Observational Humor in a Speech Contest

The following was sent to me by Linda Evans, a very talented humor speaker, after she won her district’s Tall Tales contest.

Linda writes:

I’m still a little fearful of creating observational humor, but as John Kinde says, it just takes practice.  So, on May 8, 2010, I made a conscious decision to give it a whirl.  At the District 33 (California and Nevada) conference, I was honored to represent Division D in the Tall Tales contest.  Here’s the set-up:

1. There were nearly 200 people in the banquet room.  District 33 Governor Sherrie Parker wanted to recognize each of the Area Governors by name; numbering more than thirty.  In order to make enough time to recognize each one, she asked the audience to join her with one single clap of applause after each name.  We obliged.
(John’s note:  The large size of the audience is a plus.  The response, compared to a club meeting with 15 people, will be magnified.  Also, the set-up was strong.  Because of the repetitive nature of the single clap, it was something everyone noticed.)

2.  Looking at my speech, the 9th line was “All the other vegetables were applauding and smiling.”  A bolt of Observational Humor lightning struck!  I immediately changed that line to “All the other vegetables were smiling and gave me an applaud” and I clapped my hands once and waited.  A wave of laughter went through the audience.  I turned my head and stared at Sherrie Parker, and another wave of laughter went through the audience. 
(John’s note: Notice that not only did she switch in the word APPLAUD, she changed the order of the words to make APPLAUD the punch word.  Then she followed it with two toppers, both physical. The first one, she clapped once.  The second one she looked at Sherrie Parker.)

That was a great relief and I’m pleased to say that I won first place!  There was some great competition, but I really believe that the strength of the call-back to the one-clap applause made all the difference.  Thanks John Kinde.  You rock!  Linda Evans
(John’s note:  This is what Observational Humor is all about.  It’s not about monologues.  The true power comes when you add that gem to one of your speeches. Adding Observational Humor to a talk, especially early in the speech, can add a feeling of freshness to the entire talk.  I was not present at the contest, which is why I heard from several people telling me that her line was the funniest of the weekend.  Go Linda!)