How to Make Joke Reveals More Impactful: A Quick Guide

I value humor as much as the next person. In fact, I always say that if I can't make someone laugh, we might have a hard time getting along. However, I know that telling jokes can be difficult sometimes.

When telling a joke, it can be hard to figure out the specific audience, or you might struggle with the delivery of the punchline. Wherever you are, there is always room for improvement. Below are 9 tips for improvement on how to make your joke reveals funnier and more impactful.

1. Know the Structure of your Joke

There are tons of different types of jokes that can be used for different comedic purposes. Before telling a joke, you should make sure that you know how to structure it.

Some examples of famous joke structures are:

One-liners: These jokes are classic "Dad-jokes" that are told in one short sentence.

Anecdotal: These jokes are usually taken directly from experiences in the comedian's life. They are personal stories that connect the audience to the comedian.

Self-Depreciating: These self-deprecating jokes are jokes where the comedian makes fun of themselves. John Mulaney is a comedian who is well known for self-deprecating humor.

Topical: These jokes are centered around politics, events that are currently happening, or pop culture. A lot of talk show hosts use topical jokes in their shows.

Knowing what types of jokes you want to use and how to structure these jokes can make a big difference in the impact of the joke reveals.

2. Know your Audience

All comedians know that sometimes jokes may not go how they want them to. Sometimes, however, the failure of a joke to elicit a reaction is due to the audience that it is told to, not the joke itself. When telling a joke, it is super important to understand the audience that you are telling the joke.

Certain jokes that go over really well with one audience may not elicit any reaction at all for another audience. Take a look at the following joke:

"A man was driving by the ocean, and in the seat next to him, he had a picnic basket. In this picnic basket, there was a sandwich, some chips, a drink, and a cookie. While the man was driving, the cookie jumps out of the basket and starts dancing and singing 'Dadadadadadada' to the tune of circus music"

"The man, seeing the cookie, yells at it to shut up and get back in the basket. Upset at being yelled at, the cookie returns to the basket. However, only five minutes later, the cookie jumps out of the basket and begins dancing again, obnoxiously shouting 'Dadadadadadada".

Once again, the man yells at the cookie, telling it to get back into the basket and be quiet. Once again, the cookie goes back into the basket. However, only 2 minutes later, the cookie is out dancing again. The man, fed up at this point, tells the cookie "if you get out of the basket one more time, I promise that I will throw you in the ocean."

The cookie then replies "oh man, I don't want to get thrown in the ocean" and reluctantly climbs back into the basket.

However, only one minute later, the dancing cookie again emerges, singing and dancing to the same tune, 'Dadadadadada'.

In response, the man takes the cookie, and throws it in the ocean."

And that is the end of the joke.

This joke, depending on the audience, can be perceived as hilarious or completely unfunny. Some people may feel as if the joke is dumb and was a waste of their time. Others may find the "un-joke" funny. This is a joke that largely depends on knowing your audience.

Knowing your audience also means catering to their interests and knowledge set. For instance, if you want to tell a joke with a celebrity or a political figure in it, you should make sure that your audience knows who you are talking about.

3. Properly Set up the joke

Jokes are generally told with a setup. For a proper joke to land, the audience has to understand what is going on. In a set-up, the joke-teller should detail the place, characters, and situation.

When setting up a joke, you want to ensure that your audience will understand the punchline. You don't want your audience questioning the meaning of the joke or ask for it to be explained. The setup for the joke needs to sustain the punchline well.

Failure to properly set up the joke will cause the joke to reveal to fall flat-which is any comedian's worst nightmare. Make sure that when setting up a joke, you include any key information that signals the punchline to come.

The joke told earlier took a long time to set up, and the punchline was basically non-existent. This joke may feel like it wasn't worth it to listen to because the setup took so long and the joke wasn't of equal value to the story.

4. Pace Your Joke

There is nothing worse than having the perfect joke, setting it up properly, and then messing up on the timing for the big reveal. There is a reason that the phrase "Comedic timing" is a thing.

In comedy, pauses are often utilized for humorous purposes. However, pauses can sometimes create awkward silence that minimizes the effect of the joke. If you tell a joke, the pauses should be impactful, not awkward.

Take this Laffy-Taffy-style joke: "How do you mend a Jack-O-Lantern?" "With a Pumpkin Patch!". This is a simple joke with a question and a quick response. However, if you take too long to get to the actual joke, the audience will lose interest, or the joke will lose its humor.

On the other hand, you don't want to jump too quickly on the joke answer. The best way to do this for the joke listed above would be to ask the question, let your audience ponder it for a few beats, and then reveal the answer.

The pace at which a joke is told is super important. When you tell a joke, you should speak slowly and clearly so that the audience understands you. If you rapidly blurt out the joke, your audience might misunderstand what you are trying to say. They could also feel cheated of a better joke because they didn't have time to come to their own conclusion. A lot of comedy comes from subverting expectations, so if you don't give the audience enough time to think, you're only hurting yourself.

5. Surprise your Audience with a Twist

Often a key part of humor is the element of surprise. When your audience is not expecting something, they are more likely to laugh about it. A friend of mine once told me this story, and although I heard it ages ago, the twist in the expected events caused me to remember the story even years later.

"A couple, after dating for quite some time, decided to go on a romantic cruise together. During the cruise, the man had big plans to propose to his girlfriend. Standing on the deck of the ship, the man was looking at the ring. He tripped and dropped the ring overboard. Panicking, he was not sure what to do, but he decided to go ahead and propose at dinner as he had originally planned.

"At dinner that night, the waiter came over to ask the couple what they would like to eat. The man, who was nervous and distracted, ordered the fried fish. The woman, on the other hand, carefully looked over the menu. She asked the waiter what the catch of the day was. To this, the waiter explained how the catch of the day changes each day. Today's catch of the day was a Koi fish caught just this morning.

"The woman chose the catch of the day, which was caught earlier in the day. Cutting into the fish, the woman found...."

("The ring?" the audience guesses)

"NO! The cookie! Dadadadadada!"

This joke usually lands well, mostly because the audience is so shocked that they laugh. Not only does this joke have a surprise ending, but it builds off of the joke told earlier about the cookie. Even an unfunny joke could pay off if you bring it back at the right time!

The joke is set up to require two separate parts it. Having two seemingly separate stories catches people off guard, which is why the joke becomes funny.

6. Have Confidence in your own Joke

If you're telling a joke, it should be a joke that you find funny. If you don't think that your joke is that funny-chances are that your audience won't either.

The audience will feed off of your energy. This is true for the audience of a stand-up comedy bit, but it is also true for a few friends that you are telling the joke to. If you have high energy when telling your joke, the audience will feed off of that and be excited to hear more from you.

If you are trying to tell a joke and you are super-shy or insecure about it, the chances that your joke will be successful are far lower. If you are unsure of your own joke, the audience will pick up on that and be unsure of your jokes as well.

7. Use the "Rule of Three"

In comedy, comedians follow a general rule of three. This is a type of pattern used to tell a joke. This pattern contains two similar things and one item that seems out of place.

A good example of the rule of three is demonstrated in this joke:

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way.  I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house. We had an enormous feast.  Then I killed them and took their land.

John Stewart

John Stewart makes good use of the rule of three by setting up the joke with two common things that you would expect, but then by throwing in a third item that is different and that shocks the audience.

8. Test your Joke out

Whether you are telling a joke to your friends or preparing for a comedy show, it is a good rule of thumb to test your joke out beforehand. First of all, you should practice your joke before telling anyone. Practicing your joke will create confidence in your ability to tell it.

Secondly, you should test your joke out on some trusted friends to see how well it lands on other people. If your joke elicits a proper reaction from your test audience, it is safe to assume that the joke will go over well in other situations.

If the joke does not go over well in the test run, it may be wise to ask for advice about what you can improve on. The issue could be a timing or phrasing issue, or it could be the joke itself. It is better to know what went wrong and work to fix it than be left in the dark, wondering what went wrong.

9. Delivery

This one should go without saying, but the delivery of a joke makes a huge difference. Often, I hear jokes told that could have been hilarious... if the speaker hadn't used such a monotone voice. The delivery of how something is told can make or break a joke.

A good piece of advice when telling a joke is to treat the audience as if they are small children with short attention spans. If you were reading a story to children, you would not read to them in a dull and monotonous voice. If you did this, the children would get bored. Instead, you read to children with a tone of excitement and lots of inflection.

Telling a joke isn't a whole lot different than reading to children. The tone of your voice should create excitement, cue the audience in on things that they should pay attention to, and help identify the punchline. Adding inflection to your voice helps with the delivery of the joke. The expression added in your voice can also help to make the joke reveal more impactful for the audience.

For building suspense, you should have a suspenseful tone. When telling a story, your voice should carry lots of inflection. When revealing the punchline or joke, you should tone your voice to make it clear that that is the main feature of the joke.

The video below gives some more tips on how to make your jokes funnier!

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