The Truth About Set-up Lines And Punchlines

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

write punchlinesIf you have ever wondered why I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that most stand-up books, workshops and courses are virtually WORTHLESS when it comes to learning how to “write” comedy for material for a stand-up comedy act, speech or presentation that actually gets laughs…

Let me show you in vivid detail exactly why I harbor such beliefs.

I was searching online for the definitions of set-up lines and punchlines as they relate to “writing” stand-up comedy material.

Please note that what you are about to see is the primary core of ALL the stand-up comedy “joke writing” methodologies outside my course, whether you take a stand-up comedy class that costs $300-400 or buy a stand-up comedy book that costs $10-15.

Here is the first set of definitions of set-up and punchline you can find online:

Set-up: The foundation of a joke.

Punchline: The climactic phrase or statement of a joke, producing a sudden humorous effect (laughter).

Here is another set of definitions of set-up and punchline that I found on the website of an established (and published) stand-up comedy teacher:

Set-up: The first part of a joke that contains a target assumption to misdirect the audience into accepting a bogus 1st story.

Punchline: The second part of a joke that contains a reinterpretation that creates a 2nd story that shatters the setup’s target assumption.

Note: I have great respect for anyone who tries to teach stand-up comedy and help others succeed in the most difficult and challenging of performing arts in the best way they can muster. It’s not an easy job at all.

Even with that said, stand-up students still want RESULTS.

Let me repeat that the information I have just provided you is 100% representative of what you are going to get to supposedly help you “write” stand-up comedy material in ANY resource–stand-up comedy book, workshop or class — outside the Killer Stand-up Online Course.

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So, armed with this critical information needed to “write” comedy material…

You tell me — how does this “core” information help you write or develop comedy material that works for you and your sense of humor?

Go ahead, spend some serious time studying those definitions until you have them down cold. I’ll wait…

Once you are ready, the question remains:

Again, how does any of that information help you write or develop stand-up comedy in any way that will actually work for you and your sense of humor to get big laughs on stage?

Well, it doesn’t in ANY respect. It is no different than me giving you the definition of liver transplant surgery and expecting you to be able to skillfully perform the operation.

But wait! What if I showed you example after example of set-up and punchline jokes from famous comedians? That’s what’s missing, right?

The truth of the matter is…

It doesn’t matter how many set-up and punchline “joke” examples you study. They are absolutely irrelevant because…

Any stand-up comedy set-up/punchline joke example I could possibly provide you (there is an endless sea of these in stand-up comedy videos on YouTube) without a truly accurate context as it relates to YOU is virtually WORTHLESS because…

Those “jokes” (or topical stand-up comedy material) were developed from that particular comedian’s perspective, point of view, sense of humor and delivery style—not yours.

It would be no different than me showing you hundreds of photographs of a liver transplant surgery and then expecting you to skillfully perform the operation yourself.

I’m going to bet my house the patient would croak.

Related Article: The Similarities Between Conventional Stand-up Comedy Education Resources And Dissecting A Frog

If you ever wondered why the Killer Stand-up Online Course is so different for those who have natural comedy talent, it’s because:

  • I don’t pretend anyone can learn “write” their way to being funny on stage without having comedy talent to begin with. Even if the raw comedy talent is there…
  • I don’t show people how to write “jokes”. If I could have figured that out using the “accepted joke writing techniques” all the so-called stand-up comedy “experts” teach, I wouldn’t have had to develop my own system — and there would be a lot fewer comedians who suck on stage.
  • I demonstrate step-by-step how an individual with comedy talent can structure their own unique sense of humor and point of view for the stage without having to try to “write” jokes the way everyone else says you have to — using techniques and methods that work in any performing or presentation environment.
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But if you ever wanted to know the real reasons why so many comedians and public speaking professionals struggle to produce comedy material that actually works for them…

Well, now you know some of the major reasons why.

The single most important piece of advice I could provide any new comedian is this:

You must be able to discern the difference between descriptive information and actionable information if you want to develop a high impact stand-up comedy act quickly.

7 Replies to “The Truth About Set-up Lines And Punchlines”

  1. How does it relate to you. This such an important aspect when teaching comedy. It is amazing that you Steve are the only teacher that I have seen that teaches using such a method. I looked all over the net for comedy advice yet this website just keeps on delivering. It is actually kind of crazy. I do highly appreciate that you are willing to share this insight.

  2. I’m more interested in a “set-up” heckler. What are your feelings on planted people in the audience playing the role of planned heckler? Have you seen any that seemed too contrived?

  3. Thank you for this article, I think that’s what my biggest fear is do I have what it takes to write jokes. Then can I get up on stage and deliver. I have a question. How much material should you have when starting out?

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