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The Art of Telling and Selling a Joke

Create anticipation for the punchline. Most jokes involve a punchline and most punchlines include some kind of surprise or twist. Tell you joke in a way that creates interest, but does not give too much away prematurely about what is coming in the punchline.

Who doesn’t appreciate hearing a great joke? Especially those that make us laugh from the gut. Some people are born joke tellers. They are just funny. Period. They could tell you the sky is blue and leave you in hysterics. But joke-telling is harder than these people make it look.

Some of us are not natural born joke tellers. Nonetheless, we like to tell a joke every once in a while that at least puts a smile on someone else’s face. So how do you go about telling a joke if being a "fountain of funniness" does not come naturally? Very often, the success of a joke has a whole lot less to do with its actual content and a whole lot more to do with how the joke is told. Even the funniest joke in the world can bomb if the delivery is bad. Here are a few tips shared from some witty people who do know how to tell and sell a good joke.

Know the joke inside and out. Only tell a joke you believe in and that makes you laugh. Never try to tell a joke you don’t “get” yourself.

Know your audience. Think about the people you are with and what is most likely to be funny to them. A joke that makes one person fall to the ground in laughter may offend someone else.

Do not proclaim how funny your joke is before you tell it. The element of surprise is crucial to most jokes. If your joke needs some kind of set up, limit yourself to providing only the really necessary details.

Helpful Tips

Sharpening Your Funny Bone

Find the right moment. Only share a joke when it is appropriate to do so. Certain situations and environments have an atmosphere that is more fitting than others for joke-telling.

Commit to your joke and then relax. Once you begin telling a joke, don’t stop... even if you think it may be falling flat. Follow the joke through to the end. You might be surprised and actually get a chuckle out of someone.

Never appear to be trying too hard. At least, ACT as if telling the joke takes no effort on your part. Your audience will probably respond better if you seem easy going about telling it.

Speak with feeling. Unless a monotone voice plays a part in the joke itself, vary the inflection and expression you use as you speak to keep the interest of your audience.