Observational Humor — Case Study #94

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue presented at a full-day workshop featuring Ryan Avery, 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking, Scott Pritchard, 2011 Third Place Winner of World Championship of Public Speaking, and me.  The monologue was delivered right after lunch.  First we will look at the set-up which triggered an idea for an observational humor line.  Then we’ll look at the joke and analyze what made it tick.

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

1.  A speaker talked about the power of suggestion by using the classic “Don’t think of a Pink Elephant” to illustrate the power of suggestion.  Just hearing the words Pink Elephant makes a person want to think of one.

2.  The meeting room was very convenient and easy to get to.  We discovered that the restrooms were in another building, and a considerable walk from where we were meeting.

3.  A speaker referred to an age-range of people using the phrase “from 25 to 95.”

4.  A speaker referred to someone who was not a specialist as someone who speaks, cuts hair and does landscaping.

5.  A speaker talked about life on the farm and chasing chickens.

6.  A speaker referred to a woman comedian who “was no Ellen.”

7.  A speaker suggested that if you’re the most talented/skilled person in a group, that you need to find another group so you’ll be surrounded by people better than you, giving you the opportunity to learn and grow.

8.  Ryan suggested that when faced with a problem, “Push Past It.”

9.  A speaker suggested that when delivering humor, look to connect with an audience member who is having a good time and laughing.

10.  A speaker suggested that practicing under water is a good way to slow down a speaker who tends to be too fast.

11.  The football player with the imaginary girl friend was in the current headlines.

12.  Ryan said that everyone had someone’s help in getting to where they are.  He said, “If you haven’t had help from anyone, I’ll give you $1000.”

13.  Scott said that the Huffington Post had recently called him because of his reputation on sports betting.  He mentioned that Bill was at his house when the Post called him.

14.  Talking about his athletic abilities, Scott said that he couldn’t ride a unicycle or do a back-flip.


I do humor, cut hair, do landscaping, and chase chickens…but I’m no Ellen.
(This was a nice opener because it introduced me with self-deprecation.  It also tied together three call backs–the first triplet, chickens, and Ellen.)

Think of a Pink Elephant…Now that your minds are blank, we can continue.
(This twists the original point of the pink-elephant exercise.  I reversed it. Since asking someone NOT TO THINK of a Pink Elephant would cause them to think of one; I pretended that asking them to THINK of a Pink Elephant would cause them to think of nothing at all.  Not logical, but somewhat funny.)

When I arrived here this morning, I thought:  “Great meeting room.”   Then I found out that the restrooms are in Pahrump.
(This was funny because the long walk to the restrooms was something that everyone had noticed.  I chose Pahrump because it’s the local funny-sounding town.)

My humor tips will apply to you if you’re 25 or 95.  Which means they will apply to Ryan and to Bobby. 
(Two prominent people at the workshop, with good senses of humor, made them good targets for the joke.  Ryan had been introduced as 25 years old.  And Bobby was well-known as a 40-year member of Toastmasters.)

I’m looking for a new group to hang out with.  I just realized that in my current group, I’m the funniest person.
(Applying a call-back to my life.)

Here’s a humor tip.  If you do a joke and they don’t laugh…push past it.
(A call-back of one of Ryan’s key phrases.)

You were given the tip to find a friendly face and to deliver your humor to that person.  In other words…don’t look at me.
(Self-deprecating joke.  Poking fun at my serious demeanor.)

My speaking style is too slow.  To think of all those years I wasted rehearsing under water.  So I’ve changed my strategy.  Every time I practice, I set my house on fire.
(A funny call-back.  Created a strategy by flipping the original thought 180 degrees.  I thought, if water slows someone down, what would cause someone to move faster.  Plays with the trigger of absurdity.)

 I attribute my success to my dead imaginary girl friend.  Since she  doesn’t exist, that means I’m self made.  Ryan, that will be $1000 please.
(A call-back to the mention of the imaginary girlfriend in the news.  I extended the logic to conclude that getting help from an imaginary person would be the same as getting help from nobody.  Then I looked at Ryan as I asked for $1000.)

Bill was at my house last week.  Huffington Post called me…they were looking for Scott’s phone number.
(I could have left out the opening sentence about Bill.  But I decided to include it to set the same pattern used in the orignal story that Scott told.  It’s a self-deprecation joke.  It builds me up, implying that the Huffington Post was calling me because I was important.  Then it switches that the purpose of the call was because the Post was trying to contact Scott.)

We will be closing the workshop this afternoon with Scott doing a back-flip on a unicycle…if the ambulance has arrived.
(Works on the principle of What If.  What if Scott tried to do something he said he can’t do…and what kind of preparation would we need to make ahead of time.  A good closer.)