How to Tell a Joke

Have you ever bombed telling a joke? Never fear—it takes skill, practice, and timing. Just follow these steps to have them rolling in the aisles.

You will need

  • Yourself
  • A friend
  • An audience
  • A tape recorder

Step 1 Choose topic Choose a joke about a topic you can relate to. Your audience doesn’t need to believe that you really got fired from your job yesterday, but if you’re only 12, it might be harder to imagine that you could have.

Step 2 Determine your take Determine your take on the topic—is something silly, strange, or difficult? Sometimes this will be easy, as the joke will actually state your stance, as in, ‘Isn’t it strange how?’ Whatever your stance, commit to it. It will drive your joke.

Step 3 Examine structure of joke Examine the structure of your joke. The setup contains all of the information necessary to prepare for the laugh—but it shouldn’t be funny. The second part, or the punch line, surprises the audience by changing their perspective, which makes them laugh.

Step 4 Watch comedians Watch performances of successful comedians to get a feel for good timing, and then experiment with yours. Figuring out exactly when to deliver the ‘funny’ is the key to eliciting uproarious laughter.

Step 5 Memorize joke Memorize your joke—make sure you know it by heart!

Step 6 Practice telling joke Practice telling your joke to a friend who’s willing to be your guinea pig.

Step 7 Know your audience Know your audience. Are they drunk? Sober? Easily offended? This will help you choose the appropriate joke for the moment and might influence your delivery.

Step 8 Be confident Tell your joke with confidence! Don’t comment on or laugh at it—it doesn’t need extra help. If you let the joke and your preparation do the work, you’ll be knocking them dead in no time.