Tag Archives: how to write a joke

2 Specialty Tips for Writing Jokes


Writing jokes is the grunt work of being a funny person. Anything that helps make it easier is always useful. Here are two tips for writing jokes: Calendar Day Jokes Writing jokes and bits for all of the important calendar dates such as Christmas, Halloween, Secretary’s Day, Black History Month, etc. is a very helpful tip for building a repertoire of material. For instance, Will Durst, who lives in the Bay Area, can always call on this joke: “In San Francisco, Halloween is redundant.” An Mexican born student, Maria G. Martinez, studied with me for several years, so every Christmas she’s pull out this ditty: “Here in America, you have so many Santa Clauses. But in Mexico we have no Santa Claus - they are all here looking

Secrets of Setup and Punch

Do your jokes snap like a rubber band?


To get an audience to think or to respond are two very different functions for creating a setup and punch material. Most funny people never make this distinction when constructing setup and punch because they don't understand the mental dynamics between thinking and responding. I propose that for a joke to be most effective, a setup should cause the audience to think, and the punch should elicit an instant respond. To get the audience to think and then respond is much like someone aiming a rubber band at someone’s arm. This causes the person being aimed at to think about the impending assault, which creates tension. When the rubber band is released, the impact causes an instant response. Just like a good setup and punch. With one-liners, the function of the setup is to get the au

The Ultimate Comedy Secret to Success

Tag it or bag it.


One of the most important and powerful comedy secret in a comedian’s arsenal to get laughs is the Tag. A tag is punch after a punch without a new setup. For instance this Jerry Seinfeld joke: Setup: “Bozo the Clown. Do we really need ‘the Clown’? Are we going to confuse him with…” Punch: “Bozo the Tax Attorney?” Tag1: “Bozo the Pope?” Notice how Seinfeld created a clear Setup and Punch, and then added another Punch that didn’t require a new Setup. By not using a new Setup, he was able to get two laughs off the original Setup. This is how Tags work. This comedy secret doesn’t have to stop there. When doing story telling comedy, the story is the through line of the routine, but it can be constructed with a Setup, Punch,

2 Writing Tips to Make Any Show Funnier

WTF = Write The Funny


There are several writing tip professional comedians know that can punch up a show. They have certain cues within a show or script and are easy to implement. Wrting Tips 1: Use “K” Words The hard consonant sounds, especially “K,” which include hard “C” and “Qu” and, to a lesser extent, “T”, “P”, hard “G”, “D” and “B,” tend to be funnier. Using words with hard consonants, instead of synonyms with softer sounds can really improve a joke. Yes, I’m perfectly aware that this seems a little silly, but it happens to be true. Most comics who’ve been in the business long enough will tell you the same thing. “Words with a “K” in them are funny.” - Neil Simon For instance

WTF Are You Talking About?

Jokes without shared knowledge.


If the audience doesn't understand what you’re talking about, they won’t laugh. When a certain word or reference is crucial to the understanding of a joke, you must consider whether it’s familiar to your audience. Sometimes you’ll need to use a more familiar alternative. For example, take this classic Woody Allen joke about his rabbi: "He opened a discotheque with his colleagues. Topless rabbis. No skullcaps.” Woody Allen, of course, knew the little round caps Jewish men wear are called yarmulkes. But since he was also aware some people in his audience wouldn’t know that word. So, he uses the word “skullcap,” which is self-explanatory. If there’s a reference or information that’s crucial to your joke which is not in the common realm of knowledge and has no convenient alt

How to Kill a Laugh – Part 2 (No Joke)

Is bad joke writing technique making you the air brakes of comedy?


In my previous blog, How to Kill a Laugh - Part 1, I defined the joke reveal and showed the importance of placing it at the end of every joke’s punch. In this blog, How to Kill a Laugh - Part 2, I’ll describe two ways punches get screw up and how to fix them. Unnecessary words are said after the joke reveal. Talking past the reveal is one of the most common and irritating errors. Two issues here: one, a nervous funny person adds mindless prattle beyond where the joke gets a laugh. Solution: Shut up when the audience is laughing. Second, the joke is badly written with superfluous words added past the punch’s reveal. Here’s an example written by a gay student,

Lessons from Comedy for Business

Are you missing what's right in front of you?


I’ve taught stand-up comedy for more than three decades. There are lessons I’ve learned about being funny that also apply to other aspects of life. But often we just don’t think to use them when we're not performing. For example, here’s something I teach my students: Do the show that’s in front of you … not the one in your head. I know this lesson very well because I remind my students of it in almost every class. Yet, I don’t always apply it in other contexts. Like the time I designed for my wife and me a wonderful week-long jaunt up the California coast, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I’d spent a great deal of time on research and booking B&Bs, remote cabins, and cliff side hotels. Alas, when we got to our first stop, San Luis Obispo, the car broke down. It was on a Saturday evening. The closest car repair shop couldn’t get the required part until Monday and our car wouldn’t be fixed until Tuesday. I was upset and frustr

Assumptions and Joke Writing – Part 3 – Greg Dean Comedy Tips 10


  In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 2, I explained how understanding assumptions lead to uncovering more joke mechanisms. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 3, I’ll discuss the mechanism between the target assumption and reinterpretation, and how this lead to creating my original joke writing system The Joke Prospector. Greg Dean Comedy Tips 10: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 3 After a year of teaching joke structure wi

Assumptions and Joke Writing – Part 2 – Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9


  In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 1, I showed the process I went through to understand the assumption’s role in joke structure. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 2, I’ll explain how assumptions lead to uncovering corresponding joke mechanism in the punch. Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9:

Assumptions and Joke Writing – Part 1 – Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8


In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 7: Understanding Joke Misdirection - Part 3, I examined how misdirection works with Existing Information Jokes in the Immediate Environment. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 1, I’ll demonstrate the role of assumptions in all jokes. Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 1 When I became a stand-up comedy teacher in 1982, I had a c

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