Archive for the 'Case Studies' Category

Observational Humor — Case Study # 141

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

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.”


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.


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.


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:


Observational Humor — Case Study #140

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Here is another Observational Humor monologue which was presented at the end of a Toastmasters meeting. First you’ll be able to read the set-up for each joke. Then I’ll share the joke. Next I’ll briefly comment on what made the joke work. Although the examples of Observational Humor are in the context of a Toastmasters meeting, the skills apply just the same to any meeting you might be attending. It’s a useful skill to develop. When you can drop in an observational line into any presentation it makes the content of your whole talk feel fresh and original.

THE SETUP. What happened and what was said during the meeting
before the monologue was presented.

1. At the start of the meeting, the Sgt At Arms announced directions for
finding the rest rooms. “Exit the meeting room and turn right, turn
right, turn left, turn right and turn left.”

2. The emcee joked that “there will be no flash photography during the
meeting. In other words there will be no flashing.”

3. A speaker said that while he was on a picnic he tripped over an ant.

4. Bobby told a story of meeting a young man who was homeless and
had no job.

5. A speaker told of someone who retired in middle-age, and then went back to work when they got older.

6. Bill Brown, a club member, was attending the meeting.

7. Bill Lusk told us he collects Porsches.

8. We had several guests, and a larger number of members. The
average age of our members was much higher than the average age of our guests.

9. We had a near-record amount of rain fall the day of the meeting.

10. A member was assigned an impromptu speech topic on why the
average family has 2.5 children


At the beginning of the meeting, you were given confusing directions to the rest rooms. The simple directions are, if you aren’t in a room with a toilet, keep looking.
(The vague directions to the rest rooms was partly done for the sake of the humor. It got a laugh, and provided a good set up for my joke.)

I also wanted to correct the instructions at the start of the meeting. It’s OK to flash me.
(Good call back using the double meaning of the word FLASH.)

This past weekend we had a family reunion in a park. I wasn’t watching where I was going and I tripped over my uncle. No…that’s not right…I tripped over an Aunt.
(Good joke using a sound-alike word ANT/AUNT.)

Bobby, the young man who you met was just ahead of his time. He
retired first and was planning on working later.
(The joke links the job-less man with the mention of retiring early.)

If Bill Brown married Vanna White and they had a daughter…she would be Betty Beige.
(Playing with names. Look for names that have double meanings as
names and noun/verb/adjective.)

And I discovered one more thing I have in common with Bill Lusk. I also have a porch.  (Again I was playing with a sound-alike word Porsche/Porch.)

It’s wonderful to have so many guests tonight. I’m sure that those of you attending for the first time have noticed that when you join
Toastmasters…you get old.
(Self-deprecation or group-deprecation.)

We had a record rainfall yesterday. Someone started building an Arc in the parking lot. Fortunately we had half men and half women at the meeting, so it would be easy to re-populate the earth.
(Links the heavy rain with the Arc and couples, two-by-two. And this
joke also sets up the next joke.)

Then Philip arrived late and we had an odd number of people. That’s OK. We would be able to have a half child.
(This could be considered a topper, where the previous joke serves as a set up for the joke that follows. Call back to the half-a-child. Good
response made it a nice closer.)

Observational Humor — Case Study #139

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Here are jokes used at an NSA Las Vegas chapter meeting. We’ll look at the set up.  And then look at the jokes and examine why they were funny.

THE SETUP (What happened and what was said during the meeting, before the jokes were delivered.

1. A presenter told us about a speaker’s ineffective video demo which opened with the speaker high-fiving the audience.   She said she did not recommend it as an  opening.

2. An audience member, during self-introductions, said she was
performing in her own one-woman show.

3. The President said that this year’s board was the best board ever.
Member RJ was present and we served on the board together ten years ago.

4. A speaker said that clients hire speakers for the useable content not
just to be entertained.

5. To qualify as a paid speaker, it was suggested that instead of speaking for a free dinner, pay for your dinner and invoice the client $50 for the speech.

6. Guest presenter, Terry Paulson said that he was the only Clinical Psychologist speaker who was funny.

7. A speaker said that when he says something to an audience, and they laugh, it’s a joke.

8. A speaker said that he got married 5 days before the meeting. And he said his new wife wouldn’t give him permission to speak.


(Walking to the speakers platform, I high-fived several of the members of the audience.)
I’m recording a video demo.

(I thought just the act of high-fiving would be sufficient to get a laugh.  But I was wrong. The laugh came after the demo-video comment, which I added, but which was not on the script. I needed the line to make the joke work.)

I moved to Las Vegas 15 years ago and opened my one-woman show.
( a call back with an absurdity trigger.)

Ten years ago I was on the same chapter board as RJ DiDonato. We are one of the boards that made it possible for the current board to be the best ever.
(A recycled joke from about a year ago. Excellent response.)

I’m a humorist. I have no content.
(A call back. Self-deprecation.)

Next week I’m speaking in Pahrump. They told me that their audience loves humor and likes to laugh. I told them to tell the audience not to laugh and to just pay me $50.
(A call back, slightly twisted.)

I’m going to become clinical psychologist. Then I’ll be one of only two clinical psychologists who are funny.
(The trigger is extrapolation. One plus one takes us into the future as

The truth is, I don’t do humor. I just say things. If you laugh it’s
humor. If you don’t laugh, it’s motivation.
(A call back with a twist.)

I’ve lived in Las Vegas for 15 years. During that time, many people have said, “Kinde, your are so quiet, you rarely speak. I want you to know that, as of five days ago, you’re going to be hearing more from me.  Because Marvelous Mark married my Ex.
(This implies that my Ex was not allowing me to speak, and that it was
now Mark’s problem and not mine.)

Observational Humor — Case Study # 138

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Here is another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of a Toastmasters meeting. The principles used to create the humor are the same ones you would use to present a single joke at any meeting you might attend.

Observational Humor is usually the kind of humor where “you had to be there” for it to be funny. So, I’m preparing you for the monologue by giving you the set-up for the jokes.

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

1. Bobby said that he was getting old, but not as old as John Kinde.

2. It was a very hot day in Las Vegas. Some members, including me,
were wearing shorts.

3. Beverly jokingly said she prepared for the meeting by having a beer.

4. I had a soda bottle with me.

5. Ryan gave a speech and demonstrated Dual-Tasking. He pretended
to be brushing his teeth while doing a squatting exercise.

6. A speaker said she had burn scars on her arms.

7. We had a full-roast at our meeting six weeks ago. John Kinde was

8. One of the table topics presented was, “If your house was on fire,
what would you take with you?”

9. One of the table topics was, “Taking a trip to the Sun.”

10. One of the table topics was, “would you rather be a dog with a cat
head, or be a cat with a dog head”.

11.  A speaker joked about a member who only opened his mouth when he had something to say.

12. One of the Table Topics was, “Would you rather eat a spider or a


(I made my entrance using a walker.) I am a professional Bobby
Williams impersonator.
(Bobby setup this joke by calling me old. Good opener.)

Have you noticed…all the young people are wearing shorts?
(Joke based on the truth. Only the younger people were wearing shorts. Except for me, an older person wearing shorts. I am implying that I am a young person.)

(I entered carrying my soda bottle.)
Beverly drinks beer before the meeting. I drink beer during the meeting.
(I could have made this even more absurd saying: I drink beer while I’m speaking.)

What am I doing? Observational Humor (said while squatting).

Our club had a roast last month. Who was roasted? The person with the burn scars (pointing at my arms).

If I wake up and my house is burning, I’m going to do a Table Topic
(Reference to an impromptu speech. The trigger, absurdity and a

I’m going to vacation on the Sun. It’s cooler than Las Vegas.
(Exaggerating the heat of Las Vegas by comparing it with the sun.)

I never open my mouth unless I have something funny to say.
(Twist of a call-back.)

Question of the day. Would you rather eat a spider with a worm
head…or eat a worm with a spider head.
(Call-back and twist of two impromptu speech topics.)

Observational Humor — Case Study #136 (Video)

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue. It was presented at a monthly meeting of the Las Vegas chapter of the National Speakers Assn, where I present the humor wrap up at the end of the meeting.

This monologue-case-study blog post includes a video recording. To get the best learning experience from the post, I would suggest reading the SET-UP information first. The SET-UP information gives you the context of the jokes and will help you to make sense of the monologue.  Then watch he video. And last, read the text of the monologue which will include my comments on the jokes.

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

1. The month before, I had opened my humor-wrap-up monologue with a beer bottle gag which received a good laugh.

2. Mike Rayburn included a top-ten list in his opening comments. “Ten Ways I knew It Was a Bad Speaking Gig.” His list included a joke about Obama using a teleprompter, one senior nudist joke, one Amish Joke, two fart jokes, and one joke about one’s fly being unzipped.

3. Jana Stanfield was the first presenter. She said that she forgot to bring her guitar, and when she had arrived at the meeting she said, “Dang. I forgot my guitar!”

4. Just up the street from the meeting venue is a huge truck stop.

5. Jana’s program included playing the guitar, singing, and a motivational message. We assumed that she ran home and picked up her guitar.

6. Jana told some funny lines about TV news anchors teasing you with minimal information about the upcoming segment, “If you don’t listen, something dangerous will happen.”

7. We were meeting in a church facility, and our meeting room was a recreation room with a big roll-up door, similar to a garage door.

8. Jana told a story and sang a song about someone spending time in South East Asia who met someone on

9. Jana said that clients hire speakers for the person they are. They don’t hire a speaker for his/her topic or subject.

10. Chad Hymas mentioned Oprah.

11. Jana said that opportunity was abundant. Speakers shouldn’t think that they can’t play the guitar and sing in their keynotes because “Jana has their slot.” Her point was that there is room for everyone.

12. Chad placed a live phone call to Mike Rayburn’s wife Tara. He asked for her favorite restaurant. She named a Thai restaurant. Chad said that Mike would be coming home tonight and bringing Thai take-out.


You have two options. The text of the monologue is presented below. We have also included a video of the presentation. The video is primarily presented to give you the feeling of “being there.” I would suggest that you read the SET-UP information first, if you haven’t already done that. It will give you the context of the humor. The video will allow you to exprience of the audience reaction to the humor.

The monologue text:

(Introduction by Mike Rayburn)

We have a few closing words from Mr John Kinde.

(Notice that the microphone picks up two people commenting that I had a beer bottle. It was actually a soda bottle, but it was a brown bottle that looked like a beer bottle. The beer-bottle gag, from the previous month’s monologue, was acting as part of the set-up for my opening joke. For those who remembered the gag from the previous month, it created anticipation for the coming joke. The anticipation increased tension and helped to magnify the joke. For those who didn’t remember previous month’s gag, who didn’t attend the month before, or who didn’t notice the bottle, Jana’s comment “forgot my guitar” was by itself a strong enough set-up to support the joke.)

I arrived here this morning, I said, “Dang, I forgot my beer.”

(Paralleled the comment: “Dang, I forgot my guitar.” Good laugh.)

So I went up to the truck stop and bought one.

(Small laugh.)

Jana was in there buying a guitar.

(The format was Joke, Joke, Topper. This line was a perfect topper. It was totally unexpected. It plays with the absurdity that a truck stop would sell guitars. Yet a touch of believability because it was a HUGE truck stop which probably sold lots of things. And it answered the question, how did she get a guitar so she could present her program. It probably helped that Jana was in the front row and really laughing. She was a great audience.)

Where is my teleprompter.

(Mike’s joke was used to poke fun at the Presidential use of the teleprompter. That allowed me to use the joke in a self-deprecation form.)

My name is John Kinde and I’m a senior nudist.

(A call back to Mike’s top-ten list. I wasn’t sure how strong the joke was, but it got a good laugh.)

I’ll be telling jokes. If you don’t listen, something dangerous will


(The weakest joke of the monologue. It surprised me that it got almost no response. After a slight pause, I just ignored the lack of response and kept moving.)

People have always said to me…for years they said, “Kinde you’re pretty good, but you’ll never speak in a church garage.”

(I wasn’t sure the joke would work. It WASN’T a garage, but had a door similar to one on a garage. I wasn’t sure the audience would make the same connection that I had made. I implied that “I had arrived.” A very good laugh.)

I signed up on and I met a man from VietNam. Now if I can only put that to music.

(The-call back received a good laugh. Then the topper, “put that to music,” got a bigger laugh. Your use of a topper should have a stucture where the topper gets a bigger laugh than the joke lines which set it up.)

I have something in common with Jana. She said that people don’t hire her for her content, for the subject. People don’t hire me either.

(The set-up implies that I also don’t get hired for my topic/subject, but stops short of saying that, suggesting that people just don’t hire me. It is a joke with some risk, because the audience is required translate what was previously said, based on the words I had left out, in order to get the joke. This activates the superiority factor. Fortunately the joke played really strong. I was also using self-deprecation.)

Mike Rayburn was a model tonight for how to use corporate humor.  Here’s the Mike Rayburn recipe for successfully using corporate humor.

Tell one nudist joke

Tell one Amish joke.

Tell two fart jokes.

And unzip your fly.

(A call back which used comic license while recalling his top-ten list jokes. My list stretched the specific content of his jokes. For example, one of his jokes was a “bean” joke, not directly a fart joke, but it was implied. And although he did a “fly” joke, he didn’t unzip one. The lines were close enough, and were increasingly funny to get good laughs.)

I knew I was having a bad gig. I took the stage with my guitar then Irealized I don’t play the guitar.

(A call-back to Mike’s top ten list theme.)

I knew it was a bad gig. I was on Oprah, and she said, “Get off of me.”

(A call-back to the Top Ten list and to Oprah. Absurdity.)

I knew it was a bad gig. I had a dream that I was speaking to 1000 people and when I woke up, I was.

(Absurdity. Very good response.)

I always wanted to be a singing keynoter, but Jana Stanfield had my slot.

(A bit of a groaner. Moderate response. But I never know for sure until I try.)

(Pretended to text Mike Rayburn’s wife on my cell phone.)

Hi Tara. What’s your favorite car. A red Lamborghini convertable?

Mike will be bringing the Thai take-out. He’ll be coming home in a Red Lamborghini convertable.

(A good call-back, humorously suggesting that Mike would have to run out and buy, rent, borrow, or steal a Lamborghini. The audience got the joke immediately, in fact sooner than I expected. They started laughing before I reached the intended punch line. Excellent response.)

Back to Mike.

The Contestant Interview–Case Study #135 (Video)

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Here are a couple of simple observational lines I’ve used during speech contest interviews.

To be ready with an observational line when you are being interviewed after a competition, attempt to create a funny line that will answer one of the standard questions being asked of each contestant. Typical questions like, “What is your home club?” And, “Is there anybody you’d like to thank?”

At a contest last month, someone who was interviewed before me mistakenly said Los Angeles when he meant Las Vegas, our hometown.  The mistake got a big laugh.

So when I was asked, “You’re a member of Power House Pros?” My reply was, “Yes.  Power House Pros of Los Angeles.” A big laugh. A perfect line.

A simple observational line could be based on the observation that you drew the speaking position which qualified you to speak last (when that happens to be the case). And the question: “Is there someone you would like to thank?” The answer is, “Yes. I’d like to thank the other speakers for warming up the audience.” That’s good line which has worked for me in the past.

Another technique is to create several observational lines, and hope that something inspires you during the interview to use one of your prepared lines. At a typical meeting I can usually come up with eight observational lines. And the odds are good that one of them will fit into the interview if I’m alert to the opportunity.

A basic technique is that you pay close attention to the contestants being interviewed before you and look for things to which you can connect for the purpose of getting a laugh. The more recent the set-up event link is, the stronger the line will be. Being relaxed and in the moment allows you to pay attention and look for links both before and during your interview.

The contestant interview is one of my favorite parts of a contest. It ranks right after hearing my name announced as the winner. And since that’s a rare event, that puts the interview at the top of the my list.

A Pro Taking a Risk

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Here are two examples of Josh Groban taking a chance by singing with an audience member. It demonstrates that with risk comes reward.  Groban and the audience members are thrilled with the excitement and the surprise that happens in the middle of a show.  Audience members love seeing something special that unfolds before their eyes. Of course, if the segment is totally off-the-cuff, there is the risk of bombing. On the other hand, there is always the option of planned spontaneity, in this case by having the audience members pre-audition before they are invited on stage. If the star never saw the audition, it would still have the feel of spontaneity for both the star and the audience. These two clips have the genuine feeling of being in-the-moment and have results that will impress you. Also, improvised interaction with the audience increases the authenticity of the performer by connecting them with
their fans. The star is able to drop his or her guard and become more genuine. I think you will enjoy both the clips.

Josh Groban with a woman audience member.

Josh Groban with a man audience member.

Observational Humor — Case Study #134

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Here is another Observational Humor monologue presented at the end of an NSA Las Vegas chapter meeting. First we’ll look at the set-up. Then we will look at the joke and what triggered the humor. The strength of most observational humor is “being there.” Humor which is funny for the audience will not be nearly as funny when studied as an academic exercise. But this is presented as a humor piece which has passed the test of a live audience.

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

1. I brought a Virgil’s Soda to my NSA chapter meeting. It’s brown
glass which looks like a beer bottle.

2. Bill Bachrach set up a magic trick by planting a special cup on the
front table, asking the woman sitting at the front table to pretend that
the cup was hers. He told us about this coordination with the woman
after he did the magic trick.

3. Darren asked a question about a speaker using something another
speaker had said or had done earlier during the meeting.

4. Bill said it worked to his advantage that he was funnier than people
thought he would be.

5. Mark is always colorfully dressed. That morning he was wearing an
orange blazer and orange-color, checked pants.

6. A speaker joked that she might have a wardrobe malfunction during
the meeting.

7. Marilyn was wearing a bold-pattern pair of pants. It looked like a
print of vines, black on white.

8. Mike opened with a top-ten list: Ten Ways You Know when You’ve
Spoken too Long.

9. A speaker mentioned a comedy show, Confessions of a Showgirl.

10. The entrance to the meeting room was a large garage-style door.

11. The decor at the back of the stage was four brightly-colored doors.

12. A speaker talked about living in a room on the top floor of the
Flamingo hotel.

13. A speaker talked about the challenges of starting a new show on the
LV Strip. He said that each month he writes a check for the privilege of

14. A speaker said that when you’re starting out, you’re not great.
“The first time you’re hired to speak, you suck.”

15. A speaker told about being a speaker for Charles Schwab, and
mispronounced the word SPEAKER, like it was a difficult tongue

16. The speaking room was equipped with a FoosBall table and an Air
Hockey machine.

17. A speaker said, it’s self-defeating to think “this is as good as I’m
going to get.”

18. Bill Bachrach said, “If comfort is your goal, success is not in your


(Placing my soda bottle on the front table and speaking to the woman
sitting there.) Pretend this is your beer.

(Pefect opener. Started getting laughs just putting down the bottle. Big laugh when I delivered the line.)

(Making eye contact with Darren.) You can use that line.
(Very big laugh. The trigger was Absurdity.)

I’m funnier than I look.
(Good call back. Big laugh.)

This is a classy group. Look at how people are dressed.
(I had three outfit observations, good response although not among the better lines.)

One is dressed in an outfit that doesn’t rhyme.

(I figured this would work for an orange or a purple outfit, words that
do not rhyme.)

One is dressed in clothing from the Janet Jackson collection.
(A reference to Jackson’s Super Bowl performance several years ago.)

And one is wearing camouflaged pants worn when fighting an enemy that is color blind.
(A bold outfit attracted my attention, and I figured the attention of the
audience as well.)

Ten Ways I Can Tell I’ve Been Speaking Too Long. Or confessions of a showgirl.
(Anytime I hear a top-ten list in a program, I look for the possibility of
creating my own top-ten list on the same theme. And following with an
absurd topper call-back got a good laugh.)

I Iknew was speaking too long when I had a dream that I was speaking, and when I woke up, I was.

(Not an Observational joke, but a joke made up to fill in the top-ten

When I’m speaking in a room that looks like a garage.
(Simple observation. OK response.)

When the audience laughs uncontrollably until  I start speaking.

(Medium response.)

When I give the audience a choice of a joke behind Door number one. Door number two. Or door number three.

(Good response,)

When my funniest material is something I just made up.
(Weaker response than I expected.)

When I’m wishing I could move from my room in the Motel 6 to a room in the Flamingo.
(Big laugh.)

When I do the wrap-up humor at each monthly chapter meeting,
because I write a check.
(Good call back, implies that I pay to be on the program.)

When I continue to get hired even though I still suck.
(Self-deprecation using a call-back of a phrase used earlier in the
program by one of the speakers.)

When I’m caught looking in the bathroom mirror saying “Charles
Schwab serves speakers at the sea shore.”
(A call back of something that happened which had gotten a laugh.)

When my stiffest competition is a FoosBall game and an Air Hockey table.
(One of the weaker lines.)

You know I’ve been speaking too long when you can see my mouth
(A generic joke line for the Top Ten List which I deleted from the
monologue by accident. I like he line. Self-deprecation.)

When I start thinking: This is the funniest I’m going to get.
(Twisted a phrase used by a speaker. Adapted it to a humor theme.
Good response.)

In closing, the thought for the day: If comfort is your goal, being funny is not in your future.
(Good close. Good response.)

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.

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.)