If you are like most who struggle needlessly to write funny punchlines for stand-up comedy material that will get you the audience laughs that you want in the shortest time possible…
It is NOT an exaggeration to say that you have been “writing” punchlines literally since you have been able to talk.
If you did not realize that, then you are probably also not aware that any time you get together with friends, family, coworkers, associates, neighbors, etc. and laughter happens as a result of those interactions — powerful stand-up comedy material is produced and delivered in the process (provided the laughter was genuine of course.)
Just hear me out. Let’s start with a common scenario you are probably very familiar with:
Conversational Punchline Writing?
Visualize this — you are with a group of friends, hanging out after work. One of your friends starts to talk about something that happened to him yesterday and you inject a comment about it that causes everyone to laugh out loud.
So here’s the first question:
Was the comment you made that caused the laughter to happen called a punchline?
The answer is yes, it is a punchline — no different than a stand-up comedy punchline or a street joke punchline.
Was the information provided by your friend in this discussion considered set-up information?
The answer again is yes. The term “set-up” or “set-up lines” is used to merely identify information that is not intended to get laughs (or is not punchlines.)
Unfortunately, most people are completely clueless that laughter that occurs during casual conversations is essentially the result of stand-up comedy happening in a dialogue format with multiple people involved in the communication instead of a monologue format delivered by one person.
Much of the disconnect with the term “writing” as it relates to a stand-up comedy act, writing punchlines or producing spoken word comedy of any kind involves issues with incorrect context of the term, specifically:
The context of “writing” is visualized (and acted upon) incorrectly by the prospective comedian and that is because they are taught the wrong context of “comedy writing” by so-called experts to begin with.
Answer this question:
How are you able to “write” the punchlines you are able to effortlessly throw out when you are hanging out with friends and family?
Related Article: Are You Asking The Right Questions?
Now For Some Punchline Writing Reality
All spoken word jokes regardless of the type of joke, the venue, location, environment or the number of people present at the time — all have the same exact structural make up…
There is some sort of baseline information provided (observations, experiences, reflections, opinions, interests, lessons learned, etc.) called the set-up and there are punchlines related to that information delivered that generate the laughs.
For everyday conversations, there are two types of stand-up material that are produced when people get together and start talking about life as they know it and experience it (I cover this in just a minute).
When laughter occurs in casual group conversations, individuals in a group can literally be talking about anything and when the topic being discussed triggers someone’s sense of humor, punchlines are spontaneously “written” and then delivered by who feels inclined to do so.
Talking about different things with punchlines being thrown in left and right by anyone involved in the conversation makes for great and memorable times with the people we spend time with!
But make no mistake — the actual process for generating laughter from talking and expression is EXACTLY the same whether the delivery is in a dialogue between two or more people or from just one person delivering a monologue to an audience.
Not only that, but the stand-up comedy material and the spontaneously “written” punchlines provided in conversation is as valuable (if not more so) than anything you could possible dream up or fabricate in the way of stand-up routine material or trying to “write” funny punchlines in a conventional manner.
Note: If you are under the impression that there are vast differences between laughter generated in casual conversations and laughter generated by a sole comedian or speaking professional, I strongly encourage you to review this now:
Special Report: The Stand-up Secret That No One Else Will Tell You
Now let’s take a closer look at the stand-up comedy material that is produced in everyday conversations.
About Those Punchlines “Written” During Conversations
There are actually two distinct types of comedy material produced during casual conversations that result in laughter:
1. Limited reach comedy material. This involves the discussion of topics, ideas, opinions, experiences, etc. that would primarily be familiar or recognizable to the group involved in the discussion at hand and would not generally be known or necessarily of interest to a general audience of strangers.
2. Extended reach comedy material. This involves the discussion of laughter generating topics, ideas, opinions, experiences, etc. that would be easily recognized by almost anyone and requires no special knowledge or experience in order to visualize, understand and/or relate to what is being discussed.
Much of what we have to communicate with one another actually falls into the extended reach comedy material category and should be ideal for stand-up material provided that:
- What was being discussed produced genuine laughter — not a snicker, a giggle or a phony laugh like those that can happen when someone says something uncomfortable.
- The material is delivered to audiences with the same spirit, passion, expression and intent as is the conversation itself.
- The material has been professionally edited for maximum punchline frequency.
- The finished material has been professionally rehearsed and can be delivered to an audience just as if it was the first time they are hearing it.
Here is a link for limited access to a bonus lesson that I offer in my course called How To Turn Casual Conversations Into Powerful Stand-up Comedy Material.
To say that casual conversations are a potential gold mine for stand-up material or capturing punchlines that are already written for you is most certainly understated and the advantages harvesting conversational stand-up material are noteworthy such as:
- The things that you talk about with the people that you know and associate with daily are by and large the same types of things most comedians talk about on stage.
- We talk and express our sense of humor all of the time. So do the people that you interact with. Basically that means that you and those around you constantly produce stand-up comedy material in dialogue format.
- Punchlines “written” and delivered by anyone in a group discussion on any topic or subject are automatically “tested” for potential inclusion as stand-up material if they generated genuine laughter.
- Casual conversations can be the KEY to discovering what specific things push your buttons and easily trigger your sense of humor.
Hint: These are the types of things you should be talking about in your stand-up routine for maximum laughter impact.
You also benefit from the other people in your conversations who are providing either the set-up information and/or “writing punchlines” spontaneously as well and delivering them in relation to the topic being talked about.
If you pay attention, casual conversations give you the very best window into:
- The types of things that you like talking about
- How you use your sense of humor
- What topics, ideas, observations, etc. trigger your sense of humor
Because of the nature of punchlines being quickly “written” and delivered during casual conversations — the laughter generated is a powerful indicator that the material would most likely be very suitable for inclusion in a stand-up routine — provided it is the extended reach comedy material previously discussed.
I should also mention that casual conversations can have copious amounts of non-humorous “chatter” that must be professionally edited or excluded in order to produce and deliver the pro average of 4-6+ punchlines per performing minute required for pro stand-up.
Still, you will find it hard to beat the ease of selecting comedy material from conversations instead of trying to write stand-up punchlines the old fashioned way that usually doesn’t work out so well — check out your local comedy open mic night for verification.