Archive for October, 2008

Creative Humor Writing — Cartoon Caption Contest

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

We had fun with our Real Estate Cartoon Caption Contest this month.

Our next Cartoon Caption Contest will be announced on November 1.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

Our contests feature the artwork of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Here are the top entries for the October contest.


The good news:  You can afford a home with an ocean view.   The bad news:  It’s the Antarctic.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA


OK…Closing costs will be a mere $700 Billion dollars.
     Lisa Benson, Buffalo, New York, USA


So…do you want the mortgage rate I have on this page here in front of me…or do you want to take a chance on what’s in envelope #1.
     Carey Dyer, Fredericksburg, Texas, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – I’m sorry, but Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac have fled the country and are now living on a Caribbean island.
  – I found a great, warm place for you–that’s grate spelled g-r-a-t-e.
  – I thought you might be interested in this historic old log cabin. It’s John McCain’s birthplace.  
  – It’s a nice A-frame.  Too bad your credit rating is F.
  – Let me say this about your financial situation–you’ll always know how many houses you own.
  – I know you expected to get more for your New York condo, but remember the Indians sold Manhattan for trinkets and beads.
  – Congratulations on your new home!  Wait…I just received an email…they have just started your foreclosure process.
  – Don’t worry about the numbers.  If things get bad, the government will step in and bail you out.
Check out the web site of Dan Rosandich for information on how he can create custom artwork for your book, flyer, web site, blog, T-Shirt and more!

Humor and Disabilities

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

“I’ve used humor as a defense mechanism for as long as I can remember,”  Steve Mertz shared with me.  I met Steve when he presented a program on Search Engine Optimization at the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA).  “Humor is the universal language and it’s impossible to have a pity party and laugh at the same time.”

Steve walks with the use of forearm crutches. He observes that “this makes my upper body mean and lean–kind of like doing bench presses all day!  Because of spinal cord damage it’s necessary for me to use the crutches when walking. I have movement in my legs and love to swim.”

“Humor has been my favorite coping tool over the years. It’s diffused many an awkward situation and made many friends for me.  Combine humor with the ability to generate small talk and you have a powerful combination.”

“I also have found that my intention is to tell people what happened to me, without being dramatic, so they can focus on what I have to say.  Therefore, I tell them the facts and then try to interject humor to disarm them and let them know that I’m OK with my condition. I’m still the same person with the same heart–I just have this inconvenience to deal with!”

Here are a couple of examples of how Steve has used humor in his interactions with people:

  – People will often comment on my good-looking crutches.  They like the color.  If they comment, I may say something like, “It’s important for crippled people to follow fashion as well.”

  – If someone is rude, I might say:  “Don’t worry it’s not contagious.”

“At first, it really pissed me off that people would just stop, stare, point and ask ‘what happened?!’  I soon discovered that being bitter did me absolutely no good and I learned that a smile and some humor would immediately disarm the rudest of people.”

“I’m writing a children’s book to help young people with disabilities. It will be titled:  Our Footprints are Different–But our Hearts are The Same (   One of the suggestions that I make to parents is to have their kids take an Improv class on humor–a little tamer than some of the comedy you see in a nightclub–but along the same lines.  The sooner we can start laughing the quicker the healing starts!”

Steve Mertz is the President, NSA Colorado Chapter, 2008-2009.  He can help you optimize your web site so that people can find you on the search engines.  One of his tag-lines:  “Fall asleep doing a Google search for your website?”  His program for our NSA Chapter was terrific, insightful and practical.  Check out Steve’s web site (

Personal Development

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

A book Review

Personal Development for Smart People is a new book by Steve Pavlina.  He explores seven universal principles that are keys to personal growth.  The book doesn’t tell you what to do, but rather helps you to discover your own truths.

A philosophy in the book is that exposing you to a wide variety of inputs and resources uncovers patterns that you would otherwise not recognize.  This opens your mind to new ways of thinking and doing.

I’ll share a couple of perspectives which I found interesting and valuable: 

About Relationships.
“People who are too different from you are difficult to bond with, and those who are too similar can’t teach you very much.  The best relationships provide enough common ground to form a strong bond while also stimulating growth in new directions.”

About Goal Setting.
“Whenever you consider a new goal, pay attention to the effect it has on your present reality.  Set goals that make you feel powerful, motivated and driven when you focus on them.”

Pavlina recommends that we apply a military battlefield triage system to set our priorities and allocate our precious resources.  I’ve read 50 books on time management and never seen this common-sense approach suggested in the way that he explains it.

About Security.
On security Pavlina points out that “safe” is both an adjective (free from danger) and a noun (a container with a lock).  “If you’re living the adjective, you’re living the noun…don’t trap yourself in a cage of false security.”

“The illusion of security is the primary aim of the false path.”  And he points you to finding your right path. 

It’s a book that I think most people will want to read more than once.  Insightful and practical.  Highly recommended.  You’ll find it on Amazon.

John McCain and Barack Obama Roast

Friday, October 17th, 2008

A McCain and Obama roast-like fundraiser was held in NYC last night.  It probably did more for both candidates than the debates.  Great humor humanizes.

They demonstrated many excellent comedy techniques:

Self Deprecation.  Both candidates did an excellent job of poking fun at themselves.  Both used self-deprecation early in their set, which is the best way to open your remarks at a roast.  Poking fun at yourself, right at the beginning, gives you permission to poke fun at someone else later.  McCain’s reference to his seven houses, and Obama’s references to his humility were examples of the right way to do it.

The Implied Punchline.  McCain implied that Hillary supports him.

Building the Tension.  McCain’s opening “make a major announcement” was technically a tension-builder lead-in to a joke, although it was clearly telegraphing the arrival of a joke.

Using a Label.  McCain linked “name calling” with the label of “pet names” (That One and George Bush).

Switching.  McCain found a reason for Obama to “suspend his campaign and rush back to Washington” (if the economy improves).

Call-backs to items in the news.  Acorn, Lipstick On a Pig, See Russia From Here, and many more.

Name Play.  Obama played with both his first and middle names with great success. (Barack is Swahili for “that one.”)

Raising the Stakes.  McCain’s comments to transition into Obama’s remarks were brilliant.

Both candidates were great.  I’d say that McCain was stronger on the quality of his jokes.  And Obama was stronger on his “takes” or reactions to the humor.  Whether reacting to McCain’s jokes or his own, his laughter response appeared to be more natural.  It’s the “beat beyond” or a person’s ability to laugh in a natural way is part of what gives a person likability. 

Formal roasts often conclude with nice-remarks about the guest of honor.   Both candidates recognized the other, but I felt that McCain was the most gracious of the two.  In my opinion that win’s points for McCain.

But the bottom line, both candidates receive very high marks for the event.

McCain Part 1

McCain Part 2

Obama Part 1

Obama Part 2

Writing Humor — Joke Contest

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Our October Joke Contest is Financial Crisis Book Titles which should be published.  One way to deal with a bad situation is to look at the funny side.

We announce a new Joke Contest mid-month.

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

Here are some examples of fictitious book titles on this month’s theme:

Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea — How To Bail Out a Boat That’s Already Underwater

Lead Parachutes — A Practical Solution to the Financial Crisis

The Mortgage Solution — How to Transfer Home Loan Debt to Your Credit Cards

Put on your Humor Hat and get to work.  Write as many lines as possible.  Rewrite and sharpen your lines.  Select your best ones and submit them to by October 31, 2008.

Creative Writing — Humor Skills — Contest Results

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

It’s time for the results of the Celebrity Businesses Joke Contest.

We announce a new joke contest mid-month.

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

Here are this month’s top lines.  Thanks to everyone who submitted entries!


Howard Stern goes into business selling electric athletic supporters:  Shock Jocks.
     Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California, USA


Rosanne Cash and Jim Carrey open a wholesale outlet:  Cash & Carrey.
     Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California, USA


G Gordon Liddy opens a gas station called Exx-Con.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Popular actress opens up a bank:  Lindsay Savings and Lohan.
  – Popular radio host starts a boat dealership:  Howard’s Stem to Stern.
  – Justin opens a retreat in the woods:  Timberlake Lodge.
  – John Kerry opens a restaurant:  Heinz Kurry.
  – Derek Jeter makes sugar-filled caricatures of his teammates:  Yankee Doodle Candies.
  – Ex NFL players from Wisconsin set up a business:  Green Bay Packers and Movers.
  – Simon and Garfunkel reunite to form a construction company to build Bridges over troubled waters.
  – Bill O’Reilly opens a math-tutoring business called The Factor.
  – Bill Gates has a luxury bed business for little people: Microsoft Mattresses.
  – George Cohan Derek Jeter explores his artistic side by making sugar-filled caricatures of his teammates, which he sells at a Manhattan confectionery dubbed Yankee Doodle Candies.
  – Microsoft releases a new firewall for Windows named Bill’s Gates.
  – Tina Turner opens a rotisserie shop.
  – Popular actor starts a risky business:  Tom Cruise Lines.
  – Whoever loses for President will get into the diaper business so he can still make change happen.
  – Tom Hanks registers himself as a teacher with one mission:  Passing Primate Ryan.
  – Amy Winehouse opens up a bar:  Amy’s Winehouse.
  – David Beckham writes a tell-all memoir on his wife:  Victoria’s secrets.
  – Bill O’Reilly opens a Math tutoring business called The Factor.
  – Bill Gates has a luxury bed business for little people and advertises his Microsoft mattresses.

A Toastmasters Evaluation Contest — Observational Humor — Case Study #29

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Here is an analysis of  two observational humor lines which I used to begin a speech evaluation.  A Toastmasters Speech Evaluation Contest is held during the Fall in my District.  A target speaker gives a presentation and the contestants (each giving an evaluation of the target talk) have about three minutes to critique the speech, giving kudos and suggestions for improvement.  This was the Division Contest, the third level of competition.

THE SET-UP (What happened and what was said during the event before I started my evaluation.)

Ken, the target speaker being evaluated, demonstrated the concept of context using the sentence:  “I didn’t sleep with your wife last night.”  He gave several examples of how emphasizing different words can change the context of the entire sentence.  For example:
  – I didn’t SLEEP with your wife last night.  (I went bowling with her.)
  – I didn’t sleep with your WIFE last night.  (I slept with your sister.)
  – I didn’t sleep with your wife LAST NIGHT.  (It was a different night.)

Just as I was being introduced to present my evaluation of the target speech, someone opened a door in the back of the room.  The door was next to the parking lot and we were distracted by something that sounded like a loud warning beeper from a truck which was backing up.  Beep.  Beep.  Beep.  We couldn’t see what was causing the beeping because a temporary room-separator curtain blocked our view of the door.  This happened exactly as the Emcee said, “And our next evaluator contestant is John Kinde.”  By the time I reached the platform, the door in the back of the room had closed.


My first words after taking the platform:  “Pardon me while the fork-lift brings in my notes.”
(This was funny because it recognized something that everyone noticed.  The distraction created a bit of tension in the room, paving the way for humor to relieve the tension.  The immediate nature of the line also added power to the humor.  There is great value being in the moment.  It was also funny because it implied that my speech evaluation was so detailed that I needed a fork-lift to bring in my notes.)

Then I started my evaluation with the line that I had INTENDED to be my opening line, speaking directly to the target speaker:  “Ken, the first thing I have to say is…this is not an evaluation of your WIFE’S speech.”

NOTE:  When you’re making a presentation where your primary assignment is not to do an Observational Humor Monologue, I recommend trying to come up with one tightly-constructed line to use as your opener.  I ended up using two lines since I couldn’t resist using the fork-lift line which came to me as I walked to the speaker platform.  The two lines with laughter took about 20 seconds of the three-minute evaluation.  It was worth it, providing me a two-line opener that connected me with the audience, but which didn’t distract from the overall evaluation.  I placed third.  An excellent contest.  A great experience.

Writing A Speech

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

All speakers have to deal with the question of using somebody else’s material.  Especially when we’re first starting out, if we’re going to tell a story, we feel we need to borrow a really good story to make our point.  Early in our speaking career it doesn’t occur to us that stories from our own life might be better than anything that we could borrow.  I know that was my experience.

Quoting someone else can enrich your talks and it shows you’ve done your homework.  But using large amounts of borrowed material, especially stories, can have its problems.

Here are some thoughts on using other people’s material:

1.  A problem with using mostly other people’s stories and quotes, is that your speech becomes nothing more than a book report.

2.  If you’re going to include quotes in your talk…make them fresh quotes.  If other speakers are using the same quote, I choose to find something more original.  Don’t adorn your talk with stale quotes which have become cliches. 

3.  The opening of your talk sets the scene for your whole speech.  A borrowed opening story or joke can lead the audience to think that your whole speech is borrowed, even when that’s not the case.  An original opening can give a feel of freshness to your entire presentation.

4.  When you’ve ended your talk, you want your audience to remember parts of the speech which are quotes from YOU.  You want them to remember your original thoughts and memorable ways of expressing them.  If they remember only the words of other people, they probably won’t remember your name.

5.  Using other people’s words should always be accompanied with a credit to the source.  That does not mean, however, that you have the right to use someone’s signature story simply by identifying where it came from.   Using a significant part of someone’s material, even with attribution, is probably illegal, or at least unethical.  For a legal definition, consult an attorney, or risk having someone else’s attorney contact you!

6.  Sometimes, what you think of as “borrowing” may in fact be “stealing.”  If you’re going to use more than a simple, short quote with attribution, get permission first.  Contact the original author of the material and ask to use the material.

7.  A problem with using someone else’s story, even with credit, is that the audience will remember that YOU told the story.  They’ll probably forget that you said the story belonged to someone else.  Then, if they hear the story told by the original author, they will think that he or she stole the story from you!  That’s one area where ethical considerations are raised.

8.  You probably do a lot of research.  That’s good.  Let the wisdom of others inspire new thinking of your own.  The pros of the highest level present their own material.  They may occasionally quote someone, but their stories are almost always their own.  Set a goal of developing stories and learning points from your own experience.  Creating your own stories becomes easier to do and it’s the way to gain respect as a professional.

Why Enter a Toastmasters Speech Contest?

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

It’s the Fall speech-contest season.  As part of the Toastmasters experience, members are offered the opportunity to grow their skills in the contest environment.  When you have the chance to compete, I highly recommend you embrace the opportunity.  Here’s why:

1.  The Mountain.  The mountain climber, when asked “Why climb the mountain,” has traditionally replied, “Because it’s there!”  Challenge is stimulating.  It calls on you to be a better climber or speaker or person.  As a Toastmaster, a speech contest sparks your competitive spirit and your creativity in a way that the routine Toastmasters meeting can’t.

2.  Your Comfort Zone.  It’s a great way to expand your comfort zone.  If you speak only at club meetings, a group of 10 people becomes the audience size that feels good to you.  A large audience may take your breath away.  In fact, just standing on the platform before an event, looking out at 200 empty seats may be enough to give you butterflies. 

My home club, PowerHouse Pros in Las Vegas, made the decision to grow the membership to give the members the opportunity to experience a larger audience.  In about 18 months we’ve grown our membership from about 20 members more than double that size.  And four times a year we plan a special meeting where we fill the room with over 60 members and guests.  

The contest experience gives you that “larger audience” experience, too.  The contest experience moves you  from the club level, to the area, division, district, region and international.  Your audiences usually become larger every time you step to the next level.  You learn to be more comfortable with a larger audience.

3.  Deadlines.  The contest cycle helps you reach your goal of developing new material because it gives you target dates for having your speech written and re-written.  Without the deadlines, we often spend our time “getting ready to get ready.”  When you’re moving up the contest ladder, you’re forced to be ready by a specific date.  The structure of deadlines is a good thing.

4.  Better Feedback.  As the audience size grows, so does the quality of feedback you receive when the audience responds to your material and your delivery.  This is especially evident with a humorous speech but also applies to a motivational speech.  The energy you receive from an audience is magnified as the size of the audience grows.  In addition, as you win and move to the next level, your home club supports you by giving you more intense and focused feedback as you prepare your speech for the next level of competition.

5.  Sense of Purpose.  The contest environment gives you the push to do better and to try harder.  Sometimes there is a tendency, when preparing a speech for a regular meeting, to just throw something together at the last moment.  I’ve heard Toastmasters refer to a speech as a “red light” speech.  That’s a speech written by a speaker while stopped at a red light on the way to the meeting.  A negative aspect of becoming a better speaker is the tendency to occasionally become a bit lazy, because giving a speech may be perceived as easy.  A contest helps motivate you to push yourself just a bit more than you normally would.  You’re encouraged to put more thought into a speech which is prepared for a contest, for a special event. 

6.  Growth.  Competition is not about winning.  It’s about growing.  Sure it’s nice to win.  I like winning.  When you win, you feel good.  But in the long run, winning just puts a trophy on your shelf that won’t greatly impress people a year from now.  The growth experience, on the other hand, takes you to a new level of competence where you will touch people at a deeper level, where you will make more people laugh, and where you will be remembered as a speaker who makes a difference.  That beats a dusty old trophy on the shelf.  Growth trumps winning in my book any day.

I recommend competing in every contest that comes along.  International, Humor, Tall-Tales, Evaluation, Table Topics, Talent.  The only people who lose are those who don’t compete.

Humor Skills — Ceative Writing — Cartoon Captions

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Sharpen your humor skills with the October Cartoon Caption Contest featuring the Real Estate cartoon of Dan Rosandich.

Watch for new Cartoon Caption Contests on the first of the month.

And our Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

Here is this month’s cartoon with one sample caption:

It’s a new affordable mortgage.  You’ll be able to live in your home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Take the challenge to exercise your creativity.  Write as many captions as you can.  Then edit and rewrite to sharpen the humor.  Submit your best captions to by October 15, 2008.

Visit the web site of Dan Rosandich for custom cartoons for your next special project, book, newsletter, web site, T-Shirt, and more.