Imagine this story: You’re lying in a hospital bed in a city that’s not your hometown. You’ve just regurgitated fairly large amounts of blood for the previous three hours, and you don’t yet know why.
Sounds like a great premise for humor, doesn’t it?
Actually, there can be if you look at the big picture. I should know, because this recently happened to me.
It’s been written – and there are several variations of this story – that Michelangelo had a block of marble in his studio. He asked visitors, :What do you see when you look at this large block?” Their response was typically, “I see a block of marble.” Michelangelo would then say, “I see a statue of David. I just need to know which parts to chip away to free the statue.”
When you look at your stories in a new light, you can ‘free’ the humor within.
For example, this is a short synopsis of my recent health scare:
- After a visit with my parents in Arizona, I board a plane – on my birthday – in Phoenix, Arizona. I will then catch a connecting flight in Dallas. Before boarding, I eat one slice of pizza.
- While taxiing in to the airport at Dallas, I get violently sick – thank God those white bags are sturdy!
- While in the terminal, my condition worsens to the point that I believe I might be terminal. I’m regurgitating large amounts of blood, and the EMTs are called.
- Once in Los Calinas Medical Center in Dallas, we learn I’ve probably got food poisoning and my vomiting tore the area connecting my esophagus and stomach – there’s even a name for it: Mallory-Weiss Syndrome.
- While in Dallas, my half-brother Kris visits me. We hardly get to see one another, and he happens to live 30 minutes away.
- I’m released with strict orders to eat a soft bland food and liquid diet for two weeks. I’ve lost 11 pounds already.
- The flight home from Dallas is delayed. Ella, the angelic looking 2-year old, screeches for most of the 2-hour 21-minute flight home. She’s 3 seats away from me. I arrive home to 35 degree weather.
- As I’m lying in bed, hopefully to begin resting, I get the text from Linda – “I think I just broke my wrist……”
Those are the facts of the story. How can this possibly be funny?
- As we’re taxiing in to the terminal and I know I’m gonna be sick, I attempt to discreetly fill the little white bag. I’m very grateful for the sturdiness of those bags, by the way. The man who’d been sitting two seats away me stares at me the entire time we’re waiting for the planes door to be opened. At the time, I’m too sick to realize this, but, there was a story floating round a few weeks earlier about another suspected case of ebola. That might explain the constant look of terror in his eyes as he stared at me for those 12 long minutes before the door was opened.
- Twenty-six years previously to the day, I was stuck in a plane on a tarmac in Dallas during a major thunderstorm. We waited for 3 or 4 hours, and the kindly flight attendees filled me with alcohol to celebrate my birthday. For some reason, Dallas doesn’t want to let me go when it’s my birthday.
- The EMTs think I’m either high or drunk because I’m cracking jokes to deal with my fear. The lead EMT, Kevin, even said “I smell alcohol on your breath.” “Kevin,” I said, “that’d be the Listerine I gargled with. I knew this would be our first date and didn’t want that bloody, post-puke scent to give you a negative image of me.” Turns out virtually everyone the EMTs pick up is either drunk or high.
- My brother Kris and I were born twenty years apart to the same father, different mothers. During my visit with Kris, I learn that our father is on his sixth marriage. I think back to a great line from a comedian who once said, “My Dad has been married so many times that if he was a fast-food restaurant, his next wife would be free.”
- I’ve just lost 11 pounds, and swimsuit season is almost upon us. I’ll look fantastic this season!
- Despite being in pretty good health for a man my age, every four years – coincidentally in a Presidential election year – since 2008, I’ve contracted a freak illness – Swine flu, ecoli, and now, Mallory- Weiss Syndrome. It’s possible my body is telling me something about our Presidential candidates. I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for me.
- The flight home from Dallas is delayed because we were waiting for a food truck to fill the plane with tasty, overpriced airline food. Didn’t this ordeal start with a food issue?
- Ella, the angelic looking 2-year old, was christened with new name halfway through the flight – Satan, Jr. As I type this I can still feel her screeches in my spine.
- Linda broke her wrist just as I got home from this ordeal. I’m still searching for the humor in this one…..
Nine potential humorous points from a serious story. Are these roll-on-the-floor, laugh ’til you puke’ moments? No – besides, there’s been enough reference to regurgitation in this story! They are moments that can be developed to elicit a chuckle or smile, and connect me further with an audience.
The point here is to look beyond the top-layer of facts of a situation to discover the hidden gems of humor. I’m in the early stages of developing these stories because I have to determine the points to be made, and the walkaway messages for the audience.
When you look at the ‘story behind the story,’ there are many gems that can make your presentation more memorable. You might not be creating the next Statue of David, but, you can develop a message that creates an atmosphere of laughter and learning for the next group you speak to.
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© 2016, Michael Davis. All rights reserved.