Funny is as funny does.
I’ve heard many times the greatest jokes reveal some truth. I agree, yet there’s more to it if you want to convey a message. For decades, I’ve been using jokes and funny stories to make a point in life, classrooms, and business.
Here’s how you can do the same.
Collect Jokes and Joke Books
I’ve got a huge collection of joke books. Many of them are out of print and must be found in used book stores in the humor section. Classic ones like Milton Berle’s Joke File to Judy Brown’s series of books quoting famous comedian.
I set a joke book in my restroom and when I take a moment, I read a few jokes in passing. Just using this method, I’ve read dozens of joke books. The idea is to have joke books around to read at any spare time. You’ll need to read hundreds of jokes to find the ones whic
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
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
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,
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
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
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:
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
In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 6: Understanding Joke Misdirection – Part 2, I explained the role of misdirection in Common Knowledge Jokes. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 7: Understanding Joke Misdirection – Part 3, I’ll examine how misdirection works with Existing Information Jokes in the Immediate Environment.
Greg Dean Comedy Tip 7:
In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 5: Joke Misdirection - Part 1, I explained the role of misdirection in jokes. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 6: Joke Misdirection – Part 2, I’ll examine how misdirection works with Existing Information jokes from Common Knowledge.
Greg Dean Comedy Tip 6:
Understanding Misdirection – Part 2