Archive for March, 2013

Joke Contest Results — Limericks

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

The result of our March Limerick Contest is out.  Our top limericks were selected by our panel of five judges (speakers and improv players).   The theme of the Limericks was broad…current events.  Our subscribers obviously had sequester on the mind.  The top three entries were all about the mess in Washington DC.

Thanks to Sol Morrison of Santa Barbara for suggesting the theme of this month’s contest.

New Joke Contests are announced at the start of the month.  The next Joke Contest is April 1, 2013.

Here are this month’s top entries.  All three entries were submitted by first timers to the winner’s circle. 


It’s now come to a head, the sequester
Which both parties permitted to fester
Since instead of reformers
We are stuck with performers
First Clown Boehner and Barack the Jester.

     Patrick McKeon, Pennington, New Jersey


Sequester has befallen our nation
No solutions but so much oration
The left says “must tax”
The right says “wrong facts”
So both up and went on vacation.
     Steve Ferguson, Treasure Island, Florida


There once was a dreaded sequester
That our congress allowed to fester
While they blamed and screamed
Now they are esteemed
Just a notch above child molester.

     John Gately, Cambridge, Massachusetts

HONORABLE MENTION (In random order)

Politicians can act like a dork
I just want to go pop my cork
But I’m really not sly
I’ll still vote for the guy
Who brings me my share of the pork.
The robbers made a quick getaway
Leaving bank tellers in great disarray
The police gave chase
And made their case
Now prison is their place to stay.

The Blackhawks are winning this year
Everyone in Chi-town can cheer
And what’s the reason
For such a season
They’re drinking a new brand of beer.

Obama has picked a new chief
We hope that her stay won’t be brief
A Wal-Mart exec
I say what the heck
Aisle seven for tax relief.

There once was a girl from McCook
Who wouldn’t give Twilight a look
I find the story
A bit too gory
I think I’ll just wait for the book.

The Big Apple has banned the big soda
One pint is the maximum quota
Bloomberg passed this much faster
Than a top Jedi Master
May the fizz still be with you, dear Yoda.

Global Warming An uncomfortable truth
Maybe so; to deny is uncouth
But let’s keep it civil
As we watch the world swivel
Through a glassful of gin and vermouth.

We’re now in an age of sequester
And it may linger for a semester
But Congressional cries
And the Senate’s sad sighs
Match the wails of a cat named Sylvester.

The late leader Chavez has let go
Of his Venezuela, and Citgo
Most are glad he departed,
We’re not brokenhearted
Been waiting for this from the git go.

What a tussle twixt Lincoln and Argo
I think neither compared well to Fargo
Though those Oscars are darling,
The show had me snarling
It’s time we declared an embargo.

Unkind cuts flow from sequestration,
Thank the gridlocked polls of our nation.
As they played blame games,
Need bigger window frames
To facilitate defenestration.

Should you get sick, be injured, find a growth
Visit the physician, ER or both
You’ll find chargemaster prices
Will create a new crisis
Yikes, Hippocrates would use a new oath.

To save cash, White House tours are curtailed
But the House tours have NOT been derailed
So you still can have fun
Seeing nothing get done
On the Hill, watching nonsense unveiled.

Say goodbye to the Dick Morris snarl
Dick (like Palin) can no longer gnarl
All his poisonous spews
Perched at Fox Cable News
But alas, Fox is still keeping Karl.

Sequester’s the word of the day
About which the press gives much sway
It will soon go away
Just like Y2K
And we’re back watching celebs at play.

At first ’twas considered a joke
Pope retires before he will croak
Some Cardinals will plan
To be the next man
But their dreams will just go up in smoke.

The budget of Mr. Obama
Could lead the nation to trauma
When he raised the tax
Boehner sharpened his ax
New revenue streams were a goner.

There was a man called Obama
Whose budgets create such drama
Give the man credit
Let us not forget it
He did get rid of Osama.

There could have been life on Mars
Wonder if they had any cars
Places to dine
Places for wine
Wonder if they had Mars Bars.

We have lots of oil fracking
Of profits it sounds like it’s smacking
Chew up the grounds
for bucks and pounds
I think their brains are a cracking.

There really is global warming
Ice caps are moving and swarming
Sea levels rise
We’re not so wise
Greenhouse gasses are just so charming.

Cruise ships are all the rage
Carnival is a gilded cage
Enjoy the poop deck
You’ll just feel like heck
You’ll not sail if you are sage.

Baseball is on the way
Jack Brickhouse said hey hey
A homer, an out
It just makes me shout
What a great way to spend a day.

Cardinals will be locked tight inside
Where there’s really no place to hide
Choice announced by smoke
We’ll know it’s no joke
Screw up and we’ll know whom to chide.

A chicken who used to meander
Crossed the road one day in a dander
He clucked he had balked
Because he was stalked
By a bearded old gent named Sanders.

Observational Humor — Case Study #96

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Here is another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a meeting.  We’ll look at the set-up, the joke, and comment why the joke worked. 

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

1.  A speaker said that Al Jensen was setting a great example with his clear diction.

2.  We only had one woman attending the meeting.  She commented on that fact.

3.  The meeting theme was Spring Forward, based on the recent Daylight Saving clock adjustment.  The Emcee of the meeting gave interesting trivia about Daylight Saving time.  He said that there were fewer heart attacks in the fall when clocks were set BACK because people got an extra hour’s sleep.

4.  A speaker commented on our small attendance at the meeting.  We had only ten people, while the normal attendance used to be twenty.

5.  A speech evaluator praised Ryan by using a negative term and stating it was what Ryan was not.  “Ryan you are not ignorant.”

6.  I gave a speech on how “attention grabbers” provide the foundation for a funny joke.

7.  The one woman attending the meeting suggested that, as the only woman in a group of men, she could be an exotic dancer.


Thank you Mr Toastmaster, Lady and Gentlemen.  I especially want to thank my diction coach Al Jensen. 
(Delivered in a slurred voice with poor diction.  This was a call-back to the comment praising Al Jensen for his good diction.  I also made a subtle change in the cliche “Ladies and Gentlemen” by changing it to “Lady and Gentlemen.”  That change was probably not widely noticed as I slurred my speech.)

Few people know it, but I’ve been working part-time as a heart researcher.  I’ve discovered something recently that will reduce heart attacks by ten percent.  I recommend that every month we set the clocks back one more hour.  The downside is that after 12 months people will be having heart attacks as they leave work and see the sun rising.
(Using the technique of extrapolation and asking what if:  If moving the clock back reduces heart attacks, what if we moved the clock back EVERY month.  Also it plays with the trigger of absurdity.  The final punchline points out that after one year our clocks would be off by 12 hours or by half a day.)

It’s true that we have fewer members than we had a year ago.  But we have BIGGER members.  My theory is that our current members have been eating our former members.
(Plays with the trigger of absurdity.  Also plays with the truth.  We have lots of big members, which makes for a good joke structure.  The truth is funny.  The first joke, “we have bigger members,” sets up the absurd topper of “eating our former members.”)

We have a new evaluation style for our club.  It’s called “negative praise”:
  – Ryan, you are not ignorant.
  – David, you are not ugly.
  – Bobby, you are not serious.
  – Al, you are not dull.
(The theme of negative-praise provided me a list or a vehicle to create and deliver funny lines.  From a laughter perspective, this was the weakest part of the monologue.)

I have one more point to add to my list of creating strong set-ups.  If someone strips…that is an attention grabber
(A good link between the exotic dancer/stripper comment and my list of Attention Grabbers which can be used to making a good joke.)

Accepting An Award

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

When you receive an award, some thoughtful comments are appropriate.  The significance of the award, the nature and formality of the occasion, will determine the content of your remarks and how long you will speak.  Here are some things to consider when making an acceptance speech:

1.  Be brief.  If you are honored with a significant award, you’re probably speaking at the end of a long program.  Being brief is often appreciated.  Although the general rule is Less-Is-More, there is such a thing as being too brief.  The audience wants to hear from you.  Meaningful, well-thought-out remarks are in order.  Avoid rambling.  Be focused and be aware of the other points listed in this article.  A well-planned acceptance speech will make you look like the winner that you are.

2.  Be humble.  If the award is competitive, remember the disappointment of those who didn’t win.  A large part of the selection process is often subjective.  You are fortunate to win.  People like a good loser.  Even more, they love a gracious winner.

It’s unlikely that you’re a self-made success.  Thinking that you are self-made is not the humble path to making an acceptance speech.  Recognize the help you received along the way.  The trick is to acknowledge those who deserve it, without making it a tedious, lengthy list.  After presenting a short list, you could say, “There are so many of you to thank, I look forward to personally connecting with you during the next week to express my appreciation.”  And then remember to do it.  A meaningful, personal thank-you phone call or visit is often more appreciated than simply having your name tacked on a list delivered in a short acceptance speech.

Gentle self deprecation can sometimes be appropriate, being careful not to deny your qualifications for the award.  Poke fun at yourself, but don’t make light of the significance of the award.   Daniel Day-Lewis, receiving his Best Actor Oscar (2013) took the humble approach when he said: “I really don’t know how any of this happened.  I do know that I have received so much more than my fair share of good fortune in my life. I’m so grateful to the Academy for this beautiful honor.”  Humility is a class act.

In an attempt to be humble, avoid the “My, oh, my. I can’t believe you picked little-old-me to be the winner” attitude.  Vince Lombardi’s advice was:  When you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.  It’s possible to do that and still be humble.  It honors the significance of the award.

3.  The competition.  Recognizing your fellow competitors is appropriate.  They were probably hoping to win as much as you were.  Remember how you felt when you were on the losing end of a selection process.  Best Actor Winner, Daniel Day-Lewis eloquently said, “My fellow nominees, my equals, my betters, I’m so proud to have been included as one amongst you.”

4.  Be grateful.  Accept the award graciously.  Expressing your positive feelings helps the audience to enjoy the moment with you.  And gratitude sets things in proper perspective for both you and the audience.

5.  Be genuine.  Speak in a connected, conversational tone.  You want to be likable.  By being real, you reinforce the thought that the right person was selected for the award.

6.  Be relaxed.  Don’t be nervous.  Easier said than done.  Some degree of preparation will help.  You may not want to script your comments, but giving thought to the possibility of winning is a good idea.  Being speechless is not eloquent.  And brilliant, in-the-moment, spontaneous presentations are often the result of preparation. 

7.  Honor the judges.  Be gracious in accepting.  Don’t second-guess your selection as the winner, because you will be questioning the choice of the judges.  If you imply that you are not worthy of the award, you’ll sabotage the positive intentions of the presentation.

8.  Be funny.  If you’re known to be witty, including humor is almost a necessity.  If you’re not a funny speaker, one lightly-humorous line is usually in good style.  Spontaneous humor works great, if you have the skill to do that.  Self-aggrandizement (the opposite of self-deprecation) can work well if you have a known, tongue-in-cheek style.  Opening with “I deserve this,” is a simple line which can work well in the right circumstances.  You then follow the line with appropriate remarks which indicate that you were just being light-hearted and are honored to be recognized.

During the 2013 Oscars, Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the stairs as she approached the lectern.  “Thank you. You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that’s really embarrassing but thank you.”

Later in the program, Best Actor Winner Daniel Day-Lewis, having been introduced by Meryl Streep, included in his acceptance speech, “I had actually been committed to play Margaret Thatcher…Meryl was Steven’s [Spielberg] first choice for Lincoln. I’d like to see that version.”  The well-chosen humor was probably planned.  It received big laughs.

As the first-place winner in an awards ceremony after a Humorous Speech contest where I had drawn the position of last speaker, I’ve used a simple piece of humor:   “I’d like to thank the other speakers for warming up the audience.”

So there you have eight things to consider the next time you make remarks after an awards presentation.  Be humble, gracious, genuine, and funny.  It’s the mark of a professional.

If You’re Not the Greatest Singer — Do Comedy

Friday, March 8th, 2013

There is a saying in improv, “If you can’t sing…sing loud!”  In other words, be funny.  Rudy De La Mor was given that advice earlier in his career, “If you’re not the greatest singer…do comedy.”  And he did just that.  He had a long career playing Southern California amusement parks and nightclubs as a cabaret entertainer.  Rudy died this week.  Memories of his music and laughter will live on. 


          Rudy De La Mor    December 24, 1939 – March 5, 2013

I saw Rudy perform in San Diego 15 years ago.  He was a master at connecting with the audience in a playful way.  If you sat near the piano, you were part of the show.  His performances were fun and left you wanting more.  Rudy was scheduled to host a cruise to Hawaii starting tomorrow. 

He will be missed by his friends and fans.  Rudy De La Mor was 73.   Here’s a clip of Rudy on YouTube.

Creative Writing

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Here is a fun video which you’ll enjoy if you are into poetry, creative writing, or writing to sell.  It’s a 22-minute entertaining talk by Dan Fleischmann (son of Gerald Fleischmann, a regular contributor to our humor contests).  A very interesting example of how you can deliver information while making it fun for the listener.  I thought I’d watch a little of it…and ended up watching the whole thing.  Recommended.

Chicago Tribune Cartoon Caption Contest

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Congratulations to Scott Tredwell, a regular contributor to our contests, for his Runner-Up entry in the Scott Stantis Chicago Tribune Cartoon Caption Contest.

New Joke Contest — Limericks

Friday, March 1st, 2013

The March contest is Current Limericks. Sol Morrison from Santa Barbara said “Let’s do limericks.” And we agree. Your challenge this month is to write a limerick poem. Of course the idea is to make it funny. The theme of the limericks will be Current Events. Each limerick should be about something happening in today’s news headlines.

New Joke Contests are announced at the start of the month. The next contest will be announced April 1 (no fooling). 

Here’s a brief description of a limerick. If you want more information visit Wikipedia.

Line one:    LONG    ta ta tum ta ta tum ta ta    Rhyme A

Line two:    LONG    ta ta tum ta ta tum ta ta     Rhyme A

Line three:    SHORT   ta ta tum ta ta      Rhyme B

Line four:    SHORT    ta ta tum ta ta     Rhyme B

Line five:    LONG    ta ta tum ta ta tum ta ta      Rhyme A 

Your limerick will need to match the rhyme pattern AABBA. The cadence and rhythm of your poem should be close. Here are three examples:


The country is waist deep in debt

But there really is no need to sweat

Borrow more for today

We can go out and play

On Congress we’ll trust our big bet


If you truly want to win more

It depends on the final score

March Madness is here

If you’re drinking beer

Good judgment you may just ignore.


Internet I gave it a whirl

But dating just made my head swirl

I splashed on some Brut

And thought she’d be cute

 Then met an imaginary girl

Try to write three limericks. They don’t have to be perfect, but do the best you can. The value is in the experience of writing them. The best thing to do is write a limerick and then let it sit for a day. Revisit the poem and edit it. Writing gets better by the process of rewriting.

Pick any current events topic.  You can write on the same topics as the examples provided above, or select one from the dozens (hundreds) of news headlines we’ve seen in the past month.

Select your best poem and submit it. If you have three poems you’re proud of, submit all of them by sending them to us at by March 15, 2013.