The Beauty of the One Liner

I’ve had this goal to write a thousand one liners. It started a couple of years ago and I forgot about it. Until last week.

I challenged myself to do 50 one liner jokes in 2 days. I did it. Not sure if all of them are gems, but here’s what I learned.

One liners are different from actual stand up because when you write a one liner, you are constrained and challenged by the brevity of words. You have to get to your point in 1 to 2 sentences. Wherein the usual standup bits, you can set up your premise within 2 to 3 sentences, then get to your punch, which means that each bit would take around 4 to 5 sentences. That’s not even counting your act outs. The actual writing of the one liners forces you to think in a different way. You have to “imply” your attitude and premise within the first sentence. No dilly-dallying. In some cases, you can even get to the punch line in the first sentence. Imagine trying to catch a cab in the middle of rush hour. That’s what it’s like. You have to get the audience hooked and reeled in within the first 10 seconds or you lose them. There is a sense of urgency.

But wait, just because your written one liner is funny, it doesn’t mean it will be funny when you perform it onstage. What I realized is you have to write the one liner but when you actually say it, you say it with your own play on it. It’s like 2 actors reading from the same script but performing the character in 2 different ways. I think you can only do this if you already have a good amount of stage time under your belt. It’s a one liner but you have to deliver it in a standup conversation manner, or whatever your style is. Sometimes you can even add an act out or tag at the end that will spank the audience even harder.

Once you have a bunch of one liners, throw them away. What I mean by this is, deliver them as throwaway lines. Unleash them on your audience like you don’t really care if they get laughs or not. The weird thing is, once you start doing this, your bits don’t even have to be that good. Somehow the audience gets it and they laugh at all of them. I don’t know how to explain it.

Here’s an example of a one liner that I wrote that has worked lately: Some people pee in the shower but I don’t. I take a dump in the shower. (tag) Level up!

For some reason the laughter comes when I do it fast and emphasize the tag. I think it’s the tag that actually sparks the laughter in this one. If I ended the joke with the “shower” word, I don’t think it would get as much laughs. It would probably sound needy and that I’m waiting for the reaction. See, this joke is a pseudo-shit joke but what I shared with you just reaffirms it. Throwing it away somehow makes it funnier.

I hope that helps you in your comedy. It’s really hard to put into words. It’s best to just try it and see for yourself if it works or not.