'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
PUBLIC SPEAKING: HOW HARD CAN IT BE?
A few weeks ago I received a lovely email from a lovely lady. The email was lovely because she wrote nice things about my newspaper humor columns. The lady herself was lovely because, well, because she wrote nice things about my newspaper humor columns.
Hey, I admit it, I enjoy a little positive feedback once in a while. And that’s about how often I receive it: Once. In. A. LOOOONNNNNG. While.
The email from the lovely lady arrived at the perfect time, right in the middle of my “Star Spangled Banner” brouhaha. There have been angry letters to the editor published in the past in response to opinion columns I’ve written on controversial subjects. I know that comes with the territory on the Op-ed page. But I’ve NEVER had angry letters to the editor printed as a result of something I wrote in the humor column.
That was a first, and it prompted me to write a little note to myself: “Spike the column on why baseball, apple pie, and motherhood are evil.” (No, just kidding. Put your pens down!)
In her lovely email message, the lovely lady explained that she is the head librarian at the Southbury Public Library. She asked if I’d be willing to give a 45-minute presentation at the library on the topic of humor. I immediately said, “Yes.”
In all honesty, because she and her email were so lovely, if she had asked, “I need someone to clean out my septic tank. Are you free on Saturday?” I immediately would have said, “Yes, I’ll be there at noon with a shovel in my hand and a flower in my lapel.”
When I mentioned to my wife that I agreed to give a talk on humor at the Southbury Library, she paused and then said, “How long?”
I replied, “From Torrington, oh, about 30 miles.”
“No dear, how long will your presentation be—in minutes, not miles?”
“Oh, right. About 45 minutes, followed by a Q&A session.”
“I see,” she said slowly. Then after a longer pause, she asked, “Do you have any idea what you will say?”
“Um, not yet,” I admitted, “but how hard can it be?”
“Well,” she said, “you always tell me you don’t know anything about humor techniques. You just start typing until something strikes you as funny. If that’s what you tell them, your presentation is going to be about 44-1/2 minutes shy of the goal.”
Then she gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, “Good luck, sport.”
I realized my wife had raised a good point. Standing in front of a group of people and saying, “Just start typing until something strikes you as funny,” and then juggling tennis balls for 44-1/2 minutes would probably not be a very interesting presentation. (Especially since I can’t juggle.)
I considered sending an email to the lovely lady: “How about we cancel the library presentation and instead I just come over and clean out your septic tank?”
But then I decided maybe it’s time I learned some basic humor techniques. So I embarked on a massive research project. (My project’s motto: If it’s on the Internet it must be true.) I think I’m ready to give it a go. Please join us at the Southbury Public Library on Tuesday, April 20th, at 7 p.m. I’ll be the one with a shovel in his hand and a flower in his lapel.
And there’s no truth to the rumor that I will begin the presentation by singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
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