Archive for January, 2009

Creative Humor Writing — Cartoon Captions

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

It’s time for the results of our January Cartoon Caption contest.

Look for our next Cartoon Caption Contest on the first of the month.

Our Joke Writing Contests are announced mid-month.

Here are the top captions for this month’s cartoon.

** FIRST PLACE **

This time, hold on to the STICK, release the RUBBER BAND.
     Ron DesGroseilliers Jr., Spring Lake, North Carolina, USA

** SECOND PLACE **

Ok, I lied when I said the Wilsons installed unbreakable glass in their windows.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA

** THIRD PLACE **

This isn’t really what I expected when I signed up for Border Patrol.
     Dana Richardson, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – My brother got the rapid load/fire version for Christmas.
  – My parents were going to take my sling shot…but the NRA stepped in.
  – I’ll bet you a dollar you can’t knock an apple off my head.
  – I know it says so in the Bible, but you’re never going to vanquish the captain of the football team with that little pea shooter.
  – The next time someone tries to bully you, tell him your name is David.
  – I’ll be okay.  At least it wasn’t a rifle this time, Mr. Cheney. 
  – David, I know you’re upset that Goliath stole your girl, but can’t you just let it go?
  – No, I don’t know where Goliath lives, but I understand he’s a frequent customer at the Big and Tall store.
  – When you said you were coming over to shoot the bull, I didn’t think you meant it literally.
  – Why don’t you break windows like the rest of us?  Accidentally. With a bat and baseball.
  – When I said “bet you couldn’t hit that window,” I didn’t mean for you to prove me wrong.

The cartoon is provided by professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.  Visit his web site for information on how he can provide terrific cartoons for your next special project, book, web page, newsletter, book, speech, T-shirt and more.

Public Speakers — Creating A Humorous Slide Show

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Here are some tips on creating a humorous slide show or PowerPoint presentation.  You’ll often have a specific story, punchline, or song lyric to which you want to fit the right photos.  There are several types of photos which could fill your specific needs.  For me, when building a humorous A/V show, the slides usually fall into five main categories:

1.  Borrowed photographs which were not really from the life of the guest of honor but which were used embellish on his life’s story.  The honoree had been working at the same job for a long time, and while most people had been at this work location for three or four years, he had been there for ten years.  I found a photo of a wagon train.  “And here’s a photo of him arriving for his first day on the job.” Note the pacing of delivery.  When using photos and words, the key is to determine which is the punch line (gets the laugh).  Is it the spoken words or the photo? Normally you would want to save the trigger of the humor till the last moment.  So in this case it would be wrong to show the wagon train slide and then say the line.  It’s much more effective to say the line first, then show the slide.  That sequence puts the punch in the best place.

2.  Borrowed photographs which were not used “as they were” but which were doctored or pasted up to create an image to fit the program’s script.  One such photo, we pasted the honoree’s face on the body of Arnold Schwartzeneger.  With today’s computers it has become easy to manipulate photos.

3.   Old-time photos of the honoree are perfect for setting up great humor lines.  I met with his wife and she provided me with many photos from the early part of his career and childhood.  When you’re looking at the old photos, you’ll be asking yourself, “What else could this photo be or what else could it mean?”  It’s like writing cartoon captions.

4.   Actual photos shot in candid situations; specifically everyday activities caught on camera.  Also, we shot some planned photos of the honoree which we needed to fit a certain punchline.  So we looked for situations which would lend themselves to the right kind of pose or background (the honoree was unaware of specifically what we were doing and had grown accustomed to me snapping photos all the time).

5.   Staged photos with a stand-in, look-alike person.  We couldn’t find an identical-looking person, except from the back of the head, but still shot several posed photos to set up the punchlines I needed.

6.  After collecting hundreds of photos, selecting the right ones, and writing the script, it was time to pull the pieces together.  I produced the script and then marked the “slide advance” spots with a red dot, keeping in mind the precision sequence needed for maximum humor impact.  Sometimes the dot was before a specific sentence.  Sometimes at the end of a specific sentence.  Most often it was in the middle of a sentence.  You will always have to allow for some audience reaction time and will need to show a slide a half-beat before you really want it to register.  Because of the pacing of the humor, if you’re using PowerPoint, I recommend manually advancing the slides to allow proper audience reaction.  If you have a segment set to music, an automatic advance sequence works fine.  It’s an art.  Done right, it will give you one of the most magical presentations ever.

Related article:  The Magical Performance

Public Speakers — The Magical Performance

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Looking back over my thirty-plus years as a humor performer.  I can think of three performances which stand out as my all-time-best programs.

There are great programs.  And then there are programs that are magical.  The first program that stands out in my memory was a comedy-magic program for a church group.  This was a program that raised the roof.  It was a combination of the right program for the right group.  My philosophy is that the quality of a program says more about the group than it does about the presenter.  A standing ovation says more about the audience than it does about the performer.  Any presentation is a two-way dialogue.  It’s never a monologue.  This church group was “in fun” and ready for a rocking evening.  It was what I call a cohesive group, where people know each other and like each other.  And I had done my homework, knew the group, involved them by writing custom humor and by bringing many of them onto the platform with me.  The pastor of the church received feedback from the staff that ran the children’s Day School in the same fellowship hall where the magic show had been held.  They opened the school the next morning and later that afternoon spoke to the pastor:  “What happened last night?  When we opened the school this morning we could just feel the energy in the room!” Amazing. Magical.

The other two top-of-the-memory programs were for retirement events.  Again, we’re talking about cohesive groups.  Both retirees were very well known and very well liked.  In both cases my contribution to the evening was the presentation of a testimonial slide show.  One was twenty minutes.  The other was a thirty-minute slide show.  The reaction to the first program was a laughter response rate of 50%.  During the 20 minutes slide show the audience spent half the time, 10 minutes, laughing.  I’ve never come close to matching that audience reaction to any program I’ve ever done.  The preparation time paid off.  The key was the customized, on-target humor.

The second slide show was magical as well.  Normally you’d think that a program showing 285 slides would put people to sleep.  I shot over 700 photographs and worked about 100 hours putting it together.  What an incredible experience.  Let’s look at some details on what it took to produce this magical retirement-slide-show experience.

1.  I knew the retiree really well.  I had worked for him for three years and spent the last six months as his second-in-command.  Knowing that his retirement was near, I spent 12 months preparing for the program.

2.  I had a mental map of what I wanted to do.  For a year, I carried a camera to work with me every day and collected the pieces I needed to put the program together.  The actual script was written two weeks before the event.

3.  To be top notch, the program need professional-quality audio-visual support.  This was in the 1980s, before the days of PowerPoint.  I wanted two-projectors with dissolve where one slide blends into the next without the jerky quality of a one-projector presentation.  But with nearly 300 slides, it meant changing trays in mid-program.  I practiced the narration with the help of a professional A/V guy.  He was prepared with back up projectors, back up bulbs, asbestos gloves to change the bulbs.  And the timing of the switch of trays went off without a hitch.  I couldn’t have done it by myself. And I needed the confidence of having a pro behind the scenes.

4.  The key to the entertainment value was the pace of the program and the humor.  Although 285 slides sounds like a lot, if you keep it moving and keep them laughing, nobody is counting. That’s about six seconds per slide.  Barely enough time for a punchline and a good laugh.  The last six minutes of the program was set to music, two songs (favorites of the honoree and his wife).  That provided a change of pace and set a mood totally different from the humor, making it a full emotional experience.  Laughter and tears.

5.  Pulling off something like this slide show isn’t easy.  100 hours over a year’s time and twenty year’s experience in the humor business.  But you could start with something on a smaller scale.  I’ve produced many slide shows of just three minutes and ten or twenty slides.  Start small and grow your skills.  The thing that really makes it click is that when it is so customized, it almost can’t miss.  Just like great observational humor to open a speech is likely to get some of the biggest laughs of your entire speech.  Give it a try the next time they’re looking for someone to help work on a retirement or a roast.  Find a humor buddy to work with and go for it.

Related ARticle:  Tips on how to build a customized Humorous Slide Show.

Creative Humor Writing — New Joke Contest

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

For the January contest, we’re looking for New Year’s Resolutions We’ll Never See.  This month’s contest theme was suggested by Sol Morrison from Santa Barbara.  Your challenge is to write Unlikely New Year’s Resolutions for famous people, historical figures, fictitious characters.  This could include living celebrities, people who are no longer living, cartoon characters, mythical figures, animals, etc.  For example:

The Cyclops:  Eat more vegetarians.

Attila The Hun:  Send thank-you letters after each raiding party.

Sarah Palin:  Stop looking at Russia with my binoculars.

Write some funny lines, pick your best ones, and submit them to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by January 31, 2009.

Public Speaker and Humor Resources

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Blog Carnival:  Humor In The Workplace (Premier Edition).  Many links to excellent humor sites.  Sponsored by Brad Montgomery, popular humorist from Aurora, Colorado.

Six Minutes:  Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Blog.  Terrific resource by Andrew Dlugan.

I Choose Happiness Ezine.  Ricky Powell’s inspirational weekly ezine designed to add happiness to your life.

A rich source of Public Speaking Articles from speaker and coach Patricia Fripp.

Being Funny — Joke Writing Contest

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

It’s time for the results of our most recent joke writing contest.

New Joke Contests are announced on the 15th of the month.

And new Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the 1st of the month.

Our theme for this month’s contest asks:  What does Santa Claus do after the Christmas season is over?

Here are the top entries:

** FIRST PLACE ** (A tie)

He lives in California as a polygamist in towns occupied by each of his wives. Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, Santa Clara, Santa Monica, Santa Anna and Santa Maria.
      Jim Spero, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

He appears at 6 billion “breaking and entering” court dates.
     Justin, Newark, New Jersey, USA

** SECOND PLACE **

He offers his sleigh and reindeer to Gov. Blagojevich for a US senate seat.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA

** THIRD PLACE **

The fiendish desire to give fulfilled for another year, Santa’s back working at the IRS…and he knows who’s been naughty.
     Les Harden, Brisbane, Australia

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – He works as a bail-out lobbyist. Merry Christmas, Banks and Automakers! Ho Ho Ho!
  – He goes to Julliard and is a model for sculpture students who are majoring in Busts of Greek Gods.
  – He shaves his head and becomes Buddha.
  – Santa becomes a night security guard at Toys-R-Us where he lets his elves into abscond with presents.
  – Santa retired 20 years ago and turned business over to the only person in the world with enough database to handle the naughty and nice list and have funds to be able to give away all the toys.  Bill Gates.
  – He runs a meat market that specializes in venison.
  – He works as a Wal-Mart greeter.
  – With offers of higher wages and better benefits, he tries to entice elves to leave Keebler.
  – He calls Geico to save 15% on sleigh insurance.
  – He and the Easter Bunny search for unicorns in Shangri-La. 
  – He spends his off time fighting Claustrophobia.
  – Santa spends the off season employed as a lawyer working on legal Clauses.
  – In the off season resumes his role as rock star Carlos Santa-na.
  – Santa eats in elf-service restaurants.
  – Santa spends off time getting exercise doing north pole vaulting.
  – When Santa is not delivering presents, he is a chimney sweep.
  – Santa goes on vacation with his wife.  They call it the escape clause.
  – Santa studies physics, especially Clause and effect.
  – During the off season Santa has to fight the urge to go to the south pole because he has bi-polar disease.
  – During the slow season Santa likes pole dances.
  – Instead of returning to North Pole Santa winds up in New York to hibernate until next Christmas with all the other Bears on Wall Street.
  – Santa uses his frequent flyer miles for extended vacations at pet friendly Red Roof Inn hotels.
  – I know for a fact that Santa rides across the states on a Harley wearing black leather and checking on all the kids checking if they are good or bad.  He’s the one with the long white beard.
  – He’s joining President Elect O’Bama’s cabinet as Commerce Secretary.
  – He works three shifts a day at Wal-Mart.
  – Everyone knows that after Labor Day, Colonel Sanders changes out of his white suit!
  – Santa is a carpenter.  He hauls the decks.
  – Santa runs a cat grooming service:  Claus Claws.
  – Back at the North Pole, Santa just chills out.
  – After 37 billion milk and cookies snacks, Santa works out all year so he can fit in the sleigh for the next Christmas.
  – After Christmas, Santa changes back to Rabbi Moshe.

New Year’s Resolutions — Public Speakers

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

A good New Year’s resolution would be to enter our Cartoon Caption and Joke Contests every month.  It’s a great way to sharpen your humor creativity.

Over the past three years, over 1000 people have participated in our contests.  Seventy-five of them have placed first, second or third…and they represent 11 countries:
   Australia
   Canada
   India
   Italy
   Kuwait
   New Zealand
   Philippines
   Portugal
   Malaysia
   United Kingdom
   USA

A dozen people have been in the top three…three or more times.  They are:
   Gary Bachman
   Andy Dolphin
   Paula Frederick
   Les Harden
   Brian Hinton
   Nancy Lininger
   Sol Morrison
   Arun Ramkumar
   Jim Spero
   S Frank Stringham
   Cindy Tebo
   Ken VanDrese

Our top contest winner is Les Harden of Australia.  He enters regularly.  And he understands that quality comes with numbers.  One month we had over 800 entries…and over 200 of them were from Les!

So how about YOU committing to writing some winning captions and jokes?  It’ll sharpen your humor skills and make you a better speaker!

New Years Resolutions and Humor Skills for Public Speakers

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Another year begins.  And with it comes New Year’s Resolutions.  As a public speaker, here are a few you may consider adding to your list to help you tune your humor radar and exercise your sense of humor.

1.  One of the challenges of a New Year’s Resolution is that sometimes the goal is so massive that you don’t know where to start.  As a result, you don’t start!  You can solve that problem by breaking the resolution down in to smaller parts.  What is the First Step toward achieving the desired goal?

2.  Enter our January humor contests.  Develop the habit of challenging yourself each month to create and submit your best humor lines for the caption contest and the joke contest.  First Step:  Take just five minutes to look over a contest and write just ONE line.  If you think it’s funny, submit it.

3.  Load a funny message on your telephone answering device.  First Step: Read related article on humorous phone machine outgoing messages.

4.  Every time you’re in a shopping mall, take a quick walk through a toy store.  It’s a good place to stimulate your funny bone.  First Step:  Ask the clerk, “What’s the most fun, new toy in the store?”

5.  Hang around people that make you laugh.  First Step:  Select one toxic person in your life and resolve to spend less time with that person.

6.  Start a humor journal.  Log the funny and nice things that happen to you.  You’ll start to see more fun in your life.  First Step:  Buy a notebook.  Label it Humor Journal.  Place it on the nightstand by your bed.

7.  Smile at the first person you see in the morning and say something nice.  It gets you in the right frame of mind to enjoy the day.  First Step:  Before you leave your home, look in the mirror and smile at yourself.  Related article.

8.  Get your hands on a new humor book or CD.  Spend a little time each day with it.  Do it as a morning exercise or meditation.  Play it while you are dressing for the day or driving to work.  First Step:  Spend ten minutes on Amazon with a search for Humor Books and Recordings.

9.  Look for humor greeting cards, bumper stickers and T-Shirts.  Or make your own.  At National Speakers Association conventions they feature an event called Meet the Experts.  It’s held in a room filled with over 100 tables.  With two or three rotations you sit at a table with an intimate presentation on a topic of interest. I’ve often worn a T-Shirt designed just for that event:  “So Many Tables — So Little Time.”  First Step:  The next time you’re in a grocery or drug store, visit the humorous greeting card rack and spend three minutes browsing.

10.  Join an improv troupe or start your own.  First Step:  Spend ten minutes in the phone book or on the internet to see where the nearest improv troupe or comedy club is located.  Related article

11.  Join a Toastmasters Club.  First Step:  Visit the Toastmasters web site and find the clubs in your area.  If you already know where a club is, find an officer for that club and call that person and commit to attend a meeting.

12.  If you are already a Toastmaster, commit to competing in the Humorous Speech Contest next fall.  First Step:  Find a humor seed and start to think about ideas for your speech.

13.  Develop your skills in observational humor and learn from every professional performer you watch.  First Step:  At every meeting and program you attend, sit with pad and pen waiting to jot down humorous and learning connections you note.  Eventually you’ll have a chance to start using the skills in your own presentations.  Related articles.

14.  First Step:  Pick at least ONE of the ideas listed above and
do it in the next 24 hours!

Creating Humor — Writing Cartoon Captions

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Happy New Year!  It’s time for our January Cartoon Caption Contest. 

We feature a new cartoon on the first of every month.

And our joke contests are announced mid-month.

Here is this month’s cartoon and one possible caption.

You should have joined the Marines before the budget cuts.  They used to give us rifles and uniforms.

Now it’s time for you to write a few captions.  Edit and rewrite your captions to make them stronger.  Select your best ones and submit them to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by January 14, 2009.

Related Article:  19 Ideas For Writing Funny Cartoon Captions

We feature the cartoons of Dan Rosandich.  Check Dan’s website to see how he can create custom cartoons for your next special project, book, flyer, web site, T-shirt and more.