Humor for Speakers

Transitions & Segues - Explained

by John Cantu ©

In Transitions & Segues we routined our chunks of material going from one topic to an entirely unrelated subject. Here's a rundown on why I made the decisions I did.

  1. The first thing you have to consider is: Will this joke fit me or does it have to be tied into someone else? Then and only then can you start to routine your jokes.
  2. As you figure out the proper order for your lines - ALWAYS say the jokes aloud, but don't read them verbatim. If you are inexperienced, use a tape recorder. Then listen to the tape recorder and adjust your chunk to the way you say it on the recorder, not to the way you had it written. This will make it sound more conversational. The reason why most performers are entertaining and most speakers are boring is that most speakers read their material or deliver it as if they are reading it. It is the KISS OF DEATH - or maybe more appropriately THE KISS OF DULLNESS AND BOREDOM.

Here's my routine again, this time with the logic behind it. I have spelled out the actions I would be taking to support some jokes. This is called adding "business" to the joke.

I have also indicated where I expect to get a laugh. I may NOT get them. I may get them in unexpected places. But the bulk of them will come were I have indicated. Capitalized words that aren't in parentheses are to be said with extra emphasis:

My next door neighbor. Nice guy, but complain complain complain. Last Christmas I decided to make it easy by giving him cash. (PAUSE. NOD HEAD KNOWINGLY. ROLL EYES) Tried to exchange it for another color. (L)

CANTU SAYS: I'm not a hypochondriac. First rule of comedy: Never lie to your audience. So the hypochondriac/medical jokes have to be about someone else. I chose "neighbor," but it just as easily could have been "brother-in-law," or "boss." No reason, but for me I saw the character as being male. You might just as easily have thought of the character as female.

Also, this joke was put here because the rest are medical related so I had to use it here or use as a postscript. I put it here because I couldn't see how to use it, once the medical theme got started.

Notice how incomplete sentences are used because that's how we speak conversationally. Even college graduates with Ph.D.'s speak this way. (Start listening to people and how they REALLY talk. Duplicate that in your presentation and increase your audience's interest and attention.) Also it gives me the ability to start a lot of sentences without using the word "I." You should minimize "I" and maximize "you."

Note how character is established by repetition of word the "complain." Do you have any trouble imagining what kind of neighbor this is?

Complain. Complain. Complain.

CANTU SAYS: Repeating this refrain to set up a laugh coming after next joke.

Terrible hypochondriac! Who else has a walk-in medicine chest? (L)

CANTU SAYS: No comment needed

(WITH EXAGGERATED EMPHASIS) Complain complain complain. (L)

CANTU SAYS: Called a rhythm joke. This is the laugh I was setting up. I know this isn't a joke. As you get enough real world experience you will learn to recognize that parts of your setups can get laughs before you get to the punchline. My gut tells me there is a VERY good chance this will get a laugh.

Told him about a Stanford Medical School doctor who said he's discovered a sure cure for the common cold with one little annoying side effect. Neighbor said, "What's that? (ONE-BEAT PAUSE) Death?" (L)

CANTU SAYS: Once again incomplete sentence. "Told him" grammatically should be "I told him." Have to use word "Neighbor" here. If you use "He said" people won't know if the neighbor is talking or the Stanford doctor is talking.

His dentist is on to his complaining. Doesn't give him laughing gas until just before handing him the bill. (L)

CANTU SAYS: Original joke rewritten to fit neighbor.

Health is no laughing matter though...

CANTU SAYS: "Health is no laughing matter though..." is a transition phrase since following joke is no longer about neighbor.

I know I'M getting old. <At age 52, I'm leading the baby boomer curve.>

CANTU SAYS: I would not use this phrase <At age 52, I'm leading the baby boomer curve> on stage since the audience would be able to see I am 50+. I used it here so you would have an idea of how old I am. That's why it is in angle brackets.

"I know I'm getting old." is the actual set up for the next joke.

These days, I pull a muscle just THINKING about doing what comes naturally. (L)

CANTU SAYS: No comment needed

Baby Boomers (PAUSE ONE AND HALF BEAT, THEN DELIVER NEXT SENTENCE AS IF JUST STRUCK BY THE THOUGHT) - hey that reminds me - Special episode on the Sopranos this week. It FEATURES the eye doctor who provides baby boomer hit men with contract lenses. (L)

CANTU SAYS: Using a pause transition. Change is indicated simply by pausing to let previous joke fade away. This joke doesn't really follow from previous joke. Also, "provides baby boomer hit men with contract lenses" is difficult to say so say it slower and take extra pains to enunciate.

(LONG PAUSE - Then deliver BEWILDEREDLY - as if new thought just struck) Gee I just had a weird thought. What if you were really absentminded (STARE AT AUDIENCE FOR THREE BEAT PAUSE) and left your heart in San Francisco (STARE AT AUDIENCE FOR ONE AND HALF BEAT PAUSE) and your pacemaker in Los Angeles.

CANTU SAYS: Using another pause transition. This joke also doesn't really follow from previous joke.

IN SUMMATION: This is not the RIGHT way to routine these jokes. This the way I would routine them for a first run through. Then depending on audience reaction I would start to change and adapt. What is important is that these are some of the issues you have to think about in routining jokes: Joke order, make jokes about you or someone else, eliminate excess words, make it conversational, decide what words to emphasis, decide what physical business to use to support jokes.

Now next time you introduce an anecdote into your speech, use these techniques to help make the transitions glide from one point to the next.

NEXT: Using Humor in a Presentation (i.e., Before an Audience)

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