How to Write Funnier Jokes

In this joke writing article, How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 5 – Make Punchlines More Negative, I’ll show how stand-up comedians increase the pain within jokes to get bigger laughs. This is another skill to practice as you write and rewrite your comedy routines.

Previously in this series of joke writing articles, you learned How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 1 – Make Setups and Punchlines Short, Tip 2 – End Punchlines with the Reveal, Tip 3 – Use K-Words to Enhance Punchlines, and Tip 4 – Localize Comedy Routines.

You are well on your way to writing funnier and funnier jokes.


How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 5 - Make Punchlines More Negative

Tip 5 – Make Punchlines More Negative

On an unconscious level most comedians and comedy writers know this technique, yet it’s not often explicitly stated or taught. We laugh at someone else’s pain, so if we can ratchet up the pain, it’s more likely to get a bigger laugh because the negative consequences are more intense.

 Here’s a joke by my student Aaron Thompson who was a police officer when he took my classes. Since, he’s transitioned into a full-time comedian. 

 Aaron: “I was on a walking patrol when a drug addict ran up to me.”

Addict: “Officer, stop that man.”

Aaron: “Why?”

Addict: “He stole my drugs.” (laugh)
Aaron: “Where’d you get them?”
Addict: “It was a present.” (laugh)
Aaron: “From who?”
Addict: “My drug dealer.” (laugh)

The stand-up comedy routine was already getting laughs by acting out the scene and playing the character. I made a note, so when Aaron sat back down, I gave him kudos for writing a funny bit. Then I used the technique: make punchlines more negative.

I pointed out the specific places in the funny story where he might push the laughs by finding more negative consequences.

1. Addict: “He stole my drugs.”
Though this got a good laugh I wanted him and the class to search for a specific and worse drug. After a bit of class banter, I suggested “crack.” It’s a worse drug and it’s a K-word.

2. Addict: “It was a present.”
This also got a laugh, yet I knew it could be funnier if it was more specific and negative. After some discussion someone said, “It was baby shower present.” Very inappropriate.

3. Addict: “My drug dealer.”
Again, a really good laugh, but I wanted to see if we could bump it up a bit. This took a bit longer as we went through, “wife, grandmother, priest, doctor,” and more, until Jake Gallo said, “His AA sponsor.” The class went into a fit of laughter for a minute or so. That was so ironic and terrible, it was perfect.

Here’s the rewrite:

Aaron: “I was on a walking patrol when a drug addict ran up to me.”
Addict: “Officer, stop that man.”
Aaron: “Why?”
Addict: “He stole my crack.” (laugh)
Aaron: “Where’d you get it?”
Addict: “It’s a baby shower gift.” (laugh)
Aaron: “From who?”
Addict: “My sponsor.” (laugh)

All three of these examples are basically the same jokes, yet they got more robust laughs when performed. Not an accident, but the willful construction of a funnier stand-up comedy routine by simply using this technique.

My job as a stand-up comedy teacher was to point out this joke writing technique to show everyone in the joke writing portion of my class how to punch-up the jokes of this funny story. BTW this is a common occurrence in my stand-up comedy classes as I often use this technique to make punchlines get better laughs.

Comedy Writing Practice:

Search your jokes and routines to find circumstances that can be given more negative results. Sift through the wording of every sentence to uncover that moment that could explode into a much bigger laugh just by making it more negative. Same basic jokes with bigger laughs.

In this joke writing article, How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 5 – Make Punchlines More Negative, you learn to search for the aspects of jokes you can add more negative consequences to get more laughter from the same stand-up comedy routine.

In the next joke writing article, How to Write Funnier Jokes: Tip 6 – To Pun or Not to Pun, you’ll learn how to turn puns that get groans into stand-up comedy jokes that get big laughs.


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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