In the past, I always believed I had a magnetic personality. Despite that, not a single girl was attracted to me in India for years. Lately, I read a medical research report stating 30% of girls in India are suffering from Anaemia. Only then I understood that because these girls are suffering from Anaemia, a disease caused due to deficiency of Iron, so not attracted to my magnetic personality.

Jokes or humor can make your speech attractive and act as a magnet to bring the audience’s attention. But when I often hear from people, they usually say that they are not funny. Indeed a few years back, I also had the same feeling. I felt this is a skill people are born with, and it is difficult to learn. But when I changed what I believe, I also changed what I do. I starting learning the art and science behind it and also observed and learned from many great comedians. This helped me not only win the humorous speech competitions for many years in Toastmasters Club but also helped me immensely in my personal and professional life.

All jokes have two parts setup and a punch line. For example, if you look at my initial joke, my setup is my belief of magnetic personality. The punch line is “Deficiency of iron not attracted towards my magnetic personality”. 

Setup and punchline are composed of three components :

  1. Assumption: An assumption is what your audience already knows from their past experience. This can be so obvious that you need not even say it. Sometimes if it is vague, the speaker needs to create an assumption in their minds so that they move in that direction. Also, make sure you pick a generic assumption to capture the audience’s attention.
  2. Connector: Connector is one thing that has two definitions. It is the center of all jokes. It is that word, phrase, or expression that binds your assumption and reinterpretation.
  3. Reinterpretation: The target assumption is scattered by reinterpretation. This is a part where laughter happens. It can be done using a single word or a sentence. It negates the assumption you created in the minds of the audience.

In the initial example, the assumption created initially in the minds of the audience is, because I might not be attractive, girls are not interested in me. The connector is magnet and iron. It can be a single word, a phrase, or an expression as well. Reinterpretation is Anaemic people do not get attracted to magnetic personality.

Remember, a joke is like a roller coaster ride. You first need to take the audience to the top, and then they can enjoy a free fall. Once you understood the joke structure next step is which topic to pick. The answer to this question is anything that you wanted to talk about and has a problem. Things that are wrong with the world, something that has a problem out there.

Humor is what happens when something goes wrong

Bill Stainton

Don’t think too big like or a general topic which is too big to cover. Topics like a car, public restroom, relationships, football, etc. Pick something interesting to you. Don’t think about what people will like. Because if you enjoy the topic people will enjoy it. For example, if I choose “car”. Write all the associated items: Drivers, traffic, insurance, etc. Now create setup premise and punch premise.

Setup premise Punch Premise

Drivers are safe Drivers are dangerous

Traffic can be solved Traffic is an unsolvable problem

Here keep on writing setup premise, which is a positive statement and a punch premise, which is a negative statement of the setup premise. Remember premise is not a joke; it is just a premise that gets transformed into setup and a punchline. 

Some recommendations for setup premise are: Each setup should be about just one idea; this avoids any confusion in the minds of the audience when you are inserting an assumption, use only short statements, and use an ambiguous word or phrase. Ambiguity will help you to use as a connector and create a reinterpretation during the punchline.

The idea of having a positive statement for setup premise and a negative for punch premise is because a joke works from good to bad or bad to worst situation. In short, a joke has a setup and a punchline. These can be decomposed into the assumption, connector, and reinterpretation. So now you can write a one-liner. For a speech, we need just to extend this one-liner. Remember, jokes have a failure rate of 90-95%, so go out and try. 

Jokes are also important in the fast-paced, overstressed, sleep-deprived society. Indeed it acts as a medicine to get out of any health trouble. Go out and write it for your speeches, presentations and make this world a happier place.

References

  • Comedy bible : Judy Carter
  • Course from Greg Dean

Abhishek Vyas

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