Still Trying To Figure Out How To “Write” Punchlines Out Of Thin Air? Now That’s Funny…

There is additional important information related to this article located on the new Addendum page.

If you found this article as a result of looking for information on how to write punchlines, answer this important question before you continue:

How did you “write” punchlines that generated laughs before you started looking for information about writing punchlines?

I ask because if you have used (and are using) your sense of humor and comedy talent to cause others to laugh in common, everyday conversations — then you have already been producing and delivering powerful punchlines that have worked to get laughs for years.

So where’s the disconnect?

Are you under the impression that producing stand-up comedy material that works (including the punchlines) is vastly different than getting laughs in conversations with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, etc. and that you are required by some mystery law to “write” jokes and punchlines out of thin air?



I find that interesting especially since writing and talking aren’t even the same form of communication — not even close (you can use any search engine to verify that last statement using the search term “differences between talking and writing”).

And since you didn’t develop the sense of humor and comedy talent you have right now from passing written notes back and forth to countless people you have come in contact with over the years since you started talking as a child, I’ll ask the question again:

How did you “write” punchlines that generated laughs before you started looking for information about writing punchlines?

I don’t know where you stand, but it seems to me that it is not a very smart approach to try to use a means of communication (writing) that is specifically designed for consumption by an individual reader in order to get laughter results in a performing art that is focused on talking and expression to a group of people in a live audience environment.

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Note: You may also want to review the last 10 minutes or so in Episode 1 (it’s free access) in the Stand-up Comedy Secrets For Beginners series for details about stand-up comedy techniques that you have already been using to cause others to laugh in everyday conversations.

But since you came here looking for information on how to “write” punchlines in a way that abandons or otherwise ignores your in-person comedy talent that’s already developed and ready to be tapped into, here’s what I can tell you:

Attempting to isolate and understand information about how to write punchlines is very much like trying to isolate and understand how a complete brick home is built by studying only the bricks.

Again, doesn’t sound like a very smart approach, does it?

Let’s talk about some information you might want to know when comes to “writing” punchlines so that you aren’t wasting your time looking for that stand-up comedy punchline pot ‘o gold like everyone else is looking for right now that simply doesn’t exist.

Consider these important facts about stand-up comedy punchlines:

1. Punchlines alone cannot be isolated and studied for any meaningful or actionable information.

Punchlines are only relevant as referenced to the previous information expressed (set-up). By themselves, punchlines are usually not funny and many times won’t even make sense without the missing reference information.

Do this: Go to YouTube and find ANY stand-up comedy video of your favorite comedian. Write down just the first five lines that gets big laughs (punchlines).

Then, go to work the next day and say just those punchlines to people you work with. Watch the reactions you get.

You may quickly find yourself getting a referral for a psychological evaluation because any punchline by itself is usually gibberish.

2. Punchlines are a comedian’s opportunity to use and express their own sense of humor about anything they wish to talk about or express on stage — at a rate of 4-6+ times per minute and a minimum average of 18 seconds of laughter per minute (headliner level).

Note: There are still only 60 seconds in a minute no matter how you choose to produce your stand-up comedy material (I verified that using Google just minutes ago). Since writing only involves words constructed for consumption by an individual reader, it is difficult at best to produce stand-up comedy material using a “written word” approach for a spoken word performing art.

3. Most the laughter power of a punchline has relatively little to do with the words and sentences as they are “written” (7%) — most the laughter power in a punchline has to do with how that punchline is expressed by the comedian delivering those punchlines (93%).

Hint: This is why isolated punchlines (or most stand-up comedy material) won’t usually “read” funny. It is also the reason why less words are needed to generate the 4-6+ laughs needed to make any real headway as a comedian.

But wait a minute! What if you were to study the numerous examples of “one liners”, set-ups and punchlines like those presented in these popular books on writing stand-up comedy (#ad)?

Go ahead — knock yourself out. Study all those until your nose falls off.

One small thing though…

Any “written” stand-up comedy material examples you can find represents a combination of that particular comedian’s sense of humor AND their delivery style (which you cannot see on paper) — NOT YOURS.

In other words…

Studying a wide variety of bricks from other people’s homes still won’t help you better understand how to actually build a complete brick house for yourself either.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s much to know about punchlines and punchline structure as it relates to developing (not “writing”) stand-up comedy material that works to get the big laughs.



But that information only has real value in relation to a number of other very important factors which directly influence the laughter generation power of any punchline — especially as these factors relate specifically to you and your own unique sense of humor.

And if you still don’t believe a word I have said as it relates to the information on how to “write” punchlines that I have presented in this article…

Simply sit through a couple of stand-up comedy open mics from beginning to end, keeping in mind that most of those folks are like you and have more than enough comedy talent to do well on stage — if they actually knew what they were actually doing when it comes to developing and delivering a big laugh stand-up comedy routine.

But most of them don’t and choose to try to “write” their way to being funny on stage, resulting in strikingly unfunny stand-up comedy material being delivered.

Again, don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.


Do your friends think you're funny? Have you thought seriously about becoming a pro comedian? If that describes you, you might want to take a very close look at what this website has to offer that can dramatically improve your chances of success.

9 Replies to “Still Trying To Figure Out How To “Write” Punchlines Out Of Thin Air? Now That’s Funny…”

  1. A friend of mine who’s not a comic said a good joke the other day. I repeated the joke to my friends and didn’t get any laughs. I didn’t have his sense of humor so the joke didn’t work.

    • Most of a person’s laughter power lies in the delivery and timing — not from the literal words per se. So, it wasn’t that the joke wasn’t funny — it’s about how you delivered it.

  2. This was a pretty good article on punchlines. Yes I like the example of building the bricks. The punchline is based on the set up. It is also the persons body language that bring it to life.

  3. The comedian is the brick. Studying how the bricks are stacked is why you should watch other comedians, especially the WELL stacked ones.

    • true. But, all of these bricks build different houses. It’s the same with stand up comedy. Although there is a lot to learn from other comedians (especially the ones which are like well stacked bricks) every comedian is different. That’s why hacks are so unpopular, as a comedian, you are using your personality. No other comedian can give you tips on developing your personality. And as your stand up routine is all about your personality, there isn’t that much to learn from other comedians.
      So, if we think of you as the brick, you study the other bricks in houses, but don’t study them too much, and once you are a house, there is no point in studying the other bricks

      • The bricks are not people – they are the various elements combined which generates a laughter response. And you are right – you can’t learn to have comedy talent or a personility that will give you comedy talent.

        You can learn how to structure and hone comedy talent for stand-up comedy.

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