Comics are writers by default. Well, at least that is what we are supposed to be in our craft.
We write and develop jokes that can either kill on stage, get a tepid response, or receive the worst reaction of all. Silence.
A friend who recently went to Los Angeles to check out the scene informed me of comedy on the West Coast. He said “they’re more storytellers out in L.A. We have the monopoly on punchlines.”
Punchlines are finishers for a joke (as we all know). What my friend told me interested me, but as I began to assess the scene more closely, I realized something. Comics lacking punchlines is glaringly prevalent on the New York scene too.
Here’s what I’ve come to find when it comes to joke writing.
Having an opinion doesn’t mean you have a punchline
It’s fairly common for someone to rant and have it be funny. If it’s an honest display of emotion there can be real value if you analyze a rant carefully and form it into a real joke. Hell, even my own rant about my deep seated rage two weeks after a breakup turned itself into a good revenge joke.
However, what I have seen is comics often end up rambling where there is no punchline and it’s nothing but poorly asserted opinions that no one laughs at or merely gives a pity chuckle.
Opinions are fine to have and they help us form our jokes, but if those opinions don’t lead to a punchline at some point your audience will be bored. They came to watch a comedian, not a presentation.
It’s obvious when a joke is underdeveloped
Having no punchline is a clear indication of an underdeveloped joke, plain and simple.
Unless you’ve mastered storytelling like Gabriel Iglesias (which very few can do), it’s imperative to fit a punchline somewhere because audiences can tell when a joke is going nowhere and leaves something to be desired.
Audiences expect punchlines
We are in a time in comedy when audiences expect more blended styles of comedy. Look at the comics who have specials, are headlining clubs, etc.
While everyone has a different style, one thing is similar. Comedy styles are more blended with a mix of storytelling, anecdotes, and punchlines. It’s the direction comedy has taken and in order to keep up you have to adapt.
Punchlines sum up why a joke is funny. If you don’t deliver the punchline the joke will fizzle out and likely leave a lukewarm feeling. You’ll essentially leave your audience feeling confused which is never good for your brand.
What are your thoughts on punchlines? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!