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Two Primary Ways to Come Up with a Joke

There are two primary ways to come up with a joke.
Coincidentally and Intentionally.

Coincidentally

We all come up with jokes coincidentally. We see something, we hear something on TV, on the radio, in a conversation or text, and we make a comment on it.

Which is great, but the problem with that is if that is our only way to come up with material, we're limited to that coincidence to occur to grow our library of jokes and bits.

Intentionally

So how do we "come up" with a joke intentionally?

Joan Rivers was one of the fastest, funniest comedians EVER. When I say "ever" I mean EVER! 🙂

She was faster than Robin Williams. Faster than Groucho Marx, two of the fastest comedians alive at the time.

She didn't do the act-outs or the character work that Robin did but she was the fastest in terms of the volume of jokes she had at her disposal in her head.

Why?

Because she wrote every day.

Ms. Rivers would deliberately choose a topic. And spend the day with it. She would poke and prod and drill down on that topic until she wrote as many jokes as she could on that topic, then usually perform many of them that night.

To this day Joan Rivers has the largest catalogue of jokes in the world.
The National Comedy Center, described the catalog as one of “the crown jewels of comedy that exist on planet Earth.” This includes a meticulously organized collection of 65,000 typewritten jokes on 3x5 cards.

How to Write a Joke from Scratch

But you might be asking yourself, "How do I do that, Jerry?" How do I sit down and just write a joke from scratch.

There are a ton of ways to write jokes from scratch, but I'll share with you an easy and quick method in this email to get going right to the jokes.

Method:

Topic & Angle

Choose a Topic: If you don't choose a topic, there are too many things to write about.
We can easily get overwhelmed with data hitting our brains at a paralyzing rate, so we don't even start writing anything.

But if we just select a single topic and remained disciplined about the topic, then we can start to focus.

I sometimes look at current events.

What's happening today?

Father's Day.

So my topic will be Father's Day.

We still have a problem.

What's my angle? If the definition of a joke is two dissimilar ideas converging, then we're missing an idea.

But if we add an angle we have somewhere to start.

What if the dad had some personality issues?

Alcoholic
Gambling
Drug addiction
Rock n Roller
Rapper
Cyclist
Biker
Truck Driver
Comedian
Narcissist
Ambivalent

You can continue down that list until you hit something that is relatable or familiar to you or you can just choose one, or come up with your own based on your own experience.

One idea that immediately resonates with me is ambivalent. It's the opposite of compassionate.

Father's Day is about appreciation, love, etc.

So if an ambivalent dad was asked, "What are you going to do on Father's Day?"

He might respond, "I have 2 kids, so I'll probably, "Have breakfast with the 2 kids, go out on the boat with the 2 kids, then take a moment to thank God that I stopped at only 2 kids."

Or what if dad was a drug addict? How would that affect Father's Day?

"My dad was a drug addict so on Father's Day while most kids were making dad breakfast or planning a day at the beach, we knew our day would be spent just trying to keep dad conscious." 

What if dad was a truck driver?

"Father's day is a day to give thanks and show appreciation for all the things dad did to make my life better. My dad was a truck driver. Like on Father's Day while my friend's dad was teaching him how to swim. My dad was teaching me how to pee in a Gatorade bottle doing 65."

See how that works?

There You Have It!

Now you have a quick and easy joke that can be used in almost any setting.
So, in this joke we use a 3-way build-up to create a pattern of positivity and togetherness: (Breakfast with the 2 kids, boating with the 2 kids) then shatter it with an uncompassionate statement.

Conclusion

Writing jokes intentionally involves selecting a topic, finding a contrasting angle, and crafting the punchline. This method not only expands your joke-writing abilities but also allows you to generate material consistently.

Have fun experimenting with these techniques!

Did You Have Fun with This?

Interested in further developing your level of expertise in writing jokes and bits? Check out our Comedy Writing A La Carte Courses taught on Zoom every Monday from 10am-1pm (Pacific). Join us to explore specific topics and exercises to hone your joke-writing skills. Use this link to learn more.

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Jerry Corley
Jerry Corley

Jerry Corley is a professional comedian of nearly 30 years, working nearly every venue imaginable.

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