To Use or Not to Use Humorous Observations

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.