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Rule of Three, Part II of III

Rule of Three, Part II 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?

  • The Early Stop ‚Äì Standard Premise-List-Punch; Standard Premise-Punch

Since lists of three have been used so much and we tend to expect them, the surprise needed for laughter can often be generated by cutting a list short. ¬†It helps if the fact that the list stops at two or one is internally consistent with the logic of the joke.¬† The delivery before the punch tends to reinforce the expectation that a list is coming and an awkward silent pause after the punch often provides a cue that the list is over.¬† E.g.¬†I‚Äôm incredibly poor‚ÄI’ve¬†got no money, no job‚Ķ That‚Äôs it; those are the only qualifications of poverty.

  • ¬†The Continuation ‚Äì Standard Premise-List-List-Punch-List-List-Punch‚Ķ

This setup uses the same expectation of 3 as the Early Stop, but continues on well past that.  The variations—whether the entire list is punches/tags or whether they are split with reasonable items occurring at random frequencies—are endless.  Again, the fact that the list is long—often exaggeratedly long—is consistent with the logic of the joke. E.g. see: Monty Python’s “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

  • The Confusion ‚Äì Ouch, normal, wait-which?

Not every Rule of Three is a list per se and the Confusion is one example where the structure isn’t obvious in the progression.¬† It is also a setup that requires courage and strong delivery.¬† The premise sets up a harsh punch line, an ‚Äúouch‚Äù that many crowds will not sign-on to.¬† The ‚Äúnormal‚Äù laugh comes from releasing the tension the ‚Äúouch‚Äù created.¬† The ‚Äúnormal‚Äù alters the meaning of the ‚Äúouch‚Äù in a way that takes the presumed awfulness out of it‚Äîa pun can be slipped in here. ¬†Either way, the ‘wait-which?’ finale throws the audience back into doubt and the laugh comes if they are happy to have been fucked with‚Äîit‚Äôs an ‚ÄúOh, I‚Äôve been duped‚Äù laugh. ¬†An out-dated e.g.¬†I can’t help it, I love Aids. I always employ at least two. They don’t usually live as long as Magic.

  • That Escalated Quickly ‚Äì Ouch, extension, absurd

This variation is almost identical to the Confusion except that the second item doesn’t rationalize or “clear” the first item, it keeps the “ouch” going and paints a more vivid picture of the scene. E.g. “I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they’re dead.” –L. Kightlinger

 

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