How to Write a Comedy Joke That Works

montreal comedy club

You can walk into any comedy club in Montreal and you’ll see a mix of new and experienced comics trying to make the audience laugh, or cringe, or cry…from laughter. Hundreds of comics have passed through the doors here at Comedyville and hundreds of punch lines have landed and made audiences snort or laugh or sometimes both. But behind those hundreds of successful punch lines are thousands and thousands of punch lines that did not work. So, how does anyone write a comedy joke that works? It’s easy…just dive into the pain!

Watching a comic tell a good joke is like watching a car drive by. Seems pretty simple from the outside…just some seats and a cage rolling by on 4 tires, big deal. But when you actually look at all the components of the engine and suspension that have to function in order for that car to defy physics and roll forward, it becomes clear that this is a well-oiled (hopefully) machine that has a lot going on behind the scenes. That’s exactly what a comic goes through to craft a good joke!

On the surface, he looks calm and ready (my friend bet me I couldn’t get an Eminem quote into a blog…pay up, Justin) but if you hopped into a time machine to see the journey a comic goes through, you’ll see it all started with some clacking on a keyboard or an organic conversation or an experience that triggered a funny idea. From there, the pain begins. Pain can mean different things to different people. But pain to a Montreal stand-up comic is silence. Pain is presenting an idea that’s funny to you and then receiving a blank stare back from the audience. But it’s within this horrible pain that the (at this point) “bad” joke begins to evolve.

A comic could easily throw that joke away and move on to another one but if they know there’s a nugget of funny in there then they begin to mold it. You can adjust the timing, or reword some parts to give it a better flow and each adjustment brings the joke closer to eliciting that elusive mouth noise comics chase every time they step foot on a stage, laughter.

Can you sit down and write out a hilarious joke on the first try and then deliver it on stage to uproarious laughter right away? Yes, but you have a better chance of meeting your celebrity crush, getting them to fall madly in love with you, and run away from the fame to start a dairy farm in Idaho. So, next time you’re watching a comedy show at Comedyville and you hear a good joke that makes you laugh just know that that joke works because the comic army crawled through the pain until they found what works. So, if you want to write a joke that works, step one is to actually write something down that makes you laugh. Step two is to walk onto that stage and dive into the pain. And, finally, step three is to experience the evolution of your joke from infancy to hilarity.


Post by Jonathan Motney
Jonathan has been writing and performing comedy in the DFW area for over 5 years. He looks to continue contributing to the comedy world until he becomes unfunny due to age and/or fatherhood.

Post exclusively contributed to, All rights reserved.
Comedyville is a Comedy Club located in Downtown Montreal.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author.