Anatomy of a Joke

By Jeff Justice

“My wife and I are both 53 this year. Been thinking about having one more kid. Now Diane says, ‘Maybe we should wait a few more years.'”

“Oh Yeah, Honey! There’s a real money saver. This way we can all be in diapers at the same time!”

“Let’s just back the truck up to Sam’s and get that family pack!”

The set up (which is everything that comes before the punch line) starts with a true statement, we are both fifty three.

It is followed by another true statement. Well, OK, it was true when I first wrote the joke when we were both forty three. Believe me, we are well past our desire for more trust funds.

This line is stronger now that we’re older because the thought of a fifty three-year old couple waiting a few more years to bare children creates more tension and also helps the exaggeration in the punch line. I’ll usually get a reaction from some of the women in the audience when I say she wants to wait a few years.

The punch line comes from my sarcastic response to what she said about waiting, is dripping with sarcasm and relies on exaggeration with suggesting that we’d be old enough for diapers.

The final line is a topper and it needs no set up because it gets it’s build up from the punchline. Toppers are short and sweet and may even have additional toppers. They should prove your point once and for all.

Not all jokes follow this “dialog joke” formula. Some rely on such devices as the threes, reverses, switches or lists.

One thing to keep in mind, comedy is 10% writing and 90% delivery so to realize how funny a comedian’s joke is you have to hear it. Could you ever imagine laughing after reading this classic line from Steve Martin? “Excuse me. I’m a wild and crazy guy.”


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