Roger Ebert’s guide to joke-telling

So I'm just now reading this essay, or rather, this ode to joke-telling by Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, and before I turn my thumbs in the up or down position, I have to remind myself not to wade into the muck and mire of the comments section and examine only what Ebert wrote. Interesting to learn that before critiquing, the young Ebert aspired to a career in stand-up. Got halfway in before seeing that Ebert is not talking about routines or monologues (as he calls a set), but specifically zeroing in on what he feels are the keys to writing a stand-alone funny joke. He also includes a series of photos profiling stand-ups at a show in Palo Alto, Calif., but never explains why. Just illustration, are they? It would have been nice to include their jokes, too. Anyhow. Digression completed.

Here are Roger Ebert's 10 rules for amateurs to follow when attempting to tell a joke in an informal setting…

1. Know the joke.

2. Never step on the punch word.

3. Use a four-letter word if the joke requires it.

4. Never explain.

5. Do not elaborate unnecessarily.

6. Never repeat.

7. Beware of accents.

8. Be careful about ethnic or religious jokes.

9. If it's a long joke, it may be better funnier if it is told quickly.

10. If the joke really works, you can bend a few rules, but not #1.

(Via CC Insider)

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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One thought on “Roger Ebert’s guide to joke-telling

  1. I have to admit, I laughed at the Mamet joke that Roger used as one of his examples.
    And, following Roger’s instructions, I have to get a few new friends.

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