How to Tell a Joke: Seven Tips for Telling Good Jokes

Happy audience

Before I was a motivational speaker, I was a comedian. I think that most speakers should avoid telling jokes, but on the other hand, telling jokes around the water cooler or on the porch while sippin’ lemonade is a time-honored tradition. But if you are going to tell jokes, you should do it right. Here are seven tips on how to tell a joke and improve your joke telling game.

1. Make sure you actually know the joke. Tell it to your kids, your spouse, and your dog. Trust me, you want to tell the joke a few times before you do it for real.

2. Don’t tell jokes that everybody has heard…if your joke is all over the internet, then this is a great joke to AVOID.

3. Shorter jokes are better. Trust me, your audience will appreciate you for NOT adding all of the colorful details and fluff. Just tell the joke!

4. The punch-line comes last. And I mean last! Consider this joke: Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.

Now, the same joke when the punch-line is not last. (I know, that joke is pretty bad on its own, but… you get the idea.) Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side of the road which was on a long block because he wanted to get to his chicken coop.

See? Punch-lines should be last. Period. NOTHING comes after the punch. (Except for your silence and their laughter.)

5. Keep it clean. And I mean crystal clean. If you wouldn’t tell it to the Queen of England (who probably doesn’t like jokes much anyway) then leave it out. Seriously. If you have any doubt whether you are “crossing the line,” then don’t tell it. Think of it this way: if you tell a joke to 10 people and 9 of them laugh, then you’ve still alienated a friend. Don’t do it.

6. If you are telling a joke as part of a presentation, give credit where credit is due for the joke. You can do that before the joke with something like, “Here’s one I read on the internet.” Or after the joke with something like, “That old joke was on the internet, but it reminds us to…. (follow with a point.)” If you don’t let people know that the joke is from the internet, you risk looking like a fool. I guarantee that at least a couple of people in every audience already know your joke, and if you want to earn and keep THEIR respect you need to make sure you don’t claim that joke to be yours.

7. Don’t steal jokes from stand up comics. Unless they are dead. Jokes are material, and it is how they earn a living. If you tell it, copy it, email it…. whatever…you devalue the joke for them. Besides, it’s bad karma. :)

audience listening Brad talking how to tell a joke
Brad on Stage

Brad Montgomery is a hilarious motivational speaker and corporate comedian who reminds his audiences to take themselves less seriously in his laugh-out-loud keynote presentations.  Book Brad today to get your audience laughing AND learning.

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