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 V.15 No.48 | November 30 - December 6, 2006 


How to Tell a Joke

... Or, Stop Torturing Your Friends, You Moron

So you want to tell a joke, do ya? But you just don’t have the chops. Instead of heartfelt belly laughs, your punch lines receive responses like, “Oh … I think I get it,” “Is that the end?” or “Why have you done this to me and my family? Leave my house.”

Fear not, there’s hope for you yet. Follow these simple rules, and you’ll have friends and co-workers in stitches in no time. I know what you’re thinking: “I’m much too fat and boring to make people laugh.” Well, you’re only half right, tubby. Read on!

Rule 1: Gauge your audience. Simply finding the right group of people for a certain gag will solve 80 percent of your joke-telling problems. (Yes, a full 80 percent. I ran the numbers.)

Rule 2: Don’t build up your joke. Surprise is always the best policy for joke telling and for punching somebody in the face.

Rule 3: Relax. This is the easiest rule to follow but often the most overlooked. I suggest a few deep breaths and some light stretching; or, failing that, a shot of Jack Daniels and a quickie with someone you trust.

Rule 4: Essentialize. Think of the setup to the joke as the rocket that will carry your punch line to comedy heaven. You need to ensure that all the parts are there but that it be stripped down to its lightest possible weight. Avoid tangents and too much information.

Rule 5: Know the punch line. This may seem a bit obvious, but there is nothing more disappointing or embarrassing then a botched punch line. Oh, and don’t laugh at your own jokes.

Rule 6: Don’t be Ray Romano.

These rules alone won’t guarantee a flawless delivery, but they should help. Try it out now—you’ll be surprised by the results. If it’s still not working out, you can always do us all a favor and give up. Remember, being funny is like being a hippie: You’re born a little bit different from everybody else, and people laugh at you.


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