ORLANDO, Florida: Well, all I know is what I read in the Orlando Sentinel or can see from the nineteenth floor of the Marriott World Center. The view from the balcony covers a portion of Walter Disney’s eastern real estate holdings, and the newspaper covers all of Central Florida, so it’s pretty much the same territory.
Oranges are important here. Maybe not as important as Mickey Mouse or Snow White or Pocahontas, but this is still Orange County. The orange growers have suffered an attack of citrus canker, and they’re trying to wipe that out. If they can get the neighboring homeowners with citrus trees in the back yard to cooperate, they can get this disease under control. Then the only threat to their farming operation will be Disney expansion plans.
I’m down here for a convention of the National Speakers Association. There’s only two things that will draw a sane man to Florida in July, and that’s either your children (or grandchildren) intent on touring Disney World between rain showers, or a Convention.
The Marriott can’t do anything about the heat and humidity outside but they keep it comfortable inside. In fact it’s so cool, when you step outside your lenses fog over. Kinda like a Wisconsin winter, only in reverse.
Last night NSA picked five more members for the Speakers Hall of Fame, and another one for the top prize in the entire association, the Cavett Robert Award. Five of the six honorees are humorists, so prospects are looking better. Here’s another thing… two are from Oklahoma, two from Texas, and one from Missouri. I think we need a new name for this region of the country, call it the “Humor Belt”.
Well, I haven’t told you who these folks are yet. George Campbell is from Norman, Oklahoma, and you probably know him better as “Joe Malarkey, the world’s worst motivational speaker”. Larry Winget is from Tulsa, and nobody has figured out exactly what he does, but it’s always funny. Mark Mayfield is a sharp looking farm boy from Missouri who gets laughs just telling about a car wreck. Suzie Humphreys is from Arlington, Texas, and she says things funny. And Bob Murphey is from Nacogdoches. The only “outsider” is Lisa Ford, from Atlanta, and she is so good at teaching businesses how to give great customer service that she don’t have to be try to be funny.
Let me tell you something else about these humorists. They are all different. I don’t mean just different from you and me, they’re different from each other. That’s one thing about good humorists, they don’t want to be like anyone else.
Bob Murphey received the Cavett Award, presented to him by last year’s winner, Zig Ziglar. Can you believe it, Bob has been speaking professionally since 1950. Ask yourself, or your older kinfolk, this question: Who were you being entertained by in 1950, and how many of ’em are still out there getting laughs? Bob Murphey didn’t earn this award just because he outlived everybody. He is still among the best, and he is always willing to help the young ones get better. Of course, if NSA ever holds a contest to pick the fastest talker, he would likely finish last.
I heard a young humorist Monday that you want to keep your eye on. Tim Gard, from Colorado, is going places. But only in an aisle or window seat, if he can help it.
Some of you are probably wondering, what about those Tall Women speakers you always write about? Well, they’re here, exactly 17 of ’em. (Yes, I counted them, they’re not hard to spot.)
The total membership in this group is up to 28. I overheard one young woman say she can’t get in because she is only 5 foot 10. It was the first time anyone ever told her she wasn’t tall enough.
I want to end on a personal note. It was at the 1996 NSA convention, six years ago, at this same Marriott in Orlando, that a wonderful speaker from Woodward, Oklahoma, Dale Minnick, took one look at me and said, “You’ve got to be Will Rogers.” Tragically, Dale passed away of a heart attack two years later. Anything I ever accomplish as Will Rogers Today, it started with him.
Historical Quotes from Will Rogers:
“We were all down to a mighty fine dinner they gave to Walter Disney. He is the Sire and dam of that gift to the world, ‘Mickey Mouse.’… (He) has a God-given gift of human nature.” WA #564, Oct. 15, 1933
(The next one is from an article Will wrote as a humorous ‘debate’ between Florida and California. This is part of his California response after Florida claims to be known for it’s oranges…)
“I will admit there is a bootleg variety of orange that thrives up to the size of a green plum on the banks of your swamps; but as for being called an orange, that is only done, of course, through a sense of humor. We take Florida oranges to California, dry them and use them for golf balls. As for taste, they resemble the green persimmon.” Saturday Evening Post, May 29, 1926
“Good stuff in Florida will always be good. It’s a marvelous winter state, and a great agricultural State.” WA #200, Oct. 10, 1926