Observational Humor — Case Study #158

It has been awhile since I published an Observational Humor monologue.  Here’s one I presented at the Las Vegas NSA chapter meeting in October 2017.

THE SET-UP

To help you understand the jokes, here is what happened and what was said during the meeting, before the monologue was presented. With an Observational joke, You had to be there.  This set-up information will give you a small touch of what it was like to be there.

  1. Mike Rayburn shared advice he got from a comedy entertainer.  Never open your set or program with “How is everybody doing today?”  That is an irrelevant question and a weak opening line.
  2. Marvelous Marv, a high-energy entertainer, Introduced me as a Humorist.
  3. Featured speaker, Ed Scannell, made a point with  a drawing that looked like an old lady or a young lady, depending how you looked at it.
  4. In his role as emcee, Marv did a costume change during the meeting, changing coats.
  5. Marilyn Sherman presented a session on how to write a book in 2 weeks. One of her resources was 48HourBooks.com.
  6.  Both Ed and Marilyn had books available at the back of the room to support their high-content programs.
  7. Marilyn showed us one of her husband’s books on the subject of wine.  He is no longer in the wine business and they have boxes of wine books in their store room.   She offers free wine books to members of her audiences, if they buy one of her books.
  8. Marv told a cat joke.  “If you throw a cat out a car window do you have kitty litter?”

THE MONOLOGUE

How is everybody doing today?

(A great opener. A callback to something said earlier. When a speaker says don’t do this,  I will search for a funny way to do it.  In this case it was perfect as an opening line.  It took the audience a beat to realize it was a joke, but they did catch on and we had a big laugh.  I was sure that this was a time-released joke, one that will get a delayed response.  As such I needed for everyone to hear the line.  When I first stood up, people were talking about something that had been said, which was not related to my opening line.  So I waited 5-10 seconds until I had their attention.)

When I was introduced as a Humorist, I know many of you were thinking: “This guy is going to be funny?  Are you kidding?”  Sure I don’t look funny.  I’m in the witness protection program.

(I was addressing the obvious. That I don’t look funny.  I’m saying what everybody was thinking, acknowledging the elephant in the room, which is a good way to open.  This was even more important because our emcee was so dynamic, and that provided a contrast to my low-energy style.  And self-deprecation is a safe and funny route to getting a laugh.

But you could have figured out that I would be funny.   When I turn my head to the right I look like a Humorist.  When I turn my head to the left, look like an old lady.

(A call back to Ed Scannel’s old/young lady drawing.)

Did you notice that Marvelous Marv changed coats during the program?  If not you probably also didn’t notice that I also had a costume change during the program.  When I was told that I would be delivering the wrap up humor at the end of the meeting, I had to change my underwear. 

(The set-up was magnified by the superiority theory of humor, where the listener feels superior if they get the joke.  Most of the audience remembered the coat change earlier in the meeting. That made it more likely that they would feel they were part of the experience, take ownership of the joke, and feel it was funnier.  The joke trigger of absurdity is also in play, suggesting that my nerves would require a change of underwear.  And parallel construction which might suggest that one change of clothes mandates another, made the punchline even stronger.)

I’m working on my first book.  I’m using the web site: 35YearBooks.com

(A callback with a switch which implied that I’ve been working on a book for a long time.  The truth is funny, I’ve written over 2000 pages in the past 35 years, but I haven’t published.  That leads us to the “Me too” experience.  A shared common experience is funny.  Once again parallel construction.  My resource web site had a twist, but was the same in structure. I’m not making fast progress on my book and admitting that to the audience is self-deprecation.)

I won’t have any books at the back of the room, but I will be selling coffins with USB Bar Codes for speakers who die with their book still inside them.

(Twisting a cliché into a joke.  Don’t die with your book still inside you.)

My book will be on humor skills.  By the time I get around to publishing it, I won’t be funny any more.  So the book will be free if you buy one of Marilyn’s  books.  

(Parallel construction with Marilyn’s story.)

I heard a joke. If you throw a cat out the car window, do you have kitty litter?  No.  Not unless you do it NINE times.

(Marv’s joke used the technique of “the set-up question is the punchline.”  It’s essentially a joke without a clearly defined punchline.  The audience heard the question.  The audience awaits the answer.  When none is provided,  the expectation builds tension.  They think Oh I get it, and they fill in the blank themselves. The superiority theory of humor kicks in as the quicker audience members get the joke.  Later, I then grabbed the opportunity to add a punchline, although none was needed, and by doing that to break the tension.  I answered the question by playing with a cliché.   A cat has nine lives.

Remember that you take Observational Humor notes not for the purpose of giving a monologue.  You do it to find that gem, a single joke, that will breathe fresh air into your talk.  Humor is a numbers game. Double the number of jokes you write and the one joke you will use will be twice as funny.