How to Write Jokes

How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Part 2

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Part 1, I defined the joke premise for its specific use in stand-up comedy as a negative opinion about a subject.  In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Part 2, I’ll explore the difference between a premise and the jokes, and how to change from one premise to the next. The Difference between the Premise and the Jokes First, let me give you a dictionary definition of premise: a statement used to develop a further argument. This definition affirms how the joke premise is used in stand-up comedy. The premise is the statement of the negative opinion about a subject; and the argument is expressed through the jokes that follow. For instance, Chris Rock’s joke premise: women cannot go backwards in lifestyle. Rock states this premise several times at the top of the bit, and then proceeds to do a series of jokes to develop his argument. Here’s one:



How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 4 – How to Write Punch Lines

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 3, I showed how to write setups that misdirect. In this article, How to Write Jokes - Joke Writing Part 4 - How to Write Punch Lines, I’ll cover how assumptions open the door to the ideas for your punch lines. Now that you have some setups, you’ll want to write punch lines for these setups. Remember, jokes go from good to bad or bad to worse, therefore the setups need to be more positive than the punch lines. Here are two example setups for which we will find punch lines: Setup (good): “Post workers are actually very efficient...” Setup (bad) “My post person delivers my letters to my neighbors.” To get the idea for the punch lines, notice what is the most obvious assumption suggested by each setup. This assumption will be your target assumption for that setup. Later, the target assumption will be targeted by



How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 3

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 2, I explained the ingredients that construct joke setups. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 3, I’ll discuss the two styles of setups. To write setups, you must first know the subject you’re going to write about and what position you’re taking on that subject. This is where the joke premise comes into play. The joke premise was thoroughly covered in How to Write Jokes – Joke Premises Parts 1, 2, and 3. First define your premise: (a negative opinion about a subject.) For instance, this premise: postal workers are incompetent. Once you know what your subject is and your judgment about it, you can begin to search for ideas for setups that misdirect. Create Misdirection As shown in How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 2, misdirection is the function of a setup and this is accomplished t



How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 2

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 1, I explained that the relationship between the setup and punch are always in opposition, by going from good to bad or bad to worse. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 2, I’ll explain the ingredients that go into makes an excellent joke setup. Joke Premise Revisited As I discussed in my articles, How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Parts 1, 2 and 3, the premise is the fountainhead mechanism for writing jokes. So this is where we’ll start for learning how to write setups. Joke Premise: a negative opinion about a subject. The premise forces you to define the subject of your jokes and the pejorative judgment you’re taking on that subject. Once you have this, you can begin to search for opposite ideas that’ll help you misdirect the audience. Writing Setups Setups have very specific functions which mu



How to Write Jokes – Joke Writing Part 1

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes - Joke Structure Part 7, I defined the central mechanism of joke structure, the connector. In this article, How to Write Jokes - Jokes Writing Part 1, I’ll discuss the opposite relationship between the setup and the punch. Setup and Punch As discussed in, How to Write Jokes - Joke Structure Part 2, the function of the setup and 1st story is to create a false expectation and then the punch and 2nd story can reveal a surprise. To do this, these two stories must be in opposition. Opposite - Directly or By Degree Charlie Chaplin said it a long time ago: “Comedy is two opposite ideas that collide.” This is true even today. In general terms, setups and punches are opposite either directly in the form of: good to bad; or by degree in the form of bad to worse. Good to Bad A joke based on the pattern of good



How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 7

My previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 6, covered how reinterpretations are either recognized or invented. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 7, I’ll show how the target assumption and reinterpretation are two interpretations of the central mechanism, the connector. Connector At the center of joke structure is a third mechanism which I call the connector, defined as one thing interpreted in at least two ways. Interpreting the connector in one way provides the target assumption, and interpreting it in another supplies the reinterpretation. Take this Emo Phillips joke, “One day I had an asthmatic attack. These three asthmatics jumped me.” The target assumption is that he had bout of wheezing and shortness of breath due to his asthma; the reinterpretation is that he actually got beat up by three guys who have asthma. The connect



How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 6

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 5, I defined the reinterpretation and its place in joke structure. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 6, I’ll discuss how to recognize or invent reinterpretations. Where Do Reinterpretations Come From? First, you must understand that everything has many possible alternative interpretations or meanings. Any interpretation or meaning other than the one assumed based on the setup, is a reinterpretation. For instance, I’ve seen several comics do the sight gag of pretending to be on a beach, and then use the microphone stand as if it’s a metal detector. The target assumption is that the pole with the round thing on the end is for holding a microphone; and the reinterpretation is that the pole with the round thing on the end is a metal detector. Reinterpretations come from the kind of mind that notices what is assumed, and then uncove



How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 5

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 4, I covered the setup mechanism of target assumption, which causes misdirection. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 5, I’ll define the punch’s mechanism, the reinterpretation, which reveals surprise. Reinterpretation We know that the setup creates an expectation when the audience builds a 1st story by making assumptions; the punch then shatters a key assumption (the target assumption) and reveals a 2nd story. The punch does this by presenting an unexpected interpretation of something in the setup. This unexpected interpretation I call the reinterpretation. The reinterpretation must adhere to two rules described below. 1. The reinterpretation is the idea upon which the punch’s 2nd story is based. Just as the target assumption creates the 1st story, the reinterpretation creates the 2nd story. Take this joke for example:



How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 4

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 3, I revealed that when an audience hears a setup, they imagine a 1st story in their minds based on making assumptions. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 4, I show how one particular assumption creates the misdirection of the setup. Target Assumption In every setup, there’s one particular assumption I call the target assumption. What sets the target assumption apart from the other assumptions that create the 1st story is that it fulfills two criteria. 1. The target assumption is the key assumption on which the 1st story is built. Of all the assumptions you must make to imagine a story, one key assumption gives the 1st story its specific meaning. That is to say, if you don’t make that key or target assumption, you’ll imagine a very different story than the one required to make the joke work. Take this old joke for example: “I



How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 3

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 2, I showed how every joke has two stories imagined in the audiences mind by making assumptions. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 3, I’ll reveal the role of assumptions in joke structure. What Exactly Is an Assumption? I’m sorry, I assumed you knew. An assumption can be any thought based on taking something for granted, presupposing, conjecturing, presuming, forecasting, projecting onto, theorizing about, speculating upon, or accepting that something is as it’s always been. If that doesn’t help, here’s my definition of assumption: Everything you imagine exists, but aren’t directly perceiving in the present is an assumption. “That’s deep,” you might think. But it’s true. Anything you currently cannot see, hear, feel, taste, or smell exists only as an assumption. The chances are that it does



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