So if you are reading this, you want people to laugh more. Awesome. I get it. It is a great feeling to entertain people, to bond over some weird joke. Far better than your jokes falling flat all the time, and then to awkwardly move on.
There seems to be a certain formula to being funny. But like most social skills, it’s more of an art than science. So why don’t you get that? Why do your jokes fall flat?
But there is still a lot to learn in the HOW. How to interact in a group that will make you funnier. How to pace and phrase a joke. Ways to improve on your humor – but also getting better at understanding other jokes.
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously
This is the big one – funny people know that they, and everybody else, are not all that. They don’t take their own anxieties and self-pity seriously – but neither do they think they are cool. As the funny guy, you are part of the crowd. Like everybody else. And not above criticism, taunting and jests. Especially not from themselves.
Jokes about your personal weird truths are great to make people laugh. Unspoken truths, true for most people, are bound to make people laugh.
- “If I’m alone in the house, I still sometimes check whether there is a monster under my bed, just to be sure.”
Making yourself, or being someone else’s, butt of the joke is fine. (Just not all the time, do take yourself a bit serious.)
Show yourself as people see themselves all the time. A vulnerable ego with quirks, insecurities and crazy thoughts – not some polished image. Still being able to laugh about it. Because it is all not that serious. People are bound to respect and connect to you for it. Besides, you’ll become funnier and more confident yourself.
2. Don’t expect people to laugh
Counter intuitively, if you joke around – don’t expect people to get or like your jokes.
I make a lot of jokes that miss target. I give a few seconds pause where people can laugh. But if nothing happens, I move on. Don’t wait – don’t linger in the pause hoping: “Maybe people finally get it.” You tried, you missed – it’s done. Move on. (Never explain the joke!)
Becoming funny is making a lot of misses. And savoring the hits you do get. Don’t be bummed out if no-one laughs, learn that approach didn’t work. Get on with the conversation.
If you stand there waiting, expecting people to laugh – it robs them of spontaneously liking the joke. It’s less their choice – and more an invitation to laugh. Which takes out the fun.
Spit out your jokes, try to be funny – give that little pause for people to react – and if they don’t. Meh. Move on – no problem – you have more laughs to give.
3. Subtext is key – don’t be literal
Jokes are primarily how they are delivered. Timbre, inflection and intonation are a big part of that delivery. You’re varying use of voice carries a complex message on its own.
Joking around is not a literal business – but a play of subverting. Saying one thing with words – but something completely different by tone of voice. Your change of voice makes the joke – but this can be very subtle. Just think of how people use their your voice for sarcasm.
The same goes for satire, cynisim and how you can deliver all kinds of jokes. I’ll keep saying it – but the best way to learn is look and analyze comedians. And see how they play with their voice.
4. Use details to build tension
Making jokes relies on tension and release. If you are building up tension, make use of vivid details help people get invested in your story. You raise the tension – creating a better burst of laughter once you release it.
Jus a simple example:
“I entered a bar – and I see:”
“I was looking for somewhere to drink, it had been a long week. Accidentally I stumbled upon a quaint shady pub in an ally. I never really noticing that ally before, not for three years living in town. So I open the door and I see:”
What takes you in more? You can go to far of course, your not narrating a novel. But you are telling funny story, and to laugh people need to invest. Make it worth their attention by adding a captivating story they can imagine.
These details don’t have to be all true btw – you can absolutely exaggerate your story. This way you create greater contrasts to build a stronger image
- “I was looking at the fat police officer, he was eating at least 4 donuts per bite. His putrid eyes had seen me and my petty crime. He stormed towards me – transforming his belly into crashing waves of fat.”
5. Pace and pause
Another way to form your jokes is dictated by the rhythm. You can take people along with changing pace. Going from fast – to slow. Use your speed to tell something exciting – or slow down to create tension and build up the situation.
But also use pauses – – – to build tension. Or to create that moment for laughter.
Saying something different than the situation asks for is great. By either tone, words or both. Use this contrast to create great jokes. Using dry comments in tense or emotional situations helps to deflate. Or act out great emotion in case of the driest administrative work.
Another way to use contrast. By building grand statements only to undercut them in the same sentence. Showing some sense of hypocrisy or naïveté for fun
- I am truly the most humble man in the world.
- Of course I am a feminist, those bitches have great ideas
7. Meta Commenting
- “So this article about jokes hasn’t made you laugh out loud even once :("
Meta-commenting is about commenting what is really happening. Some sad, interesting, or hard truths. A statement beyond the standard cultural narrative. This is what a lot of comedians do in their shows. But if you recognize it in daily life – use it to comment on the frame of the bigger picture.
- “Why do we all focus on likes that much, their just imaginary internet points!”
- “Why does every commercial need to be funny, can't they sell me anything with models anymore?
These real facts – that are beyond what we normally talk about. We accept them as is, because no-one else talks about it.
8. Balance poking fun with appreciation
No matter how funny you are – and how good you are at poking fun at other people. Give it a break sometimes. Show you can be genuine, caring and nice as well.
Even though the banter is great – sometimes show some real appreciation to your buddies. It makes them appreciate your funny moments even more.
It shows you get it – and them.