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How To Tell A Joke

John Moe

John Moe: Hi. Give us a bit of the award-winning form. Show us how you won the $2,500 and the free T-shirt.

Chris Cashman: A brother is heading over to his sister's house. They get together every week. And they have this following conversation.

"Hey! What's going on? How are you doing?" the brother asks.

The sister tells him, "Oh, it's pretty good. I'm just hanging out and everything."

Brother: Great! So are we going to do our usual? Just watch a movie and relax?

Sister: Actually, I was thinking this could be fun. I bought a jigsaw puzzle. It's a real fun one. I've been working on it for four days. It's really confusing, but I thought it could be fun if we did it together, maybe?

Brother: All right. Do you have the box so I know what it's supposed to look like?

Sister: Yeah! Hang on, it's right over here. Here it is! It looks like it's a tiger. I only have part of the foot put together.

Brother: This is it?

Sister: Yeah.

Brother: OK. Um. You know what? I don't want to make a big deal out of it. I don't want to waste our time. I just don't think we're going to be able to actually make this look anything like the picture. So maybe we just watch a movie and relax?

Sister: Give me some credit! I know I'm your sister but c'mon! I'm pretty smart. Let's do it together!

Brother: No, it's not that. Let's just watch a movie, we'll relax, and maybe later on I can help you put all of the Frosted Flakes back into the box.

All right!

There's the joke! The sister, you see, is not all that bright! What advice can you give people so they can go out this weekend and tell an effective joke? What are some tips on how to do it right?

I think the old-fashioned joke telling, the things you get forwarded, like the "Policeman, the horse and the rabbi walk into a bar. And the bartender says, 'Wait a minute. This is a joke, right?'" I think those things people see coming a million miles away and it's sort of boring.

In a way, by taking either something that's slightly amusing and making it your own and/or adding voices to it. And the beauty of doing it on the Web is you can add sound effects to it. It's sort of like super-sizing a joke. Take it and rewrite it. You get the same effect--same punch line and the same conclusion. But what can you add to it? What made you chuckle about it and blow that part up?

To me, with the brother and the sister and the Frosted Flakes, I thought it was amusing. Just the idea of you didn't really see it coming. It's a jigsaw puzzle and it's a tiger. And when I read it, I didn't jump ahead and know where it was going. And I thought that was amusing.

So I thought, "Okay, let's really put it in context." It's one of those that you look back and you realize that the brother is too nice to say something to the sister and the sister is clearly clueless. So I've almost done a movie in my head of this scenario and then gone back to the beginning and told it.

The act of telling a joke to a friend at a party, at dinner, whatever it is, is not so common anymore. Are jokes in better shaper or worse shape than they used to be because of the modern methods of joke telling?

I would say it's in worse shape. Unless you're somebody that goes to comedy clubs and stuff like that, it is sort of going away. People don't really do that anymore. You don't hear people come up to you and say, "Hey, I heard a really funny joke," because when is the last time you heard a joke? You probably got 10 in your inbox today, but people just don't tell jokes anymore.

I heard one a few minutes ago from you, but before that it had been several years.

Before that, it was me when I recorded that one into the phone!

Right. Have you ever been in a bar and seen a priest, a rabbi and a Lutheran pastor walk in--with or without a duck?

No, I haven't. I saw a horse in a bar one time. But that was a rodeo-theme thing so it had nothing to do with humor whatsoever. I thought it was leading to a punch line. It did not, in fact.

I kind of thought it was going to lead to a punch line just now when you said, "I saw a horse in a bar once." And then you just stopped.

That's the beauty of comedy. You assumed that that was the joke and in fact there was nothing at the end of that! Nothing.

Chris Cashman is the 2007 Comic Wonder of the Year. Winner of $2,500 and a fancy T-shirt from the Web site www.comicwonder.com. He's recognized as the global champion of joke telling and defies all challengers who seek to usurp his throne.

Unless you're really funny. Then do not compete with me.

Chris Cashman, thanks for being with us.

Thank you!

  • Music Bridge:
    Charley Town
    Artist: Dan Lambert
    CD: Guitar Soli (Numero Group)

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