Humor In an Interview — Case Study #68

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.