Joke Prospector Writing System: Should You Try it Out?

Comedy is just coming up with funny jokes, right? It is actually a lot more than that and involves a couple of formulas to make great jokes that most would laugh at. One of those formulas is the Joke Prospector Writing System, which can be difficult to master but becomes easier over time.

The Joke Prospector Writing System has a specific setup and punchline. The setup involves picking a topic and creating an atmosphere for your joke that is familiar to the listener. The punchline then takes a completely different turn.

We'll go into the specifics of the Joke Prospector Writing System and why or why not you should try it out.

What is the Joke Prospector Writing System?

The Joke Prospector Writing System is defined as a writing system that has two parts. The first being the Joke Map and the second being the Joke Mine. This system is used to create a lot of jokes as openers for tonight shows and longer jokes for comedians. Usually, you focus on a topic and throw in a couple of twists and turns for your joke. The main point of these jokes is to surprise the audience and make things not what they seem.

Joke Map

The Joke Map is the first part of the Joke Prospector Writing system. It is the main setup for the joke and starts with a topic of choice. The topic should be something the audience can relate to and creates an immediate image in their mind. For example, if you are talking about working you can talk about coworkers and people you work with, throw in a couple of jokes about what they do or look like. The point is to create an image for the audience to really resonate with.

Once you have your scene set up you are going to create your perfect setup. Make things seem normal and reverse your point for your setup. For example, if you dislike this one coworker for always stealing your food, you could say, "My wife always makes lunch for me and always gets upset when I don't see the notes she leaves me. " Notice how it seems like such a normal opening and the audience can expect that something about her being sweet for forgetting to one day. They expect more about the wife. This is where the Joke Mine comes in.

Joke Mine

The joke mine is the unexpected ending for the joke. This is where you confuse the audience a bit. The point is that you say something completely different that still works and ties everything together. Continuing our example, we could say "I never see those, but John always leaves love notes on my desk, that says 'I love you, sweetie!' or 'I got a new outfit for tonight.'" The audience can assume that John steals the lunches and gives the love letters back. However, the wording surprises the audience completely and makes them laugh at the idea that John could be leaving love notes.


John Mulaney is great at giving a lot of examples from using the Joke Prospector Writing System. If you listen to his bit below, you notice how the story is very long and he throws a lot of little jokes in here about what is going on. Most of this is a joke map, he is setting up for something bigger that doesn't come until the very end. The very last bit about the one thing you can't replace is the joke mine; something you didn't expect to happen at all and Mulaney definitely didn't expect.

There is some strong language at one point in this bit.

Jimmy Fallon has a couple of great openings to his show The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. This is one of his openings that uses joke maps and joke mines. He quickly sets up his Joke Map with Disney and Donald Trump. He proceeds to make quick Joke Mines about the same topics that continue throughout his whole speech. You can watch the bit below.


If you couldn't tell by my terrible example while explaining Joke Map and Mine, it can be really difficult to write these types of jokes. Getting the setup right is difficult because you need to be able to create a setting that the audience can relate to, understand, and then make assumptions about. On top of that, you have to make the audience believe one thing before you completely change it.

Punchlines can be pretty easy, but sometimes it can be almost impossible to come up with the right one after your setup. They have to fit together and if you can't do it right, the joke can be ruined or not as funny as it seems.

Flawless Jokes

For some this type of joke can be very easy and for others, it can be insanely hard. I suggest finding a lot of examples and studying the way they set up the punchline. Greg Dean has a book called Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy and a youtube series called Stand-Up Comedy Classes. In both of these, he talks a lot about setups and punchlines. They are great resources for good joke making and I highly recommend reviewing both for more details and for ways to improve jokes that follow the Joke Prospector Writing System. Below is a video of his about perfecting setups.


As you can see many of these comedians make this look easy as they stream together their map and leave joke mines armed and waiting. But the joke mine and map used in the Joke Prospector Writing System is one that has been used for years and has built many comedians up. But what it really comes down to is practicing your presentation, practicing your comedic timing, and practicing using the Joke Prospector Writing System.

Though it may seem hard at first, not giving up and using this writing system can help you grow your jokes repertoire and prepare yourself for real shows, a real audience, and most importantly real laughs.

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