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How to Remember Jokes and Really be Funy

Updated on December 10, 2009

Knowing how to make people laugh is a fantastic skill that helps us make friends, lighten up a tense atmosphere, woo a girl, or enjoy life in general.  Nothing is more rewarding than telling a joke or making a comment that make others laugh.  Nothing is worse than telling a joke or making a comment we think funny and hearing the silence that follow.

Sometimes is very difficult for some of us to be funny.  Some times we forget what’s funny about the joke we intended to tell, or we simply don’t have a clue how to create a joke, or how to create a funny comment.  

To this day we don’t know why human’s laugh.  Some people think it’s probably the surprise connection of two illogical thoughts which causes a neural misfiring in the higher cortex—the frontal lobes of the brain—creating a unique reaction in the limbic system resulting in an intense feeling of enjoyment, but that doesn’t even sound funny so what do they know.

Here is the shocking truth.  There are only seven situations, or elements, that make us laugh and which constitute the basis of all jokes.  Every joke is derived from these seven situations.  Identify what make the joke funny (situation or element) and you will remember the joke.  Remember what makes the joke funny and you’ll remember how to tell it or be able to create your own jokes or funny comments.  These seven elements are what makes us laugh.

Exaggeration-- Exaggeration takes a situation and stretches it to the ridiculous. —“It was so cold in New York the Statue of Liberty was holding her torch under her skirt.”  “They used to photograph Shirley Temple through gauze.  They should photograph me through linoleum.”  “It was a blond, a blond to make a bishop kick a hole through a stained glass window.”

Understatement--The understatement goes the other way and compresses the point into the ridiculous. A man after watching his friend smash his thumb with a hammer, may say,  “I don’t think he’s happy.”  That his friend is not happy is an understatement, and it’s funny.

The Pun—A pun describes any time that you use the same word, but out of context.  Or substitute a word that’s so similar in sound that it’s almost indistinguishable.  “Where there's a will, there are five hundred relatives.”   “Take my wife, please.” “If you drink, don’t drive.  Don’t even putt.” “She’s the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong, by wrong.”

The Put-down—For some reason insulting other people make us laugh.  “Ralf always remembers his friends.” “Big deal, he only has two.”  In order to be more effective and funnier, the put-down should not be malicious and it and it is more effective when directed at oneself.  “My wife cut our lovemaking to once a month.  But I know two guys she cut out entirely.”  Jack Kennedy used a put-down when he brought the house down in 1952 at a Gridiron dinner.  There were rumors his father had bought his seat on the senate.  During the dinner Jack pulled a telegram sent by his father from his pocket and read, “Dear Jack: Don’t buy one vote more than necessary, I’ll be damn if I pay for a landslide.”

Silliness—Most American humor is base on put-downs.  Most British humor is based on Silliness.  Monty Python jokes are mostly silliness, so are Robin Williams’. “British policemen don’t wear guns.  They yell, ‘Stop!, or… I’ll yell stop again.”   “Last night I killed a lion in my pajamas.  How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.”

Surprise—“Did you hear that Uncle Harry wants to marry a 20-year-old girl?  Can you imagine that?  And he’s 80 years old!  I told him he’s a fool.  It could be fatal.  And he said, ‘If she dies, she dies.’”  This is funny because one moment we’re thinking one way and the next minute the punch line surprises us by going the opposite direction. “Last night, I lay in bed looking up at the stars in the sky and thought to myself, ‘Where the heck is the ceiling?’"     "Sex is one of the most wholesome, beautiful and natural experiences money can buy."   “I’m so afraid to get married.  A report I read says that   50% of marriages in America, 50%!, last for ever.”

The witticism—A spontaneous cross connection of two diverse thoughts.  There is a correlation between being witty and being smart.  You have to be fast in making the connection.  “How was work today?”  “Fantastic, 2 days without Human Rights Violations.” “If you can't see the bright side of life, polish the dull side.”  "It's not sex that sells, but symmetry"    "Sometimes whatever doesn't kill you...can really piss you off for a long time!"    “The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.”

Being witty and using exaggeration, the pun, the put-down, silliness, and the surprise is what makes funny people funny.  You can tell a joke and make them laugh, and that’s terrific, but if you want to be considered funny you must master the ability to fashion your own jokes and one-liners.  You want to tell a humorous story, tell it as if it were a joke.  Figure out what’s funny about the story, is it an exaggeration, a pun, a put-down, silliness or surprise.    Remember that a good joke involves a form of cleverness—a form of intelligence and that the punch-line must come to as close to the end as possible.

To develop your sense of humor get a book of jokes and study them.  Learn to distinguish between the seven humorous forms.  Try to remember what is funny about the joke and you’ll remember more jokes and will have the ability to create your own jokes.  To develop your wit, make it a habit of playing word association games in your head, as you listen to someone speak.  Sooner or later you will hear a word that will click when associated with another word and you will make a witty comment.  The only way to get good at it is to practice.  Practice your timing, your delivery, your choice of humorous form and you will develop a healthy sense of humor.  


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    • profile image

      Dan 5 years ago


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      eli 5 years ago

      I think that you are using silliness as a catch all for everything else you haven't put a label on yet. In fact you could break silliness into absurdity, ckwardliness, physical humor, lack of self awareness, etc

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      Prakash 5 years ago

      Nice article, i learned...

    • noelr profile image

      Noel Rodriguez 7 years ago from New York

      Sorry for taking so long to acknowledge your comment. While our families and environment can contribute to our sense of humor, it really depends on how the individual handles the information received. Two people from the same family living in the same environment may have totally different sense of humor. Using the guidelines listed can help anyone be perceive as funny.

      I agree about the put-downs. They're not my favorite either, neither is silliness. But when done well I sometimes laugh at both. Thanks for your comments.

    • TINA V profile image

      TINA V 7 years ago

      Nice Article. Just an add-on, I think that our family background and environment contribute for us to be funny. I also don't consider putting down people as being funny. Perhaps, in some ways but it is actually a sign of a person's insecurities. This is just an exchange of ideas. Have a great week!