Archive for December, 2011

22 Humor Techniques from Politics

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

With the caucus and primary events coming soon, let’s reflect on the wonderful humor lessons provided by our politicians:

1.  The Obama Technique.  Don’t waste your time creating “second term” jokes.

2.  The Gingrich Technique.  Start by preparing a humorous concession speech.

3.  The Mitt Romney Technique.  Look for ways to make fun of other people’s first names.

4.  The Cheney Technique.  If someone fails to laugh at your jokes, claim you shot him by accident.

5.  The Rick Perry Technique.  Just speak and you’ll naturally say something funny.

6.  The Bill Clinton Technique.  Insist that, “I did not laugh with that woman.”

7.  The Hillary Clinton Technique.  When it comes to humor in your house, wear the pants.

8.  The Ron Paul Technique.  Laugh at your own jokes.

9.  The Herman Cain Technique.  When a joke fails, say with a straight face, “I have never told a joke.”

10.  The Jon Huntsman Technique.  Only one percent will realize you told a joke.

11.  The Nancy Pelosi Technique.  Drive home your jokes with the power of facial expression.

12.  The Joe Biden Technique.  Learn to tell jokes with your foot in your mouth.

13.  The John Boehner Technique.  If you write a joke which you love, but the President likes it too, never use it.

14.  The Michele Bachmann Technique.  In a marriage, the woman should deliver the punch lines…the husband should be the straight man.

15.  The Reagan Technique:  Say “Well,” and pause until you think of something funny.

16.  The Bush Technique.  Remember that neither 41 nor 43 are especially funny numbers.

17.  The Nixon Technique.  If people don’t laugh at your jokes, say “I am not a comedian.”

18.  The Ford Technique.  If all else fails, fall flat on your face.

19.  The Jimmy Carter Technique.  Realize that although people will not immediately laugh at your jokes…Years later they will appreciate you.

20.  The Kennedy Technique.  Use clever similes, like:  “I am a jelly roll.”

21.  The Johnson Technique.  Marry someone with a fun-sounding name.

22.  The Eisenhower Technique.  Effective only with people in their 80s and older.

Joke Contest Results — Foreign Phrases

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

It’s time for the results of the December joke contest–Foreign Phrases

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 January 1, 2012.
Here are this month’s top lines:


persona non grata
persona non Prada:  Someone who shops at a thrift store.
     Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Illinois


haute cuisine
oat cuisine:  High-fiber diet.
     David Novick, Dayton, Ohio


deja vu
deja new:  Retro fashions.
     Melanie White, Rowlett, Texas

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

ante bellum
ante potbellum:  Before the potbelly.

billet doux
bullet doux:  Hate letter.

pro bono
go Bono:  Shouted at a U2 concert.

savoir faire
save our fare:  Don’t raise transportation prices.

sang froid
sang Floyd:  Pink Floyd on the karaoke machine.

grand prix
grand spree:  Christmas shopping.

ex libris
ex-Liberace:  Formerly flamboyant pianist.

comme si, comme ca
come see, consume:  Merchant’s sales slogan around Christmas.

O sole mio.
Oh, sole me:  I’ll have the fish platter.

Post Meridiem
Post Meridiem:  The afternoon paper.

pray go:  Please get lost.

Ay caramba
I can rhumba:  I’m a great dancer.

je ne sais pas
Jenny says wha?

oy vey
oy stay:  The guest that never leaves.

joie de vivre
joie de relieve:  After what seems like an eternity, you finally find a rest room.

billet doux
billet through:  A Dear John letter

femme fatale
hem fatale:  The very-mini skirt worn by a femme fatale.

dolce vita
dolce eater:  Someone with a sweet tooth.

savoir faire
savoir hair:  An excellent hair stylist.

deja vu
deja clue:  The detective later realized that the first clue contained the solution to the case.

faux pas
faux fox:  Fake fur.

que sera sera
que Sara Sarah:  How do you spell your name?

fait accompli
feta compli:  A properly-aged Greek cheese.

flagrant delicto
fragrant dictato:  Coco Chanel reciting a recipe for a perfume to her stenographer.

pro bono
probe Ono:  Questioning John Lennon’s widow.

savior fare:  The Last Supper

veni, vidi, vici
vendi video vice:  I sell porno movies

force majeure
farce immature:  Juvenile humor.

ipso facto
calypso facto:  A style of music and dance originating on Trinidad and Tobago.

bon mot
Bond mot:  A clever remark from 007.

carpe diem
carpe per diem:  Take your lunch money.

caveat emptor
Dick Cavett emptor:  Be careful what you say on a talk show.

coup de grace
coupe de Grace:  Two-door auto for Monaco royalty.

afishionado:  A highly-accomplished angler.

sangst:  Fear of performing a song in public.

au courant
au current:  Up-to-date wiring

cause celebre
Claus celebre:  A Hollywood Santa.

faux pas
fo pa:  A present for dad

je ne sais quoi
je ne sais quay:  I don’t know where the boat will dock.

quid pro quo
squid pro quo:  I’ll give you some calamari for that.

vox populi
Magnavox populi:  TVs for everyone.

ala mode
ala commode:  Stylish bathroom.

habeus corpus
flabbeus corpus:  Time to join a gym.

mea culpa
mea pulpa:  I’m the one who mashed it and I’m sorry.

que sera sera
que seran Sarah:  Where’s the plastic wrap?

rigor mortis
bigger wartis:  That bump on your hand is hard.

vice versa
vice versatile:  Highly skilled in bad habits.

grassy ass:  A friendly acknowledgment to a long-timer on Occupy Wall Street.

faux pas
faux pa:  Someone pretending to be your father.

por favor
poor flavor:  Something that tastes bad.

ichi ban
nietzsche ban:  No philosophers allowed.

veni vidi vici
weni nidi Nietzsche:  I wimpy, I penniless, and I responsible.

A Non-Sequitur Bombed

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

A non-sequitur can be used as a humor trigger because of the relationship, or non-relationship, it creates.  A non-sequitur is a statement in which the final part is totally unrelated to the first part.  Or it’s an argument in which its conclusion does not follow from its premises.

An example of a non-sequitur:  I am Norwegian and I am Scandinavian.  Bob is not Norwegian therefore Bob is not Scandinavian.  There is a dis-connect in the logic and the conclusion does not ring true.

Another example:  The news stand was out of Sports Illustrated…I should have worn clean underwear.  Second part does not flow logically from the first part of the statement.

About a month ago, the Word Of The Day at our Toastmasters meeting was non-sequitur.  A week later I decided to try a non-sequitur joke in my Observational Humor monologue. 

The set-up for the joke was a Television commercial which I had recently seen on a couple of the local TV stations.  It was a bunion commercial.  It featured segments of ordinary people going about their daily activities:  “I love jogging…hate the bunions.”  “I love my job…hate the bunions.”  “I love shopping…hate the bunions.”

The commercial stood out to me because I had seen it at least a dozen times.  So I decided to close my Observational Humor monologue with a non-sequitur joke.  Here it is:

“I love humor…hate the bunions.”

I thought that was funny…since there is no logical connection between humor and the bunions.  The audience sat there and just looked at me.  Not a smile.  After about five seconds I received a sympathetic titter.  The joke didn’t work.  I normally close with a joke that I feel is a sure winner.  So the lack of response was a total surprise to me.

Back to the drawing board.  Time to learn a lesson:

1.  Ask questions.  I talked to some audience members after the meeting.  Most people had not seen the bunion commercials.  Oops.  An incorrect assumption on my part.  I felt that at least half of the people there would have seen the commercials.  I was way off base.

2.  Just like me.  Part of the problem may have been the assumption that people were similar to me.  The bunion commercial was advertising for a local foot-care center.  Most of the commercials aired in the early morning hours when the rates were cheaper.  I often get up between midnight and 4:00 am for a drink of water, and before I go back to sleep I turn on the TV and watch for five minutes.  That’s when I see the commercial.  On reflection afterward, people who attend Toastmasters meetings are probably watching less TV than your average person.  And even fewer are watching in the wee hours of the morning.  So I was using a set-up that probably no one could relate to.  They weren’t just like me, putting themselves in the place to see the commercial.

3.  A clear set-up.  The fact that I used a non-sequitur, which made no logical sense, magnified the need for a clear set-up.  A vague set-up based on an incorrect assumption just didn’t do the trick.  In hind-sight, when using a non-sequitur, a crystal-clear set-up is very important.  Forget playing with the superiority theory and letting the audience do most of the work to get the joke.  I should have referred to the previous week’s word of the day, perhaps defined it, and used a non-sequitur in my comments…before I did my closing joke.

4.  Speak clearly.  The feedback also told me that several people didn’t catch the word BUNION.  I may have been sloppy in my projection or my enunciation.  Or the problem could have been that bunion is not a commonly used word.  I don’t think I’ve used the word bunion in the last 20 years, in conversation.  That’s probably the same for other people too.  Combine the fact that it’s an un-common word with the fact that the train of logic is a total disconnect and you have a sentence which is greeted not with laughs but with “Huh? What did he just say?” Just as I should have mentioned the process of doing a joke with a non-sequitur, I also should have made a comment about bunions before I needed to use it as a punchline to a joke.  And I needed to speak the word BUNION clearly.

5.  Go to school.  You learn more when you bomb than when you get a huge laugh from a joke.  Always go to school when you have a joke that falls flat.  On the flip side, also go to school when you get a laugh where you were not expecting one.  It’s understanding the unexpected which prepares us for stronger performances in the future.

Creating Humor On a Theme

Monday, December 12th, 2011

It was so cold in the meeting room…
How cold was it?
A question like that would open the door for a series of “cold in here” jokes for Johnny Carson:  It was so cold in here that penguins have been sneaking in to spend the night.

Creating jokes on a theme gives you a structure on which you can build a series of jokes.  It provides a vehicle to carry or deliver those jokes.

We recently moved our Toastmasters club meeting to a new, temporary location.  With winter approaching, and apparently lacking a working heater in the new meeting room, the temperature of the room was very cold.  The meeting last week was energized by a brisk 56 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).  Everyone was bundled in warm coats.  The door was wide open for “cold” jokes.

As the meeting opened, the club President noted that it was cold in the room, but that it was a DRY cold.  That was a good opening joke to disarm the issue of how cold it was in the room.  It was a twist on the cliche often used in a desert climate, during the summer:  It’s hot, but it’s a DRY heat. Throughout the meeting, members made three or four humorous references to the cold room.

At the end of the meeting, the cold was a clear target for Observational Humor.  Here are some of the jokes from my monologue:

  – I arrived early for the meeting tonight, in fact I was the first one here.  They hadn’t even removed the sides of beef hanging from the ceiling.
(That joke set the scene for a series of cold jokes without saying “it’s cold in here.”  I let the audience “realize” the set-up on their own, which is a stronger way to present humor using the superiority theory.)

  – Since our club is well-known for it’s humor, I’d suggest that future  agendas include the request of BYOH…Bring your Observational Humor.  OR…Bring your own heat!

(A speaker quoted a statistic that 66 percent of Americans are concerned with their financial future.)
  – This just in:  66 percent of Americans are concerned with their financial future.  The other 34 percent are concerned with staying warm.
(A good call back and switching it to a COLD reference.)

  – I’m glad it’s a DRY cold in here.  If it weren’t…it would be snowing.
(Piggybacked on the President’s DRY joke at the opening of the meeting.)

(David came prepared for the meeting.  He was wearing gloves.)
  – If it had been warmer in the room, I would have been expecting David to remove one glove and break into a Michael Jackson medley.
(This was a joke made possible by the cold room and the attire worn by David.  When doing jokes on a theme, look for things said and done because of that theme.  And then look for the humorous connections.)

Your goal in most speaking situations is not to build a humor monologue, but to create one good, funny line which might be used to open your comments.  Your initial goal is to come up with several lines, and you then have the freedom to select the line you feel is the strongest.  Quality comes from quantity.

Observational Humor — Case Study #75

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Here is a monologue presented at the end of a meeting and an analysis of the humor.

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

1.  A guest said she was attending the meeting because she wanted to learn how to be more extroverted and open.

2.  The theme of the meeting was Onomatopoeia which means:  A word that imitates the source of the sound it describes, such as:  Meow, Crash, Crack, Ding Dong.

3.  The emcee of the meeting said that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was an example of onomatopoeia.

4.  The word of the day was Kip.

5.  Frank (who goes by the initial S), said that if you put him in front of the word-of-the-day, you would have SKIP.

6.  Frank is a large person, 6 foot 4 inches tall.

7.  Frank responded to a question with a horse-type NEIGH.

8.  A speaker said she ran a marathon, but joked that she quit running 2/10 of a mile from the finish.  “Running 26.2 miles is ridiculous.”

9.  A speaker gave a speech on Africanized Honey Bees.  He said that pesticides used to kill the bees also kills other insects.

10.  During the impromptu portion of the meeting, speakers imitated animals making appropriate sounds:  Moo, Baaa, Roar…


For those of you who are here to become more extroverted and more open…watch me closely.
(Self deprecation, my low-key delivery is the opposite.  A very big laugh.  A perfect opener.)

My favorite onomatopoeia is Twinkle Twinkle.  I just love going outside at night and LISTENING to the stars.
(Twinkle is not an example of Onomatopoeia as it doesn’t originate from a sound but rather a visual.  I wasn’t sure this joke would work, but it got a good laugh.)

If you put S in front of KIP…nobody would know what the word of the day was.
(A literal statement of the truth.  Huge laugh.)

Frank would probably disagree with that, because he’s a neigh (nay) sayer.
(A call back.)

I’ve written a best seller:  Laos on Five Kips a Day.
(Reference to an old best-seller book series started by Europe on Five Dollars a Day.  One of the definitions of KIP is a unit of currency in Laos.)

I ran in the Las Vegas Marathon this past weekend.  At 2/10 of a mile I stopped running.  Running 26.2 miles is ridiculous.
(STOPPED RUNNING got a very good laugh.  RIDICULOUS got a huge laugh.  The topper was unexpected.)

I had a nest of Africanized bees in my back yard.  An exterminator sprayed and killed the ants, the roaches, and my dog.  My dog’s last word was…MEOW.  He was bi-lingual.
(ANTS, ROACHES AND MY DOG got a laugh.  The topper MEOW got a bigger laugh.  The second topper BI-LINGUAL got the biggest laugh.)

New Joke Contest — Foreign Phrases

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The theme for this month’s contest, Foreign Phrases, was inspired by Sol Morrison from Santa Barbara.

The challenge is to take a well-known foreign phrase, which is probably a cliche, and twist it to make it funny.  Your new phrase might tweak the first part of the phrase, or the last part of the phrase, or both the first and last parts of the phrase. 

For starters it’s important to know how the foreign phrase is pronounced.  For example FAUX PAS, which means “a mistake, or a mis-step,” is pronounced FOE PAW.

Your twisted version probably has a rhyming or sound-alike word.  It also is likely to keep the rhythm or flow of the original phrase.

Here are some examples:

faux pas
no pas        unable to move
dough pa     a sugar daddy

Deja vu
Deja boo      The state of people exiting a haunted house.
Asia vu    The feeling that you’ve already been to Asia.

Je ne sais quoi
Je ne sais ma        I don’t know who my mother is.

Mi casa es su casa
Me papa es su papa    We have the same father.

You’re not limited to these four phrases.

Put on your humor hat and see what you can come up with.  Submit your best three captions for review by our panel of judges.  You may submit additional lines which will be eligible for Honorable Mention.  Submit your entries by December 15, 2011 by email to