rewrite jokes

How to Re-Write Jokes: Setups – Fix 2

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rewrite jokes

In my previous article, How to Re-Write Jokes: Setups – Fix 1, I showed how setups can be overwritten by including an action or state of mind in the language. In this article, How to Re-Write Jokes: Setups – Fix 2, I’ll comb through the setup to find rationalizations and extraneous language.

Here’s the original setup:

“I’m very upset because last week my wife of 11 years eloped with my best pal.”

Let’s look at the next section of edited setup from Fix 1:

(UPSET) “Last week my wife of eleven years eloped with my best pal.”

For the setup to establish the target assumption – he misses his wife – does the audience need to know this happened “last week?” No. This is a classic time rationalization comedians add to enhance the reality of the joke. But it just clutters the setup with unnecessary information the audience will have to sift through to get the joke.

Using the new version, let’s check out the next phrase of the setup:

(UPSET) “My wife of eleven years eloped with my best pal.”

Does the phrase “my wife” need to be said? Yes. It’s part of what establishes the target assumption – he misses his wife. This is the first piece of language we’re keeping in the re-written setup.

Moving onto the next phrase of the setup:

(UPSET) “My wife of eleven years eloped with my best pal.”

Does the audience really need to know when his wife left him? No.  Since this phrase doesn’t help establish the target assumption – he missed his wife, it should be eliminated. It’s another time rationalization.

Now, here’s how the edited setup reads:

(UPSET) “My wife eloped with my best pal.”

That’s quite a difference. Setups only contain the language or actions needed to communicate the connector, hence that target assumption. Everything else should be edited out. Jokes are stripped down to their bare bones. Include only what is needed and nothing more.

In the next article How to Re-Write Jokes: Setups – Fix 3, I’ll discuss how changing words in the setup can create more possibilities for punches and tags.

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