Just about anyone past the 6th grade can tell you that a punchline is the funny part of a joke.
And you don’t have to be a comedian to know that a punchline contains an unexpected element of surprise. But here’s the big question…
How does that information help any comedian produce punchlines in their stand-up comedy material that actually work to get laughs? The reason that I ask is because…
You usually don’t get much more information about punchlines than that from most stand-up comedy books, workshops or classes (you will get exposed to examples of punchlines — check out the ones I have for you below and make a note if providing those punchline examples help you in any way).
In the very first lesson in my online course, I transcribed two brief stand-up comedy bits word for word as delivered by popular, “household name” comedians.
Each transcribed bit is presented BEFORE the YouTube video of each bit is presented. Then, one of the four questions I ask after each transcribed bit is:
Can you tell which lines are the punchlines?
You may be able to pick out one or two punchlines from BOTH bits combined, but overall – I will bet my shirt that most people won’t be able to pick out most of the punchlines as they “read” – word for word, I might add.
Let me give you a punchline from the first bit that is a powerful, big laugh, one word punchline:
So, here’s my next question:
What valuable information can you glean from studying that one word punchline that will help you develop punchlines in your stand-up comedy material that will get laughs?
Not much? That’s probably because it’s just a one word punchline, right?
So, here’s a longer punchline that got a huge laugh in the second video:
“Nice job cleaning up”
So, let me ask the question again — what valuable information can you glean from studying that punchline that will help you in any way develop punchlines in your stand-up comedy material that will get laughs?
Here’s my point:
If you don’t really know what a punchline is as it relates to you, your sense of humor and the content you want to share with an audience…
How are you supposed to generate punchlines that actually work to get laughs?
Actually, if you DON’T have actionable information about what a punchline really is as it applies specifically to you, your sense of humor and what you want to talk about and express on stage…
Then you are left with blind trial and error, just like most every other comedian out there trying to somehow “write” their way to being funny on stage without really knowing what a punchline really is or how to produce punchlines that get big laughs.
If you don’t believe that, just go to any stand-up comedy open mic and see for yourself what happens when a comedian is clueless about what a punchline really is or how to generate punchlines that actually work to get laughs, much less big laughs.