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 your punch lines and shown to be wrong. Here are some examples of target assumptions:

Setup (good): “Post workers are actually very efficient…”

Target Assumption: They are efficient at handling the mail.

And.

Setup (bad) “My post person delivers my letters to my neighbors.”

Target Assumption: The neighbors are within a few houses or blocks of your house.

Next, you need to recognize what in the setup caused you to make the target assumption. This will be your connector and will be in the form of who, what, when, where, why, or how. For instance:

Setup (good): “Post workers are actually very efficient…”

Target Assumption: They are efficient at handling the mail.

Connector: What the post workers are efficient at.

And.

Setup (bad) “My post person delivers my letters to my neighbors.”

Target Assumption: The neighbors are within a few houses or blocks of your house.

Connector: Where the neighbors are.

Now identify or invent an unexpected interpretation of the connector which will be your reinterpretation. The reinterpretation will be your idea for the punch lines. You must keep the target assumption and reinterpretation consistent. Which is to say, if the target assumption is a what, then the reinterpretation also needs to be a what.  A who for a who; a where for a where, and so forth. Follow the progression below:

Setup (good): “Post workers are actually very efficient…”

Target Assumption: They are efficient at handling the mail.

Connector: What the post workers are efficient at.

 

What else could the postal workers be efficient with?

Reinterpretation: Guns.

And.

Setup (bad) “My post person delivers my letters to my neighbors.”

Assumption: The neighbors are located within a few houses or blocks of where you live.

Connector: Where the neighbor are.

 

Where is a neighbor that is not within a few houses or blocks?

Reinterpretation: a neighboring country like Canada or Mexico.

Now you can write punch lines using the idea of the reinterpretations. You may need to add a little information to the reinterpretation so the punch lines clearly expresses it, but remember that punch lines are short. So don’t overwrite it. Here are the examples again, now with punch lines:

Setup (good): “Post workers are actually very efficient…”

Target Assumption: They are efficient at handling the mail.

Connector: What the post workers are efficient at.

What else could the postal workers be efficient with?

Reinterpretation: Guns.

 

Punch (bad): “With guns.”

Joke: “Post workers are actually very efficient…with guns.”

And.

Setup (bad) “My post person delivers my letters to my neighbors.”

Assumption: The neighbors are located within a few houses or blocks of where you live.

Connector: Where the neighbor are.

Where is a neighbor that is not within a few houses or blocks?

Reinterpretation: a neighboring country like Canada or Mexico.

 

Punch (worse): “In Mexico.”

Joke: “My post person delivers my letters to my neighbors…in Mexico.”

Here’s the interesting thing: these punch lines are examples of the joke premise: postal workers are incompetent. This isn’t something you have to think about because it should happen naturally by using the joke mechanisms of target assumption, connector, and reinterpretation. This process makes the illogic of jokes logically understandable. Now you can write jokes at will.

BTW

• My advanced stand-up comedy classes have a showcase at the Comedy Store in Hollywood on Wed. March 20th. Join us.

• Free Comedy Class Monday April 1st. stand-upcomedy.com

• I didn’t smoke a cigar while writing this blog.

Live to Laugh,

Greg Dean

Stand Up Comedy Classes#gregdeancomedy@gregdeancomedyYelp ReviewsYouTube

 

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