Archive for the 'Humor In Speaking' Category

New Joke Contest — Sounds Like

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

The theme for he July Joke Contest is “Sounds Like…” It looks a bit like an Onomatopoeia exercise. Look for desciptive words that sound like what they describe. You can take some liberties with that formula to make a joke work. Here are eight examples:

– The sound at the end of a Ponzie scam: Clink-clink-clink.

– The sound of a lemon car trying to start: Errrrr, clunk, errrrr, clunk, errrrr.

– The sound of a beer bottle chilling in the freezer too long: Ka-Boom with a silencer.

– A burglar breaking into a home: Ka-Boom without a silencer… followed by “STOP or I’ll shoot.”

– Peace in the Middle East: Followed by the sound of skeptical  disbelief.

– After singing Happy Birthday to a 100-year old: “What did you say?”

– The sound in a gambling casino. Hard to describe, but it sounds like people kissing their money goodbye.

It’s time for you to go to work. Grab pen and paper and start your humor synapses firing. Write as many lines as you can. Then submit your best three lines for top-three recognition. Additional lines submitted will be eligible for Honorable Mention.

Send your entries to not later than July 15, 2015.

The Power of the Right Word

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The Power of the Right Word

When writing a joke, the right word can add more punch. Mark Twain said that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Descriptive words. Look for colorful words. Don’t use limp modifiers.  The word VERY is such a modifier. I visited the home where I was raised. Compared to the home in my memory, the actual home was very big. Or maybe instead it was huge. Or maybe, compared to the family home in my imagination, it was palatial. Very is a very limp modifier.  Very big is a yawn generator. Huge is a step in the right direction, but it is a generic size description. Palatial is descriptive and related to home size. We’re getting warm.

Made-up words.
A beater. This is a common word for a beat up old car.
A bomb. This was a term for our family 1953 Pontiac as it slowly turned
from a stylish new car into an embarrassing beater.

Funny words. Referring to marijuana as a drug is a rather bland
description. Cannabis has a K sound and may be a bit funnier. Weed is
funnier. Mary Jane, a little more color. Pot has more POP to it.
Another word, calliope is funnier than organ. And the word captures some of the whimsical qualities of the instrument.
Lake Superior is not as funny as Lake Erie; which is not as funny as
Lake Wobegon; which is not as funny as Lake Titicaca. Some words
just sound funny.

K sounds.
Bing hit in the face with a cream cake is funnier than with an apple pie.
Kinky, is a funny sounding word with a double K.
Macaroon. A K sound buried in the middle gives is a humorous ring.
Cotton Candy, corn dog, funnel cake, are great words for a circus midway, with the K sounds adding some snap. Cotton Candy plays with alliteration.
Kiwi if funnier than orange.
Kinde is funnier than Smith.

Hard sounds are similar to K sounding words.
Jitterbug is funnier than Waltz.
Toyota is funnier than Ford.

Words funny for associations.
Ballet is not funny for the way it sounds, but for tights and tutus we
associate with it.

Crack sounds like the sound it describes, and a bonus, it has a strong K sound.
Whack. You could hit someone on the head but it’s funnier to whack them on the noggin.

So give some thought to the words you use. The right word can kick up the humor value in your jokes and stories.

Observational Humor — Case Study ##137 (Video)

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Bala, one of our readers, has regularly been doing his own Observational Humor monologues at the end of his Toastmasters meetings in the Netherlands. He has a humor Blog, The Indian Humor Blog, whch is published in the Netherlands. Don’t confuse that with the Netherlands Humor Blog which is published in India.

He recently published his first Observational Humor Video Blog.
Although the video picture and sound are not perfect, and he faces the
challenge of performing the monologue for a small Toastmaster
audience, he is doing a great job and has posted many monologues over the past year. Way to go, Bala.

A couple of suggestions I gave to Bala are to experiment with moving a bit to the right or left to see if you can reduce the back light glare problem. Sometimes a small move, while not eliminating the problem completely, reduces the glare.

And also, I suggested he obtain a wireless microphone which feeds directly into the video camera. Click on this video of one of my recent blog posts to see the difference a direct microphone makes. At the start of the video the MC does not have a mic sending his voice directly to the camera. When I step on stage, his voice is picked up on my lapel mic which is fed directly into the video camera. The difference in sound quality is big.

Here are a couple of my favorite lines, and a couple of suggestions. My
comments should make sense if you visit Bala’s video blog. His blog
post gives context to the jokes. It solves the classic problem of “you had to be there.”

– The line, “Touches my shoulder.” One of my favorite lines. Very nice.

– The line for “4 speeches 4 evaluations.” Excellent.

– On the line, “Eindhoven was 22 percent. It dropped when I moved in.”
My preference is to use an implied punchline. Rather than stating it
directly, I’d say: “It dropped in 2013. I’m not able to analyze why it
dropped in that year because that’s when I moved here.” (pause) It
makes the punchline more complicated to understand, but with an
intelligent audience, which we do have, it makes it a stronger joke.

– On the line, “She has not put on make up.” I might follow with:
“I knew I was going to be the video-master so fortunately, before I
arrived, I was able to put on my makeup.”

Great job Bala. Keep up the good work. It only gets easier.

Humor and the Truth

Sunday, June 7th, 2015
Truth and humor are a strange mix.
One of the rules of improv is to BE TRUTHFUL.  Often, trying too hard to be funny doesn’t serve you well.  Life is funny enough.
Most jokes, even ones that aren’t true, have a ring of truth in them.
“Here lies W. C. Fields.  I would rather be living in Philadelphia.”   How true.  Wouldn’t we all.   Not that there is anything inherently funny about living in Philadelphia, it’s just that the truth is funny.  We would rather be in Philly than six feet under.

Comic license allows us to stretch the truth, to embellish.

It’s one of the times when it’s ok to lie, just for the sake of the joke and being funny.  When one goes for exaggeration in the extreme, or absurdity, it’s an acceptable lie for the sake of the laugh.  And it’s normally understood by the speaker and the listener that it is not the truth.


When you are just joking and departing from the truth, it can create miscommunication and it may require an apology or the explanation that you were “just kidding.”
Getting a laugh can be a balancing act which requires finding the right mix of truth and embellishment.

New Joke Contest — Rich and Poor

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

The theme for this month’s joke contest is Rich and Poor.

New Joke contests are announced on the first of the month. The next contest comes out on July 1.

For this month’s contest, Rich and Poor.
The joke formula is:
“You know you’re rich when…”
“You know you’re poor when…”

As an example I’ve written two contrasting lines using Bill Gates as the inspiration for both lines. You do not have to use contrasting jokes, nor do you need to refer to a person or celebrity

– You know you’re rich when you can give a million dollars a year to each of 1000 people for 75 years and still have money left over.

– You know you’re poor when the government could take all your money and it would not be enough to pay the interest on the national debt for six months.

And a few more examples:

– You know you’re Rich when your full name is Richard.
– You know your rich when the monthly interest on your bank savings account is enough to buy a McDonald’s hamburger.
– You know you’re poor when your first Social Security check is a life-style changer.
– You know you’re poor when you’re standing on a steet corner with a card board sign that reads, “Will write jokes for food.”

Get busy. Write as many jokes as you can. Then put them on the back burner and let them simmer. The next day, edit them. Tighten the wording, add more punch. Then pick your 3 best lines of RICH and 3 best lines for POOR. Submit them by June 14, 2015 to If you submit additional lines, they will be eligible for Honorable Mention. Good luck. Have fun.

Creativity Exercise

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Loren Ekroth, Dr Conversation (Better Conversations EZine), shared a play- on-words joke which he created from the word Hinterland. While talking to a friend who was performing a one-woman show at a local church, he realized that although she was was not playing on Broadway.  “She was performing Hintertainment.”

I started me thinking about the play-on-words creative process. We start by defining the key word. The definition of the word will help us focus as we exercise our joke writing skills.

Some of the definitions of Hinterland are:
– Less developed parts of a country.
– The back woods.
– An area more picturesque than urban areas.
– Lying beyond what is known.
– Not near cities and towns.
– Where life is less complicated.
– Inland from the coast.
– Away from metropolitan or cultural centers.
– The definitions of Hinterland are neither good nor bad, they generally
state that the Hinterland is just a place that is different from other

As a writing execise, and with a little thinking, we could come up with a
Top-Ten list:


1. Two small countries can easily become hinterdependent.

2. The Voyager space craft was to make an exploratory fly by of Pluto.
However, before it got there, Pluto was declassified as a planet making
the mission hinterplanetary.

3. The road to the Bridge To Nowhere begins at a remote hintersection.

4. Universities are offering reduced-fee degrees in Political Science with
a focus on Hinternational Relations.

5. There is a movement of people from rural to urban areas and visa
versa. By nature people are hinterchangeable.

6. Moving to a rural setting requires that a slower lifestyle be

7. Is it possible that more conservative religions as a group tend to be
hinterdenominal? And are they more likely to have revivals which are

8. A city psychologist moving to a rural area may need different skills
for hintervention.

9. Agricultural colleges are involved in activities which are

10. If you live in a boring town, doing a word exercise like this is


1. I exercise my mind just for the value of the process. Through exercise the brain gets stronger.

2. A writing exercise develops the ability to make connections and see
relationships. This strengthens your humor skills.

3. I usually recommend working from lists when you have a goal for
creating new humor. In the case of writing jokes based on the word
Hinterland, a person could build a list of INTER words (interact,
intercepion, intercom) from which one would create new HINTER
(hinteract, hinterception, hintercom) words. Usually I try to work from
two contrasting lists to find fresh connections. But in this case we’ll
work with just one list, INTER words.

4. For the sake of the exercise, I normally start out with building a
HINTER list from INTER words which I discover in my own head. It
would be faster and easier to just use a reference source, like a
dictionary, to find a long list of INTER words, but if I force myself to
build a top-ten list just using my own thinking, the exercise will be more of a stretch for me.

5. So step one was to come up with as many INTER words as I could,
and then create a one-liner joke for each word, switching INTER to
HINTER. I completed a list of ten jokes doing this process.

6. Step two was to go beyond my list of ten and make a longer list.
Humor writing is a numbers game. The more lines I can write, the more
I’ll have to choose from when I pick my ten best lines for the final list.
One technique to Go Beyond is to look in the dictionary under INTER
and see how many words I could identify as candidates for writing a
joke. I found 28 more words which I hadn’t used in my original top-ten
list. I know I could have written 28 more joke lines, one for each new
word. Instead I quickly scanned the list and picked six which looked
like excellent possibilities for creating new jokes. And in a short writing
period, I came up with six more joke lines.

7. The process of taking INTER words and turning them into HINTER
jokes is not your usual joke writing process of looking for connections
from two different lists. Instead you have a HINTER word which is a
new punch line. You then work backward to create a set-up which gives context to the HINTER word. Your goal is to create a set-up which gives meaning to the new punch word.

8. As I looked over my new list of jokes, I realized that most of the lines needed some structural editing. The punch word, in my initial effort, was not normally at the very end of the line. So he next step in the creative process was to re-write the lines so that the punch word was always at the end. That was easy to do, it just took a deliberate focus to do the editing. Line #4 didn’t sound right with Hinternational as the last word, so I ended that line with Hinternational Relations.

9. Now I’m ready to create the final produce, the Top-Ten list. I’ve
written 16 lines. It’s my job to predict which ten lines are the best and
belong in the final Top-Ten list. Having over-written the number of
jokes…needing ten and writing sixteen. I’m ready to de-select the
weakest jokes. The challenge in joke writing is NOT to know what’s
funny to you, but to know what will be funny to your listener or reader.
It’s a guess, you never know for sure. But the more you edit, the more
educated your guess becomes, and your choices become funnier. This
skill becomes important when you have written two or three Observational Humor lines and you want to pick the best one to open a speech.

10. The top-ten list you found earlier in the article is he result of this
writing exercise.

11. Some people challenge their mind to cross word puzzles. Some play video games. Some master the Rubic’s Cube. Some play trivia games. I look for a seed idea, often from something I see or hear, such as the statement: “She was performing Hintertainment.” Then I challenge myself to write a Top-Ten list on a theme. For me, it’s more fun than watching a TV drama. It keeps my brain active. It helps to focus my humor radar.

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


Contest Results — State of the Humor

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Here are the top lines for the February Joke Contest — State of the Funny. Some of our subscribers said that this contest was more difficult than most.

New contests are announced on the first of the month. The next contest starts on March 1, 2015.

Here are our top three and honorable mention entries:


The District of Columbia is funny because it has the most politicians.
Gerald Fleischmann, Fountain Valley, California


California is funny because it produces the most tomatoes, and you can’t have humor without tomatoes.
Tom Nee, Oak Lawn, Illinois


Minnesota is funny because it is the home of Minnehaha Falls.
Sandy Kampner, Evergreen Park, Illinois

HONORABLE MENTION (In random order)

Nevada is funny because Prostitution is legal but jaywalking is illegal.

California is funny because you can sing and experience shake rattle and roll.

Wisconsin is funny because you can be cheesy and that’s a good thing.

New York New York is NOT funny because you have to repeat yourself.

Florida is funny because its fitness program consists of aerobic shuffleboard.

Illinois is funny because our politicians start in office and end up in jail.

Texas is funny because all my exes live in Texas.

Illinois is funny because of Tom Nee, Sandy Kampner, Marty Bernstein, and Pat Foley.

Missouri is funny because its mules always say Hee-Haw!

Humor Writing Exercise

Friday, February 6th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I saw a gag on the internet:
Oxygen and Potassium went on a date. It was OK.”
So the most logical thing for me to do was to create my own humor writing exercise. I call it Elemental Relationships.

The goal is to create new joke relationships using elements on the periodic table. Here are a few lines I came up with:

Sulpher and Oxygen went on a second date. It was SO SO.

Sulpher, Sodium, Carbon and Potassium went on a double date. Just
for a SNACK.

Chlorine, Iodine, Carbon, and Potassium went on a double date. It
didn’t CLICK

Beryllium and Gold became BEAUs after meeting at a singles bar when
Beyrillium shouted accross the bar, “Hey You.”

Iron and Argon’s relationship was based on FEAR. One was concerned
with heavy metals creeping into the diet. The other was kept awake at
night by the price of gas.

What joke have you heard recently that could trigger the thought in
your mind, “I could create some jokes based on that joke theme! Create your own exercises. Or write some jokes on the Elemental Relationships theme. Create jokes that are just for you. It’s like going to the gym.

Negative Feedback

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

A newsletter subscriber cancelled their subscription today. That’s not unusual. Every week I get several cancellations and usually about the same number of new subscribers. His/her note was simply the comment: “You’re NOT funny!” That’s not unusual. I’ve received comments like that before. What was unusual was that it’s been about three years since I’ve received a comment like that. It’s not that other subscribers haven’t thought the same thing in the past three years. It’s just that most people are too nice to be so blunt. Of those who cancel their subscriptions, about 90 percent make no comments. Of the 10 percent who leave a comment 99 percent of them usually say something positive or neutral, like: “Don’t have time to read all my mail,” or “changed jobs, newsletter no longer relevant.”

There have been times in the past when a negative comment may have bothered me. But now I’m comfortable with people having their own opinions. And negative feedback is offset by the many fans and followers who appreciate what I do.

Not everyone agrees with my all of my opinions. I don’t like much of modern “music” which in my opinion does not meet the definition of music. But the creators of that “music” live in extravagant mansions. Obviously, millions of people disagree with me. And the music I like, they probably hate. It would be a boring world if everyone were cookie-cutter clones of me.

It’s even more rare that I get blunt feedback after a live presentation. But 15 years ago a member of the audience shared after the program: “I didn’t think you were funny. I didn’t think one thing you said was the least bit funny.” Fortunately most of the audience laughed in all the right spots. My interaction with that audience member has become one of my signature stories.

And the comment I received today is right now becoming a blog post. When life gives you lemons…well, you know what to do.