Now that we know about the structure of a joke and the different parts that it consists of, how do we actually go about writing it?
What creative process do you need to go through in order to come up with an idea for a joke and then craft it in a funny way?
Watch the video below to see Jerry Seinfeld’s process:
A lot of humor is based on things happening around you, whether in the news or in your own life. These are the basic starting points of all jokes or funny stories. You just need to be able to capture that, process it and then deliver it in the right way.
You can write a simple story about your day, job, life and use comedy formula to shape it to create laugh points and make the audience start rolling in the aisles.
“Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can’t see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of seventy-five dollars per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything.” Dave Barry
Edgar E. Willis (author of “How to be funny on purpose”) states that every joke has what is called an expressed idea and an inferred idea. The expressed idea is what the joke teller says in an explicit form, while the inferred idea is the idea that the listeners should get out of what he is saying.
So basically the joke is delivering two ideas simultenously, what is said literally and what those words are implying.
Since you have two basic ideas in a joke, you also have two main starting places for a joke: either think up the inferred idea (what you want the audience to draw out of what you say), or come up with the expressed idea (material that will lead audience to make inferred idea).
Listen again to Jerry Seinfeld’s description of his joke creation process. In the example he gives, he is starting out from the inferred idea: Pop Tarts are weird and food is crazy.
Once he has the message he wants to pass in his head, he goes about crafting the words that would deliver it.
Here is another Jerry Seinfeld clip which has as its inferred idea the craziness of the shopping experience. Notice the words he uses in order to show this:
How do you craft the words themselves? Even if the inferred idea is good, the actual words that you use can be the difference between the audience giving out a slight chuckle or breaking out in roaring laughter that makes half the people end up in the hospital due to the fact that they were cracking up so hard that they forgot to breathe.
One way to do this is visualization, describing in such a way as to paint a vivid picture in the head. Another good joke formula is the use of exaggerations, either overstatements or understatements in order to better convey your idea.
This can be done by combining metaphors or analogies with hyperboles. Your brain often thinks using metaphors and analogies and that’s why their use can really underline what you are saying.
These are very powerful ways of expressing an idea. Using these tropes in different contexts can often give a very different spin to your message.
A metaphor basically says that A is B. For example the “war on drugs” is saying that there is a war on drugs.
On the other hand, a simile compares two things that are similar in some way. A simile often states that A is “like” B. In order to tell apart a simile from a metaphor look for words like “like” or “as”. For example when Forrest Gump said that “life is like a box of chocolates” or when you say something is “as cute as a kitten“.
An analogy is essentially an extended, more elegant simile. For example this quote from the character Matt McGrath in the movie “Broken Hearts Club” is an analogy: “Dumb gorgeous people should not be allowed to use literature when competing in the pick-up pool. It’s like bald people wearing hats.”