The School of Laughs

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How to Write a Joke: Step Two

This is the second in a three part series on how to write a joke. For part one click here.

When constructing a joke the most crucial element is a punch line. This is the first line after the premise that generates a laugh. It’s not a joke if there is no punch line. The punch line should indeed be funny. A punch line should do at least one of the following:

  • Provide an unexpected surprise or “twist”
  • Inject humor into scenario
  • Release tension
  • Knock the audience off the path initiated by the premise

And again, a great punch line may encompass all four.

Let’s add a punch line to the list of premises we just listed above. For clarity, let’s leave the premise in bold and each punch line will be in standard text format.

“We just spent three days baby-proofing the house.

But she still got back in!”

“I gave up alcohol when the drink names started sounding like medical conditions.

I don’t want a Tropical Itch, Mind Eraser, or a Corpse Reviver.”

“Scientists have developed methods for animals to connect on the web called the Inter-Species Internet.

The last thing I want to worry about is slamming into a texting gecko.”

“I just spent four hours scraping ice off the car.

And it turned out to not even be mine.”

“At my 20 year reunion a classmate asked if I had had any ‘work done’ on my face.

I said, ‘YES! I reduced my hair line, enlarged the forehead and opted for the Steve Buscemi eye transplant.’”

Each punch line provides an unexpected surprise, injects humor into the scenario, and knocks the audience off the path initiated by the premise. Every joke needs that twist. The last one also releases tension since the premise was a little confrontational.

Make sure your punchline adds new, surprising,  information to the premise. If there is no twist - there is no laugh.

This is the second in a three part series on how to write a joke. For part three click here.



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