  Not only that, they use a large hook when someone speaks overtime.  They’re called The Hookers Toastmasters Club.
(Since I was speaking to locals, they were familiar with the Brothels of Pahrump.  The line worked well.)

I have to admit, I also have a stack of unread books which is so high I can’t jump over them.  As I see it, I have two options.  Either I get up an hour earlier each morning.  OR I learn to jump higher.  I think I’ll choose to sleep in.
(The line received a big laugh.  The topper got another laugh.)

Someone mentioned Mr Drysdale on the Beverly Hillbillies.  Does anyone remember the name of his secretary?  Yes, Jane Hathaway.  I think we’re getting old.  Does anyone remember Klaatu Barada Nikto?  Yes, it’s from The Day The Earth Stood Still, a black and white movie from 1952.  When I saw that movie as a kid, I became fascinated with space aliens.  And now I am one.
(This joke involved a long set up, but involved the audience and flattered those with a good memory.  The final punch line made the connection with my Tall Tales speech.)

PowerPoint and Humor

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Here’s a brief tip for using humor photos or cartoons with PowerPoint slides:

During your presentation, which should come first? 
  – The spoken word?
  – The written word?
  – The image or picture?

In the spirit of Good Humor, the punchline always goes last.  So ask yourself, “Which element triggers the laugh?”  Is it the written caption for the cartoon?  Is it the spoken aside for the cartoon?  Is it the cartoon itself triggering the laugh because of the spoken or written set-up?  Analyze what specifically causes the laughter, and that element should normally be presented last.

For example, I sometimes include newspaper headlines and Road Sign Photos as part of my programs.  One photo shows a newspaper headline claiming that the police arrested a car filled with naked people.  I pose the question:  “Have you ever seen a freeway exit sign that says: Take off all your clothes before you leave the freeway?”  And then I show the photo of a freeway exit sign in the Las Vegas area that says, “Las Vegas Blvd (Strip)”…  The first graphic (the newspaper headline) sets up the question.  The spoken question sets up the road sign photo.  And the road sign triggers the laugh.  The punchline always goes last.   In this case it’s the photo.

Here are a few PowerPoint resources:

The PowerPoint FAQ
A good list of PowerPoint resources.

PowerPoint Tips
This is a PowerPoint Tips article by Marilyn Snyder.  She is well-known as an expert in PowerPoint presentations.  In the article she shares eleven design tips.

PowerPoint Info web site
On this site, look under the section for “Sources to Locate Images for Use in PowerPoint” for a discussion of Rights Usage Fees, keeping in mind that if you find something in print or online (whether text or image), it IS copyrighted whether or not you see the copyright annotation.  For example, you can’t simply use a cartoon without first getting permission from the owner of the image.  Sites such as is a good example of a site which provides easily-licensed cartoons for your presentations at a reasonable fee.

Improving An Observational Humor Line

Friday, April 18th, 2008

At a recent Toastmasters meeting I commented during an evaluation of a speech that the presenter’s talk was so good that “I wanted to hear more.”  And I noticed that many people were nodding in agreement.  So I added “And I see that many in the audience are nodding in agreement.” 

Later, during the Observational Humor segment of the meeting, one of the observational lines (not my line), was:  “When John gave his evaluation of Steve’s speech, he said people were nodding in agreement.  Well, they weren’t agreeing.”  The line received a solid laugh.  I’m guessing that what was implied, and what was received was:  People were “nodding off,” or falling asleep during my evaluation.  It was an excellent line which I would have used myself; if I had thought of it!

One choice for delivering a punchline is:  Not to state the punchline directly; or rather, to imply the punchline.  If that was the intent of the creator of the line, it seemed to work.  I’m not only guessing at the intent of the writer, I’m guessing at the interpretation of the audience too.

What activates this joke is the double meaning of the word NOD.  It means “agreement” and it means “boredom or sleepiness.”  Since the meanings are almost opposite, it makes for a great set-up for a joke.

The joke is excellent.  Funny.  But let’s look at ways it could be been done differently. 

First, I would have made the punchline crystal clear.  “They weren’t agreeing…they were falling asleep.”  Implying the punchline is terrific if you’re sure that the audience can “fill in the blank.”  But if there is a chance they may misread your punchline, being very direct is usually the best approach.

There can be a problem with being too direct.  Insult humor can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable for either the speaker or the audience.  The speaker or audience may feel that the joke is too much of a roast line.  If the discomfort is on the part of the speaker, it will affect the delivery.  If the discomfort is on the part of the audience, they’ll hesitate to laugh. A legitimate concern. 

Whether or not you use attack humor successfully would depend on your relationship with the audience and your relationship to the person who is the target of the joke.  Also, the relationship of the audience to the target of the joke is an important factor.  If the target of the joke is well known to the group and everyone gets along well AND the target has a good sense of humor…the joke gets a green light.  Go for it.  If the target of the joke is a guest at the meeting, or has a sensitive personality, caution is in order.  In the case of this joke, directly going for the punchline makes sense since I was the target, a long-time member and also the person who introduced Observational Humor to the club.

A way to improve the joke and also soften the attack-nature of the line, would be to have the joke presented by the person who is the target.  It would have been a safer joke (not necessarily funnier) if I would have delivered the punchline (ignoring the fact that the line never crossed my mind!).  That would have made the joke self-deprecating instead of an attack-style, roast-like joke.  That makes the joke safer because it is usually reduces the discomfort level of the audience when a joke is self-targeted at the speaker delivering he joke, instead of an insult zinger from a third party.

In the final analysis, it was a fun joke.  Good humor thinking. Well-delivered.  Good laughter.  Yet it’s fun to examine how even a good line might be improved.

Joke Contest — Creative Humor Writing

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Our joke writing theme for April is Quirky Sports Teams.  This is an exercise for linking words in a creative way.  Often you’re looking for a word with a double meaning to trigger a joke.

We announce a new joke contest each month around the 15th.

Look for our new Cartoon Caption Contest on May 1.

Here are some examples for Quirky Sports Team one liners:

A football team of Chicago nudists — The Chicago Bares
A bicycle club for political advisors — The Spin Cyclists
A running club for cross-dressers — The Drag Racers

Put your thinking cap on and see what you can come up with.  Edit your best lines and then submit them to us at by April 30, 2008.

Speaking Skills — NSA Presentation and Performance Lab

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Here are some highlight keepers from the second and third day of the NSA Presentation and Peformance Lab in Las Vegas, April 11-13, 2008. 

Richard Oberacker, Director of KA, Cirque Du Soleil’s dazzling show at the MGM in Las Vegas, kicked off Saturday morning.

One of the main themes of his presentation and coaching was truth in performance.
     – Everything in performance art comes from truth.
     – If it doesn’t come from truth, the audience will know, and it doesn’t belong in your speech.
     – When speaking, just be yourself.  Remove the obligation to be something else.
     – Take risks.  Don’t be afraid to fail.
     – Allow your audience to enter your program and find their own message.

Patricia Fripp, speaker and master presentation skills coach.
     – Consider every theatrical performance as a learning lesson.  As you sit in the audience, watch other performers (not just speakers) to learn techniques you can adapt to your own presentations.
     – Quoting Ron Arden:  The enemy of the speaker is sameness.
     – Like a movie, in your speech, “grab them right from the beginning.”
     – Transcribe your talk and then edit to elimate the unnecessary words.
     – For another post on Fripp keepers.

Robert Fripp, internationally-famous rock-and-roll guitarist.
     – What ever it is that you do, if you don’t practice it for one hour each day, you aren’t really doing it.
     – Work and surround yourself with better people.
     – Anything within a performance is significant, intentional or not.
     – Everything we are is revealed in our playing.
     – Life is too short to take on the unnecessary.

Dan Maddux, Executive Director, American Payroll Association.
     – Your responsibility is to give an experience ON the platform and OFF the platform as well.
     – Be available before and after your speech.
     – Coordinate the flow of your talk with the IMAG and video crews.
     – Never pass up the opportunity to do a sound and lights check before you speak.
     – You don’t need to be an Audio-Visual technician, but you need to speak the language.

Brian McDonald, Film-Maker, Writer, Story expert.
     – He shared his short-film, Whiteface, a comedy about the problems clowns might face if they were an actual race of people.  Insightful and brilliantly done.  Highly recommended.
     – What can I take away from my talk to strengthen it?  What can I not do?
     – Your job as a storyteller is to be an observer.
     – Stories are not complicated.  They are simple…but difficult to create.
     – Invisible ink is the writing beneath the words.  Most people will never notice it.

D.J. Vanas, Motivational Storyteller, Author, Success Coach.

     – Know your center of gravity, your bottom-line message or point.
     – Don’t re-tell your story.  Re-live it.
     – Stories are meant to be delivered to one person.
     – Hit all the senses.
     – Debrief yourself after every talk.

Victoria Labalme, Theatrical Keynotes and Coaching.
     – Make your spoken word imaginative and more precise.
     – Your body tells the audience what you are thinking.
     – When developing characters in your talk, explore specificity.
     – Don’t force an emotion.  Always come from truth.
     – When you write a speech:  Write it.  Speak it.  Write it.  Speak it.

Scott McKain, All Business is Show Business
     – Some great music is never heard because the presentation is not compelling.
     – Act as if you had a secret.  It adds power to your presentation.
     – What can I do to be distinctive?  If you’re the same as everyone else, you are a commodity.
     – You can’t command respect, you can only attract it.
     – Broadcasters have had more impact by being more intimate; by talking more softly; by pulling back on their gestures; by being quietly confident.

NSA Presentation and Performance Lab Day #1

Upcoming NSA Events:

NSA Branding and Promotion Lab
Cambridge MA
May 2-4, 2008

NSA National Convention
New York City
August 2-5, 2008

NSA Presentation and Performance Lab — Public Speaking

Friday, April 11th, 2008

I’m attending the National Speakers Association (NSA) Presentation and Performance Lab in Las Vegas this weekend.  The first day was terrific.

Keynote speaker and magician Giovanni Livera opened the conference with a powerful program on creating Transformational Experiences for your audience.  He asked the question, “How can I be more astonishing?”  Here are a couple of things he suggested:

The first suggestion:  Create Audience Impact Moments to enhance the “experience” of the audience.  The group brainstormed forty-plus types of experiences a speaker could use to enhance a speech: Humor, Magic, Stories, Props, Music, Sound Effects, Gymnastics, Mime, Cartoons, etc.  You add “texture” to your talk by incorporating a variety of these moments and not relying on a single element to create your speech.  For example, rather than expecting humor to carry your message; or expecting stories to do the job; consider how much more effective it would be to include humor AND stories AND music AND cartoons AND poetry AND sound effects.  He also shared a storyboarding technique using colored Post-It Notes to visually see the flow of audience-impact-moments in your speech (color-coding each type of speech segment; stories from the heart, audience participation, music, etc.  Pick categories most relevant to the texture of your speech.)

Another suggestion:  If you close your talk with what you consider the strongest part of the speech, Giovanni suggested experimenting by moving the big closer to the front end.  It would start your talk with high energy and challenge you to strengthen the rest of your talk to match your new strong opener.  I’ve tried doing that during the past year, and I’ve discovered that it creates a wave of energy which enhances everything that follows.  I moved my funniest material, which was normally in the last third of my keynote to the front part of the talk.  It improved the impact of everything else in the speech.  The segments that followed benefited from riding-the-wave of energy created by the stronger opening.

That’s a small bit of what Giovanni shared with us.  A great presentation from the Creator of Experiences.

We also enjoyed a session by celebrity impersonator and impressionist Rich Little, an educational and entertaining program by a show-business master.  A lengthy question-and-answer session gave us many insights on connecting with and entertaining an audience.  One question was:  How much does he exaggerate or embellish when creating stories or humor. He said that he embellishes about five-percent of the time, usually when needed to strengthen a punchline at the end of the joke.  It was interesting to see how careful he was throughout his talk to add “no, he didn’t really say that” when he wanted to clarify that the funny words he was putting in the mouth of a celebrity were not words that the celebrity had actually said.

The conference was welcomed by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a celebrity politician who embodies the style of Las Vegas.  His warm and witty remarks were a hit.

The afternoon closed with a Jam Session with two speakers from the audience receiving feedback from our panel of faculty experts.  A great end to a terrific day.  Looking forward to Saturday and Sunday.

NSA Presentation and Performance Lab Day #2 and Day #3

Upcoming NSA Events:

NSA Branding and Promotion Lab
Boston MA
May 2-4, 2008

NSA National Convention
New York City
August 2-5, 2008

Creative Humor Writing — Contest Results

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Here are the results from our Quirky Job Placement joke contest.  The top lines were selected by a panel of six judges (speakers and improv players).

Our next joke contest is announced on April 15.

Our next Cartoon Caption Contest is announced on May 1.

Here are the top lines:


Public Relations Expert:  Hire the Maytag repairman because he knows a great deal about the spin cycle.
     Derek Bly, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada


Vice-President of Operations:  Hire a priest because he is a white-collar worker in charge of mass production.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA


Courier:  Hire a gynecologist because they are good at making deliveries.
     Arun Ramkumar, Chennai , India

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

– Pianist:  Hire a duck, it’s feathers will make it easier to tickle the ivories.
– Circus clown:  Hire a politician.
– Landscaper:  Hire a reporter to dig up dirt.
– Farmer:  Hire a politician to spread the manure.
– Computer Web Designer:  Hire Spiderman. 
– Accountant:  Hire a farmer because you need an experienced bean counter.
– Politics:  Elect a photographer. Image is everything.
– Sanitation:  Hire a bouncer, they’re not afraid to take out the trash.
– Computers:  Hire the Orkin man, he’ll get the bugs out.
– Weatherman:  Hire an astrologer.  The prediction rate can’t get any worse.
– Plumber:  Hire a Welsh dancer.  They know what to do with clogs.
– Stockbroker:  Hire a baker.  He can make you lots of dough.
– Baker:  Hire a stockbroker.  They patiently hold the dough until it rises.
– Dentist:  Hire a Queen.  She can crown you.
– Grocer:  Hire a bag lady.
– Actor:  Hire a lawyer…they find it easy to make lies look believable.
– Astronomer:  Hire a gossip journalist…they know all about the stars.
– Psychiatrist:  Hire a bartender…people have no problems opening up to them.
– Gas station attendant:  Hire a bodybuilder..they are good at pumping it up.
– Accountant: Hire a chef…he can cook the books well.
– Cobbler:  Hire evangelists….they can mend broken soles.
– Diplomat:  Hire a mime…they will never say anything that could lead to trouble.
– Electrician:  Hire a newsreader…they are good with current affairs
– Stripper:  Hire nudists.  The trick is getting them dressed so they can start working.
– Receptionists make good lobbyists.
– Forest Ranger:  Hire a gigolo…they know all about the wild life.
– Trumpeter:  Hire a publicist…they are good at blowing their own horn.
– Architects:  Hire a writer..they like to build on a plot.
– Professional  Magician:  Hire a sheep rancher…they know how to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
– Anesthesiologist:  Hire a high school principal.  His speeches will save the hospital money.
– Investment bank data analyst:  Hire a train spotter. As long as they take down some numbers regularly, they will have a good sleep at night.

Friends and Laughter

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

What an enjoyable morning.  I Played disc golf with my friends  Darren LaCroix and Steve Pavlina.  It was a close three-way match up ending in a sudden-death playoff.  Great fun.  It’s played on a special course with chain baskets and frisbees.   Las Vegas has a couple courses set up in the city parks.  We hadn’t played much since the weather cooled down and we look forward to getting back into the swing of things by playing weekly again as we have for the past few years. 

The best thing about playing is the joking around.  We encourage each other and at the same time kid around, poking fun at all aspects of our games.  We’re competitive and decent players, but by no means pros.  So there’s plenty of room for laughing at our game, while still taking the game very seriously.

I remember a TV interview where Christopher Reeve said that the true essence of life was our relationships…not our money, cars, houses and things.  One of the measures of our wealth is how often we laugh with our friends and loved ones.  That’s what energizes me.  I had a terrific time, in spite of losing on the first hole of sudden death! 

We joke about the discs which get stuck in the trees, the imaginary magnets planted on the course to mess up our competitor’s game, the wind that blows the discs off course.  On the sudden-death playoff we had color commentary on the Novice versus the Member of the Senior Tour.  There seemed to be something to kid about on every hole.

Looking back on my life, I have special memories of those who made me laugh the most.  My good friend from high school days, Ed Hunt.  We still talk about our funny stories and some of the really stupid things we did.  My buddy from my Air Force days, Charlie Bitner, with whom I would take my Charlie Breaks.  Who needs a coffee break when you can take a Charlie Break?  He could always bring a smile and a laugh to my face.  Not an easy task!  And my good friend Maureen Keene who recently moved to Phoenix.  I miss our laughter-filled dinners.  Her birthday is next week.  Hopefully we’ll connect and share some laughs if she visits Las Vegas this week.

I hope your life is filled with people who bring you sunshine.  We need to avoid toxic people as much as possible.  On my 30-minute drive home from the disc golf course, I had a guy honk at me (it seemed like 15 seconds) for making a right turn into his lane.  It was “my bad”…I didn’t realize that he was going about 60 MPH or that my Honda Civic wouldn’t have much zip on that upgrade.  I should have been tuned into those things, but I wasn’t.  But, it was obvious that he was in a big rush to get home to argue with his wife.  So I didn’t dwell on the incident…for more than 60 seconds.  He’s probably one of those toxic people that I’m thankful not to have in MY life.  If you run into someone who pushes your buttons…that’s OK…you’re normal…just get over it quickly.  And then hang out with the fun people in your life.  And never take them for granted.  They are a gift.

Related Article:  How Success in Disc Golf Relates to Public Speaking

The Last Lecture of Randy Pausch

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Last September we published a post on the Last Lecture of Randy Pausch.  Diagnosed with cancer he gave his “last lecture” on Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, encouraging people to dream big.  His talk was a model of being genuine and connecting with the audience.  Here’s an update.

He’s featured on ABC, The Last Lecture — A Love Story For Your Life, with Diane Sawyer.  The USA broadcast is Wednesday, April 9, at 10pm (or 9pm CST).

He has published a book:  The Last Lecture.