Observational Humor — Case Study #52

Here’s an Observational Humor monologue presented at an Ed Tate storytelling workshop presented at a PowerHouse Pros Toastmasters meeting.  Ed is an awesome storyteller and is the Toastmasters 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking.

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

1.  Ed pointed out that most of history’s great speeches had no humor.  Although humor is important…humor is optional.

2.  Ed told a story where one of the punchlines was “until they put on the handcuffs.”

3.  Ed told a story where a guy he called “Ordinary Joe” got arrested.  “If they arrested Ordinary Joe…a black guy doesn’t have a chance.”  Ed is black.  In discussing the story structure, he pointed out that most people probably assumed that Joe was white, “even though I never said he was white.”

4.  Ed pointed out that larger movements of the mouth, while speaking, automatically result in larger gestures.

5.  When Darren LaCroix introduced Ed he told a story about Ed being an avid learner and asking so many questions at a program that the presenter was becoming annoyed.  Ed started writing his questions and passing them to Darren so that Darren could ask the questions.

6.  At the start of the meeting, Bryant announced that PowerHouse Pros is the largest Toastmasters club in District 33.

7.  We had about 50 guests at the meeting that night.

8.  The unpublished agenda called for Bryant to recognize the club President at the start of the meeting.  He forgot to do that and during the meeting he asked me to do it at the end of my monologue.

9.  Ed told a story about a movie on a plane being terminated before coming to the who-dunnit part of the movie.


Humor is optional.  Thank you very much.  (I started to leave the speaking platform.)
(A quick call back provided a good opener.)

Last week I was delivering a humor monologue.  It was going great…until they put on the handcuffs.
(Another call back slipped into an unexpected place.)

Ed Tate is a funny guy.  In fact I was sitting in the back of the room thinking…if they laugh at him…a white guy doesn’t have a chance.
(The humor is triggered by a reversal.)

You’ll notice that I didn’t say Ed was black.
(Another reversal.  A big laugh.)

I learned two things which may come in handy tonight.
1.  How to be funny…move your mouth.
2.  If the audience isn’t liking my jokes…I’ll write them down and give them to Darren LaCroix.

(First line, I dropped Ed’s punchline onto my own setup.  Second line I used the “drop myself into their story” technique.)

Bryant told you that we are the largest Toastmasters Club in District 33.  Actually, that’s not true.  The truth is that we have so many guests that nobody has figured out that we only have three members.
(The situation where guests out-number members provides a great set up for the understated punchline.  There is a touch of self-deprecation.  Also working is the principle of “tension” when I state “that’s not true.”  What someone lied to us?  Release of tension results in laughter.  However, within the structure of a monolgue, tension is a minor factor, because the audience expectation is that most setup lines are fabricated or said in jest, and the result is that no tension is built.)

Bryant Pergerson was supposed to recognize our club President at the start of the meeting but was unable to do that.  The problem is that we’ve had so many new members join in the past two months…that nobody can recognize the President.  Is Erin Pavlina in the room?
(The previous joke about guests provided a setup for me to recognize the President using humor.  The joke also plays with the double meaning of “recognize.”)

In closing, I caught a news flash on TV just before coming to the meeting.  Remember, six months ago, the two pilots that overflew Minneapolis by 150 miles?  The investigation just uncovered why.  The pilots were waiting to find out who-dunnit.
(This joke didn’t fit into the logical flow of the monologue, so I chose to use it as a closer.  It worked well.)