Archive for March, 2011

Humor In an Interview — Case Study #68

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

When I’m using Observational Humor, away from the practice-environment of a Toastmasters Meeting monologue, I’m usually looking for a single observation to add a bit of color to an otherwise ordinary presentation, speech or interview.

I recently competed in the TM International Speech Contest at the area-level.   After the contest speeches, the contestants are normally interviewed by the contest Toastmaster.  The interviews are conducted for several reasons.  During the contest itself, the contestants do not receive an introduction which includes biographical background information.  This is to keep from influencing the judges, for example knowing that a contestant speaks professionally.  It’s felt that “getting to know the contestants better” is best done after the contest judging ballots are completed.

Another reason for doing the contestant interviews is to have something productive to do while the ballot counters are tallying the results of the judges’ votes. 

Another purpose for doing the contestant interviews is to give our members practice in a live interview format.  I love this aspect of the experience.  For me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the contest event.  It provides me the opportunity to practice Observational Humor away from the laboratory-experience of a formal Toastmasters meeting where I might do a seven-joke monologue.  In the contestant-interview format, I would most likely be looking for a single joke or a joke/topper to add some color to an otherwise straight-laced interview.

In my most recent contest experience, we featured two contests, The Tall Tales Contest, and the International Contest.  Krista Kulesza was the winner of the Tall Tales contest.  Krista’s speech was about her engagement to be married.  She talked about how important it was that the marriage proposal be just right.   “Ladies, you know what a big deal it is when the proposal is from your first husband.”  A terrific line.  She received a big laugh.

Later, during the contestant interview for the International Speech contest, I was asked if there was anyone I wanted to recognize.  This was a stock question asked of most contestants.  So I was prepared to answer:  “Yes, I wanted to recognize Krista.  I’m planning on proposing marriage to her.  But I don’t feel any pressure to be creative…since I’ll be her second husband.”  Huge laugh.

This a joke/topper format.  The first joke was a simple call-back to the theme of Krista’s speech.  I was dropping myself into her story; one more suitor asking for her hand in marriage.  Although I was using it (proposing marriage) as a set-up for the topper (second husband), which was a much stronger line, it worked well as a stand-alone joke and received a very good laugh.  The trigger for the topper was the set-up line provided in her speech about “the first husband.”  That line had received a very big laugh making it a trigger, or candidate for Observational Humor.

From a delivery stand-point, the joke appears to be complete when I say, “I’m planning on proposing marriage to her.”  The topper then comes as a total surprise, which magnifies the power of the humor.  The topper received a much bigger laugh than the set-up joke, which is the way it’s supposed to work.

Cartoon Caption Contest Results — Reunion

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

It’s time for the results of our March Cartoon Caption Contest–Reunion.  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 April 1, 2011.

Here are the top captions for this month’s contest:


You just got out after spending 20 years in jail?  So you’re single…?
     Sue Fiedler, Corpus Christi, Texas


Frank, I’ve always considered you a shrewd businessman.  But charging people for NOT taking their picture is pure genius!
     Dave Orris, Patterson, California


Didn’t you use to be Brock Miller?
     Darin Thompson, Smithfield, Utah

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Don’t worry about the flash not working.  After a couple more of these, everyone will be well lit.
  – I told you to buy the camera that has the Extra-Slimming option.
  – 30 years and what do I have to show for it…3 ex’s, 10 kids, and an extra 75 pounds; how about you?
  – If you push the button on the other side it squirts ink.
  – I hate it when a light flashes just when you’re trying to take a picture.
  – If you take one more picture of your ex-girlfriend, Hector, I’m gonna
throw my drink in your face!
  – Just because you have a camera doesn’t make you a photographer.
  – Of course I recognize you, Arnold.  You played the romantic lead in our high school production of “Hair.”
  – Well, Clark Kent in the flesh!  I heard our reunion committee had finally tracked you down to The Daily World newspaper in Gotham, New York.  Funny, we all predicted you’d go into Spot Welding or Sheet Metal Work.
  – Isn’t that the camera you used at our high school prom?
  – You work for that sports magazine, don’t you? Are you looking for swimsuit models?
  – Don’t take a picture of me without my homecoming queen tiara.
  – I still remember all the fun we had in the Camera Club darkroom.
  – I’m into flash photography…so flash me.
  – Do you still drive that baby blue Ford Pinto?
  – Do you want to join the old gang and me afterwards, for some strip Dungeons and Dragons?

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

Observational Humor — Case Study #67

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

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

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

1.  It was a tough night for Observational Humor.  Some nights the gems come easy.  Some nights they don’t.  We always start the Observational Humor portion of the meeting by opening the floor for Observational Humor comments from our members.  On a typical night we will have ten members share observations; and four of them will present short monologues of several lines each.  On this night, only one member did a monologue, and it was hit-and-miss.  Three other members who almost always have multiple lines to share had nothing.  That was it.  No other members had anything to share.  It was one of those nights when the humor didn’t come easy.

2.  A speaker opened with several hand-raising questions.  “Raise your hand if you wish you had more money.”

3.  A speaker referred to someone who had “more money than God.”

4.  A member who raised his hand was jokingly referred to as someone who was “flailing.”

5.  I mistakenly called on one of our more humorous members to share Observational Humor.  I thought his hand was raised, but it apparently wasn’t.  He chose to stand and attempted to come up with a line on the spot, without much success.

6.  The person assigning impromptu speech topics said:  “As they say in contests…let the Table Topics begin!”

7.  The person assigning impromptu speech topics asked the guests if they wanted to participate in Table Topics, after they had seen our members model a couple of strong demonstrations of how it’s done right.  No guests volunteered.

8.  A speaker was given a rain poncho and required to speak about the object.  He said that is was part of his wardrobe as a stand-up comic.  “You know what happens to bad comics.”

9.  Beverly gave a speech about her vacation to Jamaica.  On vacation with her mother, a tour guide who gave them a “” tour, told her at the end of the tour that he’d take her mother back to the ship and take her to his hotel.

10.  The theme of the meeting was Mardi Gras.

11.  We took a break half way through the meeting to celebrate the announcement of our Toastmaster of the year.  Cookies were served.

12.  Barbel gave a speech and made a joke about Bernie Madoff.  Her speech evaluator mistakenly made reference to her “Merdoff Joke.”


Raise your hand if you wish you had more humor than God.
(A double-call-back.  Simple.  Got a surprisingly good laugh.)

(The member I called on, who I mistakenly thought raised his hand to share some Observational Humor, responded:  “But I wasn’t flailing.” )
No, actually, you didn’t start flailing until after I called on you.
(I was planning on using the line “I see you flailing” when calling on the person who was the target of the flailing joke earlier in the evening.  As it turned out he never volunteered any humor.  Then the member I mistakenly called on made the flailing reference, which allowed me to respond with my “you didn’t start flailing until after I called on you.”  A very big laugh.)

Now that we’ve seen how Observational Humor is NOT done…would any of our guests like to present some humorous observations?
(I modified my planned line “Now that we’ve seen how Observational Humor is done…would any of our guests like to present some humorous observations?”  A very big laugh.)

As they say in contests…let the Observational Humor begin.
(Weak laugh.)

Excuse me while I put on my Observational Humor poncho.
(An Observational Humor saver line came in handy, implying that my joke bombed.)

For Beverly, the Observational Humor is free.  No charge.
(Earlier, a speech evaluator reviewing Beverly’s speech said that “the evaluation was Free.”  Since the observational line was used by someone else, I chose to drop it from my monologue.)

Today is Cookie Monday.
Which is followed by Fat Tuesday.
And that is followed by Diet Wednesday.
(This was an interesting sequence.  Joke.  Topper.  Topper.  But the lines got progressively weaker.  Cookie Monday surprised me with a big response.  That may have been, in part, because the set-up [Fat Tuesday] was firmly set [a hard set-up] by multiple repetitions during the meeting.  Also, the word COOKIE is a funny word with two K sounds in it.  What ever the reason, the laugh was much bigger than I expected.  The Fat Tuesday line was a mini-topper, but mostly intended as a set-up line for the Diet Wednesday line.  Those lines received just moderate laughs.  The Diet Wednesday line was recycled from our New Holidays joke contest, submitted by a reader in February.  Although the lines went from strong to medium and medium response, they didn’t bomb and I would have used them again if I had it to do over.)

Did you notice that Barbel’s Merdoff joke MADE OFF with the laughs?
(This was a time-release, word-play joke.  I didn’t expect a big laugh, but slipped it in to see how many people would catch it.  It got a small laugh.   One person said out loud, “I get it.”  I guess you could say, I did the joke for me.)

Beverly, after the meeting, I’ll be providing your ride to the hotel…where we’ll be meeting your mother.
(Great closing line.  Huge laugh.  Joke.  Topper.  I softened the implied joke by twisting the mother line.  In the set-up, the mother was not invited to the hotel.  In my joke, she might be considered a chaperone.)

Humor Book Reviews

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying
by Alen Klein

An excellent book helping you to benefit from the therapeutic use of humor to handle stressful situations.  In addition to helping someone cope with the death of a loved one, it would also be a valuable book for dealing with other forms of loss.   Loss of a job.  Loss of a relationship.  Loss of health.

The book is divided into five sections:  Losing, Learning, Letting Go, Living and Laughing.  The content is delivered in bite-sized pieces which make it easy-to-read and also adaptable to being read in a daily-devotional format, allowing you to reflect and implement a tip-a-day.  It’s also sprinkled with dozens of uplifting quotes from well-known people in the field of self-help.

Allen is an award-winning author and speaker.  I loved the book.  It was inspiring, fun, and motivating.  Highly recommended.

 And Here’s the Kicker
by Mike Sacks

The book features 21 interviews with top humor writers.  Although you’ll probably recognize some of the writers (Dave Barry, Dick Cavett, Al Jaffee), it’s likely that you won’t immediately recognize many of the writers’ names , unless you’re a person who is glued to the credits at the end of a TV show or movie. 

Each writer’s interview is introduced with a one-page biography which will impress you and put the writer’s experience into perspective.  Although some of the names will be new to you, they are the magic behind-the-scenes, responsible for dozens shows you will recognize and love.  Lots of great insights into the craft of writing humor from experts in the trade.

The book includes a six part segment on, Quick and Painless Advice for the Aspiring Humor Writer (finding an agent, getting published, getting a writing job, etc.).

A lengthy book filled with insights for the serious student of humor.  Highly recommended.

The Academy Awards

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

After the 2011 Academy Awards broacast, I received a note from Jan Fair, a talented actor, author of more than 50 books, and long-time friend.  She writes:

“I liked your newsletter this month [Time-Released Humor].  It had relevance to David Seidler’s Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech.   Richly deserved, I might add.

“He definitely used Time-Released Humor, giving the audience time to laugh when he opened with, ‘My father always said to me I would be a late bloomer.’  (He’s 71 and had never even been nominated for an Oscar…although I thought he should have been in 1988 for Tucker.)   It took a moment for the audience to ‘get it’ and he gave them time to laugh.   When the laughter subsided he then he went on to explain saying, ‘I believe I am the oldest person to ever receive this award.’  I also loved that he then said, ‘I hope this record will be broken quickly and often.’

Jan continued:  “David really used a “hard” set-up  when he said, ‘I would like to thank her majesty the Queen for not putting me in the Tower of London for using the Melissa Leo F-word.’  Only a few minutes earlier the audience exploded with laughter when she had been BLEEPED for saying the F-bomb as she accepted her Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for her role in The Fighter.  (She was brilliant in the role.)   And, if you’ve seen The King’s Speech, you’d know he had a lot of F-bombs in his script.”

Thank you Jan for your keen observations on the Oscar’s program.  Humor is certainly something that keeps the awards program alive and ties things together.  The program humor generally comes in two forms:  Scripted and Spontaneous.  Much effort goes into the program opening, which is usually presented in the form of skits, film clips, musical parody, or monologue.  But the highlight of the evening to me is the spontaneous humor sprinkled throughout the program.  This often takes the form of Observational Humor remarks made by the host, presenters and recipients.

Billy Crystal, eight-time oscar host, is one of my favorites emcees.  In my book, his 1992 Oscar night performance stands out as the best.  My favorite Observational Humor moment that evening was when Crystal recognized Hal Roach, American film producer and director, who had recently celebrated his 100th birthday.  Mr Roach rose from his seat and made some impromptu comments which could not be heard by most people because he had no microphone.  When the camera panned back to Crystal he said:  “I think that’s fitting, after all, Mr. Roach started in silent film.”

It’s hard to top the power of spontaneous, observational humor.

New Cartoon Caption Contest

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

It’s time for our Cartoon Caption Contest for the month of March.  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 April 1, 2011.

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, and your city/state/country, by March 15, 2011, to

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