Written vs. onstage jokes

OK, so I post joke ideas here in written form sometimes. The problem is written jokes usually aren't nearly as funny as they are on stage. No delivery, timing, etc. How often do you read a joke in a book, magazine, or online and actually laugh at loud?

I bring this up because comments are now open here. Earlier today I posted a joke and an anonymous commenter left a message that said, "Crickets." I presume that was this person's way of telling me the joke wasn't funny.

Slight problem there though: The joke is funny. To some people at least. I've told it a few times and it does surprisingly well. Here's a clip of it from a set I did in Boston:

I'm not saying it's the greatest joke in the world but it works. And one thing I like about telling it is people start to get it at different points in the joke. It reminds me of a bit in Steve Martin's book (some excerpts) where he talks about how he doesn't like punchlines because he likes jokes where audience members have to decide for themselves when to laugh. He explains that style of joke creates a deeper connection than straight setup/punch jokes because the person decides on their own when to laugh.

Anyway, back to the point: "Anonymous" is certainly entitled to think the joke sucks (or just isn't funny in written form). And do feel free to leave comments here if ya think a joke sucks. I actually enjoy negative feedback when it's thoughtful. Just keep in mind that written jokes aren't the ideal format. (Not to mention a lot of the things I post here are untested ideas. I'd argue that new jokes are like baseball at-bats: A 30% success rate means you're doing pretty well.)

And I'd respect "Anonymous" more if he/she left their name. Anonymous, negative comments are lame. Here's the way I tend to picture anonymous online commenters:


karyrogers said...

The joke worked for me because:

1) I didn't see it coming and it took me a second or two to put it in context, much like the audience. I think the audience enjoys a joke more when they have to think a little bit and have a more active role in their own entertainment. It makes them feel they are "in" on the joke and it helps build a connection with the comic.

2) I love The Karate Kid (I have this tshirt).

Crickets schmickets.

Paul Kelleher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Kelleher said...

Hey matt, i wrote "crickets". I've never seent the Karate Kid so i didn't get the joke. its a tough one if no one has seen the movie. nonetheless i now think its witty. movie references are tough without a setup. i was thinking of introducing myself on stage as a sickly looking guy who wonders why everybody in the movie philadelphia thinks tom hanks looks so sick. he looks like he's in tip top shape to me. i guess i wouldn't need any makeup for the role. but i'm scrapping it cause i don't think enough people have seen the flick. tough call, karate kid is a bit more popular. i also never laughed when Zach G goes "that's so raven".

Matt Ruby said...

Cool PK. And see Karate Kid! You can watch for free over at Hulu.com. As for the Hanks thing, getting laughs off making fun of an AIDS patient (real or fictional) is prob an uphill battle, no? Hmm. (Btw, I've never seen Raven but I do laugh when Zach says that because just the idea of it is so stupid.)

Paul Kelleher said...

yeah i guess i'll stick to making fun of denzel washington's fan base. glad to see i made it into a blog post at least. i'm pumped.

"I'm a lawsuit. Get it?"

Anonymous said...

I've seen you do this joke. It was definitely funny. If anything I'd make it longer. Add stuff that gets increasingly movie specific. Kind of reminds me of this one time I saw Reggie Watts basically tell the entire Iron Man origin story on stage before the movie came out and most people weren't even that familiar with the story. Like the entire story, but 100% serious and setting it up as if it happened to a friend of his. It took people a while but like your joke the laughs just built up so nicely. I don't know if going longer is the way to kill, but that kind of stuff is funny to me. Sometimes it's like an everyone laughing a bit vs. a few people laughing their asses of kind of thing.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

A joke I wrote: I like the show To Catch a Predator. I used to catch my own predators back in the day. I would invite them to my house, just like the TV show, but I would run upstairs and say, "Come and get me, you big horse's ass." They'd start to climb the stairs, and I'd drop two paint cans on them. Then they'd fall backwards and slip on these Micro machines I left at the bottom. I'd catch at least two a year that way...

A club owner in Florida said, "Great stuff. But you know you have to lose the Home Alone joke, right?"

Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

I only post on rare occasions here now. Subscribe to my Rubesletter  (it's at  mattruby.substack.com ) to get jokes, videos, essays, etc...