Archive for May, 2012

Jeff Tracta — Learn from the Pros

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Speakers can learn valuable lessons from professional entertainers.  I recently saw Jeff Tracta headline at the Palms in Las Vegas.  Fabulous, fresh and funny.  Here are some performance tips from his show:

You pay your dues.  There is no shortcut to excellence.  After performing in stage productions, TV (The Bold and the Beautiful), internationally, and in Las Vegas for many years (he’s in his early 50s), Jeff has become a super-star entertainer.  Likewise, your success will also result from decades of hard work.  Overnight success usually happens after ten to twenty years of preparation.

Learn the techniques of the pros.  Jeff Tracta can perform night after night for 90 minutes and still have a strong voice for the next show.  He projects differently than the average person who would lose their voice performing on stage for over an hour.  To be a pro, we need to study and use the techniques of a professional.

Be original.  As an impressionist, Jeff is challenged to do impressions beyond the stock collection of the usual characters we normally see performed by impressionists.  Jeff didn’t perform many of the celebrities I was expecting.  And he performed many current stars I was not expecting.  From his opening with Archie and Edith Bunker to his closing with closing with Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brighton, his program was rich with characters appealing to the older crowd, middle-age audience members, and younger fans: George Burns, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Boy George, Elton John, numerous cartoon characters, many current stand-up comics, and a hundred more celebrities enriched his program.  Speakers need to exceed the expectations of the audience.  Jeff did.

Be well prepared.  One unique aspect of Jeff Tracta’s show was his use of Audio and Visual techniques to add a new dimension to his performance.  He used photos and videos of celebrities to enhance his impressions and sing duets.  He used multi sound tracks to enable him to sing and perform all the supporting instruments in a song.  Coordinating speaking and singing with a supporting A/V script takes a lot of rehearsal.  Jeff’s timing was perfect.  Very impressive.  Likewise, as speakers, preparation is what makes your performance look professional.

Laughter is contagious.  The Pearl showroom holds about 2000 people.  The full house helped make the show great.  Jeff connected with the audience and they kept the laughter rolling.  As speakers, we need to ensure we have optimum performing conditions; Lighting, sound, arrangement of the seats, temperature.  Success is in the details.  Make the experience perfect for the audience and they will support you.

Be timely.  Jeff Tracta’s program included fresh references to current events.  I heard references to things which had happened in the past two weeks.  Just as part of the popularity of late-night talk-show hosts results from the fresh monologues which they present at the opening of their shows, it also is important for you to ensure your tried-and-tested material is fresh by sprinkling current material throughout your program. 

Warm up the audience.  There are many ways to do this.  A headliner will often have an opening act.  Jeff’s show opened with comedian Bruce Fine who did a terrific job of warming up the audience.  You may not have an opening act for your speech, but there are other choices.  You could use music before you are introduced.  Make sure you have someone who will give you a proper introduction.  I use comedy magic as an opener for my programs.  Make sure you don’t start your program with a sleeping audience.  You don’t want to go on cold.

Be a student.  The next time you go to a performance like Jeff Tracta’s, go to school by asking yourself, “How does this performance apply to me as a speaker.  What can I do the next time I speak that I learned from this professional performance?”

When you hear that Jeff Tracta is performing near you, don’t miss him.  Highly recommended.  You won’t be disappointed.

Cartoon Caption Contest Results — Restaurant

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

It’s almost the end of May and time for the results of our May Cartoon Caption Contest.  The contest features the artwork of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.  The top lines were selected by our panel of judges (speakers and improv players).

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 June 1, 2012.

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


I hate seniors!  All I got for a tip was three discount coupons for the ALL-U-CAN-EAT Buffet!
     Kathy Carpenter, Kerrville, Texas


Are Moe, Larry, and Curley really on the three, six and nine dollar bills?
     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois


We let in a guy wearing a baseball hat, and for our trouble we get a foul tip.
     David Novick, Dayton, Ohio

 HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Breaking bread should not mean you have to use the side of the table.
  – Three sixes?!  That doesn’t quite cover the tab!
  – They’re discount coupons for HIS restaurant.
  – We offer all-you-can-eat and that’s all he can tip?
  – He said he wasn’t leaving a tip because he wasn’t really a customer, he was just “occupying” the seat.
  – When we told him he couldn’t wear a baseball hat, he pitched a fit.
  – Mortuary coupons? I’ve been stiffed!
  – He says, “Tenth meal free must also apply to the tip.”
  – The tables have been turned and I’ve been served…a subpoena.
  – 20% off coupons for Chez Huey across the street and Chez Dewey down the street!
  – Hospital bills for food poisoning!
  – He was annoyed that I paid him to leave the restaurant.
  – Euros?
  – Guess I’m not getting that new toupee.
  – He’s an English teacher, and he corrected the spelling of the words in his bowl of Alphabet Soup.

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 #82

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Here is the analysis of 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. Impromptu speech topics were based on the titles of several books. One of the members assigned a topic, opened his comments with: “Thank you Oprah.” A reference to Oprah’s book club.

2. One speaker acknowledged the audience as, “club members…pretty and otherwise.”

3. In an impromptu speech, Greg suggested that someone might give him a kiss.

4. Our emcee for the evening’s program was Al Jensen. He was introduced three times by: “Let’s welcome Al Jensen to the floor.”

5. Al was wearing a loud floral-print shirt.

6. The carpet in the room had a bold-print pattern.

7. Bill Lusk, our most senior member, gave a speech on racing cars. He said that because of racing, he was actually getting younger.

8. We were celebrating the presentation of our Member of the Year Award with refreshments.

9. A speaker talked about prescription medications.


Fellow Toastmasters, Guests, and Oprah. (A call-back and the rule-of-three.)

It’s time for your Observations. Here’s the opportunity to present your humor…funny and otherwise. (PRETTY AND OTHERWISE provided a fill-in-the-blank call-back. The fill-in becomes BLANK AND OTHERWISE. When we change MEMBERS into HUMOR, it provides a strong punchline FUNNY AND OTHERWISE. Good structure. Excellent response.)

I’m now going to present my Observational Humor, unless someone is willing to give Greg a kiss…I didn’t think so. (A call-back. Another missed chance to give Greg a kiss. Also, it also sounded like delivering my monologue was a threat. Then a topper: “I didn’t think so.”)

We welcomed Al Jensen to the floor more than once tonight. When Al is on the floor, it’s important to point it out…because with the shirt he’s wearing, he blends in with the carpet.   (Poking fun at the stuffy language of “welcoming to the floor” and linking the loud shirt with the carpet.)

Bill is getting younger. That’s good news. By my calculations, in five more years, I’ll be the senior member of this club. (Stating the fact that next to Bill, I’m one of the most senior members in our club. Implies that I’m excitedly waiting to move up the ladder.)

Good attendance tonight. Our attendance secret…it’s a piece of cake…or a cookie. (Implying that people came to the meeting just for the cake and cookies.)

Is your poor sense of humor getting you down? The solution is the magic pill…John Kinde’s HUMORISHA. It will change your life. Side effects include: Weight Loss, Depression, Bleeding from the Lungs, and Brain Seizures. If you’re funny for more than four hours…see your doctor. If you are having problems paying for your medication… Get a Job. (An ad parody provided a surprisingly substantial and strong closer. The last line, while not PC, was a twist on the typical script for a pharmaceutical ad. It got a HUGE laugh.)

Observational Humor — Case Study #81

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

I attended an excellent humor workshop presented by Dawn Elizabeth.  She was fine-tuning her workshop which was to be presented at the upcoming District 33 Conference.  Before the workshop started, Dawn asked me if I would present some Observational Humor halfway though the meeting, to demonstrate how to create fresh humor making funny connections. 

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

1.  Dawn opened the workshop asking the audience what they would like to learn about humor as a result of attending the workshop.  Someone said, “Learning to understand John Kinde’s humor.”

2.  Before the workshop started, everybody in the room did a brief self-introduction.

3.  The workshop was hosted by Lunatics Toastmasters Club.  The meeting started at 1:00 pm.

4.  The meeting was held in a clubhouse inside a gate-protected community.  We were given the gate code with the note that we were to press just the number provided, no symbols (referring to the asterisk and pound sign).

5.  Dawn shared the technique of creating humor in your stories by using character dialogue.

6.  We had to park on the far side of the building and had a hard time finding an entrance door that was unlocked.

7.  Our District leader Jesse Oakley III (the THIRD, but Jesse has used it to brand himself by referring to it as I-I-I).  We met Jesse outside and he joined us in our search for an unlocked door.

8.  My friend, Loren Ekroth, said in his self-introduction that he and I were from Duluth and that he was my uncle, neither of which is true.

9.  The Grammarian introduced the word-of-the-day:  Avant Garde.  She specifically commented on how she was having a hard time reading the word-of-the-day announcement

10.  Dawn illustrated humor points with a joke:  Men want women to be like underwear.  They like support with a bit of freedom.


I’m still waiting to understand John Kinde.
(A good call back.  Self deprecation.)

They told me that if I attended today, by the end of the workshop, I’d be funny.
(This line was not actually part of the monologue.  I used it at the opening of the meeting when it was my turn for my self-introduction.  A very big laugh, which was made possible because I was well known by the audience as a humor speaker.  If the audience had not known me, the joke would not have worked.)

It’s really strange…this afternoon I’m attending Lunatics Toastmasters.  And last night I was attending the Solar-tics Toastmasters.
(I played with the Lunatics name, implying that it came from the root MOON.  I linked MOON with DAY and SOLAR with NIGHT.  There is no Solar-tics club.  I used a humor license to make it up.)

I had a hard time finding the meeting location today.  Carolyn provided me with gate code information.  When we pulled up to the gate, I handed the instructions to Alex and told him I didn’t need them…I had memorized the procedure to get through the gate.  I punched in 0813 and crashed my cymbals.  The gate didn’topen.  Alex said, “You’re doing it wrong.  The code is 0813 with no symbols.”
(When I saw Carolyn’s instructions of NO SYMBOLS, I immediately pictured myself crashing cymbals.  The triggers at work are: 
  – Sound alikes.
  – An act-out of physically demonstrating the crash of cymbals.
  – The use of dialogue.
The joked worked well.)

That was funny because Alex provided the punchline using dialogue.
(A call back to the use of dialogue in comedy.)

Then when we got to the clubhouse, every door seemed to be locked.  We ran into Jesse, our next District Governor, even our distinguished leader couldn’t find an open door.  Thankfully we didn’t have President Obama helping us to get in.
(The trigger was asking WHAT IF:  I noted that we couldn’t get in.  Even our District leader had a hard time finding an open door.  Imagine WHAT IF President Obama were helping us, how difficult it would be.)

I think it’s odd how Jesse has become our district leader…because there is no “I” in TEAM.
(The cliche, “There is no I in TEAM” provided a perfect punchline.  A huge laugh.  “Jessie Oakley I-I-I” had been repeated dozens of times over the past several years.  This repetition provided a very strong set-up for the joke.)

Deluth is a place where your uncle can also be your father.  In Deluth I’m known as the Man From Uncle.  It’s great to see my Dad here today.
(I’m not from Deluth.  But Loren joked that I was, so I went with it.  I made a reference to an old TV show The Man From Uncle.  I noticed the audience was old enough that I thought they would remember the show.  A good laugh, the joke worked.)

You’ve probably noticed that Dawn is taller than most people here today.  That’s why she is so funny.  You probably also noticed that I’m taller than Dawn.
(Dawn is tall.  Dawn is funny.  I implied that she is funny BECAUSE she is tall.  This set me up for a topper, which was a reverse-self-deprecation line, implying that I am funnier than Dawn.)

A suggestion to improve the flow of your meeting.  I would suggest having the Word Of The Day announcement printed in Braille.
(This is the only joke I dropped out of the monologue…by accident.)

A woman is like underwear.  Like a boxer I know she will eventually punch me.  I just want it to be brief.
(Another joke using Boxers/Briefs.  Different than the original joke.  Not the funniest line, but it was good for a laugh.)

After the meeting we’re all going to the Avant Garden Italian Restaurant.
(I thought Avant Garden sounded enough like Olive Garden, if I said it fast.  The joke worked, getting a good laugh.)

This has been an exciting humor workshop.  To open the program, the audience provided the overview (pointing at the flip chart).  I’m filling in the middle of the program.  And I can’t wait to see who among us will close the program.
(The humor trigger at work is exaggeration.  The members of the audience were NOT creating the bulk of the program, I just implied that they were doing that for the sake of the humor.  I was also using the humor technique of EXTRAPOLATION to arrive at a punchline:  This is what opened the program.  This is what’s happening in the middle of the program.  And this must be what will happen at the end of the program.  I was able to say if A happened, then B happened, obviously C will happen.)

New Cartoon Caption Contest

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

It’s time for our Cartoon Caption Contest for the month of May.  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 June 1, 2012.

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 May 15, 2012, 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.

Wisdom, Truth and Other Illusions

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The key to humor is the ability to see thoughts, objects and events in a different way.  Happiness and a stress-free life are shaped by the same process.  There is always another way of looking at life.  Sharpening that skill leads us to better speaking, better thinking and better living.  Those thoughts motivated me to write this article.  If you like it…great.  If you don’t…be glad that it’s the only article like this that I’ve written since I started my blog six years ago.

Wisdom, Truth and Other Illusions

1.  A sense of humor is about perceptions, relationships and re-framing life’s experiences in a positive way.
2.  Problem solving involves making previously unnoticed connections.  Developing humor uses the same process.
3.  My perceptions are grounded in truth…sometimes…when I’m lucky.
4.  Choices and decisions harden into habits and attitudes.
5.  New knowledge is understood by connecting it to existing knowledge.  That’s why new knowledge is not always better than old knowledge.
6.  The advice of others becomes wisdom after passing the test of time.
7.  Well-intentioned advice may lead to the edge of a cliff.
8.  Truth and wisdom are not default insights.
9.  A belief might have value even though it may be wrong.
10.  Would you rather be right and miserable or wrong and happy?
11.  Being right is a subjective state.  And often a fragile and fleeting one.
12.  When you stop thinking, you don’t have what’s RIGHT, you only have what’s LEFT unconsidered.  And you’re much less likely to be in touch with what is correct.
14.  Your superstitions may be obvious to others.
15.  When you are weighing what is right or wrong…the correct answer usually lies somewhere in the middle.
16.  The easy path to truth would seem like a shortcut if it weren’t an oxymoron.
17.  Hypocrisy is the proud partner of blind arrogance.
18.  Your logic makes sense until it contradicts my truth.
19.  Considering someone else’s thinking reflects well on your character.
20.  Criticizing someone else’s thinking reflects on the limits of your own thought.
21.  Love and kindness are not expressions or emotions.  They are lifestyles.
22.  Words are smothered by the shadow of action.
23.  The wisdom of the ages may be gold…or it may lead you down a well-worn path to a faulty truth. 
24.  Truth is strengthened by examination.  That which fears examination is not truth.
25.  What is right and wrong doesn’t always reflect what is correct and proper…but it does show us who has the power to make the rules. 
26.  Safe-guard the rights and welfare of others as though they were your own.
27.  If you can’t clearly view the other side, you’ll never see the big picture.
28.  Insisting on your point of view for the sake of principle…is fuel for endless argument and a recipe for stagnation.
29.  Enjoy the moment.  A drop in time is the essence of your life.  Be significant and let the ripple of your thoughts and actions make a positive difference.
30.  Most people make the world a better place because they lived.  The others make the world a better place because they died. 
31.  You leave a mark of beauty on the world or you tag it with graffiti.
32.  If you want to tighten a screw and someone hands you a hammer, don’t assume that because they own a tool they are an expert.
33.  If you add your assessment of the facts to your interpretation of another person’s intentions; you are mixing opinion with an intuitive guess, giving you a sum of questionable value.
34.  In most situations, the facts are shaped by your opinions.
35.  The body turns peanut butter into brain tissue.  Don’t debunk that which you fail to understand.
36.  Your interpretations are clouded by the lens of your experience.  And truth is obscured by the same.
37.  Good vibes sent out the front window return thru the back door.
38.  Most people are trying to do the right thing.
39.  Believe in the good intention and motivation of others and forgiveness will never be necessary.
40.  Yesterday was the first time I was mistaken…again.

Share your truth and wisdom by posting a comment on the Humor Power Blog.  Your thoughtful insights are appreciated.