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.”
MY JOKE SEQUENCE
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.