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

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.

THE OPENING LINES

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.