Observational Humor — Case Study #34

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.


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.)