Archive for February, 2011

Observational Humor — Case Study #66

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a Toastmasters meeting.

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

1.  An evaluator illustrated how a speaker could have a stronger call to action, at the end of a speech, by being very vocally assertive.  He over-did his example, realized it, and then said:  “We’ll, maybe not with not that much bombast.”

2.  We have a very diverse membership.  Several speakers that evening shared that English was their second language.

3.  A speaker mocked his own skill level, saying he had the skills of a giant iguana.

4.  A guest, who was a massage therapist, joked that people will often say to her:  “My back is killing me,” looking for a free massage.

5.  A speaker mentioned that he had recently watched a Japanese movie.

6.  People were assigned impromptu speech topics in pairs.  Pam and David were a team, and Pam climbed all over David.  Someone later joked that they were now required to get married.

7.  A speech evaluator used a sign, which was a magician’s prop, at the end of his evaluation.  The words on the sign changed each time he turned it over:  Applause, More Applause, Keep It Up, Thank You.


The floor is open to anyone with Observational Humor.  If you have any Observational Humor…you will PRESENT IT NOW!!!
(I delivered the end of the statement with over-the-top energy, which is a great contrast to my normal low-energy style.)

I feel like I’m at a great disadvantage…when I was raised, my first language was English.
(Could be interpreted as self-deprecation.  Could be interpreted as a nonsense reversal of a common theme at the meeting.  A good laugh.)

It’s strange that I’m good at Observational Humor.  When I was young, I had the humor skills of a giant iguana.
(A call back.  Self-deprecation.)

My back is killing me. 
(Walked over to and looked at the guest who was a massage therapist.  I paused an extra long time.  The laughter was delayed, but very strong.)

That was a time-released joke.
(An off-the-cuff observation that was not in my scripted monologue.  I call delayed reaction jokes, Time Released Humor.  Sometimes the delay is expected.  Sometimes it’s a surprise.  In this case I was anticipating the slow reaction.)

Last night I watched a Japanese movie.  I just watched it.  I didn’t listen to it.
(I played with the literal definition of WATCH.)

After I heard that Pam and David are getting married…I realized that if Michael married JD…he would be Michael Smith.
(Played with names.  Both people have the last name Smith.  Getting married would not change their last names.  Anticipating another delayed reaction, I paused and made a facial gesture.  Received a delayed laugh as they processed the joke.)

That concludes tonight’s Observational Humor.  (Held up hand-drawn sign which said APPLAUSE.  A big laugh.)

Joke Contest Results — New Holidays

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Here are the results from our February contest — New Holidays.  The top three entries were selected by a panel of six judges (speakers and improv players).

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 March 1, 2011.

Here are this month’s top lines:


Slinky Day:  The day it’s OK to push your co-worker down the stairs.
     Samuel McRae, Battle Mountain, Nevada


Procrastinator’s Day:  When is it?  Tomorrow.
     Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California


True Labor Day:  A day to say thank you to all Mothers on the day of their children’s Birthday.
     Jim Spero, Las Vegas, Nevada

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Diet Wednesday:  Follows Fat Tuesday.
  – Daylight Spending Day:  We’ve been saving them long enough!  Let’s spend them before the government imposes a tax.
  – Bad Luck Day: A day to ceremoniously break mirrors while walking under ladders and stepping on cracks in sidewalks.
  – Naked Twister Day:  Everyone’s new favorite holiday.
  – Ex-Fed Day:  The day you don’t pay taxes on anything.
  – Smashing Pumpkins Day, November 1:  When we smash old Jack-o-lanterns left from Halloween while rocking to music by the Smashing Pumpkins.
  – Bagpipes Day:  So we can have blessed silence the rest of the year.
  – Day after Valentine’s Day:  Buy your sweetie a giant heart shaped box of candy for half price.
  – April Fool’s Month:  Named for the politicians who find creative new ways to spend our tax money.
  – Ex-Lacks Day:  When you call your ex to tell him/her exactly what is wrong with him/her.
  – Good-Old-Days Day:  Turn off all your electronic devices for 24 hours.
  – February 29th Day:  For those who only like occasional holidays.
  – Day-O Day:  A day to celebrate Caribbean music.
  – When Pigs Fly Day: Ask out that girl or guy who said no way and they have to say yes.
  – Dementia Day: On this special day men get to do what they normally do but without getting grief from their wives.
  – Martin Luther King Sr. Day:  Like Fathers Day, only more specific.
  – National Automated Telephone Freedom Day:  All automated phone lines are turned off and all calls are handled by live people.
  – Be Kinde to a Comedian Week:  When John Kinde invites aspiring comics to submit articles to his blog.
  – Deficit Day:  Celebrates the day the USA pays off it debt.  Currently scheduled for October 18, 2039.
  – What Goes Around Comes Around Day:  When the verdict is guilty.
  – Don’t I know You? Day:  Celebrated by lonely men.

Creating Funny Cartoon Captions

Friday, February 11th, 2011

A technique for creating funny cartoon captions is to think BEFORE & AFTER.

For example, let’s look at my winning New Yorker cartoon caption from a couple of years ago.

You’re in trouble when we get to the bicycles.

Sol Morrison, from Santa Barbara, writes:  “The primate is daring the fish to do well in the bike part of race.  He is looking AHEAD of what we (the viewers) see.  He invites us to think and look ahead to a Funny Visual of a Fish on a bicycle.   The humor is future-oriented.  Cartoon caption writers should think ahead.  Try to extend the action in given cartoon challenge:  What could happen next?  What might happen in next panel, logically or illogically?  Don’t lock in to what is literally given in the visual.  Extend into absurdity.  Move the story along, like motion pictures, like life.  Everyone moves on!”

Sol is a player with the Santa Barbara Improv.  Improv players understand the  principle of BEFORE & AFTER.  An improv scene never starts and ends on the performance stage.  If a player “starts” a scene by walking on stage, that isn’t really where the scene begins.  That player is coming from some place and some activity.   That player has a history he or she brings to the scene.  In the case of the New Yorker cartoon, the single panel has a history too.  The cartoon is in the middle of an activity.  Before the snapshot of the drawing, the man and the fish started a triathalon and completed the swimming event.  That’s the BEFORE part of the creativity process.  Ask the question, “as I look at the cartoon, what happened just before this picture took place?”

The AFTER part of the creativity process is where you ask, “what is going to happen next?”  In this case, at the next transition station, the bicycles await.

So as Sol suggests, don’t let your creativity get tunnel vision.  See something bigger than the “picture.”  Be sure to explore what happened BEFORE & AFTER the picture.  And combine that with your other cartoon caption writing tools.  It will give you more options to make your humor connections.

Shapen your skills by entering the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest (weekly) and the Humor Power Cartoon Caption Contest (bi-monthly).

Super Bowl Ads Commercials

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Super Bowl ads are an event almost as big as the game itself.  Some people take their bathroom breaks during the game so they don’t miss the commercials!

At a $3,000,000 price tag for a 30-second spot, you want your ad to hit the mark.

  – You want people to anticipate watching your ad.  It needs to be entertaining.
  – You want the ad to be memorable.
  – You want people to talk about it afterward.  You want the ad to be viral.

Great humor helps deliver all three.

In recent years, about 80 percent of ads during the Super Bowl have been humor-themed.  And almost always, all of the top-ten ads have featured humor.  In this year’s ad line up 81 percent of ads were humor-themed (factoring out movie promotional ads).

I would assume that the advertisers who bought the most ads on this year’s Super Bowl (Budweiser, Chevrolet, Doritos, Pepsi, Coke, Bridgestone, GoDaddy) and regular advertisers in past years (Career Builder, ETrade) would know about the value of their advertising dollar.  Those advertisers bought over 20 ads this year and all of them had humor themes.   Humor sells.

Common humor themes are:
  – Parties
  – Animals
  – Children and babies
  – And of course the occasional kick-in-the-groin (not my favorite humor vehicle).

Two humor ads which I liked were not rated high on the USA Today popularity list.  They both use a vehicle of “lists” with an “act-out” (a comedy technique where you present a humorous statement and then act it out).  The first one is the Car Max ad #38 on the USA Today list (link provided below).  The list is built on the statement, “I feel like BLANK.”   Each item on the list is followed by an act out.  It’s one of my favorite ads.  The other ad was Cars.Com #21.  The list is built on the theme of “let others go first,” and is a list of humor situations.  I like it.

Another technique I like is when an ad uses a topper.  Just when the commercial appears to be over, another joke based on the theme sneaks up on you.  For an example, see Cars.Com #49.

Link to view Super Bowl ads on USA Today web site.

Joke Contest — New Holidays

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

The theme for this month’s contest is New Holidays.

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

New Cartoon Caption Contests are announced at the start of the month (alternating months).  The next Cartoon Caption Contest will be announced March 1, 2011.

Your challenge this month is to create a New Holiday or change a Current Holiday.  You might tell us how the new holiday is to be celebrated.

Here are some examples:

Ex-Day where you give flowers to your Ex.  This is a two-day holiday in Texas, since that’s where all the Ex’s live.

Stranger’s Day.  Give gifts to people you’ve never met.  Spend the day visiting friends while in disguise.

Change Labor Day to the one day per year when people work.  All other days of the year will be holidays.  Congress will borrow money to pay for the hand-baskets.

Create as many lines as you can.  Submit your best lines with your name, city, state, country.  Your first three lines will be considered for Top-Three recognition.  Lines submitted beyond your first three will be eligible for Honorable Mention.  Please submit your entries by February 15, 2011.  Send them to