How to Write Jokes & One-Liners

Updated April 17, 2017

Writing jokes and one-liners takes time, mental acuity and skill. Comics make this process seem easy because of the wit they use in executing seemingly flawless jokes. However, the process of creating these flawless jokes and one-liners is not necessarily simple. The setup, punchline, wording, tag, timing and language utilized is essential to the overall success of the joke. When writing jokes, use real life experiences to relate to your target audience. Funny jokes and one-liners, when done effectively, lend humor and laughter to any atmosphere.

Write the setup to your joke. Make it as brief as possible.

Write the punchline, which is the twist that make your joke funny.

Trim the setup by minimizing the wording.

Add a tagline to the joke by adding another line or two after the joke for the aftershock to the punchline.

Spice up the setup by adding abstractions such as similes, metaphors and other figurative language techniques.

Sharpen the timing and rhythm of the joke by repeating it aloud several times.

Tip

Read newspaper articles and put a personal twist on a real story. Make a list of things that bother you, and write a joke or one-liner about one of them. Think of an argument or confrontation that you've had. Subsitute what you wish you would've said, and turn this into a joke. Watch other comedians for inspiration.

Warning

Prepare yourself for the consequences of offending people in your audience.

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About the Author

Victor Seals is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School. He has worked as a journalist in Charlotte, N.C., and South Bend, Ind., as well as Amarillo and Austin, Texas. Seals is currently a high school English teacher in St. Louis, Mo.