How to Tell a Funny Joke

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human race has only one effective weapon, and that is laughter.”

~ Mark Twain

If you want
to impress somebody, make them laugh. If you want to connect with
someone new, make them laugh. If you want to get a raise from your
boss, make him laugh. If you want to take yourself out of a completely
miserable situation, make yourself laugh.
And if you want to
change the world, make the world laugh. What’s the easiest
way to make someone laugh? Tell a joke.

Some people
are good at telling jokes, but have no idea how the jokes come out
of their mouths. These people are naturally funny. But if you are
not one of these people or have always had a problem with being
funny, don’t sweat. Understand that all jokes have a formula
behind them that makes them funny; otherwise, it’s not funny
and that’s not a joke. Here are the ingredients to tell a joke.
I’ll walk you through it step-by-step.

The Anatomy
of a Joke and Its Formula

1. Target.
Every joke begins with a target, and it can be targeting anything
– people, places, ideas, etc. The most important thing to remember
here is to relate the target to the person or people you’re
telling the joke to, so they won’t be offended. For example,
if you were telling a joke to your friends about your wife, you’re
friends are going to laugh with you because they can relate. But
if you were to tell that same joke to your wife, she’s not
going to crack a smile. She’ll just slowly stare you down while
you slowly tiptoe out of the room.

2. Hostility.
I know some people are going to cringe at this, but the truth
is jokes aren’t always “nice”. The essence of a joke
is usually going against an idea or a type of person, but because
the joke is funny (if you can pull it off the right way), it usually
loosens the tension and eradicates all hostile feelings at the end.
If you don’t get this, ask yourself if you have ever heard
of a joke that was between two perfectly happy people? Take a look
at these examples and see if you can pinpoint the target and who
the joke is making fun of.

  • “Artificial
    hearts are nothing new. Politicians have had them for years.”
    ~ Mack McGinnis
  • “My
    wife said that her wildest sexual fantasy would be if I got my
    own apartment.u201D ~ Rodney Dangerfield

3. Realism.
Jokes aren’t funny unless there is some truth in them. You
can’t just go in and start telling something ridiculous because
first of all, the audience won’t be able to relate to it and
secondly, you won’t get a chance to surprise them. Humor is
a paradox. It’s funny because you’re juxtaposing the reasonable
next to the unreasonable. If you don’t understand this, just
remember that the more you can start a joke in a serious, casual
way, the higher the payoff will be towards the end. For example,
imagine if somebody with a straight face walked up to you and said:

  • “If
    you think the world is normal, why do hot dogs come in packages
    of ten and hot dog buns come in packages of eight?”

4. Exaggeration.
If you have a realistic setup from the previous step, then the
next step is to exaggerate the second part of the joke. You want
to make it “just a little bit more” out there than what
human beings expect. The more you can exaggerate it but not completely
ruin it by not saying something that’s completely unrelated
or random at the end, the funnier it will be. In essence, could
you exaggerate the joke as far as you can and yet make it still
believable at the same time?

  • “You
    know, it was pretty hot yesterday. I saw a dog chasing after a
    cat, and they were both walking.”

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15, 2010

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