Styles of Joke Delivery: One Liners and Story Telling

Like the Kuma Sutra, joke delivery has a lot of different styles. The two types that are pretty popular that I’ve seen a lot of successful comics use are one liners and stories. It’s up to you what you prefer, but in my experience it’s always helpful to have the full arsenal so that you could adjust to your audience.

One liners are like Manny Pacquiao, they are quick to the punch. These are good opening jokes to get the crowd going right away. Doing them in a long series gives your act a good rhythm. People will start anticipating the punchlines in your act, which most of the time is a good thing since it cues them when to laugh. If they get on board and dig your humor, then this could be a wild and crazy ride, which no drug can duplicate (well, I could be wrong). Most of the old school comics such as Rodney Dangerfield are great at this. There are some new comedians that also do this but with a modern twist, like the late Mitch Hedgeberg and the genius Dave Attell. But if the audience feels at some point, you’re not being real, then your act could become too jokey and contrived. I’ve seen Gary Lising do this and kill in the beginning but after 15 minutes, people got tired of it. It’s difficult to sustain for more than 15 minutes, unless you sprinkle it with other styles or have strippers in your act. The danger of having too many one liners is your act might become hodgepodge and not very memorable.

With Filipino crowds, I’ve noticed that this one liner works mostly with older audiences, especially if the punch lines are raunchy and have Erap or some other character as the butt of the joke. But with younger crowd, thanks to their exposure to Conan, Ellen, and Kimmel, expect a bit more than the usual dirty jokes.

Story telling is another style that is a bit more engaging when done correctly. Stories are susceptible to becoming lengthy with no punchlines. This is when an amateur comedian has a story that his friends find hilarious – and that’s the problem, only his friends find it hilarious, hence the cliche “Oh, I guess it’s funnier if you were there”. So the trick to a good story routine is to put punchlines and throwaways on the way to the end. Throwaways are just quick jokes that are too weak to call attention to and so you just tell them under your breath like you’re throwing them away – kinda like first born Chinese baby girls. The fact that you’re treating them as not that funny makes them a bit funnier (I know, zen right?). The other challenge also is the last punch line – it has to be way more hilarious than the other punchlines in the story.

So, here’s the hybrid: create a story around your one liners. Look at all your one liner jokes and find a theme. Your act will become more streamlined and memorable. Next thing you know, you have your own sitcom… which only airs on Youtube. Remember, these are not the only ways to deliver a joke. Watch your favorite comics and study how they do their thing.