Archive for February, 2012

Observational Humor — Case Study #77

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Here is another Observational Humor monologue and an analysis of what makes the humor work.

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

1.  The theme for the meeting was Political Caucus.

2.  A member presented an impromptu speech loaded with innuendo.  He played with the word CAUCUS making sexual innuendo links.  Although he received good laughs, I normally recommend staying away from sexual innuendo when speaking in business or professional situations.

3.  Gordon is bi-lingual.  He gave a speech and included one sentence in Chinese.

4.  It was guest night and the attendance was larger than normal.  We had about 30 people at the meeting.

5.  The meeting got off to a rough start.  Several people failed to show up and there were many changes to the agenda.  This resulted in a less-than-smooth flow to the meeting.

6.  A speaker talked about NLP Anchoring.  She gave an example of reinforcing a behavior by touching your elbow and linking that action to a desired behavior.

7.  A speaker talked about air refueling and how the receiving aircraft would “tickle the tail” of the tanker aircraft.


Welcome to the PowerHouse Pros Humor Caucus.  We considered having a Humor Primary…but a Caucus is funnier.
(A call back to the speech playing with the funny-sounding word.  Part of what makes CAUCUS a funny word is the double K sound.  Part of the trigger is the link to current events and the several caucus events being held across the country.)

We’re having a special Humor Retreat next weekend at Lake Titicaca.
(Decided to throw in another funny-sounding word just for the fun of it.)

At our club, 95% of our humor is politically correct.
(Acknowledging the fact that some of the sound-alike humor and innuendo was borderline when it comes to keeping it clean.)

Gordon stole my thunder.  I was going to do my first joke in Chinese.
(As though I spoke Chinese.  The humor trigger is absurdity.)

We have a big crowd tonight since it’s guest night.  At a normal meeting we have three people.
(The trigger is exaggeration, suggesting that nearly everyone present was a guest, when 70 percent of those attending were members of the club.)

If this is your first time attending our meeting, you probably noticed we have lots of humor.  To be honest, other clubs have a lot more humor than our club.  So if you visit other clubs…go with that expectation.
(Setting up a humorous expectation which would lead to disappointment with another club, and ensuring that the guest would come back to our club and possibly join it.  Said in fun.  The truth is we have many strong clubs in our city which our guests would find impressive.)

And if this is your first meeting, you need to know that we’re normally not this organized.
(Acknowledging the obvious.  Exaggerating the jerky flow of the meeting by saying “we’re normally more-so.”  Very big laugh.)

Tonight, club members will present humorous observations.  And you will laugh (touching Ryan’s elbow).
(The call back got a good laugh.)

That’s an effective humor technique.  Either touch Ryan’s elbow…or tickle his tail.
(A topper which was triggered by the alternate word meaning of TAIL.  A good laugh.)

Joke Contest — Being Single

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

It’s time for the results of our February Joke Contest — Being Single. 

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, 2012.

Here are this month’s top lines:


Being single is like garbage.  You start out with value, you get used, you get tossed, and you end up in the dumps.

     Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California


Being single is like puffing on a cigar.  You might enjoy it, but it’s tough to convince others around you that you really mean it.

     Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California


Being single is like carrying a very long 2×4.  If no one is on the other end it’s just a drag.

     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Being single is like Nevada.  A little stretch of wild ecstasy surrounded by miles and miles of desert.
  – Being single is like a fire. You get hot, then someone sprays water all over you.
  – Being single is like being Jewish. It’s much cheaper at Christmas time.
  – Being single is like the best way to win Wimbledon. Otherwise you have to share the trophy with your partner and you get fewer strawberries.
  – Being single is like Hot Chocolate. You can have it whenever you want, its warm and cozy and there is not a hint of bitterness involved
  – Being single is like a computer.  Someone may give you a virus.
  – Being single is like being married, nobody listens to you.
  – Being single is like fish out of water, after a few days it really starts to stink.
  – Being single is like watching reruns of Jersey Shore. It gets old after awhile.
  – Being single is like having basic cable.  You miss all the good stuff.
  – Being single is like have a bad run at the casino slot machines.  You don’t get lucky as often.
  – Being single is like riding a teeter-totter by yourself.  You never get off the ground.
  – Being single is like flunking a test.  You have to do it over and over again until you get it right.
  – Being single is like being Sir Edmund Hillary.  You’re always looking for the next conquest.
  – Being single is like performing before a hostile audience at the comedy club.  There’s no one to laugh at your corny jokes.
  – Being single is like being a little kid again.  All of a sudden your bed is too big.
  – Being single is like drinking half a glass of warm water.  It’s less filling and tastes lousy.
  – Being single is like Las Vegas.  The longer you stay there, the lower your chances of winning big.
  – Being single is like playing Canasta.  You spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen, even though you have your hands full most always.
  – Being single is like riding a unicycle.  If you have no sense of balance, you won’t get very far.
  – Being single is like being a puppy.  Lots of fun, but easy to get into big trouble.
  – Being single is like when you realize the wink you thought was for you was for the person behind you.
  – Being single is like when the only spooning you ever did was licking your Mom’s after the Betty Crocker mix was ready to go in the oven.
  – Being single is like the lone unmatched sock dangling out the drawer
  – Being single is like the disappointed looks on your friends’ faces at the block party when they run out of someone else to pick for the kickball team.
  – Being single is when they don’t turn out the spotlight when you’re finally seated alone at your table, and no one goes back to talking.
  – Being single is like football.  Expert scouting, planning and preparation will help you score.
  – Being single is like writing jokes.  Most of what you see before you will not work, but when a good one appears, you’re walking on air.
  – Being single is like email.  You have to delete many to find the few that are worthwhile.
  – Being single is like fishing.  You remember the one that got away more than the one you catch.
  – Being single is like buying a new suit.  You don’t really know how well it fits until you bring it home.
  – Being single is like job-hunting in a down economy.  You must learn to handle frequent rejections before you succeed.
  – Being single is like hiking the Inca trail.  There are hours of pain and moments of beauty.
  – Being single is like waiting for a bus.  If you miss one, another will come along soon.
  – Being single is like being a cat.  Do what you want, when you want, where you want and the heck with your complaining owner.
  – Being single is like being a fanatical fisherman.  Maybe that’s why my wife left me.
  – Being single is like a car.  It goes better with just one driver
  – Being single is like a bottle of wine.  It matures nicely with time, but goes sour if left too long
  – Being single is like a shoe.  With time it gets more comfortable.
  – Being single is like being an unlit match.  You’re waiting for a flame.

A Joke Set-up From the Past

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

A joke works best if the set-up which prepares the audience for the punchline is fresh in their memory.  The ideal situation for an Observational Humor line is when it immediately follows the set-up.  For example, if something happens, or something is said, and you follow it up immediately with the funny line.  The connection is fresh and the humor link is probably crystal clear.  A laugh is almost guaranteed.  Humor which is fresh, in the moment, is one of the best ways to get laughs, and usually beats the pre-planned joke.

Occasionally an observational joke will be depending on a set-up which is not fresh.  Perhaps the set-up occurred much earlier in the day.  Or the day before.  Or a week ago.  Or, as in the example I’m going to share with you, three months earlier.  What are the issues that need to be considered for a set-up from the past to have the strength to trigger humor today?

When using a set-up from the past, you usually have to make the decision whether the set-up can stand on it’s own strength, or whether you will need to reinforce it.  By that I mean it’s often necessary to re-visit the set-up to remind the audience of it.  The less you have to reinforce the set-up the better, because it allows the audience member to connect-the-dots to “get the joke.”  And the superiority factor kicks in, magnifying the humor.  But reinforcement is a good idea when the time which has past is long, and when a large percentage of the audience was not present when the original set-up happened.

Occasionally, I’ll create a humor line using a set-up from the past.  That’s when I’ve decided that something, which didn’t happen recently, still holds the power to trigger a joke.  It may have taken place yesterday, last week, or last month.  If it were a strong enough event to be memorable to most of the audience, I could consider using it to provide the platform for a joke, without retelling the event to remind the listeners of the intended set-up.

Here’s an example of a set-up from the past:

     – The set-up in this example provided a big laugh when it was originally presented at a memorial service.  Almost three months had passed since the original set-up took place. 

     – Fortunately, the set-up was reinforced when it also provided a good laugh as an observational call-back at a meeting the week after the memorial service.  Some members of the audience were exposed to the set-up twice.   That strengthens the power of the set-up.

     – Without the need for any other reminder or reinforcement, the set-up laid the foundation for a strong a line delivered three months later.

Here is the situation which led to the original joke, which eventually became the set-up for the jokes which followed days and months later:

In mid-November, I was a speaker at a memorial service for Pam Shinkle, a member of our Toastmasters Club.  In the middle of the program, one of the speakers was Sherrie Parker, wife of Bill Parker who was the emcee for the memorial service.  Sherrie commented that she was going to hug and kiss the emcee.  She received a good laugh.  When I was introduced I opened with,  “I’m glad I was asked to be on the program…since I now realize that when I’m done, I can give Bill a hug and a kiss.”  That laid the groundwork for a second joke to close my remarks.  When I was apparently finished speaking,  I returned control of the program to Bill.  He extended his arm to shake hands. I moved towards him with open arms, indicating I expected a hug.  So he hugged me.  And I kissed him on the cheek.  Since it appeared that I had completed my remarks, the unexpected kiss greatly magnified the element of surprise.  A huge laugh.  Although the kiss was unexpected by some, it was anticipated by many.  And that anticipation was a tension builder which also magnified the laughter.

A week later I used the joke sequence from the memorial service to get an observational laugh when I opened my humor monologue for the Toastmasters meeting.  The first line of my monologue was:  “By the way…Bill’s cheeks are soft.”  A very big laugh.

Fast-forward to the club meeting about twelve weeks later.  The theme of the meeting was SHAKESPEARE.  One of the speakers connected PUCK, one of Shakespeare’s characters, with Pucker Up (kiss) and linked it to one of our club members.  He said, “Why would anyone want to pucker up with Bill?”  As the Observational Humor Master, it was then my turn to call on the next person volunteering to present Observational Humor.  Instead, I made a snap decision to deliver an observational line based on a set-up which had happened weeks before.  My line:  “I can answer that question…”  This was a call-back to the previous event where I had kissed Bill at the service, and then joked about kissing Bill in my monologue at the meeting a week later.  I wasn’t sure if the audience would get the joke, since the two set-ups were far removed from the present time, and also because there were a large number of guests in the audience who were not present when the set-up was first delivered.  But it got a huge laugh.  The reasons that the joke did work are most likely:

1.  Even without the intended set-up, the implication of my having knowledge of reasons-for-kissing-Bill was probably funny enough by itself.

2.  Although the set-up was set in the past by several months…it had been well set:  At the memorial with a big laugh, and at the meeting after the memorial as an opener for my monologue.  For regularly attending members, the set-up was well-reinforced without my making extra effort to bring attention to it.

3.  It was a good night for Observational Humor, meaning people were responding well to the humor already presented.  As long as the joke connected strongly for some people, the others would jump on the bandwagon once the people-in-the-know started the laughter rolling.  Humor is contagious.

4.  It was probably a combination of all three points which resulted in a strong and immediate response to the joke.  The next time you are presenting a joke which depends on a set-up which is not fresh, you’ll have to decide if the audience will be able to make the connection of the punchline to the set-up (best situation) or if the audience will need to be reminded of the set-up.  It’s a judgment call.  And you’ll learn by experience when reinforcement of a set-up is necessary.

Humor Teleseminar

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Don’t miss a great humor teleseminar with Judy Carter on Thursday, February 16 at 7:00 pm EST (4:00 PST).  Only $25.
Using Comedy Secrets to “Funny Up” Your Presentations.
Judy is a great teacher of humor and author of The Comedy Bible.
This is a teleseminar designed for speakers.  I’ve signed up.  Don’t miss it.  Sign up now.

Humor Content Versus Delivery

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

When you present a humor line, the trigger which activates your funny line normally involves something your SAY, or something you DO, or a combination of both.

Although it varies from person to person, it’s most often what the speaker says, more than what he or she does, that triggers the joke.  Most jokes depend on the content, the words, to establish the humorous connection that results in laughter.  But occasionally, it’s the physical action or delivery that makes the joke funny.

At a recent club meeting, we presented our regular Observational Humor segment at the end of the meeting.  Every member is given the opportunity to share their humorous observations.

Here are some things that happened during the meeting which set-up some of the funny lines:

1.  Ryan evaluated a speech and suggested that the speaker, when pointing at someone, not use his finger but rather point with his entire hand, palm up.  He suggested that pointing with the index finger might be interpreted as rude.

2.  At the end of the meeting, we opened the floor to Observational Humor comments.  Ryan, one of our consistently funny members, presented several excellent Observational Humor Lines. 

When it came time for my monologue, I opened with:  “Ryan…Great Observational Humor!”  And I pointed at him with my index finger.  It got a very small reaction.  Not counting the possibility that the joke just wasn’t funny…what happened?

1.  Was the audience so focused on what I was SAYING that they were not paying any attention to what I was DOING?  It’s normal for an audience to focus on the meaning of the words and to make interpretations and connections.  In the process of doing that, it’s not surprising that they might miss a nuance in the physical presentation.

2.  Was the audience confused because it looked like I was singling out Ryan for excellent Observational Humor and not others who also presented good lines?  Confusion is normally not a good trigger for humor.  It draws people away from what was supposed to trigger the laughs.

3.  Was the audience wondering why I was recognizing Ryan for excellent Observational Humor lines, when that’s what he consistently does anyway?  Again, the confusion factor comes into play.

I made the immediate judgment that the pointing was a good humor trigger and that the audience just didn’t notice the gesture. 

So after a beat or two with little laughter, without saying a word, I pointed again in a very exaggerated gesture.  Big laugh.  I had faith in the joke and gave it a second chance.  I gave it the time needed to be recognized and processed by the audience.  And it worked.

Keep in mind, the success of a humor line may sometimes depend on your physical delivery moreso than the content or the words.

1.  This might require that you stop talking to allow the audience to focus on the physical.  It might be pointing.  It could be a flirty glance at someone.  Or it could be a nervous smile.  The physical element could be one of a thousand things.  The presentation might demand a pause in the talking for the visual to register.  By repeating the gesture without talking, I gave it that chance. 

And the audience realized, “Oh, I get it.  He’s pointing.”  They were then able to make the connection with, “Ryan said not to point.”

2.  The more physical and high-energy the speaker is, the more the elements of physical delivery take center stage.  The style of the speaker affects the need to focus on the content versus the physical.  My humor is largely content dependent and I sometimes have to take special effort to draw attention to the physical.  It’s an opposite consideration for a very physical-style speaker.  Are you a content or a physical speaker?  Your strength takes care of itself.  Your weakness needs the attention.

3.  The physical element of the joke can be accentuated by enlarging the delivery, making it bigger.  Or you could draw attention to it by isolation, delivering the gesture in a window of silence.

Through experience, you’ll develop an awareness of all aspects of presentation and automatically develop the proper balance in your presentation to make your humor work.

New Joke Contest — Being Single

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

It’s time for our Joke Contest for the month of February.  The contest theme is Being Single.

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 caption contest is March 1, 2012.

Your humor challenge is to compare Being Single with other things; objects, activities, institutions, etc.  Here are some examples:

Being single is like bath water.  It’s not enjoyable when it’s not so hot.

Being single is like playing basketball.  You’ll impress no one if you dribble on your foot.

Being single is like the stock market.  It has its ups and downs.

Write as many humor lines as you can.  Then select your best lines and submit them.  If you submit more than three, the extra lines will be eligible for honorable mention.  Only your first three 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 February 15, 2012, to