Do Jokes Need Structure? | Comedy Master Class

It's so crazy it just might work!

It's so crazy it just might work!

Comedy Master Class is a free online course presented by The Brunch Club where regular people earn their comedy GEDs and achieve their wildest dream of laughing out loud. 

Today, Comedy Master Class's intrepid instructor (Iain F. MacNeil) lays to rest whether or not jokes need structure.

This column has never received any sort of reader inquiry--probably because it is widely known I will demand anyone who asks questions to wire me wildly expensive tuition fee--but if there were, I'd bet that readers would want to know about joke writing. Specifically: DO JOKES NEED STRUCTURE? It's an interesting question and I, for one, am very glad that I brought it up. 

Before we get into whether or not it's necessary, let us examine the most basic form of joke structure.

  1. Premise:
    The foundation on which you are building your joke. To identify the premise of a joke, simply tell yourself: "I think this is funny because _____________ ." How ever way you form this statement is the premise of your joke.
     
  2. Setup:
    Establishes the premise of the joke by providing the audience with context.  
     
  3. Punchline: 
    WHAMO! The setup took the audience one way and then you flip-turn 'em upside down by going in a totally weird and wacky direction. The twist is the punchline's main ingredient because comedy is simply a surprise that elicits laughter rather than screaming.
     
  4. Tags / Toppers (optional):
    Additional punchlines that either build on the initial punch or keep them zig-zagging around like some super hot Olympic slalom skier.

Now that we have outlined the basic joke structure, we must ask: DO JOKES NEED STRUCTURE?

Yes, they do. Without proper joke structure, the sheep in the audience will be lost and they will turn on their shepherd (you) for you have underestimated the value of a sheep dog (joke structure).

But also, no they don't? After all, comedy is merely surprise that elicits laughter rather than uncontrollable shitting. And what could possibly be more surprising than a comic that defies all convention and rambles on like some common maniac?

Comedy Master Class is a free online course presented by The Brunch Club and taught by Iain "Shaq" MacNeil where regular people can earn their comedy GEDs and achieve their wildest dream of laughing out loud.