The most important part of a joke is the punchline. We all know that, but you have to realize that more than 95 percent of what you’re saying aren’t punchlines. The rest is basically setups and just standing there waiting for the audience to stop laughing or crying, depending on how well you’re doing. But it’s not how many punchlines you have as to where you put them. Where you put punchlines can be the difference between big laughs and no laughs. Here’s a formula I tend to use regularly:
I go through all my jokes and look at where the punch word is. That’s the word that gives surprise. The word that makes the audience go, “Ha, ha, ha.” And I take it out of the joke and move it to the last possible word without disrupting the thought of the joke. For example, here’s a joke I had and performed five or six times one way:
I don’t do drugs because I’m high on life…that cereal is amazing.
Notice the bold word cereal. That’s where the joke takes its turn. The only problem is that there are two words after the punchline. So what I did was this. I changed the second sentence to “I love that cereal,” so that cereal is the last word and it allows for maximum laugh potential. But you may be asking, “Why do this?” I’ll tell you. If you tell a joke and the audience laughs and you continue to talk while they’re laughing, they’ll stop. And if you continue to do this, eventually you’ll condition the audience to stop laughing and then even if what you say is really funny, they’ll be too afraid to laugh. Why? Because they don’t want to miss your next joke. It’s part word placement and part timing.
People often ask what to do while the audience is laughing. “Do you just stand there?” No, you don’t just stand there. Body language is very important in comedy. Have the same body language you had while telling the joke and you can even tag the emotion by mumbling to yourself or shaking your head. It’s all a process. You don’t want to just stand there. That’s the worst thing you can do. You’ll start your next joke with no momentum and it will be like every joke you tell is the first one you tell onstage, which means you’ll have to tell e