Humor for Speakers

Transitions & Segues

by John Cantu © HumorMall.com

If you are a comedian, humorist, or entertainer you generally put together two or more jokes that have some common idea, theme, concept, subject, etc., and tie them together in what's known as a "bit" or "chunk" or "piece."

There are advantages in understanding transitions and segues even if you only tell jokes informally. If you tell jokes professionally, but intermittently, such as a radio personality using single jokes between songs or a MC using single jokes between introductions. Or if you are a public speaker blending humor into your speech, you too will find this exercise helpful. Hopefully it will help bring into focus how to better go from one story to next by studying the sharper contrast of transitioning between jokes.

So in this essay I will use the term "chunk." Within a chunk you ideally try to segue from one joke to another as seamlessly as possible. If you have done a good job, your segues are virtually invisible to the audience.

Then you have to routine your different chunks. Routining your chunks means you have to put the chunks together in some grand over-all structure for your act or your set (time allotted). You often have to make a transition from one topic to an entirely unrelated subject. The pro makes it look transparent and effortless, but it takes work.

We will start with putting together a chunk. I will arbitrary choose six jokes that are related and randomly list them and ask you to routine them. Then I will show you my ordering of them with an explanation of the logic behind it.

Here's your six jokes:

  1. My dentist is a shrewd operator; He doesn't give you laughing gas until just before he gives you the bill.
  2. What a hypochondriac! Who else has a walk-in medicine chest?
  3. Special episode on the Sopranos this week. It features the eye doctor who provides baby boomer hit men with contract lenses.
  4. You're getting old when you pull a muscle just thinking about doing what comes naturally.
  5. I left my heart in San Francisco. That I can live with -- but I left my pacemaker in Los Angeles.
  6. A doctor at the Stanford Medical School announced today that he has discovered a cure for the common cold. However, there is one annoying side-effect: Death!

Your assignment is to simply take these six jokes and routine them as logically as possible into a seamless chunk with as FEW segue words as possible. Then read Transitions & Segues - Explained how and why these jokes were chosen, but I don't want to influence your perception of those jokes right now.

Bonus: You will find sometimes that you get an unrelated idea that you want to use so you will look for an existing chunk to try to graft it into. Assume you have the following two orphan jokes that you want to use. See if you can figure out how to add one or both of these unrelated jokes.

While it is sometimes possible to take a collection of totally random jokes and routine them, I wanted the jokes for this exercise to have somewhat of an obvious theme or connection. I started with the jokes in the April 14, 2000 issue and searched for a couple of jokes with some sort of a relationship. The first and second jokes of that issue were:

610. A doctor at the Stanford Medical School announced today that he has discovered a cure for the common cold. However, there it is one annoying side-effect: Death!

611. My dentist it is a shrewd operator; He doesn't give you laughing gas until just before he gives you the bill.

I figured we had a health/medical theme so I looked at the rest of that issue's jokes and then perused back issues for the remaining jokes. I added the "bonus jokes" concept simply as an afterthought. I picked the two "bonus" jokes by going to the last issue of 1999 and the first issue of 2000 and just counting down to the fifth joke.

THE ROUTINE: (Do not read until you've done the exercise first.)

Next: Transitions & Segues - Explained

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