Archive for March, 2009

We’re In The Top Three

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

The New Yorker magazine has a weekly Cartoon Caption Contest.  After submitting captions for over 100 weeks one of my lines was finally selected as a Top Three Caption!  A nice surprise.

Here’s where you could help.  The New Yorker magazine picks the top three captions…and then visitors to their web site (people like you) vote on their favorite to determine the winner. The winning caption is then published in the magazine.  Fifteen seconds of fame for someone.  My caption is the one by John Kinde from Las Vegas (the second caption).

If  you would like to see the cartoon, the captions, and to vote, CLICK HERE or visit:  http://contest.newyorker.com/CaptionContest.aspx?tab=vote

Creative Humor Writing — Cartoon Caption Contest

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

It’s time for the April Cartoon Caption Contest.  No fooling.

Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month.

Our Joke Writing Contests are announced mid-month.

Here is the April cartoon featuring the artwork of Dan Rosandich, and three sample captions:

  – They said this was my share of the stimulus package…I found out it was for the birds.
  – At today’s popcorn prices how dare you ask for butter.
  – This Ponzi Trust Fund sounds too good to be true!  Where to I mail my money?

Now it’s time to go to work and come up with some captions.  Write as many as you can.  Edit and tighten the humor.  Select your best lines and submit them to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by April 15, 2009.

Check out the web site of Dan Rosandich for information on how he can help you add professional quality cartoons to your next special project, book, newsletter, T-Shirt, and more!

Cartoon Caption Contest Results

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Our March Cartoon Caption Contest results are in.  We feature the art of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

The next Cartoon Caption Contest will be announced the first part of April.

Our Joke Writing Contests are announced mid-month.

And here are the results of this month’s contest.

** FIRST PLACE **

That’s my husband, Patrick. Once a year I let him dress himself.
     Timothy Busam, Cary, North Carolina, USA.

** SECOND PLACE **

First, it was one of Santa’s elves, now a leprechaun–next you’ll be dating a munchkin in the Lollypop Guild.
     Gary Bachman, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA

** THIRD PLACE **

Why shouldn’t we follow him for the bailout at the end of the rainbow?  We voted for him, didn’t we!
     Ron DesGroseilliers Jr, Spring Lake, North Carolina, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Don’t tell me you can’t remember where you hid the pot of gold!
  – Green beer and Lucky Charms is not the breakfast of Champions.
  – He is the only survivor from the Mayflower. The Indians gave him some concoction that made him immortal.
  – Follow him.  I understand he is now the leader of the Republican party. 
  – I hope following him leads to a pot of gold and not just a box of Lucky Charms.
  – This is my economic bailout plan–following a leprechaun to a pot of gold.
  – I don’t know why he’s smiling–didn’t he lose all his gold by investing it with Bernie Madoff?
  – George thinks leprechauns get lucky more often.
  – Watch out for that guy. He’ll ask you to kiss his Blarney Stone, but it’s more like a Blarney Pebble.
  – I thought I threw that hat out years ago!
  – Every year it’s the same thing! He wears it for Halloween and won’t take if off until after Thanksgiving!
  – I don’t know about this guy promising us a pot of gold, Thelma.  Last time I followed a guy with a story this good, I married Fred and found out Fred’s “whole stash of cash out at the ranch” was a dozen Johnny Cash 8-track tapes on his five-acre chicken farm.
  – Bernie’s a department store Leprechaun for the Shamrock Sale.
  – He thinks wearing green makes him look thinner.
  – I told him that my daughter said to dress up like Barney, not Blarney!
  – If Danny Boy doesn’t find the pot o’ gold soon, he’ll have to say I’m sorry to Rush Limbaugh.
  – Dude, he is like going overboard with the whole Lucky Charm thing.
  – He must be one of the characters in those Pill Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
  – He’s going to buy some lottery tickets. Wearing this costume brings him luck.
  – Stanley didn’t think Casual Dress Day at his bank was business-like at first–but now he can’t wait for Fridays to roll around.
  – This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I told the boss we needed to “go green.”
  – See what green beer does to ya?
  – I don’t care how good he sounds, don’t go in the bushes with him.
  – So, do you feel richer after you let him kiss you?
  – I can’t believe he actually gave US fashion tips.
  – Why didn’t anyone tell us buckles are in this year?
  – That pilgrim wouldn’t make any progress with me.
  – George really goes all out for St. Patrick’s Day…Green beer, that silly outfit, and enough Lucky Charms to last until Thanksgiving.
  – My husband needs to find a real job…this part time Leprechaun stuff isn’t even paying for the Lucky Charms.
  – I told him, No I don’t want to “play doctor” OR “play pilgrim!”
  – Santa, moonlighting as St. Pat this year?  The economy IS tough!
  – Apologies to John Wayne, but Howdy Pilgrim!
  – Mary, I thought you said today was going to be my LUCKY day?!

Check out the web site of Dan Rosandich for information on how he can help you add professional quality cartoons to your next special project, book, newsletter, T-Shirt, and more!

Obama On Leno — A Bad Joke

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

President Barrack Obama appeared on Jay Leno March 26, 2009.  He had several things working for him.  First was his relaxed, conversational style which conveys warmth and likability.  Second his ability to speak off the cuff, without being tied to a prepared script.  And third, his sense of humor which often relies on self-deprecation.  Poking fun at yourself is normally a good and safe strategy for getting laughs.

The interview led to the topic of Obama’s bowling skills.  During the campaign he had bowled a 37 in seven frames at a stop in Altoona, Pennsylvania (March 29, 2008).  If you’ve never bowled, if he had doubled his score it still would have been a very bad score.  He quipped that since taking office, he had bowled a 129 on the White House lanes (still not a score that most bowlers would brag about).  Leno quipped sarcastically, while applauding, “That’s very good Mr President,” and covered his mouth with his hand as if to hide a smirk.

Obama followed Leno’s remark with, “It was like Special Olympics or something.”  Oops.  That line would have never been used in prepared remarks.  Here are some of the danger zones that can lead to a mis-fired joke like this:

On A Roll.  When you’re in an interview or a routine that is going well–when the laughter is rolling–jokes that would obviously be off limits, or even borderline, suddenly seem safe.  The comfort zone of “everything is working” gives the illusion of safety and you go for the joke anyway, convinced that it will just blend into an already funny routine.  That is a formula for an unexpected pie in the face.

Mirror-What’s-Working.  Leno had gotten a laugh with a line in a style that could have been interpreted, indirectly, as a reference to Special Olympics.  The feeling can be that if someone got a laugh in a certain area, it must be safe territory.  The danger is that taking it a bit further can be the step that crosses the line of appropriate humor.  Leno’s line was safer because it implied something that was not stated directly.  That can also be a potentially dangerous humor strategy, but not as dangerous as being direct in your reference. 

Amateur Vs Professional.  Experience leads to professional status.  The judgment of a pro is usually better than that of an amateur.  Leno’s delivery style of “That’s very good Mr President” could have been taken as a subtle reference to Special Olympics.  Obama’s remark left nothing to the imagination.  One line was on the edge.  The other crossed the line. If you’re an amateur when it comes to humor, keep your antenna up and err on the side of caution.

Self-Deprecation That Isn’t.  Poking fun at yourself by comparing yourself to a stereotype of someone else, isn’t really self-deprecation.  At its foundation the joke is targeted at someone else’s expense.  It’s a danger zone, because the illusion is that the joke is about you.  And it’s not.

What do you do when you realize you crossed the line?  As quickly as you can, you apologize.  And then you take steps to show where you’re really coming from.  Most people will be willing to accept that you’re human and can put your foot in your mouth, even if you’re the President.  And don’t lose sleep over the fact that nothing will satisfy those who want your job.

Observational Humor — Case Study #34

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

This is an Observational Humor monologue which followed a 2-hour Storytelling Workshop presented by public speaking coach and world champion speaker Craig Valentine.

THE SET-UP (What happened and what was said during the workshop before I presented the monologue.)

1.  Part of the workshop included on-the-spot coaching of three speakers delivering stories.  Because of time constraints, Craig focused on suggestions for improvement and not on the strengths of the speakers.  He would preface his remarks with, “I noticed MANY things that you did really well, but I’m not going to talk about them.”

2.  One of the speakers receiving coaching referred to a character in her story that was “OLD…almost 60.”  This was jokingly referred to a couple of times during the remainder of the workshop.

3.  Craig illustrated the power of the visual element of our presentation:  “Touch your thumb and index finger together…now place them on your chin.”  As he said this he placed his hand on his cheek.  Most people did what he DID and not what he SAID.

4.  Darren LaCroix told a brief story of having just come from a meeting with several very famous speakers.  “And I left them to be here with you.  And I paid a lot of money to be with them.”

5.  Craig told a story about ordering chicken at a Drive-Thru.  “I’d like three thighs.”  The clerk asked, “Small or Large?”  His response, “You have large thighs?”

6.  Craig asked a speaker if her story was about one or two characters.  The speaker mis-understood the question and said, “She was Hungarian.”

7.  Craig talked about leaving the World Championship of Public Speaking and carrying the huge first-place trophy through the airport on his way home.  He caught the attention of people in the airport.  One person asked, “Is that Denzel Washington?”

8.  I competed at the District Fall Conference in San Luis Obispo.  I did not finish in the top three.

9.  Craig talked about how a world champion speaker is often asked to “say a few words.”

10.  Craig did a physical exercise with the group, asking us to change 12 things about our physical appearance.  He followed that up with instructions to change one or two things.  He illustrated how much easier it is to focus on change by doing just one or two things differently.

THE MONOLOGUE

I noticed a lot of funny things tonight…but I’m not going to talk about them.
(In my opinion, this line worked really well only because the set-up line from Craig was repeated three times.  If he had said the set-up phrase only once, this would have been a risky opening line.)

I’ll speak fast…I don’t have long to live.
(This was an implied reference to the 60-Year-Old comment.  I followed the line with a pause and a slow turn to look at the speaker who had said it.  That physical TAKE–my reaction to the line–was in fact a topper to the joke.)

Everyone hold out your hand.  Now place your hand…on your neighbor’s shoulder.  (I placed my hand on my butt.  Big laugh.)

Before coming here tonight, I was at the Four Seasons Hotel.  I was sitting at a table with Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams and Rita Rudner (laugh).  And I left them to come here (laugh).  Even though they had paid me lots of money to be there (laugh).
(The structure is joke, joke, topper.)

On the way over here, I stopped at KFC.  I went through the drive-thru.  “I’d like to order two breasts.”  (pause)  Well you know what I eventually asked the clerk.  She replied, no I’m Hungarian.
(I implied the punchline/set-up to the Hungarian joke.  I didn’t need to say, “You have large breasts?”  Huge laughs. The Hungarian line is a topper.)

I’ve had experiences similar to Craig.  I competed at the District Conference.  When I departed, I walked through the San Luis Obispo Airport…carrying my…certificate of participation.  People were watching me and whispering.  I overheard one woman say, “Is that Denzel Washington?”
(Pauses are important here.  Certificate of participation is the first joke.  Denzel Washington is a topper.)

And when I tell people I’m a speaker…they say “speak to me.”  I don’t think so.
When I tell people I’m a magician…they say “show me a trick.”  I don’t think so.
When I tell them I used to be a blackjack dealer…they say “hit me.”   So I do.

(Simple joke using the rule of three.)

To close, here’s a tip for creating an Observational Humor monologue when you see nothing funny during the meeting.  Write down everything you notice…and change 12 things.
(At first I wasn’t sure this would be a great line.  But as the monologue took shape, I convinced myself it was a good closer.  Very big laugh.)

Creative Humor Writing — Quirky Pet Foods Contest

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Another fun contest.  This month’s theme was suggested by Gerald Fleischmann from Fountain Valley, California.  Quirky Pet Foods!

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month.

Here are some sample captions on this month’s theme:  Quirky Pet Foods.

Meow Max:  Make your kitty feel 10 feet tall.

Purina Ciao:  The only dog food they’ll need while you’re away on vacation.

Hush Puppies:  What discriminating librarians feed their dogs.

Here are some creative options for coming up with funny lines:

1.  Take a traditional pet food brand and switch one letter to totally change one of the words.

2.  Change one of the words with a word that rhymes with it.

3.  Take a non-pet food product and change it into a pet food.

4.  Look for double meanings of words.

5.  Switch a popular brand for dogs and somehow make it for cats, or the other way around.

6.  You may find the punchline in the tag line you attach to the name of the pet food.

You certainly aren’t limited to these ideas.  There are dozens more ways to twist the language and the mind to come up with something creative and funny.

Put on your humor hat, your comedy cap, your buffoonery beanie, or whatever stimulates your funnybone.  Write as many lines as you can.  Go for numbers.  Sleep on it.  Edit, rewrite, tighten your lines.  Select the best ones and submit them to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by March 29, 2009.

Joke Contest Results — Creative Humor Writing

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Here are the results of the Quirky Breakfast Food joke writing contest.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month.

Now here are this month’s top lines selected by a panel of seven judges.  Congratulations to our winners:

** FIRST PLACE **

A politician’s favorite breakfast:  Waffles and pork.
     Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Illinois, USA

** SECOND PLACE **

Priests love Pope-Tarts and Hot Cross Buns.
     Sol Morrison, Santa Barbara, California, USA

** THIRD PLACE **

Howmany Grits:  A favorite of accountants.
     Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Cross-Word Puzzle Fanatics: Alpha-Bits Cereal.
  – Couple with a small, family Business:  Mom-And-Pop Tarts.
  – Match Maker:  Wed-Lox & Bagels.
  – Banker :  Dollar  Pancakes,  Blank  Chex & Golden  Nuggets.
  – Yoga Teachers:  One Egg OHMMM-lettes.
  – Movie Producers:  Al-Cappuccino.
  – Prisoners:  Perp-Tarts.
  – Z-Doodles:  For insomniacs.
  – Rye Chex:  Comedians love ’em!
  – Barley Puffs:  Now with Hops for added zest! (For serious drinkers.)
  – Weedies: Breakfast of Chimpanzees!
  – Sin-a-bons:  When three of ’em is just not enough!
  – Difficult Over Eggs:  For convincing him to buy you non-stick cookware.
  – Poached Eggs:  You didn’t think we were going to actually buy them, did you?
  – Bagels and Padlocks: Now here’s a breakfast that’ll stay with you.
  – Toast: What your now receive for opening a savings account in lieu of a toaster.
  – Life: Favorite cereal of the Unabomber.
  – Shredded Weed:  A favorite of Michael Phelps.
  – Links:  A breakfast staple for Tiger Woods
  – Log Cabin:   The only brand of syrup for Abe Lincoln.
  – All Bran: Keeps your exit clear.
  – OM let :  A bad serve for a zen master.
  – Sunny side up: Nudists colony favorite.
  – Everything Bagle  : Snoopy with an “E” missing.
  – Man-go Sour: The Divorcee’s breakfast.
  – Frosties: When the honeymoon is over.
  – Prozac & Coffee: Start the day Mellow.
  – Foot in Mouth: The Politician’s Breakfast.
  – Sweet and Sour Corn Flakes: An Asian Favourite.
  – Mars-mellow Bars:  Universal Astronaut Breakfast.
  – Poker Chips and Dice Rolls: Breakfast in Las Vegas!
  – Artmeal:  Made from your old unwanted paintings.
  – Shakespeare’s favorite breakfast:  Denver Hamlet.
  – For breakfast on a busy highway:  Traffic jam.
  – A musicians breakfast:  Jam session.
  – Little kid’s breakfast:  Jammies.
  – Breakfast for a medieval jailer:  Locks and scream cheese.
  – Auto repairman in London likes English mufflers.
  – Astronauts eat Twinkies at Starbucks.
  – People who are not on time drink Latte.
  – Cannibals like mancakes.
  – Rising stars like yeast bread.
  – Smurfs eat blueberries .
  – Hecklers love raspberries
  – Popeye loves hashbrowns with Olive Oyl.
  – Sunday morning cruise-ship breakfast:  Cap’n Brunch.
  – Granny likes Smith apples.

For Public Speakers The Truth is Funny

Monday, March 9th, 2009

One of the humor triggers that I look for is the obvious situation that everyone is aware of…the truth.  Sometimes simply stating the truth is funny.  Sometimes you can get the laugh by stating the truth indirectly.  Let’s revisit a few lines and examine some reasons the truth is funny:

Everybody is thinking about it.  Normally if something is obvious, if something stands out, if something is annoying…everybody is thinking about it, or at least thinking about it.  If it’s a problem, it creates tension (another humor trigger).  And frequently, nobody is talking about it (more tension!).  Let’s look at an example.  I was at a Las Vegas convention five years ago. Although it was hot outside, it was freezing in the meeting room.  Imagine a room which you would consider too cold.  Now reduce the temperature ten degrees and turn on the air conditioning full blast.  One of the members of the audience was wearing down jacket with a hood!  Here is a simple Observational Humor line:  “I think it’s starting to snow in here!”  Laughs are guaranteed.  It’s what people are thinking about.  The problem is creating tension.  Humor relieves the tension.  You’ll probably also get applause as people think, “finally someone notices.”

Exploring the other side.  Sometimes you will observe something that can be perceived differently by different  people.  Fifteen years ago I was at a convention where a wedding-reception band was rocking the room on the other side of a temporary sliding wall.  Our banquet had not been planned to include loud music.  Some people may have found the music annoying, and some may have been enjoying it.  The simple observational line:  “I hope you’ve been enjoying our band.”  Observations often take the truth and twist it a bit.  In this case, the line implies that “we arranged for the band.”  One of my favorite observational lines comes from Joe Griffith.  Noticing that a woman was making noise while clearing dishes as he began his speech, he gestured to her and said, “Have you all met my wife?”  Twisting the truth and exaggerating is a good formula for getting laughs.

A set-up on a silver platter.  The truth, or an obvious situation, is often a just begging for a punchline.  If it’s something that everyone notices, then it probably needs no set-up from you.  From a humor structure stand-point, that’s great.  Normally you want as few words as possible between the set-up and the punchline.  How about no set-up from you and a quick, surprise punchline from nowhere?  I was presenting a program in Atlanta 25 years ago.  I had noticed that the servers returned many bowls of cold peach soup to the kitchen.  It was not a popular dish with the people attending the banquet.  In my speech I did a skit where I ate cold roast-beef-hash from a can.  I added a line to my prepared presentation:  “Cold hash from a can doesn’t taste all that great.  But it tastes pretty good compared to the soup.”  Twenty-five seconds of laughter and applause.  It acknowledges the truth.  It takes advantage of a perfect set-up which required no effort on my part, except to use it.

Tune your radar.  Look for the truth.  Get the laughs!

Observational Humor — Case Study #33

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Here is another Observational Humor monologue from a Toastmasters meeting.

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

1.  The Word Of The Day was SUCCOR.  Pronounced SUCKER.  Meaning:  Help, aid, relief.

2.  Four new members were voted into membership by the club members.

3.  The new members gave their introductory speeches.  It was obvious that they were all very intelligent and accomplished.

4.  The Table Topics Master presented impromptu speech topics to an unusually large number of club members.

5.  A speaker jokingly suggested that if you wanted a DO NOT RESSUSITATE order to be honored, that you should have it tattooed on your chest.

6.  The theme of the evening was First Ladies.  Clayton and Lauren knew the answer to most trivia questions about First Ladies of the 1700s and 1800s.

7.  In a speech, Clayton presented a one-sided phone call to Walter Winchell.

8.  Bryant Pergerson is the partner of our club President, Pamela Shinkle.

THE MONOLOGUE

The word of the day is such a practical word…SUCCOR.  It’s a word you could use tomorrow…if you don’t mind getting slapped.
(Using the Word Of The Evening often risked walking the tightrope of good taste.  My observation was a statement of the truth stated indirectly.  The truth is funny.  It paints a funny picture…getting slapped.  Slap is a funny word because it plays with onomatopoeia.)

When our four new members were out of the room and we were voting on your membership application…club members asked whether or not you were old enough to join the club.  It became a non issue when everyone realized that your average age was 18.
(The four new members were young, compared to the age of our average member.  In reality their average age was probably 27.  But exaggeration is the humorist’s friend.)

I’m impressed with our club’s new members.  They’ve lowered the average age in our club by 10 years…and raised our average IQ by 20 points.
(A joke and a topper.  A big laugh.)

Our Table Topics Master called on half the people in this room…but he didn’t call on me.  You may wonder how I avoid getting called upon for Table Topics.  It’s because I have NO TABLE TOPICS tattooed on my chest.
(I was on the watch for “something that I could have tattooed on my chest.”  This line was perfect as it was customized for the group.)

It amazed me that Clayton and Loren knew all the trivia about ancient First Ladies…until I realized they had both voted for their husbands.
(Clayton and Loren happened to be two of our older club members…along with many of the rest of us!).

I especially enjoyed Clayton’s impersonation of Bob Newhart calling Walter Winchell.
(This was a reference to Bob Newhart, a comedian famous for presenting one-sided telephone conversations in his work.)

And to close…a Carnack.
The answer is Bryant Pergerson.
And the question is:  Who was the first First Lady in our club to wear the pants in the family.
(A Carnack is a joke format popularized by Johnny Carson where the comedian gives the answer first, and then reads the question.  A good closer receiving a very big laugh.)

Cartoon Caption Contest

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

It’s the first of March already and time for our new Cartoon Caption Contest.

Our new Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month.

And our Joke Writing Contests are announced mid-month.

Check out our new cartoon by Dan Rosandich and some possible captions:


I think George is hinting that his party on March 17 is just around the corner.
I knew I smelled the scent of Irish Spring.
I thought “Have you seen any Keebler elves?” was a lame pickup line.

Put on your humor hat and see what you can come up with.  Submit your best captions to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by March 15, 2009. 

Visit the cartoon web site of Dan Rosandich for information on how he can create a custom cartoon for your next special project!