Archive for August, 2011

MORE Disease Definitions

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

You’ll recognize the name of Marty Bernstein.  He is a frequent contest submitter and winner.  One of his secrets that “quality comes from quantity.”  Rarely does a winner write only one joke.  Often, a winner has written MANY jokes.  That’s a key to remember as a humorous speaker.  If you want to open a talk with one observational humor line, your best bet is to write ten or twenty lines.  Or better yet…thirty or more.  Then when you pick the best line, odds are pretty good that it’s a great line.

Entries for the joke contests are manually processed through four iterations.  Occasionally I lose some lines in the process…not just one or two or a person’s lines…but all the lines submitted by a single person.  I suffer from Pressbyopia…being so close to the jokes that I can’t see them as press time nears.  That happened this month with Marty’s Disease Definition lines.  My apologies.  He is an example of someone who submits QUANTITY and QUALITY.  Here’s a peek into the funny mind of Marty Bernstein.  My comments are in parenthesis.

  – Oughtism:  An irresistible desire to tell people what they should do.  He uses the vehicle of twisting a real disease into a new, sound-alike disease.  This was one of my favorite lines.)
  – Coalitis:  Severe pain in the derriere caused by paying electric bills.
  – Humoralgia:  Formal name for the pain caused by puns.  (One of our Honorable Mentions this month was Groans Disease, also a pun disease.)
  – Republodemocratism:  Main symptom–American politics inaction.
  – Nursissism:  A really beautiful medical caregiver…just ask her.
  – Chronic Fatigues Syndrome:  Soldiers get this from wearing their uniforms after their third or more tour of duty.  (The trigger is the double meaning of fatigue.)
  – Warps:  Skin bumps caused by extreme starship acceleration.
  – Whoopie Cough:  Caught from a romantic partner with an upper respiratory infection.  (Best prevented by coughing into a cushion.)
  – Veryclose Veins:  A condition in which a person’s blood vessels are next to each other.
  – Ulsters:  Irritation of the intestinal tract caused by the environment in Northern Ireland.  Found in the British Isles.
  – Atomic Ache:  Caused by eating  too much irradiated food.
  – Toastmaster Traumatic Stress Disorder (TTSD):  What a new Toastmaster feels before a first speech.
  – A. Christieitus:  Addiction to murder mysteries
  – Y’alzheimer’s:  Forgetting everyone you know south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  (Great line.)
  – Autotransmissia:  A total inability to to learn how to drive a stick shift vehicle.
  – Midrift:  A disease characterized by belly fat hanging below the waist.
  – Harryreidism:  A politician holding his breath until the rest of the country turns blue, usually occurs with:
  – Johnboehneritis:  A politician holding the country’s breath until everyone gets red with rage.  (Political jokes run the risk of missing the target.  Joking about both sides can help reduce that risk.  I’d shorten the Diseases to Reidism and Boehneritis, and let the reader get the joke with less information.)
  – Curbism:  A disorder that causes people to park their cars half on the side walk, and to believe that it is art.  (Love the line.  Includes a topper.)
  – Blue Light Bankruptcy:  Caused by too much layaway at K-Mart.
  – Politicks:  An irritating condition consisting of politicians getting under one’s skin.  Also puts one at risk for Lyin disease.  (Excellent topper.)
  – Rudeitis:  Prevents victims from recognizing their own impoliteness, lack of culture and uncouthness.
  – Badpassive-aggression:  Anger resulting from throwing interceptions.
  – Polar Disorder:  Fear of extreme cold.
  – Platonic Schizophrenia:  Being in non-sexual love with your other self.  
  – Alamoan:  People exhibiting grief about the famous 1846 Texas siege.
  – Scancer:  Frequent disease of x-ray machine operators.
  – Kinde-Heartedness:  An affliction best described as having internal organs similar to a funny public speaking expert.
  – Synchronicity:  A Sting operation by the Police. 
  – Megalophonic:  A big talker.
  – Demontia:  A condition in which you grow horns and lose cognition, and probably tell bad jokes).
  – Old Yeller Fever:  Disease caught from ill dogs.

Joke Contest Results

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Here are the results of this month’s joke contest–Disease Definitions

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 September 1, 2011.


Ghost-Partum Depression:  Unexpected loneliness after a priest has performed an Exorcism to rid your home of a long-term poltergeist.

     Sol Morrison, Santa Barbara, California


Carpool Tunnel Syndrome:  Fear of driving under water from Manhattan to Jersey City.

     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois


Irritable Vowel Syndrome (AKA Vanna White Disease):  Inability to separate consonants from vowels when spelling.
     Sandy Kampner, Evergreen Park, Illinois

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Deep Deaf Listening, especially between family members and friends, is to look at somebody talking without hearing what is being said.
  – Situational Thespian Unequivocally Positing In Detail:  A tragic condition found among actors who believe that because they’ve studied for a role, they are now fully equipped to talk about world issues, usually regarding Third World dictatorships hostile to the country that allows the actor the freedom to make a living.
  – Secret of Life Disease (SOLD):  A life-long search for an idea that will make them happy all the time.  Finding that secret leads to:  Constantly sharing the secret (CSTSOLD).
  – Texticular Atrophy:  All action stops except for rapid finger motions on keypads.  As with many related diseases, cures can be temporary, and effected by wrenching said keypad out of the hands of the patient and heaving it into the nearest large body of water.
  – Surfing Surfeit:  Inability to keep watching only one channel for more than three seconds. Typically caused by the channels being watched, which normally change camera shots every 1.5 seconds.  Cure: Handcuffs and blindfold usually very effective.
  – Mario’s Disease:  Uncontrolled addiction to video games, first identified by the famous doctor team, the Mario brothers of Mario Clinic fame.  Cure: Power failures produce remissions, but these are generally accompanied by withdrawal symptoms.
  – Tube Eye: Patient reports being stuck to a TV, either in direct contact or at a few feet distance, for many hours daily.  Patient typically doesn’t notice this symptom and is usually reported by a parent or spouse.  Cure: Effected by releasing the TV’s magnetic pull; typically by interrupting the TV signal by turning it off or unplugging it.  Cutting the electrical cord results in longer remissions.
  – Meant-al Deficiency Syndrome: Patient often says, “I meant to do it,” or “I meant to (just about anything else).”  Closely related to procrastination complex.
  – Radio Ear: Patient listens intently all day to talk radio.  Two forms are reported: Radio Ear, Left (Sinister), and Radio Ear, Right (Dexter).  Cure: None.  Relief is temporary and achieved only when travelling beyond the station’s broadcast range, or when surfing, skiing, or diving.
  – I.M.itis:  A reflex action initially caused by receiving an Instant Message.  Patient reflexively sends an I.M. (usually unintelligible) and the disease spreads uncontrollably, sometimes for days.  Cure: Surreptitiously removing the patient’s cell phone battery is the most effective course of action.
  – Carpool Tunnel Vision Syndrome:    Two main symptoms.  1. A compulsion to drive alone, even when gas costs $5/gallon and carpool websites provide ride sharing options galore.  2. Rationalizations as to why one should not go to ride sharing websites.  Two main cures:  1. Car breaks down when you gotta get somewhere.  2. Sudden increase in price of gas to $10.
  – Sudden Debt Syndrome:  Causes you to realize that you owe $1500 more today than you did yesterday.
  – Juvenile hereditary anxiety:  Passed on from teens to parents.  Basically drives mom and dad nuts.
  – Heavy Metal Poisoning:  Causes kids to go nuts just before they go deaf.
   – Pseudo Reformism.  Causes local politicians to believe that they can go to Washington and make positive changes.
  – Narc-o-lepsy:  The urge to fall asleep when being arrested by a DEA agent.
   – Auto Buffoon Disease.  Affects owners of gigantic SUV’s designed to scale Mt. Everest.  Symptom:  An inability to cross an itty-bitty railroad track without slowing to 1/2 mph.
   – Convention Deficit Disorder.  The inability to nominate a presidential candidate who will promise to lower the deficit.
   – Young Urban Kids Disease (YUK).  Color blindness when buying clothes.
   – Lack Toes Intolerance:  Causes people to look down on those with less than ten lower digits.
   – Restless Leg Syndrome:  Causes your car to stop and go as you bounce on the accelerator to the beat of the song on the radio.
  – Groan’s Disease:  Symptom:  Inappropriate laughing at awful jokes.

Toastmasters International Speech Contest

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

The Toastmasters International Speech Contest, August 20, 2011, was a true international event.

The Speech Contest Chair was John Lau, DTM, International President-Elect, from Kuching, Malaysia.

The 2011 World Champion of Public Speaking was awarded to Jock Elliott from Bongaree, Queensland, Australia.  Second-place winner was Kwong Yue Yang of Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.  And third-place was Scott Pritchard of Henderson, Nevada, United States.  We’re proud to have Scott as a member of our PowerHouse Pros Toastmasters club in Las Vegas.  If you’re ever visiting Las Vegas, be sure to visit our club on the first and third Monday.

John Lau opened the contest with a wonderful warm-up of the audience.  He has a charming personality and a gentle humor that connects with the audience.  He employed the vehicle of singing to carry some of his humor.  He used the improv principle, “If you’re not a professional singer–be bold.”  Elvis looked at home on the Las Vegas stage!  By the time the first speaker took the stage, the Contest Chair made sure the audience was ready without up-staging the contestants.  Well done.

All nine contestants used humor effectively in their speeches.  My favorite use of Observational Humor goes to second-place winner, Kwong Yue Yang. He inserted the traditional, “Fellow Toastmasters, guests…and Elvis.”  This reference worked especially well because he was speaking in the first slot, which made the reference very timely.

He continued his speech, and using stage-space, moved from center-stage to stage-right to represent moving from Australia to China, noting that:  “On this stage you can see that it’s a long way to China.”  I paraphrase the words.  It was a great line about the size of the huge stage.  He wasn’t the only contestant to make a reference to the large stage, but he was the first.  And it was effectively blended into the content of his speech.  He was rewarded with second-place, which was a challenge having drawn speaking position number one.

I had fun attending the contest and enjoyed nine great speakers.  The contest is always one of the high-points of the convention.

Observational Humor — Case Study #73

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

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

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

1.  The theme for the meeting was Speech Evaluation Contest.

2.  A speaker, talking on Image, referred to what you wear as your Style Statement.

3.  I was wearing basketball shorts and a denim shirt with cartoon characters.

4.  Speaker Cheyenna Burns was asked if she was related to George Burns.

5.  A speech evaluator referred to Cheyenna’s body…he meant speech organization.  Everyone laughed at the unintended double meaning of BODY.

6.  During the Speech Evaluation Contest, it was said that the target speaker (who all the contestants would evaluate) was wearing a big red X on her shirt…a target for feedback.

7.   A member made a motion that guests, who were dues-paid Toastmasters, should be allowed to serve as judges during our evaluation contest.

8.  A guest named John said that the meeting was convenient because we met right across the street from where he lived.

9.  I give directions to our meetings telling people that we meet at the US Bank building on Sahara across the street from Palace Station Casino.

10.  A guest suggested that member Bill Lusk looked like Bob Barker, former host of The Price is Right.

11.  A speaker used the cliche:  I’ll quit while I’m ahead.


Pay no attention to my style statement.
(Self-deprecation.  As I delivered the line I had in mind the delivery of the Wizard of Oz:  “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”  Huge laugh.  Great opening line.)

My name is John Kinde.  And I am related to George Burns.
(A simple call back.  Worked great.)

Cheyenna…I thought your structure and organization were OK.  I thought your body was great.
(Worked well to imply that I meant PHYSICAL body.)

I’m presenting Observational Humor.  You can tell by the big red X on my shirt.
(Suggests that by presenting humor, I set myself up with a target on my chest.  This was the weakest line of the monologue.)

I move that all guests, who are dues paying Toastmasters, have permission to laugh at my jokes.
(Twisted the previous motion.  Good laugh.)

John, I’m glad you’re a guest tonight.  I’ve always wanted to meet someone who lived at Palace Station.
(Simple link.  Big laugh.)

You may be wondering how I got my name.  A genie said, I’m going to read a list of names.  Stop me when I get to the name you want.  BILL.  (Well, I never did want to look like Bob Barker.)  MIKE. (I am a speaker and use a microphone.)  JOHN.  (What?  Named after a bathroom?  Oh all right…I’ll quit while I’m a head.)
(Call-back of a cliche.  Self-deprecation, making fun of my own name.  Big laugh.)

Let me give you a quick tip for those who will compete in next year’s speech evaluation contest.   Make sure every evaluation includes something critical and something complimentary.  For example:  “That was one of the worst speeches I’ve ever heard…but it was a big improvement over the last time I heard you speak.”
(Plays on superiority theory.  Lets audience figure out that previous speech was even worse than “one of the worst.”  It’s a safe put-down because it’s targeted at an imaginary speaker, not at a specific person.  Huge laugh.  Perfect closer.  This is a recycled line used several years earlier.)

Zero-Tolerance Humor

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

The magician was about half-way through his competition act at a major Magic Convention.  Without warning the curtain quickly closed.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, please excuse a brief delay in our program.  It will continue shortly.”  In about three minutes:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome our next performer, John Smith.”

The previous performer seemed to have vanished from the contest.  The truth is he had been disqualified for unacceptable humor.  He had included a sexual joke in his act and the contest director, acting as Judge, Jury and Executioner, had pulled the plug on his performance.

It’s rare to see such quick feedback when humor crosses the line of good taste.  Reaction to poor taste humor is not rare, it’s just normally not so clearly expressed.

If you use off-color humor or stories in a talk, it’s likely that nobody will say anything to you.  But they will talk to someone else.  “Don’t hire him/her unless you want a nightclub act.”  The curtain will figuratively drop on your speaking career. 

A distinguishing factor between the corporate speaking engagement paid $10,000 for a one-hour performance and the act confined to a smoky room speaking to drunk people for $300 an hour, is the quality of the humor.

Compare the successful corporate humor speakers with the normal comedy-club performer and the main difference is the clean-quality of the humor.  Even the most successful stand-up comics play cleaner than the average comic.  Bill Cosby is an obvious example. 

But when it comes time to put an act or a speech together, it’s so much easier to drop in some off-color material.  It’s easy.  It usually gets a laugh.  We fall prey to the illusion that “it got laughs so it’s OK.”  Been there…done that.   And then, behind the scenes, people talk, and we fail to get repeat engagements.  It’s zero-tolerance silently in action.

Always take challenge to create humor the hard way.  Make sure it’s funny for the right reasons.  Make it funny because of the characters.  Because of the structure.  Because of the connections.  Because of the timing.  Because of the delivery.  Because of your effort and hard work.  Don’t take the easy way out and let the curtain drop on your career.

Joke Contest — Disease Definitions

Friday, August 5th, 2011

The theme for this month’s contest is:  Disease Definitions.

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 September 1, 2011.

Your challenge is to make up a new disease which describes some quality or behavior you see in everyday life.  You should include a name for the disease and a description.  You could include the symptoms or the cure.  You could describe how the disease is acquired.

Here’s an example:

Partisan Politics Disease (also known as PP Disease) — Highly-contagious and most easily contracted in Washington DC.  Symptoms:  The urge to vote the party line without using common sense.

See what you can come up with.  Submit your top three lines to by August 20, 2011.  To be eligible for our top three recognition, also submit your Name, City and State.