Humor for Speakers

Changing Jokey Comedy Lines into Business Acceptable Humor

by John Cantu ©

Here is the joke: "I'll never ask for meat tenderizer in (LOCALIZE) restaurant. The last time I did, a waiter wearing spikes jumped up and down on my steak."

If you find this joke image funny, you could easily use this joke in any comedy act or comedy sketch. You could also quite easily drop it into everyday conversation. But if you are a speaker, especially if you are a speaker who believes that your audiences are too educated and/or too sophisticated for jokes that are of a comedy club one-liner quality, you might be uncomfortable using this joke.

When you have a joke that you feel is too jokey, you can often use it in a speaking context by putting it in the subjunctive tense. According to my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, the subjunctive tense is: "of, relating to, or constituting a verb form or set of verb forms that represent a denotated act or state not as fact, but contingent or possible or viewed emotionally (as with doubt or desire)." (Underlining added for emphasis.)

What this means is that you don't use the joke as a straightforward statement of fact the way a comic would, but rather you deliver the joke with a setup that implies it was an outcome you feared, or an outcome you imagined, or an outcome you dreamed. I.e., it didn't really happen, but you were afraid it would happen, or you felt it could happen, or you had a dream and it happened in the dream. (Either a night time sleep dream or a momentary imaginary daydream when your thoughts wandered.)

So as a speaker you might use the joke this way: "Traveling around the country and speaking, you don't always get the best choice of eating establishments. I remember being in one restaurant where I was really in the mood for a steak, but I ended up asking for a soft boiled egg. (And you might even get one laugh here). I like my steak tender, but from the looks of this place I was afraid if I requested it, the chef would have accommodated me by putting on spiked shoes and jumping up and down on my steak."

Notice, you don't blatantly say the chef actually jumped up and down on your steak - hard to believe - but it is easy to believe you might have a bit of momentary fear that it was possible.

Second joke example: "It no longer bothers me to ask people to refrain from smoking when I'm eating in a public place. What gave me the courage was the time I was in a diner and I discovered the sprinkling on my tapioca was not nutmeg."

Here is that joke written in the subjunctive tense. "I stopped in one restaurant and the cook was smoking while he prepared the meals. I left. I was afraid if I ate there, I might discover that the sprinkling on my tapioca wasn't nutmeg."

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