How to Write Funnier Jokes

In this comedy writing article, How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 10 – Act Out the Comedy Scenes, I’ll explain how learning to identify, write and act out the scenes make your jokes and routines funnier.

Previously in this series, “How to Write Funnier Jokes” you’ve learned:

  • Tip 1 – Make Setups and Punchlines Short,
  • Tip 2 – End Punchlines with the Reveal,
  • Tip 3 – Use K-Words to Enhance Punchlines,
  • Tip 4 – Localize Comedy Routines,
  • Tip 5 – Make Punchlines More Negative,
  • Tip 6 – To Pun or Not to Pun,
  • Tip 7 – Eliminate Comic’s Cliches, and
  • Tip 8 – Improve Material Using Specifics to become a better joke writer, create original stand-up comedy routines, and get even bigger laughs.
  • Tip 9 – Make the Joke about You

This Complete “How to Write Funnier Jokes” series will help you be a better comedy writer as you apply these techniques to your stand-up comedy jokes and routines.

How to Write Funnier Jokes Tip 10

There are many styles of jokes. For this comedy writing article, let me begin by discussing one-liner jokes. First, it’s an oxymoron as one-liner jokes usually have at least two lines.

For instance, this Stephen Wright joke,

“Cop pulled me over and said, ‘Didn’t you see that stop sign?’ I said, ‘Yes, but I don’t believe everything I read.’”

There’s a scene in this joke, but Wright doesn’t act it out, instead he tells us what the cop said and what he himself said. It’s not presented as a comedy scene with a two-person dialogue. This is the traditional style of delivering one-liner jokes.

Yet, there’s a comedy scene in this joke that could be acted out. This is where the skill set needed to tell funny stories expands.

Tip 10 – Act Out the Comedy Scenes

These skills begin with the ability to hear or read a joke and decipher a comedy scene. When is the comedian setting up the scene? Who are those in the scene? Where does it take place? What are they discussing?

It’s even more than this as it opens Pandora’s joke box of psychology, sociology, relationship dynamics, intents, actions, space and object work, and the ability to portray this simple comedy scene.

Write Out the Joke as a Scene

Keep this simple. The idea is to lay out the joke to identify when the comedian is setting up the scene and what the scene is about and what’s being said.

For instance, it almost always begins with the comedian telling the audience a story which includes a scene:

“Cop pulled me over and said,”

 Then the scene:

 Cop: “Didn’t you see that stop sign.”

Comedian: “Yes, but I don’t believe everything I read.”

 Setup Up the Scene

The action starts with the comedian explaining to the audience what’s happening in the scene. It’s imperative the comedian knows the difference between when he’s talking to the audience to set up the scene and when he’s in the scene. This is the reason to write out the joke as a scene.

Portray the Character

In this case, it’s important to define where the cop is standing. Which is over the left shoulder looking down at the comedian sitting in the car.

Knowing the cop’s dialogue, decide if the cop is nice, mean, bored, or hostile? Is the cop male, female, black, white, Latino, Asian, etc.? All of these things will determine how the scene unfolds to express the joke. Otherwise, what’s the point of acting out the scene?

Then enact the cop saying the line from the joke:

“Didn’t you see that stop sign?”

Stage the Interaction

Next, the comedian in the scene is sitting in the driver’s seat of the car looking over his left shoulder at the standing cop just outside the window.

This seems obvious, yet many people get this wrong by having the cop standing on the right side of the car and the comedian looking over his right shoulder. They’re facing the wrong direction, unless of course you’re getting a ticket in England.

The downside to getting the staging wrong is that if the audience notices a mistake in the reality of the scene, they’ll fixate on that and stop paying attention to the performance.

This space work must be done correctly in the rehearsal, so the cop needs to be facing right looking down at the comedian seated in the car. Also, with the comedian sitting in the car looking over his left shoulder at the cop standing outside the driver’s window.

Next, we cheat: the comedian slightly bends his knees to pretend to be sitting in the driver’s seat and maybe holding onto the steering wheel. To address the cop the comedian looks up and to the left. If the eyeline is directly sideways that means the cop is a little person or kneeling, which violates the reality of the scene. You’ve gotta get this right.

Develop the Relationship

Now psychology kicks in because the comedian is going to say to the cop:

“Yes, but I don’t believe everything I read.”

Why would the comedian talk this way to a cop who can give him a ticket? What kind of mood or reason would the comedian have for saying such a thing?

One-liners are joke delivery, so saying that line simply completes the joke. But when telling a story joke with a scene, it’s not that simple. These two are really talking to each other and if the reactions aren’t realistic the audience might judge it as fake.

In storytelling the humor comes not just from the jokes, but from the situation and how the characters think and interact. If the audiences don’t accept it as believable, then they’ll focus on the poor performance. This can diminish or even kill the laugh.

The comedian must find and perform the proper state of mind so this line is believable, and the audience can enjoy the humor.

It’s time to experiment. Think about it. Try different kinds of comments, Change the attitude or emotion. Play around until the line feels like an authentic and honest response. If this is done right, this will elevate this joke to another level of funny.

As If in the Present

For the audience, when a comedy scene is acted out, it’s as if this moment is happening in the present. These two people are having a real, if not antagonistic conversation.

The scene makes a better performance as the audience gets to watch the comedian act. When the comedian portrays the cop and we recognize that character as real, then we can laugh at someone in authority being bested. The reactions of the cop and the comedian make the joke and routine funnier.

*     *     *

In this joke and routine writing article, How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 10 – Act Out the Comedy Scenes, you’ve learned when a scene in a joke is acted out it reveals the personalities of the comedian and the characters, brings out their interactions and develops a relationship, and creates the illusion that this moment is happening in the present, all which contribute to making the jokes and comedy routines funnier.

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” (also called the “Level 1”) and the second is “Writing a show & Performing” (also known as the “Level 2 class”).

Even though these classes are named a Level 1 and Level 2,  they are actually classes that stand up comedians of any number of years of experience can take.  They are the two classes taught sequentially 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.

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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