Sunday, November 5, 2017

Blue Angles, Jacksonville Beach, 2007

I've seen the Blue Angels dozens of times, but this was the the best performance I've ever seen. The sky was perfect, the light was perfect, and I had a good camera and a nice spot to shoot from. Unforgettable!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Humor for the Totality, The Mother of All Traffic Jams, 2017 Eclipse Predictions

Box-headed people in 1963!
The bad news is that there is a nationwide shortage of glasses to view the eclipse. The good news is that suitable viewing boxes can be made out of the millions of Amazon boxes that have been piling up in Americans’ garages. Now, nobody has to miss out.

Pundits predict that traffic to and from the Path of Totality of the eclipse will produce the worst traffic jam in the history of humankind.  To listen to the media, the traffic promises to be even more apocalyptic than the apocalypse! It will be the Mother of All Traffic Jams. There will be shortages of food, fuel, water, Grey Poupon mustard, and escargot. The traffic is going to be so bad that most Americans will not be able to get out of their own driveways for days, possibly weeks.

According to experts in the media, this event will be like Y2K, the Mayan Calendar, and the 2016 election rolled into one. Who can bear the thought of living through any of those events again? Take a look out your front door. Traffic is probably piling up right now! Fill your gas tanks and get some water, while you still can.

I have a contrasting opinion about this event because I've observed various media using the power of exaggeration for decades, actually centuries, come to think of it. I, on the other hand, am predicting  another massive miss for the media. There will likely be heavy traffic here and there, but nothing beyond an annoying inconvenience for most people. You heard it here folks.

My next post may be from the Totality!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bill Maher and Kathy Griffin: Jokes that hurt and jokes that kill.

Once upon a time, I was having a good set at a small nightclub in Georgia. I was in my angry phase and that was really working for me. Someone in the audience asked, “Do you hate everyone?”
I said, “No, I don’t hate everyone. Just people like you.”
I know it doesn’t sound funny at all, but people were laughing. Then I said, “I’m kidding. That was just a joke. Have you noticed that when people say something was just a joke, it usually wasn’t?”
More laughter. Once in a while when you do standup, you can say anything and people will laugh. I even blew a few punchlines that night and people still laughed. On the other hand, when you tell lots of jokes, some of them are going to go wrong.

Sometimes when you say something off-the-cuff, you realize immediately that you shouldn’t have said it. Then you say, “I’m sorry. That was just a joke.” Sometimes an incident like that really is just a joke. At other times, the joke teller in question is saying it was just a joke only because someone got ticked off.
A big part of Bill Maher’s schtick has been making snarky remarks in response to one of his guests. He used the N word recently. In the moment, that seemed funny to him. Although Maher has a history of being edgy, he doesn’t have a history of using the N word often. The next day he posted an apology. Nevertheless, there are people who view him as a habitual envelope pusher and they want him to suffer serious consequences.
Kathy Griffin’s severed head incident was more than an offhand remark. Sometimes when a photographer is wrapping up a shoot, he or she says, “As long as we’re all set up, let’s try something zany.” From what Griffin said about the shoot, that may have been how the severed head photo came about. Still, the Trump head photo required a prop and that takes at least a little premeditation.
After the incident, Griffin posted a video apology which seemed sincere. On Friday, June 2, she held a press conference at her lawyer’s office. She was briefly remorseful. After that she was combative, she claimed the President and his family were out to destroy her, and she sobbed a few times. She said, “It was just a bad joke.”
At the outset of the press conference, she mentioned that she was nervous and that she probably would resort to jokes as a result of that. Still, going into standup mode in response to serious questions seemed strange. That’s her persona and it’s what she does, but it still seemed odd. It doesn’t seem like the press conference helped her to begin salvaging her career.
Griffin has been ridiculing Donald Trump since before he was elected. Contrary to what some people say, ridicule isn’t harmless. More often than not, it is intentionally destructive. Jokes can be very effective for pointing out how ridiculous and stupid someone is. People use ridicule to make fun of other people in an effort to break their spirit, one verbal swipe at a time.

People who enjoy insulting others say, “It was just a joke,” with some frequency. The more a person says it, the less likely it is to be true. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

#KathyGriffin: When the joke goes wrong

When Kathy Griffin saw how many Americans were offended by the severed Trump head, she acknowledged that she went way over the line. Americans from both sides of the political spectrum agreed. As Melania Trump commented, it was very disturbing. Griffin posted an apology which seemed sincere. Nevertheless, there were consequences. Griffin was fired by CNN for the annual New Year’s Eve gig. Al Franken cancelled appearances with her.

With some of the commentary that has gone back and forth prior to the last election and since then, the line between decency and vulgarity seems to have disappeared. Profanity has become very common and the insults hurled between the right and the left are limited only by the imaginations of the people speaking them.

American comedians have been pushing political envelopes for decades. In the 1960s, Lenny Bruce was arrested several times for obscenity which would be considered quite mild now. George Carlin was charged for obscenity in 1972 for performing his Seven Dirty Words bit. Since then, many comedians have stepped over many lines. Others who come to mind for pushing it include Richard Pryor, Andrew Dice Clay, Andy Kaufman, Roseanne Barr, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Dave Chapelle, Daniel Tosh, Ricky Gervais, Carlos Mencia, Tracy Morgan, Gilbert Gottfried, and many more.

How does any of this apply to professional public speakers? It's a reminder that you have to be very careful about the jokes you tell. When telling jokes, it’s very important to keep the audience in mind and to avoid jokes that may be taken the wrong way and detract from the presentation. Just because a joke seems funny to you does not mean that most of the people in an audience will also find it funny. When in doubt, leave it out.

I used to tell one joke that I really loved. “I saw a bumper sticker that said ‘Meat is murder.’ Well, that must make me some kind of a sociopath, because I love the feeling of my incisors ripping through a nice juicy steak.” That joke rarely worked for me. If a joke doesn’t work the first time, try to figure out why and make any needed adjustments. If it doesn’t work a second time, you should really think about letting it go.

It’s refreshing to see that there is indeed a line which should not be crossed. Fake decapitations of President Trump are officially off limits. In my opinion, chatter about killing people with whom we disagree or wishing death upon them should be off limits as well. As I mentioned in my stump speech when I ran for Congress last year, the jokes have been getting uglier. It's hard to imagine an uglier joke than this latest stunt by Kathy Griffin. The time has come to Make America Laugh Again with kinder gentler jokes.

A liberal, a conservative, The Pope, and Kim Kardashian walked into a bar…

For tips on how to tell jokes, check out these previous posts.

Also, Humor 101: How to tell jokes for power, prestige, profit, and personal fulfillment is available on Kindle and it will soon be available in paperback. Check it out!