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How to Tell a Joke
From your Humor Guide

Very little in Comedy is a sure thing; however, there are steps you can take to help build the favorable response you want from your audience, whether you're onstage or amongst friends.

Difficulty Level: Easy    Time Required: Varies

Here's How:
  1. Before you open your mouth, know your joke. Even if you're adlibbing, you must have a clear idea of where you're headed.
  2. Know your audience. All jokes are not appropriate for all gatherings.
  3. Do not ask for permission to tell a joke. Surprise is crucial. Jump in and go!
  4. Do not tell everyone how funny your joke is beforehand. You'll make your audience defensive and your laughs smaller.
  5. There must be ample set-up to the joke, providing the pertinent details the audience needs to know.
  6. There must be a punch line or strong conclusion.
  7. When in doubt, the shortest distance through Step #5 and onto #6 is usually best.
  8. Avoid detours. As a rule, jokes work best in a straight line.
  9. Commit to your joke. Once you begin, follow through to the end.


  1. Avoid telling any joke you don't understand.
  2. Speak at a comfortable, authoritative pace, manipulating the material with verbal emphasis and pauses.
  3. Listen closely to what you are saying, as if you are a member of the audience hearing the joke for the first time. Fill those needs.
  4. For preparation, when time is available, study jokes you love audibly and on the printed page. Notice how in the best gags every word is essential. Strive to make each word count in your stories. Cut out fat.
  5. Listen to the masters. Pay keen attention to comedians' timing and how they use it, inflection and attitude to their advantage.

Related Information:

More How To's from your Guide to Humor

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