In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 5: Joke Misdirection – Part 1, I’ll examine the role of misdirection in the function of all jokes. In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 4: Learn Joke Structure, I explained several advantages to knowing joke structure.
Misdirection is misunderstood because it’s most often only recognized in setups of one-liner jokes. I’ll begin there, and then move on to explain how it works in jokes using Shared Knowledge, instead of a performed setups.
One-liner jokes consist of two parts: setup and punch. The misdirection in one-liner jokes is created by something in joke’s setups which establishes a false expectation when the audience makes assumption about it. Only then can punches reveal a surprise. You can’t be surprised unless you’re expecting something else first. For instance, my friend Carrie Snow’s great joke:
“I married Mr. Right. Mr. Always Fucking Right.”
This is a very funny and elegant joke because it uses only a few words to create the setup’s misdirection. When she says, “I married Mr. Right,” we made the target assumption that “Mr. Right” meant the perfect man for her in every way. Without the audience accepting this assumption, the punch couldn’t have surprise us with, “Mr. Always Fucking Right.” This punch makes our original assumption wrong and reveals this guy as hard to get along with.
Misdirection is one of the primary tools in learning to write jokes, so spend the time until your really get this concept.
In my next blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 6: Joke Misdirection – Part 2, I’ll present the invisible ways of creating joke misdirection.