How To Write a Joke in 5 Steps
There’s a formula to most jokes. There is a Setup and a Punchline. The Setup creates the context for the Punchline… the mechanism that makes you laugh. You need both in place in order to laugh. You also need to set them up in that order. Setup, then punchline.
Example: His name is Papa John. – Not Funny. But it’s a punchline. Why didn’t you laugh? No context.
Example 2: I’m Fat. I blame my father. – There might be a giggle here if you deliver it properly, but make no mistake. This is not a joke. It’s a setup. It’s context.
Example 3: I’m Fat. I blame my father mostly. You might have met him. His name is Papa John. – It’s simple, concise, effective and it’s mine. It passes as a joke for the sake of this exercise and always creates a laugh on stage. You’ll notice that only when we put the setup and punchline together does it create a joke.
Here’s 5 easy steps to writing a joke.
- Create a Premise or Idea. Something you find interesting. “I hate carrots.” or “A signature doesn’t seem official enough.” Most joke writers get stuck because they don’t believe their premise is clever or funny. That’s okay. It doesn’t need to be. In fact. It’s better if it isn’t. Make any statement you want, then spend your time on steps 2 and 3 to make the funny.
- Brainstorm why your statement is true. – Use real opinions, facts, research, puns or any other associative reasoning that makes your statement true. Get weird and let go. It’s true to an audience if you believe it’s possible. Don’t let facts get in the way of funny.
- Edit your Brainstorm – Find the most unique or funny justifications in your brainstorm and add it to the end of your premise as a punchline.
- Try It Out – You never know if a joke is funny until you tell it to someone. Social media, work, friends, family or stage are great places to figure it out.
- Try it Again – Repeat and adjust.
Most importantly, remember that a premise is not a joke and punchline has no meaning without context. Most new comics will try to pass premises as jokes and if you can move past that, you’re already 6 months ahead of the game. I hope this helps. Let us know if it did.
If you get an itch to take this further and try stand up comedy, we always have new classes starting. If you don’t live in the area, we offer virtual coaching anywhere in the world. Contact us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org