With Humor, It’s All About Timing

My brothers and I have long had reputations as masters at coining new “lines” which catch on within our respective social circles. A couple months ago, I set up a wiki for us to track memorable lines and their origin.

I’ve always been fascinated by why certain lines catch on and others do not. The winners seem to be brief (no more than a sentence), versatile (can be used in a range of situations), and involve a good dose of sarcasm / pseudo-arrogance. Most of all, though, it’s when and how you deploy the line. Like anything, good humorists / line creators are the product of their input, and for us, the TV show Seinfeld and the situational brilliance of its lines have been a huge inspiration.

Today, I had a proud moment. Some friends and I were celebrating a 21st birthday at the very tasty, very hip, and overall very excellent Brazilian restaurant Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills. It has the best salad bar ever and 16 different types of meats served to you by roaming waiters who carve meat onto your plate as you desire. Meanwhile, roasted bananas and cheesebread and other assorted goodies are bottomless side-dishes. The whole restaurant is all-you-can-eat.

As my friend Dave and I were raiding the salad bar, Dave — in response to me loading my plate with full size mozzarella balls and artichoke — says to me, “Ben, be careful and save room for the meat later on.” To which I respond, without missing a beat, “Hey Dave – you do your job, I’ll do mine. Deal?” It was pitch perfect sarcasm. The source for this line came from a college basketball coach who said these words in response to the statistician who tried to offer coaching advice.

After a laugh, Dave utters another serious comment, asking me, “Do you know if the bread here goes with this tomato?” I respond, drawing deep into the Casnocha Line repertoire, “Dave, you know, I don’t have all the answers. I have a lot of them, but I don’t have all of them.”

As in most things in life and business, timing is everything.

It was the start of a great dinner which capped off a memorable day. Earlier, we were in the UCLA student section at Pauley Pavilion to see #2 UCLA come back against Cal and win by one-point with a crazy Kevin Love double-pump three-pointer and behind-the-backboard Josh Shipp throw-away lay-up. A few hours later, I found myself lying on the top of a roof in Westwood tanning in 73 degree L.A. weather.

Happy birthday Dave.


Here’s a blog I read on humor. Here are notes from a Silicon Valley Junto discussion on how to be funny in the professional world. Humor in serious, business situations is much harder than in Saturday night dinners — but even more powerful.

4 comments on “With Humor, It’s All About Timing
  • At some point, we need to create a taxonomy of humor. I think that I get the majority of my laughs based on situational comments, most of which I forget almost as soon as I say them.

    I wonder how the impact of transitory versus reusable humor differs?

    I also want to know why you’ve never given me access to the Casnocha archive! Aren’t I an honorary Casnocha yet?

  • “There seems to be a problem…”
    “Well, NEAT-O!”

    Re: Chris Yeh’s post–I disagree. The moment one creates a taxonomy of ANYTHING is the moment it becomes completely unfunny.

  • Hello Ben, very good to nkow you went to a great brazilian “churrasco” !

    Have a great weekend, Miguel, from Brazil

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