One-liners have been common staples throughout the history of comedy. They have the potential of filling the room with roaring laughter and hilarity. However, they are surprisingly difficult to master. Seasoned professionals make them look effortless when they are actually quite challenging.
One-liners require practice and finely-tuned writing. All comedians use one-liners throughout their shows, however, only a few resonate with the audience. This is due to a lack of practice and awareness of social cues. Keep reading below to see our step-by-step guide on how to create one-liners that are sure to hit hard in your next show!
1. Know the Audience
The first thing you need to do to create good one-liners is to know your audience. By knowing who you are performing to, you can prepare what you should and also should not say. In order to not offend the audience, you will want to know the basic crowd that will be there, so you can avoid saying anything that might be taken the wrong way.
On the other hand, knowing who will be there may help you to know exactly what to say. Knowing the audience will help you to cater to their sense of humor, so they will be more obliged to enjoy your joke.
For example, if you know that almost everyone there will be associated with the same political party, then you can make one-liners about the opposing party that you know the crowd will appreciate. You will want to steer away from making jokes about their affiliated party as they may not understand or enjoy the line. As you can see from this example, knowing the crowd you are performing to can help immensely in the creation of one-liners.
2. Have Meaning
Second, you want your one-liner to have meaning. If it does not have meaning, then there was no point in making it. During your comedy show, you do not want to waste any time making subpar jokes that the crowd will probably not enjoy. You want to fill the room with laughter, rather than silence. In order to do this, you need your line to have meaning.
Something important to remember is quality over quantity. Rather than using excessive jokes in your show, try using meaningful lines that are sure to amuse the crowd.
3. Use Stereotypes
The third thing that can be done to make one-liners is to use stereotypes. This is something tricky that many comedians still do not understand. Using stereotypes falls under the same category of knowing your audience. When making a one-liner, you want to be sure everyone understands it. You do not want to make a joke and not have certain people understand.
In order to have everyone understand your one-liner, you need to use stereotypes. Do not be offensive, rather just use common encounters with people that most people have had. Stereotypes do not have to be rude and offensive, and when used correctly they never are.
4. Be Surprising
Fourth, you need to make your one-liners surprising. This is different than shocking, which is typically associated with crude humor. There is no reason to be shocking in your show, especially because people in your audience may be offended by these types of jokes. Rather, you need to surprise your audience.
This can be done by creating a build-up, and then for the one-liner switching the expected response. Your audience will not be expecting this and will therefore relish the line.
Best life provides a great example of a surprising one-liner. The line states, "I don't have a girlfriend, but I know a girl that would get really mad if she heard me say that". This is a joke that provides a build-up, which is the statement about not having a girlfriend and then following it up with a surprising punchline.
5. Use Common Experiences
The fifth thing you need to do is use common experiences. This is similar to stereotypes, but stereotypes focus more heavily on people and groups. This facet focuses on experiences. When making one-liners, you will want to use experiences that most people have had. This can include experiences that come from dating, marriage, parenthood, or work life.
For one-liners, it is important to be as relatable as possible. To do this, you will want to ensure you are making jokes about things most people understand. When you do this, people will resonate with your joke which will make it more successful.
6. Do Not Waste Time
To make a one-liner, the sixth thing to remember is to not waste time. The point of one-liners is that they stand alone. They are supposed to get straight to the point. You will want to avoid beating around the bush in order to properly make a one-liner. If you do not get straight to the point, you are forgetting the overall purpose of a one-liner. They're supposed to be short and sweet!
7. Practice the Delivery
Seventh, you will want to practice the delivery. Delivery is key when it comes to comedy, and this is no different for one-liners. You will want to practice out loud and preferably with another person. Ask the person you are practicing with what you can improve on, and what delivery would be best for the line.
If your delivery is not spot on, people will start to lose focus. You will want to practice until you get the one-liner to be the best it can be. Once you have practiced enough, you will be ready for the stage.
8. Know When to Stop
The final step for making a great one-liner is knowing when to stop. In comedy, you should be trying to get the audience to laugh at least every thirty seconds. If you notice the crowd is particularly rough and they may not appreciate the one-liner, do not make it. Unless you can be sure that the audience will enjoy your one-liner, you should not make them.
If you make the one-liner despite signs telling you not to and the audience does not laugh, it can make you intimidated and the crowd even harder to please. Learn the social cues of your audience so you know when to switch topics. This will lead to successful one-liners and successful shows.