Archive for September, 2010

Cartoon Caption Contest Results

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

It’s time for the top captions in our September Cartoon Caption Contest featuring the artwork of Dan Rosandich.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced at the start of the month (alternating months).

New Joke Contests are announced at the start of the month (alternating months).  The next joke contest will be announced on October 1, 2010.

Here are this month’s cartoon and the results:

** FIRST PLACE **

The cat won’t do it, so Fido is our only hope for extra income.
     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois

** SECOND PLACE **

I knew that teaching him how to write wasn’t the best idea
     Boris

** THIRD PLACE (TIE) **

I said, Send him to Obedience School, Not to English as a Second Language.
     Sol Morrison, Santa Barbara, California

Ignore him, if you give him anything he’ll just go spend it on Beggin Strips.
     Scott Knight, Las Vegas, Nevada

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – He’s on a strict diet…he eats whatever he begs for.
  – Don’t give him a dime… He’ll just spend it all on marking his territory, and chasing cars!
  – That’s enough practice, now go and make us some money.
  – Barb, I think it is about time we cancel that “Increase Your Dog’s IQ” course that we’ve been attending at PetWorld.
  – Sit, roll over and play dead I understand, but why in the world did you teach him to beg?
  – Oh, by the way, when was the last time you fed the dog?
  – Now they’re using kid’s pets for school fund raising
  – The economy has finally gone to the dogs.
  – Don’t laugh…he brings in over $100 a day.
  – They saw you coming, Dear.  They sold you a Guide Dog for the Blonde.
  – Fido just needs to understand that he’s been downsized!
  – No problem yet, but if Poochie finds out about picketing, there could be trouble!
  – Get a job.
  – This Economy has force me to get a little creative with my dog training business.
  – Beggars can’t be choosers.
  – He was part of three blind mice until the mice found out he was a dog.
  – He found that dog costume in a dumpster.

Visit cartoonist Dan Rosandich who has an extensive and in depth archive of categorized cartoons and cartoon pictures available for licensing at negotiable fees.

Challenging Performing Conditions

Friday, September 17th, 2010

After reading the post Don’t Sing Opera To Wrestling Fans, TJ Walker writes:

“Great points about venue selection.  But in the case of stand-up comedy in a less-than-ideal situation, isn’t it still helpful to a speaker to go through such an experience?  To ‘survive’ it?  Doesn’t it build confidence for when a speaker is in more ideal situations?”

Excellent question.  Yes…you do learn things from having challenging experiences!

A good part of what you learn comes from your applying the filter of your previous experience.  This means that a seasoned performer will learn more than a novice.  The novice is apt to learn the wrong lesson.  “I couldn’t get laughs…I’m a terrible comic or speaker.” He or she may blame their own performance and not be fully aware of how bad the performing conditions really were.

As a seasoned performer, what I learn and re-learn is to “avoid bad speaking situations.”  Been there…done that!

My advice to the novice is…get good first…then look for challenges which will help you grow.  Practice at Toastmasters and at good  comedy venues first.  And then tackle the challenging assignments.

And to the seasoned performer, I’d generally avoid bad situations.  You’ll find yourself in bad situations without trying!  And when you find yourself in a horrible situation, take advantage of it.  Learn and grow.

My comedy club experiences were all good.  But I did have a bad, comedy-club-like experience at a professional engagement.  I had been hired to perform comedy and magic at a New Years Eve party.  At 11pm they interrupted the dancing for me to do a 30-minute performance.  The audience would have rather kept on dancing!  I wasn’t an added attraction.  I was an interruption.  Likebin a bar situation, the back of the room was engaged in conversation.  Because of the buzz in the room, the middle of the room couldn’t hear the performance, so they started talking too.  Soon, nobody beyond  the front row had a chance of hearing anything I was saying.  My carefully crafted punchlines were falling on deaf ears.

At the end of the performance, I quickly packed up my things and slipped out the side door, vowing never to be in that situation again.  Not fun.

But there are good things to be learned from really bad comedy-club-like situations.  Here are a few:

1.  The set-up.  Give the organizers of the event instructions which will help them set up the stage, lights and sound to give your act a fighting chance.  In a bar or formal club situation, you may have no control.

2.  Arrive early.  Hopefully you’re aware of how bad the situation will be BEFORE you take the stage.  How are the emcee and the performers before you doing with the audience?  It’s best if you’re not totally surprised.

3.  Start your act with a bang.  Open with your best material.  Avoid long set-ups which delay the punchlines.

4.  Project.  Speak loudly straight into the microphone.  Often, the biggest issue in a nightclub situation is having an audience which can’t hear you.

5.  Be big.  Show energy.  Use large gestures.

6.  Get close to the audience.  Move forward.  If necessary step off the stage.  Get into their space.  This isn’t always practical, but be aware that it might be an option.

7.  Tighten the act.  If things are going poorly, shorten your set and get off the stage.  You may have an obligation to fill time, but there are limits to how long you should be tortured.

8.  Be nice to the audience.  They’re not against you, they’re just talking to the person next to them because they can’t hear you.  NEVER scold the audience.  There’s nothing wrong with closing with “You’ve been a great audience,” even if they seemed less than great.  Being negative  towards an audience can turn an indifferent audience into a hostile audience.

Those are things I’ve learned from performing in less-than-ideal situations.  So YES you can learn from bad performing conditions.  I   just wouldn’t go seeking them out until I had some experience under my belt.

Don’t Sing Opera to Wrestling Fans

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Select the right place to perform your humor.  Say no to requests which are not a fit for you.

Last week I attended an open-mike comedy night (as a spectator) and was reminded how difficult a performing situation can be when the fit isn’t right.

It was an amateur comedy show at a night club.  It was amateur in the sense that the performers were not paid.  Most of the comedy performed was quite good.  Some of it was excellent.

The venue was a nice, modern, clean night club packed with more than 100 people.  The crowd was a good, professional group of people who were there to meet friends.  It was not a bunch of drunks.

The problem with the venue was that it was not a comedy club.  Most of the people had NOT come to watch a stand-up comedy show.  They had come with the intention of meeting friends and talking.  So during the show, two-thirds of the crowd engaged in conversation while the other third strained to hear the comics over the buzz of the crowd. 

When the show started, I was standing in the back of the room and found it impossible to understand the performers.  From a performer’s point of view, it was not a pretty picture.  Funny material was lucky to get just a titter from the front row of tables.  I moved to a seat at one of the tables close to the stage.

What was being offered was not a match for what the audience was expecting.  It was like singing opera in a room filled with people who came to watch wrestling.

It’s been about thirty years since I performed in a stand-up comedy club.  I didn’t realize at the time how fortunate I was to have a real comedy club to perform in.  People came to watch comedy and when the show started, they stopped what they were doing and paid attention to what was happening on stage.  The comics still needed to be funny, but at least they had an environment where being funny was possible.

If you’re ever going to give stand-up comedy a try, I highly recommend not commiting to a performance until you first visit the venue to see what a typical open-mike night looks like.  What is the stage like?  How is the sound and lighting?  How about the crowd?  Are the performers having fun?  Or are they shaking their heads in frustration?  If experienced comics are struggling to connect with the audience, would a novice have a chance?  Does it look like a place where you would have fun performing?  If not, look for a better venue.

The attitude of caution applies to all speaking opportunities.  Avoid those which are not a fit for you.

  – Speaking to the wrong audience is not good.  For example speaking on a liberal topic to a conservative audience is probably a bad fit, or visa versa.

  – Speaking in a room not properly equipped with a speaking platform, sound or lights, might not be fun.

  – Speaking outdoors, especially doing humor outside, is often a no-laugh situation.

  – Speaking to an audience who was not expecting a speech, is sometimes not a good situation. 

  – As you attend the School of Hard Knocks, you’ll have some bad speaking experiences which you can add to your avoidance list.

Go into every speaking challenge with your eyes open.  Try to commit only to assignments which give you a good possibility of success.  And remember that in a bad situation, part of the crowd is aware of the challenges you face.  The other part of the crowd is totally unaware of how bad the speaking situation is.  Neither group needs to be reminded by the speaker how awful things are.  So when you find yourself in a bad situation, smile, give them your best, and don’t let them see you sweat.  Some of the audience understand and will enjoy your performance, and the rest of them won’t even know you’re there.  Any lack of response is, most likely, not a reflection on you.

Learn from every experience and you’ll be a better speaker the next time the platform or the audience challenges you.

Observational Humor — Case Study #60

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Here is another Observational Humor Monologue.

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

1.  A speaker told a story of locking her keys in the car.  She had recently made a new friend, Beverly, at a Toastmasters meeting.  She rode her bicycle to Beverly’s house to get help with her lock-out situation.

2.  The word of the day was PHLEGMATIC, meaning sluggish, calm, un-flappable, or causing phlegm.

3.  The emcee was dressed in the same colored suit as Frank.  He introduced Frank as “my brother…from another mother.”

4.  A speaker said that she finally opened her Toastmasters Manual after looking at it for months.

5.  Dana used the Question-Man vehicle to present some of his Observational Humor.  He provided the answer first and then announced the question.

6.  A speaker said that his air conditioner broke and he fixed it for thirty-one cents.

7.  The person critiquing proper grammar for the meeting, referred to her job as looking for “grammical errors.”

8.  A speaker described her back yard which was used for the pool, sun bathing, trampolining and swinging on a swing set.  She mentioned that the man next door could watch her sun bathe.

9.  A speaker gave an impromptu speech about being a Thunder From Down Under dancer.  That’s a male exotic dance troupe from Australia similar to the Chippendales.

THE MONOLOGUE

I want everyone to say “Hi Beverly!”
Beverly is our friend.

(looking at Beverly)  Where do you live?
(This uses the Drop-Yourself-Into-The-Story technique.  In this case I’m dropping the entire audience into the story.  My intent was for the audience to say “Hi Beverly.”  They surprised me by also repeating “Beverly is our friend.”  I thought “Oh, Oh.”  I didn’t want them to repeat the punchline of “Where do you live?”  After the punchline I wanted laughter…not another repeat-after-me line.  So I paused.  I made solid eye contact with Beverly.  And I clearly asked the question: “Where do you live?”  It is an implied punchline, suggesting that we would show up at her home when we needed help.  It worked perfectly and received a huge laugh.)

If you look up PHLEGMATIC in the dictionary, you’ll find my picture.  Whenever I tell a joke…people go…ahem (lightly clearing my throat).
(A bit of self-deprecation in two ways.  It possibly implies I’m slow moving.  It also implies that audiences might question the appropriateness of my humor.  A very big laugh.)

My personalized license plate says:  PHLEGM
(Another link to the Word Of The Day.)

Frank is my brother…from another dimension.  That’s why we don’t dress alike.
(Frank is a good friend.   Except for both being funny, we are very different people.  A call-back provided the opportunity to refer to our attire.  He was nicely dressed in a suit and tie.  I was very casual, wearing a denim shirt and tennis shoes.)

Two days ago I opened my Toastmasters Manual for the first time.  I figured after 37 years…it was about time.
(Linking my long-time in Toastmasters to “finally” opening my manual.)

Since Dana presented some Question-Man Answers, I thought it would be appropriate that I closed with some of them.
(I was planning on doing the Question-Man format bits before I heard Dana do his.  But saying this gave the appearance that I decided to do them on the spur of the moment…the illusion of spontaneity.)

The Answer is:  A temporary fix.
The Question is:  What do you call a thirty-one-cent air conditioner repair?
(A perfect joke based on “you get what you pay for.”  A very big laugh.)

The Answer is:  A mistake made by a grandmother.
The Question is:  What is a grammical error.
(When she mis-pronounced the word, I heard an audible reaction from the audience.  Since I knew that the audience had noticed the error, it made it a target for humor.)

The Answer is:  Something you do in a house with a pool.
The Question is:  What is swinging.
(Plays with the double meaning of the word SWINGING.)

The Answer is Gas-Ex.
The Question is:  What will prevent Thunder from Down Under?

(A funny call back which got a huge laugh.  Use a joke like this with caution.  It’s a bodily-function joke which I’d never use for a corporate audience.  With an audience of friends, and delivering it as an implied joke, I felt it was safe.  But if you’re ever in doubt about a joke, leave it out.)

Cartoon Caption Contest

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

It’s time for our Cartoon Caption Contest for the month of September.   We feature the art of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced at the start of the month (alternating months).

New Joke Contests are announced at the start of the month (alternating months).  The next Joke Contest is October 1, 2010.

Here is the cartoon:

Write as many captions as you can.  Then select your best three captions and submit them.  You can submit more than three lines, the extra lines will be eligible for honorable mention.  Only your first three lines will be judged by our panel of judges for first, second and third place.

Select and submit your best entries by September 15, 2010, to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com

Visit cartoonist Dan Rosandich who has an extensive and in-depth archive of categorized cartoons and cartoon pictures available for licensing at negotiable fees.