Telling a Joke Poorly Is No Laughing Matter
by JIM "PAPPY" MOORE
Dec 11, 2013 | 1128 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Telling a Joke Poorly Is No Laughing Matter

by Jim "Pappy" Moore

I was taking a tour of a Texas prison near Huntsville.  As I walked with the Warden through the cell block with the prisoners serving the longest terms, I kept hearing numbers being shouted out, followed by laughter.  A guy would yell out "fifty-seven," and the place would erupt in laughter.  Then another would say "one hundred sixteen," and more laughter.  I asked the Warden what was happening.  He said "these guys have been here so long, they don't even tell the jokes any more.  They have them all numbered, so they just call out the number for a joke."  About that time, a guy yelled out "thirty-nine!"  No one laughed.  I asked the Warden why no one laughed at that joke.  He replied "aw, that guy never could tell a joke right."

There is an art to telling a joke right.  High school buddy Lynn Parker can do it.  So can lifelong friend Mike Capps.  And so can friend since our military days together, Rick Lawrence.

First, there must be the set-up.  Telling a joke cold turkey can fall flat.  If you have a turkey joke, wait until there's turkey on the table to tell it.  Timing is everything with humor.  When it's topical, it's funny.  Same for jokes about pigs.  When you're eating bacon, or pork chops, or ham, that's a good time to broach the subject.

Second, do not announce it as a joke.  Don't say "oh, hey, I heard this joke ...."  Just jump right into the story like it really happened.  If someone asks in the middle "is this a joke," ignore the question but give them a knowing look which says "of course it is!"

Third, know the joke well before you launch.  "Now, let's see ... there was a fellow who went to A&M.  He was deer hunting.  Then something happened. Oh, wait, I forgot about the truck."  No, we don't start a joke like that.  "Two Aggies were hunting and had wandered far from their truck ...."

Fourth, don't say the punch line before it is time for it.  Nothing ruins a joke like blurting out the punch line at the wrong time.

Fifth, with most jokes, keeping it simple is key, and keeping it fairly short is important unless everyone has been drinking too much.  A horse comes into a bar. The bartender hands him a drink and says "so why the long face?"

Sixth, maintain eye contact with your listeners.  Be animated, too, and use gestures to accentuate the joke telling experience.  You're asking someone to go with you on a short, hopefully amusing, imaginary journey.

Seventh, don't overdo laughing at your own joke.  Sure, it is hilarious, but best to let others lead the guffawing.

The main thing to remember about joke telling, however, is this simple notion:  people who like you may think you're funny, but those who don't like you will seldom think any joke you tell them is funny.  Choose your audience wisely.
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