Friday, August 26, 2016

Fat Free Jokes

The punchline is the funny part of the joke. First you have the setup, then comes the punchline. It’s the destination. The setup normally exists for one reason - to lead the way to the punchline. (There are talented people who get laughs out of their setups, but that’s fairly unusual.)
Most people have probably heard someone tell a joke and include all sorts of details in the setup that really weren’t necessary. There’ve been many times when I‘ve heard someone setting up a joke and I’ve muttered inwardly, “Would you please get to the punchline?”
Something happens to an audience when there’s a long setup for a joke. The longer the setup is, the more people anticipate the punchline. In my opinion, the punchline should be a surprise, something people don’t see coming. Also, as a rule of thumb, the longer the setup is, the stronger the punchline should be.  
Many of my setups were questions that were a little off the wall to get people scratching their heads a bit. For example, Have you noticed that whenever a whale lands on the beach, people assume it got there by mistake? Or, Have you ever wondered why people ignore the limits at the express checkout counter?
When I wrote those bits, which were two of my better ones, the setups were different from what I just wrote. I started out with more and then cut the setups down to exactly what was needed to get to the punchline. No more, no less. Nobody needed to know what species of whale I was talking about. Nobody needed to know which chain of grocery stores I was talking about. Those details could only have slowed down the joke.
If a detail doesn’t contribute to the effectiveness of the joke, it simply has to go – no ifs, ands, or buttocks. You must be mindful of the fact that people have short attention spans. You don’t want members of the audience to be wishing they had a remote so they could hit the fast forward.

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