Archive for June, 2013

Joke Contest Results — Comedian At Work

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

It’s time for the results of our June Joke Contest.  The theme is “Comedian At Work.”  What might a comedian say if he/she worked a normal job?

The top lines were selected by our panel of five judges (speakers and improv players).

New Joke Contests are announced at the start of the month.  The next contest will be announced on July 1.

Here are the top lines for the June contest:


Henny Youngman working as a lawyer, defending his wife:  “Your Honor, take my wife’s pleas.”
     Marty Bernstein, Oak Park, Illinois


Howard Stern, as an inventor: “My new invention is an electric athletic supporter; I call it a Shock Jock.”
     Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California


Rodney Dangerfield at a finishing school: “I was hired as an example of what not to do.”
     Sandy Kampner, Evergreen Park, Illinois

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – Groucho Marx, as a sleepwear manufacturer: “I’ve got new line of pajamas…for elephants.”
  – Rich Little, as a psychoanalyst: “I’m afraid my patient is displaying multiple personalities.”
  – Steve Martin, as an apprehended burglar: “Well!  Accuuuuuuse me!”
  – Marty Feldman, as a hypnotist:  “Look into my eyes!”
  – Mae West as an office worker:  Is that a stapler in your pocket or are you excited to see me?

  – Jerry Seinfeld as an office worker:  Why are all IT people like the Soup Nazi? “NO EMAIL FOR YOU!”
  – Steven Wright as an office worker:  I’m still looking for the copy machine.   So far, I keep finding the same one.
  – Jack Benny, as a divorce lawyer, advising a male client:   “Divorce is very expensive. The main thing you have to do is decide this: ‘Your money or your wife?'”
  – Don  Rickles, as a Nurse: “Stop whining, you big baby.  Think you’re the only guy who ever broke both arms and both legs? And don’t call for help just because you gotta’ make doo-doo. The bathroom is right over there, Dumbo.  You can crawl like everyone else.  And don’t bleed on my new, clean sheets.  Where were you raised, in a pig’s sty?”
  – Jackie Gleason as an Astronaut: “Har-de-har-har. Like I’ve been  telling you  all  these years, Alice: ‘Pow, right to the moon.’  Well  today’s the day, and we’re both going. Fasten your seat belt — and Away we go!”

  – Abbott & Costello Electrical Company: “Fuse on first…Watts on second.
  – Groucho Marx, at CIA Headquarters:  “Say the secret word…and
you’ll be charged with treason!”
  – W. C. Fields, in HR at an oyster processing plant:  “Vary the rest periods:  Never give a shucker an even break!”
  – Milton Berle, in loss prevention at a food wrap company:  “I think I know who’s the thief of Glad bags.”
  – Lisa Kudrow, in an office: “I get to empty the spam containers on all the computers.”

  – Bill Cosby as a high school teacher:  “Sex education is a good idea, but the kids shouldn’t be given homework.”
  – Groucho Marx as a psychologist: “Remember you’re unique, just like everyone else.”
  – Joan Rivers at McDonalds: “Are you kidding me?  I’m in charge of making ice but I keep forgetting the recipe.”
  – Gallagher, as a band promoter: “Yeah, I got a great new name for your group: Smashing Watermelons!”
  – Tom Hanks, as a candymaker: “In my chocolate boxes, you always know what you’re going to get.”

  – Soupy Sales, as a baker: “I still say my best pies are the ones I fill with shaving cream.”
  – George Carlin, as an English professor: “Now class, here’s my list of seven words you should never say.”
  – Edgar Bergen, as an author: “I’m writing a new one. Ventriloquism for Dummies.”
  – Don Knotts, as a relaxation therapist: “Now don’t be nervous!”
  – Carroll O’Connor, as chief butcher: “Yeah, now I’m da meat head.”

  – Henny Youngman, as a TV chef: “First you take one cup of flour…please”
  – Jerry Lewis, as a college professor: “Oh, Deeean!  Oh, Deeean!”
  – Dick Martin, as a bookie: “That’s the last time I’ll let anyone bet their bippy on a horse.”
 – Don Rickles, as a sports equipment maker: “I’ve invented a totally new type of hockey puck.”
  – John Belushi, as a tailor: “Toga! Toga! Toga!”

  – Joan Rivers, as a Toastmaster: “Can we talk?”
  – Martha Raye, as a dentist: “Now open wide–Like this.”
  – Garrison Keillor, as a teacher: “All my students are above average.”
  – George Gobel, as a tracer of lost persons: “And there you are!”
  – Woody Allen, as a psychologist: “You’re letting your neuroses get to you.”

  – Groucho Marx as an FBI agent: “The secret word is on a need to know basis.”
  – Will Rogers, as a food critic: “I never met a ham I didn’t like.”
  – Lou Costello as a radio station manager:  “We’re ready to go live…ok, who’s on first?”
  – Minnie Pearl as a greeter for Wal-Mart:  “HOW-DEEE!”
  – Rodney Dangerfield in an office:  “I finally got some respect;  I’ve got my own office with a sink and a mop.”

  – Johnny Carson as a weatherman.  “Today it was cold.  How cold was it?  It was so cold….”
  – Jerry Seinfeld as a Buddhist priest: “I’m so busy doing nothing that the idea of doing something cuts into the nothing and I drop everything.”
  – Henny Youngman in a Psychiatry office with a particularly resistant patient: “Take my advice… Please.”
  – Rodney Dangerfield working as a roadie for Aretha Franklin:  I don’t get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
  – Cheech and Chong working as U of Wisconsin mascots:  We don’t need no stinking badgers.

  – Larry the Cable Guy working in a nice steak restaurant, to customers:  Git ‘er well done.
  – Bob Newhart working as telephone customer service:  Hello, he-hello, hello?
  – Jay Leno working as a personal trainer:  Ok, chin-ups. Nothing but chin-ups.
  – David Letterman working in a sheet metal company:  Tonight’s top tin list….
  – Seth Myers working as news anchorman for a very underfunded station:  It’s time for Weakened Update.

  – Working as professional Dear John letter writers is:  Penn and Teller.
  – Carrot Top working as a farmer:  Corn should be propped up.
  – Jerry Seinfeld working at Ellis Island in the early 1900s:  Who are these people?
  – Johnny Carson working in marketing for a French brandy distillery:   We’ll call it “Cognac the Magnificent.”
  – Jackie Gleason as a social media consultant:  “How tweet it is.”
  – Jackie Gleason calling the start of a Nascar race: “Maestro, a little traveling music and awaaay we go!” 

  – Minnie Pearl at JC Penneys: “I get to put price tags on all the hats!”

Cartoon Humor

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Here’s a link to an excellent TED talk by Bob Mankoff on cartoon humor.  It’s entertaining and informative.
  – Creating funny cartoons.
  – Getting rejected by the New Yorker magazine.
  – What’s funny and what isn’t.
  – Using humor after 9-11.
  – Degrees of playful incongruity.

Thanks to Loren Ekroth, Dr Conversation, for suggesting the link.

Stacking the Observations — A Humor Technique

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

When doing Observational Humor, the set-up is normally something that was said or done before you deliver the humor line.  Here’s a good technique to add more power to your set-up.  I call it stacking the observations.

What the technique involves is using multiple call backs to set up your punchline.  Here’s an example:
  – The first call-back is presented to make a point.  The power in the technique is that it seems that making a serious point is the only reason you referred to the call-back.  It will appear that your reference to the call-back is complete.  But YOU know that you’re primarily using it to set up a joke.  That will come as a surprise and will magnify the impact of the joke. 
  – The second call-back is used as a punchline.  And once again, the feeling of the audience is that, with your punchline, you’ve come to the end of the joke.  But one more time you have other plans. 
  – With the third call-back, A topper is in order.  You deliver another joke on the same theme, riding on the coat tales of the first joke.  Another surprise.  Stay with me.  I’ll be laying out the joke sequence below, and hopefully it will make more sense. 

This makes for a nice structure, delivering a one-two punch with Observational Humor that plays strong.  Here’s how the jokes went down:


1.  Bill gave a speech about his military service, he was a USAF Lt Colonel, he was a pilot and served in Vietnam.  He also told about coming home from Vietnam with pearls for his wife.  When he got home his wife told him she wanted a divorce.  He thought to himself, “What am I going to do with the pearls?”  A big laugh.

2.  A speaker referred to someone looking as though she was “his prom date.”


I have a lot in common with Bill.  I was in the Air Force.  I served in Vietnam.  I was on an air crew.  I was a Lt Colonel.
(It appears that by recalling the life pattern of Bill (first observation), that I have completed my point; that I have much in common with another person in the room.)

But I learned something tonight that I’ve never realized.  I now know why Vietnam veterans look good in pearls (second observation with an implied conclusion).
(Unexpected punchline.  Links the thought of “what to do” with the pearls to the absurd suggestion that he would just wear them.  Big laugh)

I saw Bill in pearls just once.  He looked like my prom date (third observation provides the topper punchline).
(An unexpected topper with a set-up that I took the liberty of making up;  I’ve never seen Bill in pearls. Another big laugh.)

So there you have the sequence:  The first call-back (observation) appears to make a stand-alone, non-humorous point.  Your secret is that you’re really using it as a set-up for your first punch line.  It disguises your first joke.  Then you deliver the first laugh line and follow it with a topper.  Both punch points are unexpected and both use different call-back triggers (observations) to set the humor off.  It’s a tidy, efficient way to create the funny lines, stacking three different observations to enhance the surprise and structure the punchlines.  The more you use the stacking technique, it becomes internalized and will tend to happen naturally without a complex thinking process cluttering your mind.  Give it a try.  It will add power to your punch points.

Observational Humor — Case Study #99

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Here is another set of humorous observations from a recent meeting.  We’ll look at the set-up, then the joke, and then we’ll analyze what made the joke work.

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

1.  Bobby Williams said, “Many people think that the most important part of the meeting is the speech evluations.  But that’s not true.  The most important part of the meeting is when I’m speaking.”
(Bobby used the technique of self-aggrandizement, which is the opposite of self-deprecation.  It works for him because he is known as a funny speaker.  He got a good laugh from the group, and that set up the comment as a target for a future observational humor line which I used to open my monologue.)

2.  We had three members (Corrine, Gordon and Jim) who were attending the meeting after an absense.

3.  During a roast six months earlier, we joked about our past President creating a robot version of his wife.  We compared the place where we meet, Pololu Robotics, to the classic movie Stepford Wives.

4.  A speaker told us about a world-record game of “Telephone” in which a phrase was whispered from one person to the next.  The phrase “Mac King is a Comedy Magic Genius,” ended up being:  “Macaroni Cantaloupe Knows the Future.”

5.  A speaker used an acronym in her speech from the RoadRunner Cartoon:  YIKE.

6.  Corrine admitted to not liking house work and that she was collecting dust.)

7.  The emcee of the meeting shared Las Vegas trivia with us, which included the making of the world’s largest cake.

8.  Bobby Williams is one of our senior members.


Some people think that the most important part of the meeting is when we’re listening to a funny speaker.  But that’s not true.  The most important part of the meeting is when Bobby Williams is speaking.
(A roast-like line.  It implies that Bobby isn’t funny, although the truth is he is VERY funny.  The implied punchline allows the audience to “get the joke.”  The superiority theory of humor kicks in.  The structure is nice because it takes the pattern set by Bobby’ which earned him a laugh, and by using the same pattern, allows me to create a joke by only changing the first part of his joke.  It turns the joke on him.  A good laugh.)

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Corrine, Gordon and Jim.  It’s great having them attending the meeting again.  Stepford Robotics has been busy.
(Although the set-up for the joke was well in the past, I felt that people would remember it or at least make the connection with the movie.  Very good laugh.)

I’m now presenting a new Keynote speech titled: 
Fettucini honeydews are cognizant of tomorrow.

The theme of my Keynote follows the acronym OOO, which stands for:
  – Oops.
  – Off-Da
  – Oi Vey
(The pattern of O-Words sets a pattern of funny-sounding words which indicate a mistake or unintended result; each word coming from a different cultural background.)

It’s pronounced O O O!
(I pronounced it as though I was reacting to being poked from behind.)

Corrine collects dust because the Bible says God made man from dust.
(A simple joke linking Corrine’s dust comment to a biblical reference.)

We’re making a birthday cake for Bobby Williams.  It won’t be the world’s biggest.  But it will have a record number of candles.
(Implies that Bobby is old.  Although he isn’t the oldest member, it’s close enough to make the joke work.  It also book-ends my monologue.  I started with poking fun at Bobby and close by doing the same.  I was only able to do that because Bobby is one of our funniest members and also because he had thrown two zingers at me during his general evaluation of the meeting.)

Observational Humor — Case Study #98

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Observational Humor Monologue number 98!  As usual, the monologues are not presented for the entertainment value, but as a learning tool.  First you will see the set-ups.  Then the monologue jokes follow.  And then a brief comment on what makes the jokes tick.  Enjoy.

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

1.  An evaluator suggested to a speaker that, when crossing the speaking platform, he should not turn his back on part of the audience.  He demonstrated how one could cross while still somewhat facing the audience, maintaining a connection.

2.  The same evaluator suggested lengthening a specific pause in the speakers talk.  He wanted the speaker to relax and take a deep breath at a specific point in the speech.

3.  A guest named Fred was referred to by wrong names three or four times. The first time was an accident.  Then it started to be on purpose, a running gag.

4.  An evaluator used the word EXTRANEOUS…twice.

5.  The weather was starting to warm up.  In the summer time our members tend to dress rather casually.  Three people were dressed in shorts.

6.  Carolyn noted that she was the only woman attending the meeting.  She said she liked the odds.

7.  We had a guest speaker named Marco.


(I crossed the podium in an exaggerated side-ways movement.  This entry got a very big laugh.)
Mr General Evaluator, fellow Toastmasters, and especially (I took a deep breath and exhaled) Francis.
(Noticing the running gag of mentioning our guest using the wrong name, I jumped on the bandwagon.  The breath got a fair response.  Saying the name Francis got a very big laugh.  Although I was expecting a bigger response to the breath, the fact that it played less than expected probably helped build the tension to make the Francis line even funnier.)

Few people know it, but I used to work for the Rail Road.  I’m an EX-train-eous person.
(Since EXTRANEOUS is an uncommon word, and since it had been used twice, it was a good target for Observational Humor.  If it had been used only once, I would not have used it.  The repetitive nature strengthened its use as a joke set-up.)

To our guests, you’ll notice that we are a very informal club.  The warmer it gets, the more we dress down.  You should come back in August.  The meetings are very interesting.
(This is a re-cycled joke which I had used before.  The set-up was really strong that evening.  Nineteen people were present, and a guest was the only person in a suit and tie.  Three people were wearing shorts.  We were just starting to notice a weather warming trend.  I was a speaker and was wearing basketball shorts and a colored TShirt.  The contrast of dress styles encouraged me to repeat a previously used line, because I knew it was funny, and because it had been maybe nine months since I had used it.  I used the technique of extrapolation, projecting a trend into the future.  Very good laugh.)

Carolyn said she liked the makeup of the group tonight.  As the only woman, she said the “odds were good.”  She is right.  At PowerHouse Pros, “the odds are good…and the goods are odd.”
(This is an old joke told to me by a woman speaker when I was visiting Alaska.  My feeling was that it wasn’t a widely told joke and was guessing that nobody had heard it before.  I felt I needed to repeat Carolyn’s comment to strengthen the set up.  Good laugh.)

The thing I like about this group is that people are athletic and fit.  As I look around the room.  Daniel…scuba diving.  David…swing dancing.   Marco…polo.
(The connection of Marco Polo had jumped into my head.  So I used the rule of three to set it up.  I set a pause between each set of names and activities which set the rhythm and expectation for the third item and the punchline.  Very big laugh.)

Contest — The Comedian at Work

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Our June joke contest features the theme:  If your Co-Worker was a Comedian.  We’re not looking for generic workplace jokes for generic comedians.  The challenge is to write a funny workplace line which would fit a specific comedian.  Pick a real comedian (man or woman), and then based on that comedian’s personality, attitude, perspective, point of view, or style, what would be a comment that he/she might make about the workplace. 

You are free to put the comedian in any work environment.  It doesn’t have to be where you work, although that’s a good exercise.  You DO need a specific work environment for the joke to be at its best.  Here is the format:
(Comedian’s name) is working in (type of job) and (punch line–Something they COULD say that would fit the work environment AND the comedian’s  style and personality.)

New Joke Contests are announced at the start of each month.  The next contest will be announced July 1.

Here are four examples on this month’s theme:

  – Henny Youngman, in a school:  “Working here isn’t all that bad.  Take my Superintendent…please.”
  – Rodney Dangerfield, in a hospital:  “Yesterday, the Doctor asked me to get him a cup of coffee.  I can’t get no respect.”
  – Jeff Foxworthy, in an office:  “If you spend most of your day sharing gossip around the water cooler…you might be a redneck.”
  – Mae West, as a prison inmate: “Why don’t you come up and free me sometime.”

Write as many lines as you can, then pick your best three lines to submit for Top Three recognition.  You can submit additional lines for Honorable Mention consideration.  Submit your entries to, by June 15, 2013.