How to Tell a Killer Joke — With Help From Jackie ‘The Joke Man’ Martling
At least once a week, someone in the office will seize the opportunity — either at lunch, around the coffee machine or while we’re all huddled underneath our desks for a nap — to tell the group a joke. Nine times out of ten the joke BOMBS.
It’s never the joke’s fault. Every joke is funny or it wouldn’t be worth telling. Human error is usually to blame for a joke falling flat.
Everyone could use a lesson in telling a joke so we got one of the best teachers in the business — Jackie ‘The Joke Man’ Martling.
Jackie has been killing audiences for over thirty years as a touring comic, a former head writer for ‘The Howard Stern Show’ and now as the host of his own show, ‘Jackie’s Joke Hunt’ on Sirius 101. Jackie’s latest project is ‘Pray For Us Sinners’, a nostalgic look at life in a strict Catholic school as told by an 8-year-old boy.
Jackie set us straight about the art of joke telling. Here are five tips from the master of the punchline on how to prevent your next joke from bombing.
Cut the Fat
"First off," Jackie explains "cut out as much of the fat from the joke as you can. Long-winded stories packed with unnecessary details droned on are mainly what's responsible for the joke getting a bad name. Only relate what's necessary. Playboy magazine's Party Jokes are a huge offender. 'The sultry young lass sauntered into a nightclub, smiling broadly, and sexily asked the bartender if he could possibly...' No. Told properly, that hodgepodge translates to: 'A girl walks into a bar and says to the bartender...'" Don't use any descriptive adjectives unless it's to distinguish one character from another. You trim all of that.
Don't Piss Around With Dialogue
"Keep the dialogue simple," Martling stresses."Don't ever break up dialogue. It's 'The man says to the cop, ‘Hey, which way did that kid go?,' and NOT " ‘Hey,' the man says to the cop, ‘Which way did that kid go?' It just flows so much better. If you find a joke written the wrong way, rewrite it, and then read it out loud. You'll notice the difference. Also, always make sure you're talking slowly and clearly when you're giving information but only stuff that's especially pertinent to the outcome. Don't add unnecessary dialogue."
Always Keep it Present Tense
"Locate your joke in the present tense. It gives the joke an immediacy and makes it more exciting. It's very subtle, I know, but true and absolutely necessary. And every little bit helps you. Read or listen to any of my versions of jokes. It's always 'The barber says,' never 'The barber said.'"
Don't Show Your Hand
"Do your best to not include any words from the punchline into the body of your joke. It just helps and makes the punch line more fun. Sometimes you really can't dodge them, but find ways to reword."
Know the Damn Punchline
"Memorize the punchline, know it well, and even say it out loud a few times right after you've learned a new joke. You should be able to deliver it flawlessly, and with confidence, without stammering or error.