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.
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, Robby Ravenwood.
“Do you know why gays are such good dressers? You try spending twenty years in the closet and see what happens to you.”
This is a great joke, but badly written. The wording “and see what happens to you,” has nothing to do with the joke and should be eliminated.
Here’s how Robby correctly phrased the punch ending with the reveal:
“Do you know why gays are such good dressers? You try spending twenty years in the closet.”
The word “closet” is the reveal, so anything beyond that only defuses the power of the punch.
Solution: identify the punch’s reveal and place it at end of the punch.
It’s imperative to identify the reveal. Otherwise it may get mixed up with less important information needed to make the joke work. Here’s an example where I’ve made one small alteration to the original joke to demonstrate my point.
“They have this new Fire & Theft Insurance. But only if your house is robbed while it’s burning do they pay.”
Do you know how to make this joke better? It ends with “do they pay,” which is an important phrase, but not as important as the reveal, “robbed while it’s burning.”
Here’s the original version with the more effective wording:
“They have this new Fire & Theft Insurance. But they only pay if your house is robbed while it’s burning.”
After comparing these two versions, it’s pretty clear that placing the reveal at the end gives the punch more punch.
Solution: Identify every punch’s reveal and place it at the end of the punch.
Of course, you won’t always be able to get the reveal into a single word or quick phrase at the very end of every joke. Do your best to get it as near to the end of the punch as possible still allowing for normal speech.
Now that you know about this technique, watch the stand-up comedy shows on TV and count how many times even professional comics muck up their own punches with improperly placed reveals. Then gloat over the fact that you know how to end your punches correctly.