Observational Humor — Case Study #49

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.)