Archive for December, 2013

Humor at The Kennedy Center Honors

Monday, December 30th, 2013

The Kennedy Center Honors–Using Humor

Host:  Glenn Close
The 2013 Honorees
  – Carlos Santana.  Rock Guitarist. 
     Introducer Harry Belafonte.
  – Martina Arroyo.  Opera Singer.
     Introducer Sonia Sotomeyer.
  – Herbie Hancock.  Jazz Musician.
     Introducer Bill O’Reilly.
  – Shirley MacLaine.  Actor.
     Introducer Kathy Bates.
  – Billy Joel.  Song writer and singer.
     Introducer Tony Bennett.

Lessons learned for using humor during an awards program.

1.  Don’t force the humor.  Play to your strengths.  The script left the humor for those who were skilled at using it.  The most humorous introduction was given by Bill O’Reilly.  Sonia Sotomeyer used no humor.  Never force humor into your presentation if it’s not your style. 

2.  The pacing.  The host started the show with very light humor. They paced the humor by having the second-funniest introducer, Harry Belafonte, make the first introduction.  And the funniest introduction was placed in the middle of the show, Bill O’Reilly.  The least funny introduction, Sonia Sotomeyer, was sandwiched between the two funniest.  The flow allowed for peaks and valleys in the humor.

3.  Permission.  Introductions at an awards program often use humor which borders on roast-like jokes.  The relationship between the introducer and the honoree allows the introducer to tell stories and jokes which involve the two of them.  It strengthens the Permission Factor.  Kathy Bates said that she was in four films with Shirley MacLaine.  “Our entire body of work received no Oscars.”  Harry Belafonte:  “They have got to do something about Mexican immigration.  They’re taking jobs that would otherwise go to Americans.  Carlos Santana took my spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”  (The quotes are paraphrased.)  Belafonte had the Permission Factor working for him based on his friendship with the honoree and the fact that he was also a member of a minority group.  Both the Belafonte line and the Bates line used self-deprecation, also strengthening the permission factor for the jokes to follow.  Poking fun at yourself gives you permission to poke fun at someone else.

4.  The implied punch line.  Bill O’Reilly opened with self-deprecation. “Yes, I’m surprised too,” implying that the audience was surprised to see that he was doing the introduction.  An implied punch line is almost always stronger than one directly stated.  And another self-deprecation line: “I don’t hang out with him.  I don’t want to ruin his reputation.”  That gave him permission to follow with more jokes and laughs, the funniest introducer of the evening.

5.  The right balance.  They seasoned the program with the right amount of humor.  It wasn’t the Mark Twain Award, in which the focus of the evening is humor.  The Kennedy Center Honors recognize entertainers, singers, dancers, writers and composers, and more.  It’s never intended to be a comedy show. 

Lessons learned from last night’s show:
  – Less is more.  The lesson learned is that just because you CAN do humor, that doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do humor.  One well written line can go a long way.  In a serious program, one or two funny presenters gives you the variety you need.  You’re looking for variety and pacing.  You’re not looking for a joke fest.
  – Play to your strong suit.  If you don’t do humor…don’t do humor.  Sotomeyer is known for her judicial expertise, not her comedy.  There was no effort to turn her into a comic for the evening.  The right choice.
  – Self-deprecation is usually a safe choice.
  – Be aware of the Permission Factor.  Without it, the audience may be uncomfortable with the humor. 
  – The more clearly defined is the relationship between the introducer and the honoree, the more options are opened for humor.  Sometimes that relationship needs to be stated so that it’s clear to the audience.
  – Stories about the honoree are good vehicles for carrying the humor.
  – Every time you see a professional program, be a student.  Look for tehniques you can use to make you a better speaker and entertainer.

Observational Humor — Case Study #109

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Here is another Observational Humor Monologue delivered at the end of a meeting.  I’ll give you the set up, followed by the punch line.  And then we’ll briefly look at why the joke was funny. 

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

1.  In her speech Melanie said “In my family I’m the quiet one.  If you don’t believe that, you haven’t met my family.”

2.  Bill said he was the only founding member still active in our club.  Someone asked if I wasn’t also a founding member.  I am not.

3.  Someone mistakenly said that the upcoming District 33 conference was in Modesto, when it was actually going to be in Bakersfield.

4.  Someone asked Melanie if she was wearing a costume for her Humorous Contest speech in Bakersfield.  She said that she was not wearing a costume.  I added, “Melanie, I suggest that you wear something.”  A good laugh.

5.  Bobby said that his success in business was because he could pick a winner and hire the right people.  “Put 100 people in front of me and I can pick a winner.”

6.  Bobby has been recognized as one of the top humor speakers in District 33 for decades.

7.  Bobby told me that when he goes to Seattle it never rains.  It’s also a fact that Bobby has lived in Las Vegas for 60 years.  He said that the water table was a lot higher when he first came to the city.

8.  Bobby lives in Las Vegas when the weather is cool, and lives up on Mt Charleston when the weather is hot.  Mt Charleston, 45 minutes from Las Vegas, is a beautiful area with lots of forest land.  This summer the area struggled with wildfires. 

9.  The program agenda included John K (me) and Jon K (a new member.)

THE MONOLOGUE

In my family, I’m the loud and boisterous one.  If you don’t believe that, you haven’t met my family.   (A call back and reversal of an earlier comment.  I’m using comic license, as the statement isn’t exactly true.  Nobody in my family is loud and boisterous, especially me.  Self deprecation.)

My name is John Kinde.  I am a club flounder.
(A play on words using a sound-alike, funny-sounding fish.)

This weekend I’m attending the District 33 conference in Modesto.
(Repeating a previous mis-statement.  A good laugh.)

I’m going to be the best speaker.
(A big laugh from those who realized that I’ll be the ONLY speaker.)

Actually, I’m going to Bakersfield.  But I wasn’t planning on going until I found out that Melanie won’t be wearing a costume.
(Piggybacked on the costume joke.)

How to tell a joke and get a big laugh… Pick a winner.  I can always pick a winner.  Show me 100 jokes and I can pick the one that’s a winner.
(A callback to the Pick-a-Winner closing to Bobby’s speech.)

Bobby…what a gift.  Here’s a guy who is funny before he even opens his mouth.
(The truth is funny.  He is a naturally comedic guy.)

I discovered today that Bobby is the Anti-Rain-Man.  He said when he goes to Seattle, it never rains.  He said that in the 60 years he’s lived in Las Vegas, the city has turned from a springs and meadow into a desert.  And when he moved to Mt Charleston…it caught on fire.  (The rule of threeVery big laughVery unexpected, timely and topical punchline.  After I came up with idea for the joke, the label of Anti-Rain-Man came to me.  Not a big laugh, but a good lead in.)

I just realized that we now have two John Ks in our club.  One with a H and one without.  One is old and one is cute.  (I brushed my hair back as though I was attempting to improve my appearance.)   Jon…if you stay in Toastmasters for 40 years…they will give you an H.
(Self deprecation.  Two big laughs.  A good closer.)

Joke Contest Results — Name That Drink

Friday, December 20th, 2013

It’s time for the results of our December Joke Contest: Name That Drink.  Here are the top lines for for the contest.

New Joke Contests are announced on the first of each month.

The next contest will open on January 1, 2014.  Set a resolution to improve your humor by entering the contest every month.

** FIRST PLACE **

The Charlton Heston: Served with the Ten Condiments.
     Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois

** SECOND PLACE **

The Nixon Bottled Water: He wanted to make one thing perfectly clear.
     Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California

** THIRD PLACE **

The General George S. Patton: Served in a tank.
     Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California

 HONORABLE MENTION (In random order)

  – The Dr. OZ:  Makes you feel like a wizard, over the rainbow, down the yellow brick road.
  – The Kanye West:  After a few you won’t know West from East or South.
  – The Judy Graceland: You can order it in Nashville.  Not sold in Kansas anymore.
  – The Jerry Seinfeld: The drink that’s made with nothing.
  – The Michelle Obama: A kiddie cocktail with vitamins and minerals.

  – The Tom Cruise: Made with Top Gin, one sip and you’re flying at Mach 2.
  – The Stephen Spielberg: Avoid close encounters with the third drink.
  – The Rodney Dangerfield:  I tell ya, one drink and I fall asleep.
  – The Jimmy Durante: It’s served in an extra large snifter.
  – The Cary Grant: What else? It’s Julep, Julep, Julep!

  – The Marty Feldman: It’ll uncross your eyes.
  – The Tom Bodett: It’ll turn your lights on.
  – The Julia Child: One part merlot, one part creme fraiche.
  – The Humphrey Bogart: Drink it again, Sam!
  – The Charlie Brown: Always served with peanuts.

  – Sidney Poitier: Vodka and Mister Pibbs.
  – The Steve Jobs: Apple jack with a spritz of inkjet toner.
  – The George Lucas: This drink will make you feel like either Yoda or Jabba, depending on whether the force is with you.
  – The P. T. Barnum: It’s a Jumbo drink with a Sucker stuck in it.
  – The Robin Williams: The only drink served in an old oil lamp.

  – The Carl Sagan: Billions and billions of bubbles.
  – The Johnny Depp: A Sweeney Toddy with a Diary of Rum and stirred with Scissorhands.
  – The Mel Brooks: Makes you look and feel like a 2,000 year old man.
  – The Muhammed Ali: Knocks you out after 2 drinks.
  – The Vincent Van Gogh: One drink and you’ll want to paint the town!

  – The Mick Jagger: It’s on the rock and roll with a splash of botox.
  – The Tom Brady: Drink this when the bar is about to close. You can still score.
  – The Barack Obama: If you like your drink, you can keep your drink.
  – Captain Morgan Freeman: The drink mentioned in Driving Miss Daiquiri.
  – The Marlon Brandy: Served only On the Waterfront.

  – The Wolf Blitzer: One part Wolfschmitt vodka, poured in the right situation.
  – The Ginger Ale Rogers: For the designated driver.
  – Perrier Como: Served in the finest night clubs.
  – The Splash Gordon: A gin drink used to christen spaceships.
  – The Bud Abbott: A beer that tastes funny.

  – The Mel Blanc de Blanc: One glass and you will speak in many voices.
  – Splenda the Good Witch: Sweet but not sugary.
  – The Fifth Dementia: What you get from drinking too many.
  – The Clorox Leachman: Guaranteed to clean you out.

Humor Wisdom From Gerald Fleischmann

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Gerald Fleischmann visited Las Vegas recently and shared humor tips with members of the Power House Pros Toastmasters club.  We’re always excited to learn tips from an avid student of humor.  Here are some of the ideas he presented and comments by PHP members:
 
1.  Humor is fun.  Gerald shared the excitement of an Observational Humor monologue that got big laughs.
 
2.  Humor is work.  You have to apply yourself to the task.
 
“I was impressed with Gerald’s desire to pay the price for his success.”
      Bobby Williams
 
“We all know funny people and assume that they’re just born that way.  I was fascinated by how hard Gerald worked for his one-liners!   Frankly, it was inspiring.  It means that even the un-funniest person can get laughs if you are willing to put in the creative time.  Eventually, you’ll have everyone believing that you’re naturally funny all the time, like Gerald.”
      Melanie Hope
 
3.  Do research.  Gerald tackles a humor writing task by doing extensive research, mostly on the Internet.  He builds lists on a theme.  For example, if a humor contest is about MOVIES, he’ll work on the Internet to build lists of Movie Titles.  He brought research lists from his files to share with us.
 
4.  Look for connections.  Gerald will use his lists to search for humorous connections and from those connections he will build his jokes.
 
“The best idea that I got from Gerald was to remember to put things together that don’t go together and it’ll usually be funny!”
      Judi Moreo
 
5.  The Test Drive.  He evaluates his jokes by presenting them to family and friends to see where the laughs are.  That gives him a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
 
6.  Quantity leads to quality.  Although he often submits 40 or 50 jokes for a contest, he usually writes double that total.  He then screens them for what he considers the best jokes and submits them.  He shared some excellent jokes that ended up on his own cutting room floor.   And he presented some funny lines that he submitted but which never made it to Honorable Mention.  On the recent Food Films contest, a few of his lines which never saw print were:  Snacks On A Plane; My Favorite Yogurt; Saving Private Rye Bread; A Taste of Honey Mustard; How the West was Wonton; Crepes of Wrath; Adam’s Barbecued Rib.
 
7.  Expose yourself.  Stimulate your humor creativity by being open to stimulating, diverse activities.  He has many outside interests:  Toastmasters, Barbershop singing, The Burning Man Festival, Photography, Parodying songs for musical plays, and Scripting those plays with a large humor component, Building Mobiles from recycled items, and Poetry, to name a few.
 
8.  Volunteer to create humor.  Gerald filled in as a Riddle/Joke person at his exercise class when the regular person missed a class.  He eventually became the permanent guy to share Riddles/Jokes during the break.  This had him researching and writing humor on a regular basis.

9.  Magical humor experiences.  Gerald has learned that not every presentation experience is magical, but has had magical experiences and keeps doing what it takes to ensure that they will happen again in the future.

Marty Bernstein Humor Tips

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Power House Pros Toastmasters club was excited to host Marty Bernstein for a featured presentation.  Marty is a frequent winner of our Humor Power blog contests.  On a recent visit to Las Vegas he shared humor tips with our club.  He was a big hit!

Marty did two pun contest routines, one he did this year, and one he plans for next year.  He credits part of his comedy talent to good genes:  “I have one Gene Wilder than the rest.”  He recalled that his mother introduced him to wordplay.  And that his brother was always wisecracking, so he came up with jokes to respond to him.

Marty shared examples of his winning contest entries such as, Occupational Illnesses: Vanna White, irritable vowel syndrome.  He mentioned that Sol and Gerry made comments about the joke being funnier because it was about a specific person and how this resonated and led him to consciously look for ways to write more specific jokes for the contests.

He said that his wife and son hear his jokes before anyone else “My wife and son are first responders.  I tell them my jokes and they tell me that they are a disaster.”

He writes a lot of jokes, and a minimum of 25 if he finds a contest hard.
If people want to be funny, they should read all of the Humor Power Blog posts.

He also recommended that people read and listen to as many funny people as possible.
 
“I sometimes write a joke and then laugh at it and I enjoyed myself doing my presentation for Power House Pros.  If you want to be funny it helps to have fun doing it.”

“Here are lessons I learned from doing this presentation:
   – Do your preparation.  I did about half the prep I should have, and sure enough what I didn’t practice I wasn’t able to use.
   – I wanted to give more examples of my winning jokes, that was popular.
    – I wanted to provide a Q&A session.
    – I ended earlier than I wanted to because I began to repeat myself and I try to avoid that.”

Marty’s other observations:
   – “Powerhouse Pros is a wonderful club with a lot of funny people.
   – I received  a very nice evaluation from Scott Pritchard which I appreciated.
   – Al Jensen was interested in having me on his radio show! I didn’t receive his email or that might have happened.
   – My long time friend Lee attended the meeting and told my wife he was blown away by my presentation.  I loved that.
   – John Kinde is funny and captivating.
   – I had a great time. I hope to come to Las Vegas again in 2014.  Hopefully that will work out, preferably when another contestant is also able to come.”

John’s note:  Our members loved Marty’s presentation and look forward to a return visit.  I’ll post his return trip to Las Vegas in our Blog and Newsletter.  We would love to have other subscribers join us.  Thanks, Marty, for sharing your talent and bringing lots of laughter to Las Vegas.

New Joke Contest — Name That Drink

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

The theme for the December joke contest is “Name That Drink.”  You’ve heard of specialty drinks (not necessarily alcoholic) named after real people, such as The Shirley Temple and The Arnold Palmer.  Your challenge this month is to create new drinks named after famous people.  You can tell us the ingredients, or tell us an interesting fact about the drink.  Here are five examples:

   – The Jay Leno–It was a best-seller for 20 years but will soon be taken off the menu.

  – The Dr Phil–After two drinks you’ll be giving the bartender advice.

  – The Jerry Springer–Sold only in bars where there is one bouncer for every two patrons and where the furniture is bolted to the floor.

  – The Ellen DeGeneres–You’re only one drink from dancing.

  – The Judge Judy–You don’t order it because it’s pretty, you order it because it’s smart.  The bar manager knows that patrons will come to order.  The third drink will hit you like a gavel. 

Write as many lines as you can.  Then select your best lines and submit them to HumorPowerTips@HumorPower.com by December 14.  Your first three submissions will be eligible for Top Three recognition.  Additional lines will be eligible for Honorable Mention.

New Joke Contests are announced on the first of the month.  Look for our next contest on January 1.