Rule of Three, Part I of III

Rule of Three, Part I of III

This is very much a work in progress. ¬†Much like the post “Pun.” this is an exercise in self-reflection and personal analysis of joke writing. It probably isn’t good as advice to start writing jokes; it is written primarily as a tool of self-help. ¬†That said, sharing is good, yeah?

You’ll often hear the ‘rule of three’ in long form jokes told only by country boys and old men anymore–you know, the ones where somebody has to perform three tasks for St. Peter so they can get into heaven. I like those jokes, but they don’t work well for stand-up where you really need to get to the point quickly. ¬†So, the following is is focused on structures that are used in stand-up (note: examples are written as if delivered aloud so you’ll have to ignore the telegraphed puns; second, no, they generally aren’t good jokes–they are intended to illuminate form not make you laugh):

  • Standard Premise-List-List-Punch

This is a joke that starts with a premise about a thing of which there are instances, examples, or descriptive items. E.g. I love eating out in the Fall.  Then, the instances/examples/descriptive items are provided; the first two establish the assumed argument of the premise—what most people would think flows naturally and that they are comfortable with.  E.g. the trees are painted with leaves of a dozen colors, the air is crisp…  Finally, the punch and third of the list pushes the argument to an absurdity. E.g. … and dumpster food rots slower.

The Standard setup can also be put in Reverse by employing the List items to establish an absurdity, followed by a benign Punch.¬† E.g. I‚Äôd be happy as a homeless person.¬†I’ve¬†always been thrilled just to be asked indoors think masturbating in public is a great idea, but mostly I‚Äôd rather not be bothered with grooming myself.¬†By memory, it seems these types are often followed by sarcastic emphasis of the final item to sell it further and milk the laugh if there is one.¬†E.g.¬†Do I use a file or clippers? … OH SHIT, I hit a cuticle! No man was meant to live like this.

  • Misdirection Premise-List-List-Punch

The structure is very similar to the Standard Premise-List-List-Punch except the punch line turns the lead-in on its head, often illuminating a pun; the listed items support misdirection. E.g. Even as a kid I always hated ‘cellars’ because they’re cold, scary, and I always had to answer the phone during dinner.