A funny thing happened on the way to the podium

Love of Laughter helps members tap into humor

Nov. 15, 2011

You hear your name announced, all heads turn your way and everything becomes blurry. You wake up in a pile on the floor and wonder what happened on your way to the podium to give that big presentation to your bosses at work. People start to fan you for air and you think that your public speaking skills might need some improving."

You realize you need some help, but humor is more your style. One local group may just have the remedy.

Origin of a smile

As a specialty club within the Toastmasters, Love of Laughter (LOL) has been helping area residents not only practice public speaking, but to "write, deliver, and evaluate humor," club founder Tom McFarlin explained.

LOL was started in 2008 when a recently retired McFarlin wanted to take up comedy as a hobby. He completed a few semesters of training at The Second City, a world premier comedy club, theater, and school in Chicago.

The group has built its way up to 27 members ranging in ages from around 25 to 70 and from a variety of backgrounds. Most members are from Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties. McFarlin said LOL members enjoy humor and want to learn how to use humor, whether as a professional speaker or comedian, or just to be funny.

LOL is peer group based and everyone participates in writing, delivering, and evaluating humor. Members partake in a variety of speaking and humor exercises such as monologues, improvisation, storytelling, book and movie reviews and more. The group offers members a chance to improve comic timing for speeches, roasts, toasts, stories and MC roles. Members get a chance to learn from guest humorists, comedians and joke writers.

McFarlin said that the group is only one of two humor based Toastmaster clubs in the United States.

Toastmasters is an international organization focused on helping its members develop and practice public speaking skills.

A boost of confidence

New members aren't thrown directly into the fire; rather, they are paired with a mentor of their choice who helps them get comfortable with the group.

"You certainly get over fear of stage fright. You improve communications," McFarlin said.

Confidence and self esteem are built over time.

Current club president Gina Rust of Waukesha comes from a theater background, but needed a bit of a boost after spending 30 years out of the field.

"It kind of has stimulated my interest and kept me going," she said.

In March, Rust set out to write, produce, and act out a one-woman show. With the support of the group, Rust had her show written by the end of May and performed for an applauding audience by mid September.

"The fact that I wrote, performed it, and produced it was quite a feat," Rust said. "I don't think I would have taken it on had it not been for my experience with LOL."

While it's not uncommon for new members to experience anxiety, "the only way to get past that fear is to just do it," Rust said. "I think everyone is a small little bud when they come in. It takes some maturing to see it start to develop into a beautiful rose."

Member Rick Phelps of Wauwatosa said, "I like it because of the camaraderie." He adds that people are often shy and introverted when they join, but in less than a year they come out of their shells.

Laughter is the best medicine

"When you do humor, you change your attitude: you look and laugh at life," McFarlin said. He added that through humor, one is able to take their stress, troubles and resentments, find the humor in them, and then make them go away.

"It can be scary and sometimes emotional," Rust admits. She has seen numerous members outgrow their fear and shyness and blossom into confident, well spoken and funny individuals.

"Come to enjoy, come to laugh, come to learn, and experience laughter extraordinaire," said Rust.

McFarlin said the group is therapeutic "without a question."

Comedy writing secrets

Love of Laughter Comedy Club will host a symposium on how to write, enhance or add humor to your speeches, comedy sets and stories, jokes or everyday conversations. The workshop is called How to Make It Funny and will be held from 6:35 to 8:30 p.m. tonight at the Goodwill Training Center, Nike Boulevard and Main Street, in Waukesha. The interactive workshop will includes segments on how to add funny words and sounds, gestures and exaggerations and other humorous touches to speeches. Workshop attendee will have a chance to add humor to their own "vanilla" speeches.

The workshop is free. For more information, call (262) 7171-9776.


Who: Love of Laughter

What: Toastmasters Love of Laughter comedy group

Where: Goodwill Training Center, Nike Boulevard and Main Street, in Waukesha

When: First and third Thursdays of each month; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Fees: $81 per year

What's More: Everyone is invited to sit in on a LOL meeting or to join


Who: Love of Laughter Comedy Club

What: How to Make It Funny Symposium on how to write, enhance or add humor to your speeches, comedy sets and stories, jokes or everyday conversations

When: 6:35 to 8:30 p.m. tonight

Where: Goodwill Training Center, Nike Boulevard and Main Street, in Waukesha

Cost: Free

Information: (262) 717-9776


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