How to Write Funnier Jokes

One important aspect of stand-up comedy is knowing how to write funnier jokes than other comedians. With that in mind, here’s a professional comedian’s insider tip on how to write funnier jokes.

“In stand-up comedy, you strip out everything except what serves the joke.” – Patton Oswald.

One of the best ways to better joke setups and punchlines is to keep it short. When you are editing your jokes, try to cut out any unnecessary words. Every word should serve a purpose. The vast majority of jokes are only a couple of sentences long. Any longer and you risk losing your audience’s attention. If a word does not help advance the joke, cut it out.

How to Write Funnier Jokes

The setup’s function is to misdirect the audience into believing a false narrative. Once that is accomplished, the setup is done. Any added information clutters up this function. The punchline’s function is to communicate an idea that’s compatible with the setup’s narrative, but completely unexpected.

For instance, this overwritten setup and punchline.

 Setup: “As a single parent, I’m raising two mixed-up teenage boys that cause me no end of trouble. Running away is one of the many problems that I face every single day and I’m always afraid it’s going to happen.”

Punch: “But I don’t run away from them. I stay because I’m their only parent.”

 Good idea for a joke, but it contains too much unneeded information. Here’s a shorter version

 Setup: “As a single parent, I’m raising two teenagers. So running away is a problem.”

Punch: “But I don’t.”

 It only contains the information to make the joke work. Setup idea: teenagers might run away. Punchline Idea: parent doesn’t run away. Anything else makes the audience work too hard to figure it out.

 Joke Writing Technique: Ask Questions

Often when someone writes a good idea for a joke, they stop working on it. The basic joke is just the beginning of the comedian’s process to write funnier jokes. Too much information in a joke slows down the audience’s mental process of figuring out the joke.

 To remove the irrelevant wording and information, go through every word and phrase and ask: “Do I really need to say that for the joke to work?” 

 If the answer is “Yes,” then leave it in. Then move onto the next word or phrase. Ask the question. If the answer is “No,” then remove it. Then rewrite the joke without the unnecessary words or phrases. Continue this process all the way through the setup and punchline of the joke.

 When you’re done, go through every word and phrase of the joke setup and punchline again and ask basically the same question. Then do it again. Then do it again, until there is no information except what’s needed for the joke to work.

 A shorter joke is almost always funnier than a longer joke because the audience doesn’t have to sift through superfluous verbiage to get the joke. You never want the audience to have to figure out more than they need to before they laugh.

 In this comedy technique article you’ve learned How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 1 – Make Setups and Punchlines Short. In the next joke writing technique article you’ll learn: How to Write Funnier Jokes:Tip 2 – End Punchlines with the Reveal.

Greg Dean’s Stand Up Comedy Classes

Greg teaches his techniques in two classes.  The first is called “How to Build a Stand Up Comedy Routine” and is the beginning class (also called the “101 class”) and the “Advanced Joke Writing & Performing Class” (also known as the “201 class”). 

Even though these classes are named a beginning and advanced,  they are actually classes that stand up comedians of any number of years of experience can take.  They are beginning and advanced in the Greg Dean system.  If you’re interested in faster and better ways to create good jokes and you want to dive deeper on joke writing then you’ll want to take both of these classes.

Greg teaches his classes live in Santa Monica as well as live on zoom.  If you are in the greater Los Angeles area, you can sign up for his classes at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  Check our Calendar of Events to see all upcoming classes.  Calendar of Events

In addition to his live classes in Santa Monica and on zoom, Greg also teaches joke writing via his on demand platform.  One of his most popular classes is “Joke Writing Made Simple”.  This class can be done in your own time, and at your own pace.  You can find out more about this class here:


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