Archive for March, 2015

The Justin Bieber Roast

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Humor Techniques and Lessons-Learned From a TV Celebrity Roast.

Last Night, March 30, Justin Bieber was roasted on Comedy Central.  I commend Bieber for stepping into the ring.  It had risks and rewards.  It was a good Roast and Bieber received his share of stinging jabs.

A Celebrity Roast is traditionally made up of hard-core, nightclub-style jokes. They push the limits of good taste.  Sure, they could edit the footage and cut all the jokes about sex, body parts, and body functions.  But then they’d have to find a five-minute slot in which they could air what was left of the roast.

But if you’re not easily offended, there is much to be learned from looking at the substance and style of the Celebrity Roast.

Poking fun at yourself is one of the safest forms of humor.  Justin Bieber admitted to not being a professional funny-man.  This lowers the expectations and magnifies the surprise factor which strengthens the jokes.  A Bieber line:

“Look, I’m new to comedy, but here’s a joke: What do you get when you give a teenager $200 million? A bunch of has-beens calling you a lesbian for two hours”  He zaps the Roasters calling them a bunch of has-beens.  And he piles on by criticizing them on going over-board on the gay/lesbian jokes. Off to a nice start.

We are reminded throughout the Roast of the Comic License principle.  This is an understanding between the comic and the audience that the performer may stretch the truth, even lie, to get a laugh.  Much of what is said in a Roast is not fact, it’s just made up for the sake of the joke.  Of course the best humor has a ring of truth.  If you’re ever in a roast, you’ll find yourself saying things you know aren’t true.  So don’t plan on running for President, unless your roast performance is at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

A common line for a Roast rebuttal, since this is a celebrity roast, is to imply that a participant is NOT famous or NOT funny.  This is usually easy to do because some of the participants are  minor celebreties and some are not comedians.  Generic lines come in handy:

-        Presenter X, you were great.  But the next time you’re in a roast…be funny.

-        Presenter X, you were selected to go first on the roast…because they knew you’d make the other comics look good.

-        Presenter X, you were quite the comedian…but don’t quit your day job.

-        Presenter X, your monologue was so dull it doesn’t even need a rebuttal.

Shaquille O’Neil was a presenter.  Let’s imagine we want to write a line taking advantage of the fact that he’s not a comic.  And we don’t want to use a completely generic line.  We might use something like:  “Shaq, We’re glad you’re here, because it’s nice to have people on the agenda who aren’t funny.  Although I have to admit that you make me smile because you are always dribbling.”  Not super funny, but better than a totally generic line.

A basic humor principle is that The Truth Is Funny.  Even though much of what is said in a Roast is not true, the better lines usually have a ring of truth.

If I had been assigned to write an opening for Bieber’s rebuttal, I might have written something like:

“Tonight was a dream come true for me…to be more specific…it was a nightmare.  I realize it could have been worse.  The comics with TALENT might have been available. And not only did we have to settle for comics on the lower rungs of the comedy ladder, we still had to fill in the holes with a home decorator and a basketball player.”  This suggests:

– That the roast was a bad experience.  But hopefully it was fun.

– That the quality of the Roasters was not good, which was not true.

– That two honorable professions can be used as insults.

– That the truth is the roast was both a dream and a nightmare.

A good joke is often a blend of truth and exaggeration.  Within every comic falsehood, there is usually a ring of truth.  When we are the target of a joke, whether or not in a roast, we need to remember that it’s just a joke, and be the first to laugh.  If you have a good sense of humor and can laugh at yourself, it disarms your detractors.

And the final lesson from a roast is to close with nice words, a mini-tribute, directed to the Guest of Honor.  It leaves the participants and audience with a positive feeling.

It was a well-done roast.  I enjoyed it, although my personal preference would have been to cut back on the comedy-club edge.  In my opinion it would have been even funnier.  I enjoyed the people who presented, and Justin Bieber did a great job.  Well done Comedy Central.

Contest Results — Family Business

Friday, March 20th, 2015

It’s time for the results of our March Joke Contest.  The theme is Family Business. What if a celebrity started a business with their name on it?  What if the type of business seemed like a bad choice?

New Joke Contests open on the first of the month. The next contest will be announced on April 1.

Now here are this month’s top lines.


Ellen Burstyn opens Burstyn Balloon Rides.
Sandy Kampner, Evergreen Park, Illinois


Jamie Lynn Spears and Brooke Shields open a medieval weapons outlet.
Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California


Governor Christie is opening a construction company called Bridge
Over Troubled Waters.
Terry Wall, Washington Township, New Jersey

HONORABLE MENTION  (in random order)

– Janet Jackson owns a Velcro manufacturing company.
– Brad Pitt’s Pitted Prunes.
– Susan Saranden sells seashells on the seashore.
– Ice Skating World by Grace Slick.
– Taylor Swift Track and Field Coaching.

– Minnie Pearl opens Minnie’s Pearls of Wisdom hat pins.
– Taylor Swift opens Swift’s Speed Dating Service.
– Beyonce Knowles opens Beyonce Knowles Best cosmetics.
– Jennifer Lopez opens the Lo-Pez Pez Dispenser collectable store.
– Jay-Z opens Z’s Sleep Disorders Clinic.

– M.C. Hammer opens the Hammer Anesthesia Group.
– Bruno Mars and Venus Williams open the Mars-Venus Marriage
Counseling Service.
– 50 Cent opens 50 Cent Financial Planning.
– Davis Price and Rob Lowe open Lowe Price Stores.
– Brad Pitt opens a fruit stand named Pitt’s Bowl of Cherries.

– Usain Bolt opens Bolts for the Door Store.
– Alicia Keys opens Keys Locksmith Shop.
– Harry Styles opens Styles Styles.
– Jack Pence and Curt Schilling open Pence & Shilling Currency
– Charity Shea opens Shea’s Lounge.

– Stephen Foster opens an adoption agency.
– Gerard Butler opens a murder investigation firm.
– Amy Winehouse opens a complaint department.
– Maria Carey opens a courier service.
– Winona Ryder opens a taxi service.

– Teri Hatcher opens a chick incubation service.
– Jon Hamm opens an amateur radio shack.
– Carrie Underwood opens antique typewriter boutique.
– Kristen Bell opens her own phone company after becoming a mother.
– Keith Urban opens a city planning office.

– Kevin Spacey opens a satellite launch facility.
– Jordin Sparks opens a fire prevention service.
– Billy Graham opens a cracker factory.
– Larry King, Queen Latifah, Earl Warren, Duke Ellington, Ted
Knight, and Prince open a White Castle chain.
– Jean Claude Van Damme opens a hydroelectric dam.

– Vladimir Putin is opening a recording studio called Putin on the Ritz.
– Justin Bieber’s opening a delivery service called Justin Time.
– Justin Bieber’s opening a fix-it shop called Leave It To Bieber.
– Megan Fox’s Chicken Farm.
– Kellie Pickler Party Planner.

– Snowden’s Computer Repair and Maintenance. Specializing in virus
removal and file recovery.
– Benjamin and Aretha Franklin open a singing school. We’ll teach
you to hit those C notes.
– Jack Benny’s Tool Rental and Pharmacy. The place to get your Benny
– Carmen Miranda becomes a boxer then has success delivering
Miranda rights to arrestees.
– The Henry Ford Sporting Goods Company, specializing in Dodge
– Christopher Walken goes into TV production, creates the Walken


20 Clues Your Friend Might Be A Toastmaster

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

20 Clues Your Friend Might Be A Toastmaster:
1. She flinches every time you say ah.
2. Every day the first time you meet, before saying anything else, he says: “My pal, my buddy, and my honored friend.”
3. She evaluates everything you do and say.
4. On a first date he admits that he is controlling his nervousness by visualizing you in your underwear.
5. The first time you visited her home, you got a five minute tour of her
trophy shelf.
6. If you met him at a Speed Dating event, you didn’t have time to visit
after he introduced himself and explained all the initials after his name.
7. She insisted that you come as a guest to her Toastmasters Club and
arranged for you to be called on for something called Table Topics.
8. When he asked you on a date, it took five to seven minutes to get to the point.
9. Dinner conversation with her is interrupted by a green, yellow and
red light.
10. Every time he makes eye contact with you, he counts to three before he continues his sentence
11. The first time you spent the night, you noticed that she had a
Toastmaster pin on her pajamas.
12. He always complains about Toastmaster contests but enters all of
them anyway.
13. She is fluent in a second language which includes the words PIP,
ALG, DTM, and obscure words which she refers to as the Word of The
14. At the top of his bucket list is “Become a PDG.”
15. She fears death more than speaking in public.
16. When you visit a famous landmark, he takes a selfie while holding a Toastmaster magazine.
17. Her refrigerator is covered with Best Speaker ribbons.
18. You thought he owned a ship in Greenland because he was always
talking about how people loved his Icebreaker.
19. She attends five club meetings a week. On off-nights she attends
area and division meetings.
20. He does things without further ado.

Observational Humor — Case Study #133

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a meeting. We’ll look at the set-up for the jokes, and then we’ll look at the jokes and what made them work. It’s presented for educational purposes not primarily attended as enterainment. The “you had to be there” factor is responsible for a monologue not reading as funny as is was in-the-moment when presented live.

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

1. In the Educational Moment, I suggested that to create humor, they
should look for unusual things in the room. For example on the white
board somone has written Csico 123.

2. A speaker gave a speech titled SCARS.

3. A speaker mentioned how many years he had lived in Las Vegas.

4. A speaker said that he got married 8 years ago, before he got ugly.

5. A speaker giving a technical speech on Diets, told us to assume that
each of us was a Dietary Expert.

6. A member was given an impromptu speech topic of naming the best
buffet in Las Vegas.

7. A speaker was given an impromptu speech topic of naming unique
things for tourists to do in Las Vegas.

8. Hoover Dam is a short drive from Las Vegas.

9. A speaker told of applying for a job at the company that provides
our meeting room. He got the job.

10. It was mentioned that some job applications still ask for the RACE
of the applicant.

11. It was suggested that a Safe may or may not be a good place to hide.


Welcome to the Witnesss Protection Program support group. My name is Cisco 123.

(Pretending to make sense of the code name written on the white board.)

Tonight’s program theme is SCARS. Silly Comments and Ridiculous Sarcasm.
(Acronyms can provide an easy source of humor.)

I’ve lived in Las Vegas for 15 years. I moved here before I became ugly.

Can you believe we’re in a room full of Dietary Experts? I find it easier to believe we’re in a room full of Buffet Experts.
(Poking fun at the audience, suggesting that they didn’t look like health advocates.)

On the subject of unique things for tourists to do in Las Vegas.
– One of the best things to do is take a Dam Tour.
– Another thing to do is visit the new Athletic Club at Warm Springs
and Gibson. Jim Gibson is the manager of the Gibson Gym.
(Playing with the double meaning of DAM. And using Name Play, with
a sound-alike word Jim/Gym.)

I applied for a job at Pololu. On the application there was a section
titled Race. I put 500. The interviewer questioned what I meant. I said, that’s my race. The Kinde 500.
(Again using Name Play using sound-alike words, KINDE/INDY.)

The application also asked for our greatest accomplishment. When I was younger, I always won every game of Hide & Seek. I always hid in the safe.
(This was a call back to the “hide in the safe” reference. I wasn’t sure
this would be a good line, but it received a very good laugh.)

I didn’t get the job.
(Implies that I didn’t get the job because of the two jokes above. A good closing line.)

New Contest — Family Business

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Products are often named using a family name. Ford automobiles for example. Firestone tires, another example. Some products are named for a first name of a child. Porsche and Wendys are two examples.

Family names and children’s names are probably used in businesses more than we know. I grew up near a Sneaker’s service station. I always felt that was probably a family name, not one that I would have used to name a business.

The theme for this month’s contest is Family Business.   Let’s narrow the search to celebrities and famous people. That sounds redundant, but hopefully “famous” people picks up anyone well-known who is not considered a “celebrity.”

Some examples of possible, but not likely, businesses names:

Emily Blunt opens Blunt Cutlery.
Tina Fey opens Fey’s Faux Furs.
Bob Barker opens Barker Dog Obedience School.
Rob Lowe opens Rob’s Banks

Some thoughts as you look for lines:

If something is obvious, everybody else probably thought of it too. That reduces the surprise factor.
Elton John opens John’s Porta Johns
Jim opens Jim’s Gym
Harrison Ford opens a Ford Dealership

Avoid easy lines which are in bad taste..
Krapp Burgers
Evelyn Hooker opens Hooker Motel
Someone in the news for spouse abuse opening a Marriage Counceling Center.

“Categories” and lists help focus a search:
Categories can give you a starting point. You can then work toward a name.

Ways to stimulate the search:
Look for names that are nouns, adjectives or verbs.
Search the internet for a list of names. This helps “prime the pump.”
Working forward and backward:
– Working from name to business
– Working from business to name
Double meanings
Rhyme or similar sounds
Don’t get trapped with a single technique, puns for example

Write as many lines as you can and submit what you feel are your best three lines. Submit them by March 15, 2015. Send them to You can submit more than three lines. The additional lines will be eligible for Honorable Mention.