Archive for November, 2009

Less-Is-More and Permission

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

We often have beliefs that lead us down the wrong path when deciding whether or not to use original humor.

1.  We often want to be funny so badly that we think it’s a good  choice to use every humor idea we can think of.  The logic is that   “it’s a numbers game” and the more times we swing at the ball, the  more likely that one of the lines will connect and get laughs.  A   preferable  approach is to become a better judge of what is very funny and what is only slightly funny.  Then you become a better censor of what to use and what to throw out.

2.  We sometimes think that bigger is better.  Sometimes it is.  More energy is often funnier.  Bigger gestures are often funnier.  More vocal techniques are often funnier.  But it depends on your natural style.  For you, maybe less-is-more.  That’s the case for me.  Yet even if over-the-top is generally your best choice, you will be served well by exploring minimization occasionally, for variety if nothing else.

3.  We sometimes forget that most humor requires “permission” from the audience to use it.  Without permission, your humor can work against the less-is-more principle.  If you persist in using humor without permission, the audience may be thinking:  “There he/she goes again.  Begging for laughs!”

Let me share an example from a Toastmasters Contest awards presentation.  I competed in 2008 at a Humorous Speech Contest  and a Speech Evaluation Contest at the Division level.  I was competing in both contests.  During the contestant interviews, one of the other contestants poked fun at my low-energy style.  She said: “When John Kinde is on the platform I’m amazed at how much he emotes.  He really emotes!”  Her style is the opposite of mine, very high energy.  So the contrast was funny.  And the humor trigger, Something-Funny, told me that this might be something I could use later for Observational Humor.

In my head, I wrote three humor lines based on her remarks about my style.  I had written a fourth line contrasting her style and mine, but threw it out thinking it might appear to be attacking her style.  The three lines I wanted to use were:  A quick, one-word line (which I almost consider a throw-away line, not a serious joke).  And a joke with a topper.

I felt comfortable using the quickie line in almost any situation, but felt that the two more substantial humor lines should be used only if I won the first-place trophy in at least one of the two contests.  Without being the winner, I felt I wouldn’t have had “permission” to take the microphone during the awards ceremony and do two humor lines.  Without being the winner, it could have looked like:  “There goes Kinde again, forcing another humor line into the program.”  On the other hand, it appears normal for the first-place recipient to make some remarks.

The Speech Evaluation Contest results were announced first.  I was awarded Third Place.  I chose to use my quickie line.  I received the trophy, waited for the applause to die down, and stepped forward and said in a low-energy way, “Wow.”  It received a big laugh since it was a callback to the other speaker’s remarks.

And then I waited for the results for the Humorous Speech Contest.  I made the decision that I would only use the two prepared joke lines if I was the winner.  The good news is that I did win first place.  I received the trophy and said:  “Right after the contest I’m going to Wal-Mart.  They’re having a Two-For-One Sale on emotions.  And I want to thank my Emoting Coach…Stephen Wright.”

Less-Is-More.  Being selective adds power to your humor lines.  Use only your best lines and remember to ensure that you have permission to use them.

November Cartoon Caption Contest Results

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

It’s time for the results of our November Cartoon Caption Contest.  We feature the art of Dan Rosandich.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

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

Here are this month’s top captions:

** First Place **

If you turn the paper upside down the economic forecast looks a lot better.
     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois, USA

** Second Place **

Y’know, Dad, as the news gets worse, you look more and more like Gramps!
     Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California, USA

** Third Place **

Daddy, I don’t think your mug shot looks that bad.
     Andrew Jones, Laie, Hawaii, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Is there anything in there about those detectives who were questioning you the other day?
  – You’re pretending your reading the paper because you can’t help me with my Calculus homework, aren’t you?
  – My school prank made the front page, didn’t it?
  – Daddy, are newspapers report cards for adults?
  – If I can’t get a raise on my allowance, how about a bail out?
  – Dad, you know your blood pressure can’t handle coffee and the newspaper at the same time!
  – I’ve seen this look, Dad.  Did mom have a headache again last night?
  – Are you angry about the news, or is it really about those ants crawling all over the chair?
  – Maybe if you drank lemonade instead of lemon juice, the news would look better!
  – Daddy I promise!  I will never do anything to get me on the front page of the newspaper again!
  – You look like a man well able to handle another little set back in his child rearing agenda.
  – At least they spelled my name right in thr Police Blotter.
  – Let me guess…you bet on the Phillies didn’t you.
  – I thought your Cartoon Contest entry was a sure winner, dad.
  – Can’t you see I’m Readin’ the Noosepaper, son?
  – Hey Dad, do you remember when you asked me not to ever ask you questions while you read the paper?
  – It’s almost time for my school.  Did you finish my homework Dad?
  – Gee, strong coffee and bad news doesn’t work for you, dad.
  – I know YOU talked about this last Sunday.  You didn’t want to hear MY reply then either.
  – Is that the new model Sofa-toilet-seat ?
  – Son: Dad.  Where do babies come from?
    Dad: Don’t bother me in the morning or else I’ll send you to the place where babies come from!

Visit the web site of Dan Rosandich for information on how he can create custom cartoons for your next special project, article, book, web site, blog, newsletter, T-Shirt and more.

Observational Humor — Case Study #46

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Here’s an Observational Humor monologue used at the end of the first day of a Fripp Speakers School.

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

1.  Fripp mentioned that a speaker was tall, and had long, pretty hair.

2.  An effective phrase as part of a speech opening might be:  “In the next few minutes you’ll learn…”

3.  Someone suggested, as part of a speech opening, that you could say:   “…information which you will take away.”

4.  Fripp pointed out that the word “stuff” is weak, non-specific and does not build credibility.

5.  Fripp said it’s best not to put your hands in your pockets, especially for men:  “Men are genetically prone to jingle.”

6.  A speaker put his hands in his pockets.  Fripp grabbed his pockets to see what was inside.

7.  Fripp shared that, “Logic makes you think.  Emotion makes you act.”

8.  A speaker opened a story about someone dying in a hospital with “I wish you could have been there.”  Fripp suggested that you only use that opening for a fun and happy event.

9.  We were told “there is not such thing as a boring subject…only boring speakers.”

THE MONOLOGUE

I know what you’re thinking.
Sure you’re tall.
But your hair isn’t long.
And it’s not pretty.
How could you possibly be funny.

(A call back to the tall/long/pretty comment.  A disconnect between those physical descriptions and being funny.  A bit of self-deprecation mentioning the thought that I don’t look funny.)

In the next few minutes you’ll laugh…or you’ll take away some techniques not to use.
(Self-deprecation suggesting that my humor might bomb.)

I’m going to share some funny stuff.
(A simple line re-visiting the word STUFF.)

It’s time for a jingle.
You heard the speaker was really hip.
So you packed your bag and took a trip.
It’s more than fluff.
Much more than stuff.
The speaking master’s name is Fripp.
(This “jingle” was just a simple limerick.  It wasn’t meant as a stand-along joke, but was used only as a set-up for the following two jokes.)

I’m a man…I’m genetically prone to jingle.
I bring that up hoping that Fripp will want to feel what’s in my pockets.

(The first line received a good laugh.  The second line, a huge laugh.)

Today I learned that:
Logic makes you think.
Emotion makes you act.
And stuff makes you laugh.

(Making STUFF a running gag.)

I wish you could have been there.  He was strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber.  It was so much fun.
(Using the opposite of a happy situation to re-visit the “wish you could have been there” line.  Big laugh after “It was so much fun.”

As a final thought:  There is no such thing as an un-funny subject.  There are only un-funny speakers.
(Not a huge laugh, but a good closer recalling a piece of advice and substituting the word FUNNY.  Simple and effective.)

Joke Writing Contest — Blended Cities

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

The theme of this month’s contest, Blended Cities, is inspired by Sol Morrison of Santa Barbara.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

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

Your challenge is to combine two city names to create the name of a new community.  We’re not looking for anagrams (a total mixing of the letters) but challenge you to use parts of the city names for your inspiration.  Then take it one step further by adding a sub-title or descriptive punchline. 

Here are three examples:

Tampa and Grand Rapids — Grampa Raps:  Home of Hip Pop
Orlando and Seattle — Land and Sea:  An easily accessible community
Long Beach and Chicago — LongAgo:  A city of fond memories

Put on your humor hat and see what you can come up with.  Submit your three top entries for review of the judges.  You may submit additional entries for possible honorable mention.  Send your lines to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by November 30, 2009.

Contest Results — Alternative Dinosaurs

Friday, November 13th, 2009

It’s time for the results of our Alternative Dinosaur joke writing contest.  The contest theme was inspired by Jim Spero and Paul Lirette from Las Vegas.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

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

Here are this month’s top lines:

** FIRST PLACE **

Dinosaur learning to ice skate:  Mega-sore-ass
     Darin Thompson, Smithfield, Utah, USA

** SECOND PLACE **

Friendly Neighbour:  Helloasaurus
     Kaye Newton, Raymond Terrace, Australia

** THIRD PLACE **

Bank Chief Executive Officer:  Tiranus-Bonus-Rex
     Suzanne Tiffin, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Dinosaur drunk:  Staggersaurus
  – Jedi Master dinosaur:  Trythereisnotricerotops
  – Cowboy dinosaurs:  Buckasaurasses
  – Cuban dinosaur:  Castrotyrannos
  – Dangerous dinosaur in traffic:  Velocipedo Rapidors.
  – Impatient dinosaur:  Prontosaurus
  – Head of a crime family: Adonadon
  – Cookie monster:  Oreosaur
  – Holiday Store Temp:  Xmas Wraptor
  – Early Automobile:  Model T-Rex
  – Dinosaur track star:  Terminal Velociraptor
  – Dermatologist dinosaur:  Itchysaurus
  – Giant helicopter scion:  Helicoprion
  – Walnut eating dinosaur:  Canker-a-sore-us
  – Fraternity dinosaur: Pledge-a-saraus
  – Christian dinosaur quickly taken to heaven: Veloci-rapture
  – Dinosaur dictator:  Tyrantosaurus
  – Dinosaur working in a gift shop:  BagOrWraptor
  – Dino doctor:  Teradoctor
  – Bone doctor:  Orthopedic Rex
  – Dino rap artist:  Gangster Raptor
  – Indian dinosaur:  Tandooractyal
  – Computer programmer dinosaur:  Key-Rex
  – Grammar dinosaur:  Metaphoraptor
  – Hip-hop dinosaur:  Shizzle-Rex
  – Ponderous conversationalist dinosaur:  Borasaurus
  – Mideast dinosaur:  Iranosaurus Rex
  – Origin of the H1N1 flu virus:  Swineosaurus
  – Snow plowing dinosaur:  Torosaurus
  – Prescription for disaster:  Tyrannosaurus Rx
  – Lives in salt water:  Brineosaur
  – Flying kindergarten teacher:  Big Birdactyl
  – Ate fermented grapes:  Wineosaur
  – T-Rex after a vigorous workout:  Dinosore
  – Brainy dinosaur:  Cerebratosaurus

The Foundation of a Humorous Speech

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I attended the District 33 Humorous Speech Contest this past weekend.   I wasn’t speaking.  I wasn’t judging.  I was a spectator.  What a great way to enjoy a contest!

A conversation with a friend led to the subject of “how soon should we expect a laugh in a humorous speech?”  A lot of people believe that you should get your first laugh as soon as possible.  I take a different approach.

When you’re preparing a humorous speech, it’s your opening that will lay the foundation for the humor which follows.  Don’t be in a hurry to put in your first punchline.  The foundation comes before the funny.

Your opening establishes your premise.  It tells your audience what speech will be about.  Without a solid foundation in your opening, a speech becomes nothing but jokes.

I competed in the Toastmasters Tall Tales Contest last year.  In the five-minute speech, a punchline came every 41 words (on the average).  But the first punchline came 83 words into the speech. Although punchlines came about once every 12 seconds, in my opening I spent 30 seconds laying the foundation before the first punchline was introduced.  Sometimes in a seven-minute humorous speech contest, it’s not unusual for me to spend 60 to 90 seconds laying the premise of the speech, with no laugh lines. 

I like to think of the opening of my speech as creating the “vehicle” which will carry my humor.  It often creates the structure or the reason for the humor that follows.  Examples of comedy vehicles are Top-Ten Lists and Roast formats.  A typical speech introduction will usually give an organization to what follows, giving the humor proper context. 

In my Tall Tales speech, my opening provided the PLATFORM.  I established that I was a retired research scientist from Area 51.  That laid the foundation to speak about space aliens for the next five minutes. I left the platform (my opening foundation) with my first funny line, the TILT, and I was off and running.  The platform says “this is what the speech is about” and the tilt says “it’s going to be fun or interesting.”

The opening to my humor speech is rarely the first thing I write, but I never skimp on spending time to develop the introduction of the speech.  Even though it usually contains no humor lines, it’s just as important as the jokes to the overall success of the humorous speech.

Observational Humor — Case Study #45

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a Toastmasters meeting.

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

1.  A speaker told us that to love others, you must first love yourself.

2.  A speaker told us to SLAP our significant other, using SLAP as a motivational acronym.

3.  Mike told the classic Starfish story.

4.  Freeway traffic was terrible enroute to the meeting.  Everyone coming from my end of town was late.

5.  Daylight Savings time change took place the day before our meeting.  We set our clocks back one hour.

6.  Our Table Topics (impromptu speech topics) were presented by a member who gave us obscure words to define, and she told us that it was unlikely we would know the correct definition.

7.  A speaker was introduced as a classically trained musician.  “Which explains why he uses notes.”

8.  A speaker said, “I was in a jazz band for four years.  I’m telling you that because it’s important for the next story I’m going to share.”

9.  Someone referred to a speaker who had spoken to Superbowl contenders and Apollo astronauts.

10.  A speaker used the acronym TIP for Trust, Integrity, Peace.

11.  Frank told us a story of meeting his wife’s ex and not realizing who it was.  “I was confused when I saw that he had pictures of my grand kids in his wallet.”

THE MONOLOGUE

I love myself.  I love myself.  I love myself.  And when I go home tonight I’m going to slap my significant other.
(The first laugh line was a slight twist on the motivational mantra “I like myself.”  The SLAP line was simply a repeat of a previously used phrase.  The literal use of the word SLAP made the line funny.)

And the man said to me, “Why are you throwing starfish back into the ocean?”  I replied, “So Mike can give a speech.”
(I dropped myself into the Starfish story.)

I was late getting to the meeting tonight…I forgot to set my clock back on Sunday.  Actually if that were the case, I would have been an hour early.
(The set up stated a seemingly logical reason for being late for the meeting.  The punchline stated the reality, which was probably not immediately obvious to most people.)

Table Topics were really challenging tonight.  We were challenged with a word which we were told that we probably wouldn’t know the meaning of.  And we were being told that by a blonde.
(I connected the Table Topics presenter’s challenge with a stereotype about blondes.)

I’m a classically trained humorist.  That explains why I use notes.
(I usually use notes when I deliver a monologue.  Switching classically trained musician for humorist worked nicely.)

I was in a jazz band for four years.  That has nothing to do with this monologue.  I just wanted you to know.
(A silly line that got a good laugh.)

I’ve spoken to Super Bowl contenders, Apollo astronauts, and cows.  I told the cows to focus on Trust, Integrity and Peace.  I was cow tipping.
(I combined two observations…speaking to celebrities and the TIP acronym…and linked them with cow-tipping.  It was good for two laughs.  The first one was when I said “and cows”.)

(taking out my wallet)  Let me show you some pictures of Frank’s grand kids.
(A great closing line implying that everyone carried photos of Frank’s grand kids in their wallet…or that I was the ex of Frank’s wife.  It didn’t matter to me which way it was received because both would work.  A huge laugh.)

Public Speaking School

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Hot Tip!  Patricia Fripp’s Speaking School is in Las Vegas in just two weeks, November 14-15, 2009.  Fripp is one of the world’s best public speaking coaches.  I’ve heard Fripp speak more than 20 times.  I always learn something new.  Attending her school needs to be on your to-do-list!

November Cartoon Caption Contest

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

It’s time for the November Cartoon Caption Contest.  We feature the art of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced at the start of the month.

New Joke Contests are announced mid-month.

Enter your best three lines.

Here is this month’s cartoon:

Write as many captions as you can.  Then edit your initial work.  Pick your best three lines and submit them.  Deciding which lines are your best lines is a great discipline for discovering if what you think is funny is also found to be funny to others.  You can submit more than three lines, and the extra lines will be eligible for honorable mention.  Only your first three lines will be judged by our panel of judges for first, second and third place.

Submit your best lines to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by November 15, 2009.

Visit the web site of Dan Rosandich for information on how he can design custom cartoons for your next special project, book, newsletter, brochure, holiday card, T-shirt and more.