Archive for June, 2010

Joke Contest Results — Creative Cures

Friday, June 25th, 2010

It’s time for the results of our Creative Cures humor contest.  The theme was inspired by Sol Morrison from Santa Barbara, California. 

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

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month (alternating months).  The next caption contest is July 1, 2010.

Here are this month’s top lines:


The cure for military personnel having bad hair days:  Head and Soldiers Shampoo.
     Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Illinois


The cure for New Orleans:  Move Congress there to live.
     Tena Thompson, Las Vegas, Nevada


The cure for awful lower back tattoos:  Require that the client view a 20-year age progression of the tattoo before the artist begins.

     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois

 HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – The cure for a happy attitude:  Watch the evening newscast.
  – The cure for an obsessive compulsion to be correct:  Become a Meteorologist.
  – The cure for Apathy:  Sitting on a Giant Red Ant hill.
  – The cure for lethargy:  Hitting a Beehive with a Baseball bat.
  – The cure for your witch spell not working:  Say it in cursive script.
  – The cure for the Stock Market Blues:  Stop trying to keep up with the Dow Jones’.
  – The cure for bad Father’s Day neckties:  Require that the giver wear the tie to two job interviews before Father’s Day.
  – The cure for Disease:  Just unionize germs.  They’re bound to strike and walk off the job sooner or later.
  – The cure for Dented Fenders:  Make all fenders out of Memory Foam.
  – The cure for Sunburn:  Red Tape.
  – The cure for bad haircuts:  Require that the coiffeur-challenged live in a house with mirrored walls and ceilings.
  – The cure for too-loud teen music:  Require that teens be given boom boxes that only play 70’s lite rock classics.
  – The cure for cell phone use while driving:  Require that those caught wear blindfolds and earplugs while driving.
  – The cure for the gulf oil spill:  Oil industry executives with mile long straws.
  – The cure for Marines with sore throats:  Halls of Montezuma.
  – The cure for burned bread:  Toastmasters.
  – The cure for dangling participles:  Marry an English teacher.
  – The cure for varicose veins:  Flesh colored markers.
  – The cure for male wrinkles:  Brotox.
  – The cure for heart disease in NY harbor:  Statin Island.
  – The cure for bad Federal Reserve Bank behavior:  Suethefed.
  – The cure for remote voting for corporate officers:  Proxycontin.
  – The cure for thieves with stomach aches:  Cleptobismol.
  – The cure for insomnia in southern California:  Santa Barbarituates.
  – The cure for tears:  Crylenol.
  – The cure for nosy people:  Prylenol.

Observational Humor — Case Study #57

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a Toastmasters Club meeting.  It’s presented as a learning tool to help you find your own, original humor. 

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

1.  One of our speakers, George Irish, used a note card about the size of a Post-It note.

2.  George gave an excellent speech with good audience reaction.  In fact they laughed in a couple of places where he didn’t expect laughs.

3.  George listed some languages he had experience with, including “Hillbilly.”

4.  George said he was a 40-year on-and-off Toastmaster.

5.  George described himself as a compulsive poker player.

6.  Another speaker talked about a part-time job as a costumed mascot for a Smoothie company.

7.  At the start of every meeting we are reminded to turn off all cell phones and electronic devices.

8.  Frank commented on the hot weather (110 degrees Fahrenheit/43 degrees Celsius), and said that when he stepped into the elevator to come up to the meeting, a woman said to him in a sexy voice, “You’re so hot!”

9.  Donna talked about being a non-swimmer and going to a friend’s pool wearing goggles, a snorkel, a floatie, fins and a body board. 

10.  A speaker talked about an un-characteristic situation where she lost her cool and cussed someone out.  Her first language is German.


I have eight observations to share with you tonight.  (I pulled out a one-square-inch note card.)
(This was a visual sight-gag.  I thought it stood out when George used a noticeably small note card, and nobody had commented on it.  So I chose to use an even smaller note card, without making any specific comment about it.)

George Irish gave a great speech.  Based on the audience response, I’d say that everyone here is fluent in Hillbilly.
(Fluent in Hillbilly was an OK line and received an OK laugh.  I primarily used it as something to read off the small note card and as a set-up/transition to the self-introduction which followed.)

Allow me to introduce myself.  I’m John Norwegian.  I’m a country boy from North Dakota, a long-time Toastmaster, and a repulsive poker player.  And I was formerly a smoothie mascot.
(A brief self-introduction based on several call backs.  Switched the sound-alike word REPULSIVE to add a touch of self-deprecation.)

I’m glad the Sergeant at Arms reminded us to turn off all electrical devices.  I almost forgot to turn off my electronic whoopee cushion.
(The humor trigger is Absurdity.)

I saw Frank’s car in the parking lot.  His personalized license plate says Chile Pepper…because he’s so hot.
(Linked his claim to be hot with a ficticious license plate.)

I noticed in Donna’s speech that when she went swimming at her friend’s pool, she wore goggles, a snorkel, a floatie, fins and a body board.  I also noticed that she did not wear a swim suit (huge laugh). Donna, I’d like to invite you to come swim in my pool (huge laugh).
(The first sentence is a set-up.  The second sentence is a punchline.  The humor trigger was “what wasn’t said.”   The third sentence is a topper.  These were the two biggest laughs of the night in a meeting filled with laughter.)

Going home tonight I’m going to be more careful than when I came here.  On my way to the meeting, I accidentally cut someone off on the freeway…and a nice lady cussed me out in German.  (Of course this didn’t really happen.  I dropped myself into someone else’s story.  The set-up builds the tension.  The “going home tonight” made it a good closer.)

Look For Something Else to Do

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The day after publishing my June newsletter, I received an email from a subscriber:

“honestly, i didn’t get your humor, why don’t you look for something else to do?”

Feedback like that can create thoughts which can be either destructive or productive.

DESTRUCTIVE THOUGHTS make us feel bad.  They can make us angry.  They block our growth.  They don’t serve us.  Thoughts such as:

   – I worked for hours creating that newsletter.  And I sent it out for free!  Neither of these thoughts are good cause to be upset.

   – What does he know!  I’ve done hundreds of monologues and over one thousand comedy programs over the last 40 years.  Lots of people think I’m funny.  But it’s still a fact that I’m not funny to him.

   – I’m being personally attacked.  Our humor can easily become a touchy area.  We take ownership of our funny lines.  We’ve created our jokes.  They’re part of us.  They’re a reflection on our judgment and our logic.  We invested time and effort in their design.  And when someone doesn’t like a joke, it can sting…but only if we allow it to.  Our attitudes, positive and negative, are always a choice.

PRODUCTIVE THOUGHTS help us to accept feedback positively.  Thoughts such as:

   – He was speaking the truth.  His truth.  My style of humor was not funny to him.  Only he is the judge of what is funny to him.

   – He probably has a good sense of humor.  If I were to observe him telling a joke to his friends, they would probably laugh.  There’s a good chance I might not find it funny.  Neither of us is bad, or wrong, just different.

   – He is coming from a good place.  Maybe this isn’t always true, but usually it is (98 percent of the time in my opinion).  And it’s a thought that serves you well.

   – We have different tastes in humor just as we have different tastes in many areas of life.  Not everyone likes heavy metal rock.  Not everyone thinks that rap music is music.  We like different movies.  We get excited about different TV shows.  Some people love reality programs.  Others think they’re totally fake.  So it is with humor…different jokes for different folks.

   – We thrive by accepting feedback.  It helps us to understand people better.  The better our understanding of what makes people tick, the more likely we’ll have stronger relationships with a wide variety of people.

   – No joke will ever connect with every member of a specific audience.  Few of us are experts in cultural humor, generational humor, regional humor, or in the differences between male and female humor.  I’m not an expert in those areas.  So I try not to beat myself up when one of my jokes doesn’t pass the test with a reader or an audience member.

   – It doesn’t matter that I think a joke was funny.  It doesn’t matter that other subscribers think I’m funny.  Those things are irrelevant.  Some people aren’t going to like my humor.  And that’s OK.

   – Let your expectations be positive.  It helps that my goal for the newsletter and blog isn’t primarily to be funny.  My aim is to help others get in touch with what they find funny.  And when I get an occasional email from someone who found a monologue really funny…I’m usually more surprised than I am pleased.  Because I know that the power of the humor is often based on the “you had to be there” factor.  So I expect most of my writings to be learning tools not laughter generators.

   – Don’t be needy.  Don’t be searching for validation.  It helps that over the last 40 years I’ve had audience feedback that I am funny.  Hundreds of Observational Humor monologues, and over 1000 comedy programs have passed the audience test and confirmed to me that I can be funny.  But not to everyone.

   – Fortunately, I don’t receive lots of emails like the one I quoted.  It isn’t that other readers don’t feel the same way.  Most of them just quietly go away and don’t tell me why.  That’s probably a good thing.  If I received 100 emails like that every week…I’d look for something else to do!

To Use or Not to Use Humorous Observations

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

When I collect humorous observations, I am both eager to try them out with an audience and at the same time wanting to limit how many observations I use.  Let me share an example.

I had prepared my Observational Humor monologue, nine items, and was standing in the back of the room waiting to be introduced.  In our club, the person who introduces the Observational Humor Master is the General Evaluator.  The introduction comes at the end of the General Evaluator’s review of the meeting as a whole.  That evening, during his evaluation of the meeting, he noted that the club President announced an upcoming TLI event, but didn’t define TLI (Toastmaster Leadership Institute).

Normally, when I’m introduced as the Observational Humor Master, the first thing I do is ask “Does anyone have any Observational Humor to share?”  I decided to make a last second change, and instead I asked, “Does anyone have any TLI to share?”  It got a big laugh.

Sometimes I use my humorous observations…sometimes I choose not to.  Here are some thoughts on the process of adding the TLI opening to the monologue:

1.  A monologue or a speech is never set in concrete.  I’m always willing to add a new line at the last second.

2.  Adding an observation of something that just happened, strengthens the power of the humor.  An audience appreciates the quick wit, being in-the-moment.  It made a great opener.

3.  As part of my collection of observations, I came up with a creative definition for the acronym TLI.  However, I chose not to give the “definition of TLI” unless I was asked for it, because Less is More.  The power of not offering a definition was funnier than volunteering one.  The absence of a definition increased tension which magnified the humor.

4.  I had to prepare a definition, just in case I was asked.  I needed a definition that was relevant to Observational Humor.  So I came up with a line and a topper.  If someone had asked, my response would have been:  “TLI is Timely Laughter Insights…but I assumed you already knew that.”

5.  No one asked for a definition, so I never used the lines.  Humor is often best when used in moderation.  Forcing everything you have on an audience can work against you.  Leave them wanting more.

6.  Not providing a definition also plays with the principle of the implied punchline, letting them “fill in the blank.”  This is also linked to the laughter trigger of Audience Superiority…letting them “get the joke.”  Serving them everything is not always the funniest way to go.

Almost every time I prepare a monologue, I work at blending my observations together, while avoiding the temptation to use every observation on my list.  By doing that, the final piece will be stronger.

Joke Contest — Creative Cures

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

The challenge for this month’s Joke Contest is Creative Cures.  The theme was inspired by Sol Morrison from Santa Barbara, California.

Here are three examples:

The cure for global warming:  Outlaw political speeches.

The cure for federal deficits:  Require that salaries and pensions of congress and staff be paid only from surplus funds.

The cure for young people wearing low-rider pants exposing their underwear:  Require all parents to wear low-rider pants exposing their underwear.

It’s time for you to come up with your own cures.  Submit your top three cures for review by our panel of judges.  You may submit more than three cures and the additional entries will be eligible for Honorable Mention recognition.  Submit your best entries to by June 15, 2010.