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Ep27 Transcript: How to Write a Joke – Quick Fix Friday
Andrea Vahl: Hey, late starters, it’s your host, Andrea Vahl and in today’s episode of Quick Fix Friday, we’re going to talk about how to write a joke.
Intro: Hello dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration, mindset, and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
Andrea Vahl: Joke writing is going to come in handy, not only if you’re a comedian, but maybe if you’re a speaker or you have to, you know, do some sort of presentation. You can add a little joke in there, add a little humor in there. But writing a joke is a really fun exercise in any case because I’m sure you think of funny things that happen in your daily life, and it’s fun to turn them into a really funny joke.
So there’s lots of different types of jokes out there, but the basic type has three elements and only two of them are really required. The setup, which is talking about the situation or what people need to know about the joke in order to get it. The punchline is typically something unexpected that happens and is the funny part. The third part of a joke is the tag, and that is optional. But it really is typically an extra punchline, and sometimes it can be the funniest part. There’s also another element called the callback, which could be another joke later that references an earlier joke, so that’s super fun.
Some of the basic tips for writing a good joke are to keep it really short. Words matter, the less words the better typically, because you want to get to the funny part sooner. So edit that joke down as far as possible. And the setup should only contain what is truly necessary for someone to understand the joke.
And if you do have a funny word that’s in the joke, usually try and put the funniest word at the end of the joke.
So let’s take a joke and then deconstruct it.
Comedy Clip: Yeah. We’re always trying to be better, you know, lose more weight, be more efficient, 10 steps to the world’s best eyebrows. I want someone to tell me. “Yeah, you are done.” “You have no more potential.”
Andrea Vahl: So here’s the breakdown of that joke.
The setup is the section on, “we’re always striving to be better. Lose more weight, be more efficient. 10 steps to the world’s best eyebrows.”
Now, that is also something I like to talk about is the rule of three. If you’re going to have a list, the three things are the best number for a list, and you can throw something funny and unexpected in that list as well. So have something. Unexpected as the third thing.
The punchline of that joke is I want someone to say to me, “you are done.” Now that can be funny in itself.
The tag, I think, is even more funnier, which is “you have no more potential.”
Let’s do that with another joke.
Comedy Clip: I have two boys age 14 and 17, and no one warns you how hard parenting is. Or how long it is! I wish someone would’ve sat down with me and said, you know what kids want every day? Dinner…every day with a damn dinner!
Andrea Vahl: in this joke, the setup is about my boys and that no one warns you how hard parenting is a punchline could be, or how long it is.
Now, there’s another section that kind of gets into a little bit more of a setup. Again, I wish someone would’ve told me, you know what kids want every day?
The punchline is, Dinner.
And the tag is just taking that an extra level every day with the damn dinner.
So how do we actually write jokes? And really writing is the key to all of this. You want to write and write, and then find one funny thing in there and write and write some more. I am writing every single day.
And I use an app called Hapit, H A P I T, and there’ll be a link to it in the show notes.
But basically, it is a tool that is a habit-forming tool that allows you to track any habit. The app is very simple. You just click every day that you do that habit. You can set up how often you want to do it. In my case, I’m doing that daily and you can even have reminders if you like, for pinging you if you haven’t done that habit yet. And I just write my comedy every day and it fills it out like a big grid so I can see my month turning green as I’m doing my habit every single day. So it’s a great way to gamify your habits. And writing comedy is a great thing to do each day. I’m only sometimes doing it for a few minutes a day. Other times, if I’m feeling more inspired, I’m writing for half an hour a day if I have more material.
There’s another thing that Jerry Seinfeld has coined, which is called Don’t Break the chain. And basically, that is you put an X in your calendar for every day you write, and it forms a very long chain. And his mantra is, don’t break the chain. So writing every day, and some days it’s not good. Other days I come up with something funny.
But what do you write about? I like to think about becoming a noticer. So noticing things around you, like why is that catching your attention? Or what is it about the fact that you need to go out and buy some more butter when you already have a lot of butter? Maybe you’ve got a little butter anxiety or something like that. So you start writing about that and you form that joke and keep refining it until it’s really crystal clear and has a good punch line.
Another way to get inspiration for what to write about is to think about a topic and then maybe choose an emotion around that topic that you’re going to write about. Maybe hard, weird, scary, or frustrating. So for example, if I’m going to write about motherhood, I might think, what is hard about motherhood? What’s weird about motherhood? What’s scary about motherhood? What’s frustrating about motherhood?
So though that can be a good inspiration for a writing prompt that you can use to write better content.
And you also might want to get a comedy buddy to run some of your jokes by. Someone who is also funny, who has a similar type of sense of humor, and who can help you formulate your thoughts around that particular joke can be kind of challenging because sometimes one on one funny runs different than funny in a crowd, but it’s a great way to just try a joke and see how it goes.
So if you are thinking of doing standup, I highly encourage it. It’s a ton of fun. Making people laugh is amazing and just get out there and do it.
Outro: Hope that was helpful, and make sure you grab the free guide. Top Tools for Late Starters on the website at latestartersclub.com and let’s turn dreaming into doing.
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