Archive for January, 2010

Observational Humor — Case Study #50

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Here is another Observational Humor monologue from the second day of a Fripp Speakers School.

THE SET-UP (What happened and what was said during the workshop)

1.  Someone sitting next to Isaak mentioned that her fingers were tingling.  Someone else joked that it wasn’t BECAUSE she was sitting next to Isaak.

2.  Fripp said that Botox, used in facial cosmetic surgery, causes the face to lack expression.

3.  Fripp used a gesture when she said “the words” (fingers sweeping from below the chin to in front of the mouth).  She said that it had an obscene meaning in Italian, but that she wasn’t using it in that way.

4.  Fripp introduced a penalty-bowl and charged a one-dollar fine for anyone using the word STUFF.  Guy Burns was assessed more fines than anyone else.

5.  Fripp used the word CEREBRAL three times and had trouble pronouncing it each time she used it.

6.  When students asked questions, they were normally handed a microphone to capture the question on the recording.  A few times, the microphone didn’t reach them.  Fripp was wearing a wireless headset and would lean into them:  “Speak into my cheek.”

THE MONOLOGUE (Not delivered due to lack of time.)

I thought it would be appropriate, as the workshop ends, to answer some of your questions.  First, I’ll give you the answer and then I’ll read your question:  (The entire monologue is in the reverse-question format, popularized by Johnny Carson as Carnak the Magnificent. Most people are familiar with this format and those who are not seem to pick it up quickly, without a complicated explanation.)

The answer is:  My fingers started tingling.
And the question is:  What happened when you first met Isaac?

(Dropping myself into the story.)

The answer is:  Botox.
And the question is:  What is the key to your great deadpan delivery?
(Self deprecation.  A reference to my low-key delivery.)

The answer is:  No bookings in Italy.
And the question is:  What is the result of “the words” (doing the Italian gesture) Fripp uses?
(Using cause-and-effect to create a punchline.)

The answer is:  Guy Burns.
And the question is:  Who is a one-man money machine for the Stuff Bowl?

(A simple observation.  Funny because it’s something that everyone noticed.)

The answer is:  Cerebral.
And the question is:  What do Mensa members need to be, even if they can’t pronounce it?

(Makes the logical assumption that Fripp would be a likely candidate for Mensa and sets aside the pronunciation issue by making light of it.)

The answer is:  Speak into my cheek.
And the question is:  What has a dangerous double-meaning if you say it while bending over?
(Plays with the double meaning of the word CHEEK.  A good closer.)

Cartoon Caption Contest Results — Health Care

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

We had a lot of fun entries for our January Cartoon Caption Contest.  The cartoon featured professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

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

New Joke Contests are announced on the first of the month, alternating months.

Here are this month’s top captions:


I was right!  My ex-boyfriend was spineless!

     Carol Sauceda, Santa Barbara, California, USA

Let’s speed it up! The other “Iron Surgeon America” team is almost ready to close.

     Sol  Morrison, Santa Barbara, California, USA


We need to move it along here people.  I just found out our four-some’s tee-time has been moved up 2 hours.

     Tom Higgins, Lyons, Illinois, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Do we have time for a goup hug?
  – Simon didn’t say to cut.
  – When did we replace ultrasound with etch-a-sketch?
  – I’m not a nurse, I’m his wife, our health care doesn’t cover four professionals in the operating room!
  – Oh, that reminds me…I gotta pick up some kielbasa on my way home!
  – Well, sure, this “virtual patient” method does have its limits, but at least no one dies!
  – There goes his funny bone.  That’s $200 for me!  Oh, we’re not playing Operation?
  – The Orthopedist clearly said it was the left leg.
  – I thought YOU brought the heart.
  – This is the patient who swallowed 42 quarters last week.  No change yet.
  – Should we charge by the pound to take that out? 
  – Can someone please remind me where the appendix is located?
  – I’m not familiar with the internal organs of a ghost.
  – Who took my copy of “The Dummy’s Guide to Heart Surgery”?
  – I think this “Take Your Daughter To Work Day” can go a little too far.
  – Look! On the backbone: It’s the spine flu!
  – Oh my goodness! The backbone is not connected to the neck bone.
  – This patient’s heart is on the right side!
  – Be careful where you point that.
  – That is one ugly baby!
  – So that’s where I lost my nail clipper last month!
  – Now, I remember.  This is the woman my husband goes to on Thursdays and Fridays for Tango lessons!
  – I don’t know about you guys but I am really craving spaghetti for lunch.
  – Once you get the quarter out, I will rock, paper, scissors you for it.
  – Sometimes I pretend I am Barbara Streisand.
  – This patient is a democrat. We can’t operate, we’re a red state!

Visit cartoonist Dan Rosandich who has an extensive and in depth archive of categorized cartoons and cartoon pictures available for licensing at negotiable fees.

Observational Humor — Case Study #49

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Let’s look at some Observational Humor from a Toastmasters meeting which highlight some humor techniques:

  – Call backs and running gags.
  – Dropping yourself into the story.
  – What this means is.
  – What everybody is thinking.

Here are some of the set-ups (what happened at the meeting), followed by the observational humor remarks.

The first set-up.  The Toastmaster of the evening (emcee) selected a meeting theme of Star Wars.  He said that he had obtained genuine Star Wars story boards from a vendor in Nigeria.  He had created humorous story boards based on the Star Wars movies which he used to transition from one part of the meeting to the next.

Since the story boards were a big part of the meeting I decided to open my monologue with my own story boards:

I’ve created story boards for my monologue. (I created two hand-drawn pictures.)  This is me delivering the monologue (me drawn as a stick figure).  This is you laughing (stick figures with smiley faces).  Now that we’ve set the ground rules…I’ll begin my monologue.
(My use of story boards might be considered a call back to those used by the emcee.  But I prefer to think of it as a continuation of a story-board running gag established by the emcee.  It worked perfectly.  Big laugh.)

The second set-up.  Members Jim and Anita (husband and wife) normally attend the meeting together.  That evening Jim came to the meeting without Anita.  Jim has a funny guy and always has something to contribute during the Observational Humor part of the meeting.

Jim said that he had recently made millions of dollars selling Star Wars story boards from Nigeria.
(Here he is “dropping himself into the story.”  Someone had established the Nigerian connection story, and Jim made himself part of that story.  He received a big laugh.)

As he took his seat, I followed his comments with an observation:
Did you notice?  Now that Jim has made millions…he’s leaving Anita at home!

A third set-up.  A speaker gave a humorous speech on goal setting.  He made a resolution that when people cut him off on the freeway he’ll no longer shout obscenities or give them the finger…at the same time.

Here’s an observational remark from my monologue based on that “goal.”
I had a bad experience driving to the meeting tonight.  As I approached the freeway exit, I changed lanes.  I pulled in front of a guy who started shouting obscenities.  After 15 seconds he stopped shouting obscenities and started giving me the finger.
(This is another example of “dropping yourself into the story.”  I became part of his story, which he had established in his goal setting speech.  Very big laugh.)

A fourth set-up to help us look at two more techniques.  In her opening remarks, our club President noted that we had 14 guests at the meeting.

Here’s my remark:
We have 14 guests at the meeting tonight.  If this is your first meeting, you’ll realize what that means is…our club only has three members.
(A couple of things set the stage for this joke.  First, I’m using the principle of “What that means is…”  When something happens or is said, you often have the opportunity of translating what that means “in other words.”  Second, the principle of “What everybody is thinking.”  We had about the average number of people attending the meeting, about 25, but had more guests than normal.  It was the Monday following the New Years weekend, and member attendance was lower than usual.  When our President said that we had 14 guests, quite likely some people may have thought “There’s more guests than members here,”  or some variation of that thought.  In constructing the joke I realized there were more than three members present, but I exaggerated the low member attendance to get the laugh.  And three is a funny number.)

New Year’s Humor Resolutions

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Another year begins.  And with it comes New Years Resolutions. 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 the goal is so massive that you don’t know where to start.  As a result, you don’t!  You can solve that problem by breaking the resolution down in to smaller bites.  What is the First Step toward achieving that desired goal?

 2.  Enter one of our contests this month.  First Step:  Take just five minutes to look over the contest and write just ONE line. If you think it’s funny, submit it.  The current contest is to write a cartoon caption.

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

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 a little less time with that person.  You become the people you hang out with.

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, tape 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 with a search for Humor Books.

9.  Look for humor greeting cards, bumper stickers and T-Shirts.  Or make your own.  At past National Speakers Association conventions they featured 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 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.

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 collect 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.  Check out the dozens of Observational Humor case studies in the Humor Power Blog.

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

Cartoon Caption Contest — Health Care

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Let’s kick off the new year with a health-care cartoon.  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.

Here is the cartoon:

Write as many captions as you can.  Then select 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, 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 entries by January 15, 2010.  Send them to:

Visit cartoonist Dan Rosandich who has an extensive and in depth archive of categorized cartoons and cartoon pictures available for licensing at negotiable fees.