7Books

Books, Culture and Society

How to Understand the Structure of Jokes in Comedy Writing

Different types of jokes have different structure. The stand-up comic tells jokes that are brief and to the point. Often they only have two or three lines, commonly called the set-up and the punch line.

How to Understand the Structure of Jokes in Comedy Writing

Learn all about screenwriting today. Visit Brian’s website, http://www.ScreenwritingBasics.com and learn about writing comedy and writing screenplays.

Different types of jokes have different structure. The stand-up comic tells jokes that are brief and to the point. Often they only have two or three lines, commonly called the set-up and the punch line. The set up is what makes the audience think the way you want them to think, while the punch line provides the twist or surprise ending, contrasting to what was used in the set-up.

These jokes work because they deliberately change the meaning of the set-up to be something quite different than what was expected. The set-up should take something like 20 or 30 seconds to deliver, while the punch line should be even less. Often the punch line can have one major word in it upon which the whole sentence hangs, so in this case it should come last.

The elements of the joke must be told in their proper order for it to be funny. In longer jokes, there can be an introduction to set the scene, thus: – Three men walked into a bar… A man goes to the doctor…. etc.

The set-up then follows this, with all the facts done in logical order, e.g.: -

1. A man goes to a doctor. He says,” (states the problem).
2. The doctor says, ” (states the answer to the problem).
3. The man queries, ‘(Will this help…?).”
4. The doctor answers, ‘(The punch line).

The introduction is important in its role of creating trust with the audience. It usually starts off by saying something that is quite normal. It could happen. Three men often do walk into a bar; a man goes to the doctor – normal stuff. It should be fairly short because you don’t want the audience to forget what you were saying by the time you get to the punch line.

The set up should expand the introduction and tell what happened next. This can be a bit longer, but not too long. Being brief is good; don’t waffle on about unrelated things. So if we have the man going to the doctor we want to know why right away. The color of his shirt doesn’t matter.

The punch line is, of course, the most important part of the joke, but on its own it wouldn’t be much. It’s only when you work the two together that the audience will laugh – and actually they are laughing at themselves in a way because it was what they believed in the set-up stage that tricked them into laughing at the punch line.

A good joke can be told, but comedians often act jokes out, so watch for this in funny shows. Often they are simply setting the stage for a joke. Once you know what to watch for, you’ll recognize the intro, set-up and punch line – all acted out.

Related Articles


How to Test Jokes in Comedy Writing
So you thought up this hilarious joke that was ideal to include in your stand up routine at the open mic night - but it didn't raise a laugh and you were so embarrassed. What could you have done differently?

Comedy Writing : How to Develop Your Own Comedy Style
Comedy comes in several basic styles and each comedian usually concentrates on the particular style that suits them. That is not to say they can't or don't dabble in the other styles, but sometimes a particular style is so suited to a comedian - and they get so used to it.

How to Use Comedy Writing to Write a Sitcom
Once you've written your sitcom - or preferably several of them - you need to get them read. But not by just anybody; getting them read by an agent is a necessary step. Firstly, write a one or two sentence description of each, called a logline. This is what you pitch to the agents over the phone.

Brainstorming Creative Ideas in Comedy Writing
Once you have an idea, how can you turn it into comedy? One way is by the use of exaggeration. Once you start making the end results more than they would normally be, the result is frequently humorous.

How to Make Comedy Writing a Career Choice
The best place to start your trip into the world of comedy is in front of your mirror. Here you can practice your jokes and comedy routines until they are perfect, with no one to put you down or laugh in the wrong places.

Looking For More Information?

Make sure to explore other articles in the Writing category or contact us to suggest a website or a service to review.

Available In AustraliaService Availability: Most of the services mentioned by this website are available in Australia. These include Victoria (Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo, Shepparton-Mooroopna, Melton), NSW (Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Orange, Central Coast, Wagga Wagga), Queensland (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Cairns, Thuringowa, Toowoomba), South Australia (Adelaide, Mount Gambier, Whyalla), Western Australia (Perth, Albany, Port Hedland, Broom, Karratha, Mandurah, Geraldton, Bunbury), Northern Territory (Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine), Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) and Tasmania (Hobart, Launceston).

Tell us what you think!

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.