Observational Humor — Case Study # 141

This article will be a good learning tool on the subject of creating original humor. We begin with an Observational Humor monologue created at the end of a Toastmasters meeting by Bala (Balakumar Shanmugam), Author of the Indian Humor Blog, which is published in the Netherlands. Don’t confuse it with the Dutch Humor Blog which is published in India.

We will begin with the original monologue delivered on September 16. 2015. Following that we’ll look at my edits and changes to the monologue. And last Bala and I will discuss the differences between the two versions of the monologue.

This article illustrates a few thoughts on creating humor:

1. Two heads are better than one. This is why many humor presenters have a humor buddy, someone who will provide feedback on their humor writing and delivery.

2. You can turn almost anything into a humor exercise. In this case we take a monologue delivered at the end of a Toastmasters meeting. Since this is one-time-use humor, it would be easy to toss it in the trash or throw it into a file or a drawer. A better choice is to realize that you can learn a lot from editing it even though you will never actually present it again. The cliche is that the value is in the journey, in the process, and not in the arrival at the destination.

3. It should also be noted that editing a monologue after it’s presented, is easier than writing it on-the-fly just before it’s presented. After the fact, you have a more leisure time to study the monologue, do more than one edit, work with a humor buddy, and create a more carefully crafted monologue.

4. The classic comment is still true. In the analysis of a joke, the humor often is lost.

5. John says, “two heads are better than one.” Bala says, “three heads are funnier than two.”

6. For people who are serious about their humor, this process of editing, just for the sake of doing it, is fun.

So let’s get started.

When you listen to an Observational Humor Monologue, it’s nice if you were actually there. You’ve heard the expression which follows someone sharing something funny that happened. And the person listening to the story doesn’t laugh. The explanation is, “Well you had to be there.” To make the monologue make sense to you, we will begin by giving you the set-up for the jokes. What that means is that we will first give you what happened and what was said during the meeting, before the monologue was delivered. This will provide you the set-up for the jokes, the context which will help you understand the humor. It will make it more like “you were there.”

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

1. Floris gave a speech in which the topic was TBD (To Be Decided). He gave the audience three topics and asked them to choose one.

2. Justina, the host, asked the audience to give a big round of applause whenever the speaker was coming to the stage or leaving the stage. She said she is a big fan of applause.

3. Bogdan read a letter from Toastmasters International Headquarters which announced that our club was a distinguished club. He first said that the letter was addressed to him (since he’s the president) but later said, “It’s actually addressed to all of us.”

4. Eindhoven, the city where we live, is in a state called Noord Brabant.

5. Justina said that sometimes we have barbeque at Toastmasters.

6. It had rained heavily the whole day. Generally, it rains on most days in the Netherlands.

7. Floris explained the dangers of cloud computing. Maria asked Floris a question: “How can I retrieve the data in my laptop (not in the cloud) if my house burns down?”

8. The Table Topics Master, leader of the impromptu speech part of the meeting, said that in the year 1752, on the Gregorian calendar, September 2 was immediately followed by September 14, eleven days were lost. The topic was: “What would you do if you had 11 extra days in a year?”

9. Floris also explained that a 3D printer can be used to make innovative objects.

10. On the agenda, there was no 3rd speaker. There were 1st, 2nd, and 4th speakers, but the 3rd speaker had dropped out.

11. Bogdan told a story about a rich man and how he planned to get his daughter married. He called all bachelors in the surrounding area. He announced a contest which used a pool full of alligators and other dangerous animals. The person who jumps in and reaches the other side first can either get 1 million in cash, or 1000 acres land, or marry his daughter. As soon as he makes the announcement, one person jumps and reaches the other side. The rich man asks him if he wants 1 million. He says no. He asks if he wants 1000 acres of land. He says no. He asks if he wants to marry his daughter. He says no. Finally he asks, “What do you want?” The reply, “I want to know who pushed me into the water.”

12. Most speakers talked overtime, exceeding their alotted time limits.

13. There were two guests named Brent and Noor. The host, Justina, asked them to introduce themselves. They started talking together, for which Justina said, “Not together. One after another.”

BALA’S HUMOR MONOLOGUE

My humor monologue topic is TBD. I will give you three joke formats. Choose the one you want:
First: Yo mama so fat.
Second: A Toastmaster walks into a bar.
Third: Why did the chicken cross the road?

(The audience says Number 2)
Ok, so Three it is.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Someone pushed it.

A Toastmaster walks into a bar. Justina asks everyone to give him a big round of applause.

(I remove a letter from my pocket.)
I received a letter, addressed to me. No, addressed to all of us. Oh wait. Forget it. It’s a love letter I got from a girl.

Maria, don’t worry. Your house will never be on fire. In the Netherlands, it rains 24/7.

If we had a guest named Debra, it would’ve been great.
(After saying this, you write De Bra on the board. Actual delivery of this line got a huge laugh.)

(I write Noor, a guest’s name, in front of De and Brent, another guest’s name, next to Bra. So it looks like Noorde Brabrent.) That’s our state.

What would I make with a 3D printer? A 3D speaker. (Write 3D speaker on board. Then add an R before the D to make it a 3RD speaker.)

Bogdan, I want to reveal a secret. I was the one who pushed you.

A lot of speakers went overtime. To finish this meeting, we’ll need an extra 11 days.

You may clap now. Not together. One after another.

REVISED MONOLOGUE

My Observational Humor Monologue is TBD. I will give you three joke formats and you will choose the one you want me to use.

First…A Toastmaster walks into a Bar.
Second…Why did the chicken cross the road?
Third…Yo Mama says.

OK, so THREE it is (or whatever number they pick).
Why did Yo Mama ask why the chicken crossed the road? Because there was a Toastmasters meeting in a bar on the other side…and a Toastmaster had pushed the chicken in that direction.

A Toastmaster follows a chicken and Yo Mama into the bar. Justina asks everyone in the bar to give the chicken a big round of applause.

Why didn’t the chicken join Toastmasters?
Because the club loves Bar-B-Que. And because he didn’t know that he could quickly become a CTM, a Chicken Toastmaster.

(Taking a letter from your pocket.)
I got a letter today. A love letter from a girl…And it’s addressed to all of us. That probably increases our chances of a double date.

Maria, don’t worry. Your house will never be on fire. In the Netherlands, it rains 24/7.

If we had a guest named Debra, it would’ve been great.
(After saying this, you write De Bra on the board. Actual delivery of this line got a huge laugh.)

(I write Noor, a guest’s name, in front of De and Brent, another guest’s name, next to Bra. So it looks like Noorde Brabrent.) That’s our state.

What would I make with 3D printer? A 3D speaker. (Write 3D speaker on board. Then add an R before the D to make it a 3RD speaker.)

Bogdan, told us a story, but it wasn’t a joke, it was something that actually happened to him… Bogdan, I’m sorry I pushed you.

A lot of speakers exceeded their time limits. We would have almost had enough time to finish this meeting, if we had added 11 days.

Now it’s time for you to clap. Not together. One after another.

REVISED MONOLOGUE COMMENTS

John: Both monologues open with a call-back to the TBD comment. This is such an unusual choice (letting the audience to pick a monologue theme), that just the premise is likely to get a laugh. Bala, you’re not required to use the audience’s choice, and you don’t. I like the direction you take in the first monologue. The audience picks TWO and you say “OK, so THREE it is.” A bold choice worthy of a laugh. I took a different approach, rather than verbally denying their choice, I liked the idea of using all three choices in your answer so that no matter what number they picked, it would be included in your response.

Bala: I gave the audience three joke-format choices that everyone is familiar with, and which are funny.

“My Observational Humor Monologue is TBD. I will give you three joke formats and you will choose the one you want me to use.”
(As a call-back to one of the speeches during the meeting, just stating that premise is likely to get a laugh.)
John: I made a change to the choices you offer the audience.
First…A Toastmaster walks into a Bar.
Second…Why did the chicken cross the road?
Third…Yo Mama says.
I think YO MAMA is the funniest sounding line and the best choice for the third item in the triplet. Let the audience pick any of the three. Then I’m suggesting that you be prepared with a joke that combines all three joke formats. Note also that I changed the MAMA line to avoid the “fat joke.” I wouldn’t recommend using that joke theme unless it were being used as self-deprecation aimed at you, the presenter of the joke. That not being the case, I would choose to avoid the fat-joke.

Bala: You are right. Just the premise, by itself, was enough to get a laugh. The first choice had them laughing. I agree that making Yo Mama the third choice because it is the funniest format. And deleting the fat-joke is the safe and the right choice.

John: Right from the start I wanted to actively use the chicken and the Toastmasters theme (Because there was a Toastmasters meeting in a bar on the other side.) And then right on its heels, A Toastmaster follows a chicken and Yo Mama into the bar. And then, Justina asks everyone in the bar to give the chicken a big round of applause. The jokes tie the format-choices together and get the monologue rolling. And they paint an absurd picture (Three BLANKS Walk Into a Bar). And they provide a call-back to Justina’s applause comment.

Bala: Initially I felt that mixing the formats might be confusing to the audience, but here I feel it’s nice to mix all 3 formats. You just take the characters – Toastmaster, chicken, and Yo Mama – from the 3 formats and have them walk into the bar. Three people walking into the bar is funnier than one person walking into the bar. And Justina asking the audience to give a big round of applause for the chicken is absurd, especially when there is a Toastmaster walking in too. So, it’s funnier than the original.

John: At first, it might be confusing to the audience, but allowing them to sort things out and “get the joke” activates the superiority theory of humor and works on strengthening the joke. This works best with smart audiences.

Bala: I noticed that you include some jokes which aren’t really Observational Humor. What are your thoughts on doing that.

John: Right…the CTM joke really isn’t an observational joke. But it ties in with the TM and the Chicken theme. And it’s pretty much a one-time-use joke, and as such it has the power of an observational joke, a joke which the audience feels was written just for them. Sometimes I enrich a monologue with jokes out of the theme just for the sake of the laughs, but too much of that and you’re presenting a prepared stand-up comedy routine, and the observtional elements of your presentation lose their punch. Also, I will sparingly use a prepared line or two, fitting the circumstances, to fill in what would otherwise be a shorter observational program.

Bala: The love-letter joke works better with the “addressed to all of us” hidden until the end of the joke. The absurdity is funny.

John: I love your word-play connections of guest names with Noord Brabant and with the 3D Printer and the missing 3RD speaker. If we were having an observational dual, I would have been thinking, “I wish I had thought of that!” Brilliant links. Jokes with that type of structure come with risks. You need a smart audience to “connect the dots” and get the joke. If the audience is not sharp, the reaction you’ll get is, “Huh?” But I know that your club has the ability to recognize more sophisticated humor.

Bala: That’s the superiority theory of humor in action. The jokes got very big laughs. In the construction of the lines I had to borrow the name of Debra to make the joke work. The word DE in Dutch means the, making the line a bit edgy, but in my judgment, OK to use. The actual delivery of the line got a huge laugh. My club serves as a sharp audience. If I were in the audience, its sharpness would be diluted.

John: You tell the well-worn joke of “who pushed me into the alligator pit.” Since you’re going to confess to pushing your friend and want to drop yourself into his story, I chose to switch the joke to a real-life experience. And I switched the admission of guilt to a quick apology. And I choose an implied punchline, implying that the push was INTO THE WATER.

Bala: A lot of speakers exceeded their time limits at the meeting. Your revised monologue made light of the situation by using the punchline that an extra eleven days would ALMOST have been enough time to give the speakers the time they needed.

John: “Now it’s time for all of you to clap. Not together. One after another.” A call-back and silly suggestion. Silly is good and a nice way to close a humor monologue.

A final note: Create your own exercises by writing and editing something just for the practice. Just for your own eyes. Just for the fun of it. And don’t forget to find and use a humor buddy to bounce off your funny ideas making them even funnier.

Bala’s and John’s Blog links:

https://indianhumorblog.wordpress.com

Http://www.humorpower.com/blog