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How to tell a Funny Joke 2.0

Updated on February 28, 2017

What is a joke?

A one-liner, 3 liner, or even a one minute tale. If you are able to say it well, a funny joke will delight each listener and bring a broad smile. Today, in our hectic schedule, stress, worries and anxiety have become a part of our life. Laughter is the best way to release anxiety, tension, worry and boredom – and a good joke is the best way to achieve this.

Telling jokes is actually an art but every one might not do this well. Some people are born talented but for others, it is all about hard work and good practice. Nothing can be as satisfying as bringing a smile to someone’s face.

Why tell a joke?

Jokes are a great tool to use in a variety of situations, and can singlehandedly change a heavy, tense, or depressing atmosphere into a much lighter one. Heck, you can make friends with jokes, and even impress the ladies(or guys).

The human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter.

— Mark Twain

Do you have what it takes? To be the best? Like no one ever was?

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What it takes

Jokes are a very simple thing, yet at the same time they are very complex. You see comedians on TV that get paid big $$ just to tell jokes, surely you can do the same. That's where you'd run into your first obstacle. Though it looks easy, a lot of thought and planning goes into jokes before they are told. Those comedians you see up on stage, they've spent days, if not weeks beforehand creating and perfecting those jokes they tell.

Therefore, the 'art' of joke telling can be broken down into sections. All of which I'll be talking about in detail.

Audience:

  • Who are you telling the joke to?
  • Who else may hear the joke?
  • What kinds of things do you think they might find funny?
  • What are things you probably shouldn't joke about near them?

Situation/Environment:

  • Where are you?
  • Where is your audience?
  • There is a time and place, and surrounded by wolves is not one of them.

Timing:

  • Use the situation to your advantage.
  • Create your own situation.
  • Keep an eye out for Flash Situation.

Relevance:

  • No point in joking about something that happened months ago.
  • Current world affairs are ripe for the picking.

Delivery:

  • Proper vocal tone, and speech.
  • Body language and physical actions.
  • Going in for the kill, the Punchline.

Working at the Meat counter in a grocery store, last Halloween I put some blood on my name tag. I've left it there all this time for one simple reason: when someone asks how it got there, I lean in close while looking both ways to make sure no one else is in hearing range, then whisper “Brandon fought back” and step back with a confident smirk.

Audience

Without further adieu, let us jump right into the thick of things.

Who am I telling the joke to?

This is the first, and possibly most important question to ask yourself. Knowing your audience is of prime importance whenever you choose to tell a joke. The length of the joke and the content, everything is selected keeping in mind the audience. For example, something might be hilarious to a 19 year college student, may not make a 75 year old crack a simile let alone laugh. Taking into account the age group, gender, and ethnicity are all important factors to consider as well.

Bare in mind, everyone's different, however there are a few 'rules' that can give you a good basis for the ideal audience and joke:

  • Crude jokes are not usually appreciated by the elders.
  • If your audience has a large number of women, stay away from misogynist jokes. If there are children in your audience, you should be careful about the content too.
  • People usually do not enjoy jokes which make fun of their ethnicity or culture.
  • Jokes of specific specialized knowledge are suitable for only a specific section of people who possess complete knowledge on the subject.
  • Learn a bit about your audience, their age group and preferences before you tailor your jokes.

Who else may hear the joke?

Unless you're on stage, or in the middle of nowhere, chances are that people who aren't included within you audience are within ear shot. Because of this, it's important to keep them in mind as well. Trust me, making a sexist jab near a feminist rally is like poking a tiger with a stick.

Try to keep you volume under control, the hilarity levels of a joke don't depend on how much you scream or whisper.

What kinds of things do you think they might find funny?

As stated above, the things that college students laugh at may not be the same things the elderly may laugh at. Everyone has their own sense of humor, so yes, some elderly may laugh at that Facebook post about cats and teenage girls, but to each their own. This is where really knowing their outlooks on life, political standpoint, and religious views really comes into play.

It can also prevent you from possibly getting your butt kicked out of a building, or just kicked in general.

What are things you probably shouldn't joke about near them?

This leads from knowing what they'd find funny. Often life, politics, and religion are the go-to for making jokes. Naturally however those exact topics are also the ones most likely to have the opposite effect should you use one in the wrong crowd.

The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how much I play, I’ll never be as good as a wall. I played a wall once. They’re relentless.

— Mitch Hedburg

Situation/Environment

Next on the list.

Where are you?

Much like the audience, choosing, or simply being at a particular location can make or break a joke. As one would expect, their is a time and place for everything. Making graveyard jokes in a cemetery is not one of them.

Where is your audience?

More than likely, they are in the same room or area as you are. This said, much like my point above, it's simply a case of ensuring that the environment is appropriate for a joke. Something else that I've found, is the benefit of using 'Trap Jokes'. A Trap Joke is a joke that runs on auto, has dozens of uses, and doesn't even need you present. A basic example would be writing in a bathroom stall something like 'that isn't poo', or for a good time call '1-800-suicide hotline', etc. Trap Jokes are laid out and set for unsuspecting victims.

There is a time and place, and surrounded by wolves is not one of them.

As I beat the dead horse, knowing when and where a certain joke will get you in trouble is critical. If you fail at this, you're going to have a horrible time and nobody will think of you as funny, just as an asshole.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling down because nothing seems to be going right, I like to take a home pregnancy test. Then I can say, "Hey, at least I'm not pregnant."

— Daniel Tosh

Timing

Use the situation to your advantage

Everyday, everywhere you go, can provide fountains of material for your use. Being able to see and notice these material events, is very important as a comedian. Jokes have natural rhythms and this is what differentiates a good joke from a bad joke. Sometimes, the punchline asks for a pause – you need to pause comfortably. The pause should be well calculated. It shouldn’t be too short or too long. You shouldn’t also go on to the next line, when the audience is still laughing or else they might miss the second line essence, as they will not be able to hear. Many people make this mistake – they rush to complete the rest of the lines, but sadly the audience misses, because they are still enjoying the last line. At the same time, pause shouldn’t be too long too or else the audience will get bored and you might not have their full attention.

Create your own situation.

Sometimes, a situation doesn't naturally appear, thus it becomes necessary to create one yourself. Creating a situation can vary, sometimes it's as simple as talking to someone, other times you have to actually setup a more complex event just to get that priceless joke in.

Keep an eye out for Flash Situations.

What is a Flash Situation? Why it's a situation that appears and disappears in the blink of an eye. These situations happen in an instant, so it's very easy to miss them, but, should you catch one, it'll make the joke even funnier.

A young lady and a handsome man were traveling in the same carriage of the train. They were completely strangers and exchanged just a few smiles, in the awkwardness of having the share the same sleeping carriage. The lady chose the top bunk and the gentleman made himself comfortable in the lower one.

Close to midnight, the lady leans a bit and says ‘ It is terribly cold, can you please pass me one extra blanket?’

The man obviously excited replied with beaming eyes ‘Why not… I have a nice idea. Why not pretend to be married?’

The lady surprised and perhaps pleased replied ‘why not’?

“Good,” the man replied

“Come down and take your own blanket.”

Relevance

No point in joking about something that happened months ago.

The expression 'beating a dead horse' refers to simply rehashing an old event, story, or joke. Although some jokes retain their hilarity for weeks, maybe even months, eventually it will get old. Likewise, bringing up a funny situation or event from the past many times, to the same person(people) will also water down the joke. It's important to keep relevance in mind when you think of bringing up an old situation or joke.

Current world affairs are ripe for the picking.

Like I'd mentioned in an earlier section, materiel is everywhere, you just have to know where to look. Even if it isn't something that you've directly encountered, world affairs and politics can be used as well. England had a riot? Police and rioters fought each other with water guns and silly string? Great! Take something from it! Some American politician just made a huge mess? Use it!

Jokes cannot be funny, until there are some elements of truth subtly hidden in them. This is how your audience shall relate to the situation and have a good laugh. If you are saying something ridiculous, but they are not able to relate to it, the joke isn’t going to surprise them. Humor is actually a paradox. If you wish to tell a funny joke successfully, you need to start in a casual and serious note and then change your tone completely in the end.

Do you think God gets stoned? I think so . . . look at the platypus.

— Robin Williams

Delivery

Proper vocal tone, and speech.

Telling a good joke is often much like acting. You have to show confidence while telling it, otherwise the effect of it may lessen or vanish altogether. Of course, their are exceptions. If your joke calls for you to say it while acting shy or nervous, then go for it. Often times, what even makes a joke funny, or as funny as it ends up being, is simply it's delivery.

Body language and physical actions.

How should you act while telling the joke? Well ask yourself: What does it require? Can it be told just standing still? Do you need to strike a certain pose?

Going in for the kill, the Punchline.

The ending of a joke is definitely decisive. A great deal of practice is needed to end a joke in the best possible way. The actual payoff is in this element, which decides the success or the failure of the joke. To tell a funny joke successfully, the punchline has to be really surprising.

We often hear about the rhythm of a joke and how its wording as well as the timing is important. A funny joke is usually short, but it shouldn’t be too short. It is important to attract the attention of the audience, have their focus, but should drag much or you will lose their attention again.

If you are not telling a very short joke or maybe a three-liner, it is recommended to have a gap of a minute for every joke. You can have it a bit longer too, depending on your audience, but remember that if the gap is too long, you might totally lose your audience.

This is a good tip from expert comedians. Pausing for some seconds before revealing the final line helps in creating suspense and curiosity in the audience. They eagerly wait for the final line before they split into peals of laughter.

You might feel a bit nervous, but try to be relaxed and comfortable, as much as you can. Remaining calm will add smoothness your tone, help you with the right timing and your listeners will have a good time.

Successful comedians have great control on your voice tone. It can be really boring to listen to the same tone every time, try and bring about a change in the tone with every new joke. You can use special sound effects also like door creaking, sound of a siren or even horn. This will keep the atmosphere lively and your audience engaged.


Some final things to keep in mind:

  • How is it told?
  • How are you acting while telling it?
  • What's your body language?
  • Are you in character?

When in doubt, go for the dick joke.

— Robin Williams

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