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How To Be Funny

How To Be Funny

It’s possible to learn and improve your sense of humor

A good sense of humor is one of the most common personality traits that women list in an ideal partner. 

Indeed, the ability to make someone laugh is one of the most powerful tools you can possess to make people want to be around you. 

And it’s possible to learn this!

Don’t believe the myth that some people are naturally funny, and others aren’t. 

Professional comedians work ruthlessly to understand and execute specific techniques for telling funny jokes and stories.

Read on for a basic summary of techniques you can use to become the funniest person in the room. 

Humor is infectious

If you’ve read about the law of state transference, you’ll know humans are very perceptive when it comes to the mood of those they’re communicating with. What’s more, they’ll respond accordingly. This law is more powerful than any of the technical aspects of comedy discussed later.  

If you’re nervous and tense, the person you’re speaking to will often feel the same. If you’re in a light-hearted goofy mood, it’s likely this will also transfer onto others. It’s why they say laughter is contagious.

As such, the best way to make someone laugh is to believe the joke is funny. Tell your dumb jokes with the same enthusiasm as you would an epic story. Allow yourself to let go, fully commit to the joke and be caught up in the humor. 

Once you’ve got your audience in the mood for uncontrollable laughter, it takes very little to set them off again. It could be something as simple as a funny face or a strange accent. The vibe is far more important than the content. 

Remember, everyone wants to be able to let loose, be silly and laugh uncontrollably. Sadly, most people are too caught up in what others think of them. Become the guy who shows others it’s OK to let go and have fun without worrying what others think. This guy will always be welcome at any party. 

However, if you’re too nervous, tense or desperate for your audience to like you, it creates the opposite effect. People feel uncomfortable around this energy and can’t wait to get away from it. In this situation, it’s tough to crack an audience, even with the most hilarious content. If you regularly find yourself craving other people’s approval, see our guide on overcoming neediness

Building rapport in comedy

If your audience is determined not to like you, they won’t allow themselves to enter this fun care-free mood. If they love you, you can make them laugh easily, even with extremely weak content.  

This is why a stand-up comedian usually begins longer sets by building rapport with his audience. He may start with friendly ‘crowd work’ or tell self-deprecating jokes, so the audience views him as “one of them”. If you open with polarising humor or stories about how famous you are, you could alienate the audience and have them turn against you. 

Still, it’s often recommended not to build too much rapport with a woman you’re trying to pick up, as this can result in you coming across as supplicative and one-dimensional. In this case, don’t be afraid to throw in some playful put-downs, perhaps in the same way a stand-up comedian would address a heckler. 

Don’t panic acts if the woman you want acts cold towards you. If her friends (or your friends) are in fits of laughter, it won’t be long until she follows. Remember, ‘the law of state transference’ is the most important rule. One of the most rewarding aspects of this cocky-funny style is breaking through the wall of a woman who is determined to hate you. When a smile cracks through her ‘resting bitch face’, you know you’re well on your way to winning her over. 

The structure of a joke

Once you understand how jokes are structured, it’s easier to quickly create them from the top of your head.

The basic structure of a joke comprises of a set-up (which creates an expectation) then a punchline (which steers the audience away from that expectation).

Here’s an example from the late Sir Ken Dodd.

“I do all the exercises every morning in front of the television – up, down, up, down, up, down.” 

“Then the other eyelid.” 

The set-up clearly creates an expectation that he’s talking about physical exercise, then the punchline takes it in a completely different direction. It’s this surprise that creates the sensation of laughter.

This basic structure can be used with several types of joke. Here are some examples.

The “opposite” punchline

Punchlines that go in the opposite direction than the expectation created by the set-up. Positive turns to negative. Inspirational turns to cynical. Innocent turns to morbid.  

The most basic way to create this punchline is via sarcasm, or even just to end the story with the opposite look on your face to what is expected. 

Here’s an example…

“It was beautiful weather in Los Angeles today. I spent the whole day on…

“…Facebook.” 

This joke by Mark Normand has an extroverted set-up. You expect he’s going to talk about a beach. It’s followed by an introverted punchline, because he’s been sat on his phone all day. 

The “wordplay” punchline

Playing with double-meanings of words. These are also called puns. Use sparingly as these punchlines are often met with groans rather than genuine laughter. You typically find them in Christmas cracker jokes, which are well-known for being terrible.

“How many friend-zoned guys does it take to change a lightbulb?” 

“None. They just compliment and it get mad when it won’t screw.”

This joke plays on the double-meaning of the word screw.  

The “exaggeration” punchline

Using the punchline to exaggerate the reaction to the set-up. 

“I’ve not been laid in so long, my virginity grew back.”

A clear exaggeration because your virginity can’t grow back. 

The “understatement” punchline

Using the punchline to understate the reaction to the set-up.

“I broke up with my girlfriend. She moved in with another guy, and I draw the line at that.” 

This joke by Garry Shandling is a great example. To “draw the line” at her finding another boyfriend is clearly an understated reaction to a huge betrayal. 

The “absurd” punchline

An absurd reaction or solution to the set-up. Something that would never happen in normal society. 

“I had a real chatty Uber driver. Don’t you hate that? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a smalltalk option on the app??”

This set-up from Mark Normand is absurd in itself and usually creates titters from the audience. Then, he goes one step further into absurdity with the punchline… 

“You have to find your own way to quieten the guy. I like to scare him. He asks ‘Hey, what do you think is causing this traffic?’ I say ‘I dunno…probably the Jews”.

It’s an absurd punchline in two ways. The idea that he’d be racist just to quieten a cab driver, plus the idea that Jews would be causing heavy traffic. 

The “double-down” punchline

This is where you make the audience expect a twist, but keep going down the same path. 

“I’m not just a pretty face, I also have a great rack!”

With this set-up, the audience would normally expect a woman to say something that isn’t superficial. Instead, she keeps going and become more superficial.    

How to deliver punchlines

The delivery of a punchline is the most important factor determining whether a joke lands. As previously mentioned, enthusiasm is key. However, it goes way deeper than that… 

The length of the set-up is important. It should never be longer than needed. As a general rule, your set-up should only be as long as your punchline is funny. You can get away with lengthy set-ups, as long as the punchline delivers a huge payoff.  

Some comedians like to play with dramatic pauses, perhaps with an appropriately humorous  facial expression, before delivering the punchline. This can create a double-laugh – one where the audience is anticipating the punchline and another when it finally arrives. 

Body language is a great tool to supercharge your humor. Can you exaggerate the situation by telling the story with your hands or facial expressions? If so, you should absolutely do it.   

Another important skill is to give your audience time to laugh. A lot of people are too nervous to pause after a punchline, because they fear the awkward silence. Yet, if you keep talking, a great punchline isn’t given the space to land. 

If a punchline does create a huge laugh, you can double or triple down by delivering another punchline to the same set-up.

Let’s imagine: the exaggeration punchline above landed really well. You could add to it. 

“I’ve not been laid in so long, my virginity grew back.”

“I dropped my pants in the shower this morning and bats flew out.

“I’ve started going to Starbucks every day just to hear a woman scream my name!”

It’s a common technique to get more and more absurd as you double or triple down. What’s more, you can create uncontrollable laughter within your group by doubling down on your friends’ punchlines. There’s little more hysterical than a group of hilarious friends getting together and building on each other’s jokes this way.  

Go and practice being funny

The rules of comedy run far deeper – and there are many other types of joke – but this beginner’s guide should help make it easier for you to create humor in your everyday life.

You can even practice by fabricating a set-up, then trying to come up with multiple punchlines. 

As an example, let’s say an angry nightclub bouncer searched your pockets with far too much aggression. 

Opposite punchline: He must really adore the sensation of Levi’s denim on his fingers.”   

Wordplay punchline: I guess he’s trying to trying to bounce his way to the employee of the month award.” 

Absurd punchline: Perhaps he thought I had magic beans in my pocket. I know he’s a keen gardener.” 

Exaggeration punchline: “He frisked me so hard that I came twice.”  

Understatement punchline: I guess I shouldn’t have tried to sell him heroin.” 

Double-down punchline: I don’t look anything like a drug dealer. I look like a terrorist!” 

The most quick-witted comedians are able to create multiple punchlines within seconds and deliver the funniest with perfect timing. As you improve at this craft, perhaps try telling a story with multiple punchlines sprinkled in.  

These are the sort of exercises you can expect to practice at an improv comedy class. In these lessons, you’re often presented with an everyday scenario, then tasked with making it funny. The idea is to keep bouncing off each other’s set-ups and punchlines to create a comedic masterpiece. Improv classes are relatively common in most major cities and are great environments for improving your quick wit. They’re highly recommend if you want to improve your verbal game.  

Alternatively, go approach a bunch of women in the club, allow them to naturally present a ‘set-up’, then practice blowing them away with your awesome punchlines.

After all, a sense of humor is a great tool to hook a woman’s attention. By adding this to your arsenal of attractive qualities, you can take your game to the next level.  

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About Joe Elvin Joe Elvin travels the world working remotely as a lifestyle writer and confidence coach. Throughout 2017, he filmed his entire dating life as part of a national television documentary in the UK. His new book 'The Camera Never Lies' details the brutal truths about dating and relationships learned from this experience. You can learn more about the book and download the first chapter for free by clicking here >>

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