SEASON Your Staff Meetings With Humor

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

 Here’s an idea to help spice your public speaking with humor. Reading time: 7:28

Jay Leno

Jay Leno

      SEASON your next meeting with humor. SEASON is an acrostic for 6 ways to sprinkle your prepared remarks with a comic’s flair.

 S for Substituting

         When you substitute, you bait and switch.

             You bait your audience with a straight line (the setup) then exchange it unexpectedly with another related concept –(the punchline) .

  •            Jay Leno, commenting on the nomination of John Kerry as Secretary of State says that John Kerry’s face “is longer than mine. He looks more like Secretariat of State.”
  •          Citing the wedding night of 86-year-old Hugh Hefner to a 26-year-old Leno says: “She wore Channel No. 5. He wore Fabreze.”
  •          And in the movie Duck Soup, in an era long before I-tunes and IPods, Groucho Marx says: “You haven’t stopped talking since I got here. You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.”

 E for Exaggerating

              When you exaggerate, you stretch a point of view.

David Letterman

David Letterman

  •              Observing the longevity of Regis Philbin still hosting a TV talk show at 80,  David Letterman exaggerated:  “I don’t want to say that Regis is old but his first co-host was Eve.”
  •            Reacting to wintry weather in New York City, Letterman said: ” It was so cold today driving to work (in New York City), the navigation lady in my car directed me to Saudi Arabia.
  •         Mark Russell observed that A trillion is a number so high that if you stood on the payment book you’d experience weightlessness.”
  •          And comedian Rodney Dangerfield noted:  “The plumbing in my apartment is so bad that if I want to take a bath on Sunday I have to start running the water on Wednesday.”



A for Associating            

When you Associate you link two unrelated ideas.

Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon

  •  In the movie  The Odd Couple  Oscar Madison said to Felix Unger, “You write me these notes and sign them FU. It took me three months to realize FU stood for Felix Unger.”
  • In the movie Road to Rio,  Dorothy Lamour is wearing a very tight dress, so tight that Bob Hope wonders:  “How did you get into that dress—with a spray gun?”
  • Considering how many times Lindsay Lohan had taken the oath  in court,  Letterman said the Hollywood actress had “bible elbow.”
  • Noting that one-third of babies are obese by 9-months-old, Leno said: “Babies are so overweight they now have high chairs that beep when you move them backwards.”

“I got into speed reading by accident. I hit a book mark.”

  • “I got into speed reading by accident. I hit a book mark.” (Steven Wright).
  • Observing his trademark bright flowing hair style, Donald Trump  “must have fallen head first into a cotton candy machine.” (Seth MacFarlane)
  •  The night after the University of Alabama dominated  Notre Dame to win the national collegiate football championship, 42-14, Jimmy Fallon said: “I haven’t seen such an ugly night for the Fighting Irish since Thanksgiving with my family.”
  • When Bob Dole fell off a platform that collapsed during a presidential campaign stop, he grinned: “I think I just earned my third purple heart.”

 S for Skewing

       When you skew, you twist the intended meaning.

             Yogi Berra, the New York Yankee Hall of Fame baseball star of yesteryear, became as famous off the field for inadvertently skewing the English language that triggered perplexed smiles if not head-scratching bewilderment on his audience. “That restaurant is always so crowded, nobody goes there any more,” Berra observed.

               Noting that Mickey Mantle could bat both right and left-handed (ambidextrous), Berra said his Yankee teammate was “amphibious.” In  another skewed situation, Berra met with a pretty woman for the first time. She remarked how cool he looked in his light summer suit. And Yogi responded:  “Thanks, you don’t look so hot yourself.”

             You can also skew the EXPECTED meaning of the word to get a laugh.

  •        “Arnold Palmer once told me how I could cut 12 strokes off my golf game. Skip ONE par 3 hole,” smiled Bob Hope.
  •         A preacher was pulled over for speeding. The preacher pleads with the police officer not to fine him too much because he said he was “a poor preacher.” The officer said: “I know. I have heard you speak.”

       With this Skewing technique you can have some pun. But be wary of the groan factor.  Challenge yourself to creating clever puns such as: The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

  O for Opposing

       When you oppose, you redirect the expected order.

      Rodney Dangerfield reinforced his signature statement (“I get no respect”)  with wry observations like this:  “When I was a boy I was so poor I got batteries –toys not included.”

Woody Allen

Woody Allen

     And then there’s the story of the old Soviet Union issuing  a new postage stamp with Joseph Stalin’s picture on it. But the stamp  didn’t stick so well. Seems the Russians were spitting on the wrong side.

      Opposing is the foundation of sarcasm where what you say is directly opposed —the opposite –to what the listener expects:

  •  “I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally.” (W.C. Fields)
  • ” I tended to place my wife UNDER a pedestal.”(Woody Allen)
  • “Don’t be humble. You’re not that great.” (Golda Meir)
  • “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” (Billy Wilder)

         Of course, the most effective leaders, guard against sarcasm’s harsh cousin –sardonic humor that is mockingly derisive. Beware what works for  Lisa Lampanelli —the Queen of Mean — on stage in a comedy roast never works  in a staff meeting no matter how tongue-in-cheek the presentation.

      After all,  the word “sarcasm” stems from the Greek word “to tear flesh.”  Self-deprecating humor is the prefeN for Narrowing


When you narrow, you confine a word to a limited point of view.

  •   A 5-year-old boy crashed his dad’s car into the garage. The boy said he put the car’s transmission into “R” for race.
  •  A 3-year-old said she “flushed” her bread in the toaster.
  •  Albert Einstein, the founder of the theory of relativity, was taking a tour of Warner Brothers studio when Jack Warner stopped Einstein and said: “I too have a theory on relatives. Don’t hire them.”
  •  A teacher asked a first grader why he was exposing his stomach. He said his stomach was hurting and the principal told him to “stick it out” until noon. If it were still hurting after that he could go home.
  •  An executive  complained reviews were so non existent in his company that many employees thought the only way they could get a review was to see Siskel and Ebert.

             Use those 6 ways to SEASON your prepared remarks: Substituting, Exaggerating, Associating, Skewing, Opposing, and Narrowing. It’s easy to get started bait and switching, stretching, linking, twisting, challenging and limiting words, thoughts and ideas.

Switching & Stretching

        Substitute  your own version of SWITCHING what’s for dinner (reservations) or your own version of the five food groups  ((Salty, Sugary, Gooey Crunchy and Sticky).

        Exaggerate your own version of  STRETCHING a routine duty  the way David Letterman said that security at the Emmy Awards “was tighter than Joan Collins’ face.”

Linking & Twisting

      Associate-try  LINKING a concept to something unrelated with your own version of  “Statistics are like bikinis. It is not what they reveal that counts. But what they conceal.”

      Skew your thinking, TWISTING the intended meaning with your own version of John Lennon’s response when he was asked : “How do you find the United States? Lennon retorted: “Take a left at Greenland.”

Redirecting & Limiting

         Oppose a concept, REDIRECTING the expected order with your own version of Mark Twain’s apology to his wife for not wearing a tie to visit an influential neighbor.  Twain returned home, found a tie and had it delivered to the neighbor later that day. The enclosed note read:  “A little while ago I visited you without my tie for about a half hour. The  missing tie is enclosed. Kindly gaze at it for 30 minutes then return them to me.”

       Narrow your focus –LIMITING the meaning with your own version of sign in a hospital laboratory: “Be nice to bacteria. It is the only culture some people have.”

       Sharpen your leadership with humor. Stir  tongue in cheek. Simmer with a dash of fun. SEASON and serve.

Today’s ImproveMINT

SEASON  your speaking to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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