Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

In December, the Draft Picks Gavell Club (DPGC), which aims to teach public speaking and leadership skills, brought the house down — in the library of Everglades Correctional Institution in Florida. 

While the gaveliers of the DPGC follow Toastmasters International’s curriculum, and must present one humorous speech as part of their ascension to full club status, this event was billed as an opportunity to get together and just laugh. 

Organized by Rudy Vandenborre — who sported a festive elf hat and resembled a Belgian Krampus — the event’s Toastmaster was Christopher “The Joke Master” Norris. 

After opening remarks, the first performer, Micheal Annen, opened with a personal story about his first roommate when he entered the Florida Department of Corrections: a large, scary, muscular hulk of a man, with a voice like Mike Tyson, named “Juicy.”

From there, William “Rhymes with Cake” Haake took over and told a slew of grandpa jokes. One went like this: A cement mixer and a prison bus had a collision on Interstate 75. Officials were on the lookout for hardened criminals. 

Vanderborre returned for his set, drawing gales of laughter with personal stories from his childhood and birthday wish mishaps. 

As a closer, Frank Morse began telling a dry tale of his search for the formula for the perfect joke. Interrupting himself, he walked off stage only to return with dark sunglasses, a knit cap pulled low and a large, handmade “Roll-E” on a chain around his neck. He proceeded to lip-sync and dance to the entirety of Drake’s “Nonstop” with verve. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Justin Slavinski is a writer for Endeavor, a publication at Everglades Correctional Institution in Florida.