How To Tell the Perfect Joke and Get Everyone To Like You Because You Thrive Off the Approval of Others


By Austen Macalus 


Whether you are hoping to get an audience’s attention, spice up a presentation, or feed your constant need for positive affirmation from other human-beings — knowing how to tell a great joke comes in handy!


Let’s be honest, not everyone is ready for their hour-long special on Comedy Central. But don’t worry! Even if you are patently unfunny (a la Ricky Gervais),  you can still learn how to make others laugh, or at the very least, nod their head and chuckle, that sort of thing people do when a joke is kinda funny, but not quite funny enough to laugh. Still, it’s a good start.


Really, there are three main parts of a solid joke:


  1. The Set-Up: This is the premise for your joke, or the exposition, or the background information, or the… you get the point. Basically, you wanna bring the audience up to speed on what the the heck you’re talking about. I like to think of it as the “Seinfeld Section,” because you basically say something like, “You know when you’re at the grocery story…” And voilà, you are ready to go!

  2. The Punchline: This is the actual joke. It’s where you let the audience know what’s so funny. It could be reversing their expectations, exaggerating an emotion, or showing why a situation is ridiculous.

  3. The Tag-Line: This is where you tie the punchline back to the set-up. You are   expanding a joke to ensure your audience know you made a joke. Plus, it provides a nice narrative arc, tying a nice little bow on the whole thing.


Sometimes there’s a fourth part of a joke, depending on its nature.

  1. The Laughs, Baby!: This is where you know if your joke was successful… or not. And trust me, you will know.


That’s all fine and dandy in theory, but let’s see how a real joke plays out. Luckily, I am very good friends with comedian Demetri Martin, who was nice enough to share one of his gags with us:


“I think it’s weird when you give someone flowers… Really you’re saying here you go, now watch these die, ‘cause I like you. I feel like you should give someone flowers if you want to threaten them, here you’re next. Better put your feet in water 'cause I’m coming for you.” — Demetri Martin

Okay, so let’s break it down. First, the set-up:

““I think it’s weird when you give someone flowers… “

It’s a really simple premise, buying flowers, that everybody can relate to. Success!

Second, the punchline:

“Really you’re saying here you go, now watch these die, cause I like you. I feel like you should give someone flowers if you want to threaten them, here you’re next.”

My good friend Demetri twisted our preconceptions about flowers. We think they are a nice gesture, but he finds it strange that we give our loved ones things that die. Funny!

Third, the tag-line:

“Better put your feet in water 'cause I’m coming for you.”

My future-best-man Demetri makes sure to amplify the joke and really bring it home. Good work, I’ll see you Friday for our weekly dinner, Demetri!

And when you tell a joke that good, here’s the usual reaction:

a good joke.gif

Here’s the thing with jokes: It’s a lot like telling a good story. So even if you aren’t totally on board with being hilarious all the time and everyone laughing at your incredible humor, there’s a few takeaways that can help with all forms of communication.

One, it’s helpful to know your audience and appeal to their interests. Two, it’s good to keep things short! People don’t have the time, or the patience, to sit through a long-winded set-up, so make sure you get to the point. Three, the details go a long way. The best stories, and the funniest jokes, use specific details; it shows things are real. Lastly, it’s about practice, practice, practice. You don’t get good unless you work at getting good.

So there it is. I hope you found this helpful, but more importantly, I hope you liked it because that really is the fuel that keeps me going everyday, and without it I slow fade away in a Back to the Future manner.

And with that, I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite jokes: Shane Torres Defends Guy Fieri.

Laura BeierComment