A few pointers on telling jokes…
Okay, we’ve ALL seen someone botch what could be a very funny joke. Don’t you just cringe inwardly when you are listening to a joke and you know the punchline, but you want to be gracious? So of course you let the joke-teller continue, but something goes horribly wrong during the set up and/or the finale!
Don’t let this happen to you! Here a few things that YOU can do to make sure that you are not the BUTT of the joke!
A tried and true way to win friends is to make people laugh. A good joke is a good start, but telling a joke well takes skill. You can learn by following this advice:
- Know your joke thoroughly.
Memorize your joke so you don’t forget important details. Going back in mid-joke (“Oh, I forgot, there’s a chicken on the firefighter’s head”) distracts from your momentum. Rehearse ahead of time if possible. And don’t tell a joke you don’t understand—if you don’t know why the punchline is funny, you’re more likely to mangle it.
- Don’t oversell it.
Resist the temptation to tell people how funny your joke is going to be. They’ll expect something fantastic and anything less will disappoint them. Keep your delivery relaxed and natural to draw them in.
- Easy does it.
One technique is to offer the joke casually, as if it’s a personal anecdote: “I remember, a few years ago …” As your audience comes to realize you’re actually setting up a joke, they’ll nod or smile in recognition, so you’ve already “warmed them up.” If they don’t catch on until the punchline, the element of surprise adds to the impact.
- Pace yourself.
Don’t race to the punchline. It increases the chance you’ll leave out an element, and your listeners may have trouble following the story. Get comfortable pausing at times to let the audience visualize what’s happening. Just don’t drag the joke out too long or the payoff may not live up to the buildup.
- Know your audience.
You always want to avoid jokes that are racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive (more on this later). But even a seemingly harmless joke can fall flat if your listeners don’t relate to it. A joke about your business, for example, may have limited appeal to someone who’s always worked in a different industry. Look for universal jokes that everyone can appreciate.
- CLEAN IT UP!
Yes, you want to clean up the format of the joke, like discussed earlier, but also the content. You don’t HAVE to be dirty to be funny! Many “off colored” jokes can have a language “make-over” to make them appropriate. Jokes that can’t be cleaned up, in other words, the language or subject matter is to racist, sexist or offensive some other reason, probably should not be repeated anyway.
- Last but not least - Practice.
With just a little bit of practice telling the joke, you will avoid many faux pas, including forgetting the punchline and forgetting or changing a key element to build up the joke. And you will actually get to hear what it sounds like before telling it.
OK be a funnyman...er woman...er person!
Now go out there and be funny! Do your best “Henny Youngman or Jack Benny” and have fun!
(Some of you younger readers may want to google the names Henny Youngman or Jack Benny!
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