Be Funnier With Scotty Meltzer: You Punch Like a Girl

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For the past two months I’ve been writing about three methods to write lead away jokes: forward from the front, out from the middle, and backwards from the end. If you haven’t already read those introductory articles, Nice Structure and Structure? Genius!, now would be a good time. I’ll wait…

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking…

Done already? Let’s move on.

When writing Setup-Assumption-Connector-Shatter-Punch jokes forward from the front, the first steps can be quite algorithmic.

To find a new setup, you can just choose any line in your show that isn’t currently a joke and use it as a setup. Or choose one of your punches and use that to write a tag. Either way, this step can be trivial.

Listing the assumptions and expectations that your setup implies can also be mechanical. You don’t have to be an experienced joke writer to do that.

Finding a possible connector can be equally automatic. Just ask yourself: What else could each word, phrase, gesture, object, idea, or motivation in the setup mean?

Coming up with interesting and possibly funny shatters requires a little more creativity but even this step can be mechanical. For example: If an assumption is {X}, you can always shatter by saying {not X}.

For most people, those first steps: setup, assumption, connector, and shatter are straightforward.

But the last step: turning that shatter into a punch is where they get lost.

If I were a computer programmer, which I probably should have been, and I was writing a flowchart to write jokes, which would be a stupid thing to do, this is the step where I’d put in a black box with shatters as the input and punches as the output and label it: “magic happens here.”

So let’s pry open that box and see what’s going on inside.


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Scott Meltzer would to convince Google that he is the world’s most experienced trade show juggler.