Practicing Jokes and Stories with People

How do people react to a joke?

Can you tell me how long cows should be milked? They should be milked the same as short ones . . .

It’s a joke!

Some people may find this funny, some may pause and try to comprehend the context of the joke, while some may find this joke silly and not funny at all. People’s reaction to jokes may vary for so many reasons. It may be because the receiver of the joke does not understand the context or it may be on the way it was delivered. What is a joke then? Why do some people find a joke funny while some don’t?

Joke is a branch of conversational humor. It is usually found in a conversation or in a written collection. Anatomically, a joke comprises of a build-up and a punchline. The build-up is a normal sentence or line that is delivered by the speaker as an introduction to the joke, while the punchline drops the bomb of comedy. The punchline defies the expectation set by the build-up line, making the joke funny. There are three common types of jokes that are usually used—shaggy-dog stories, riddles, and one-liners. The shaggy-dog jokes are lengthy stories with a funny ending for a punchline. Here is an example of a famous shaggy-dog joke found on the site known as The Heggen Pages:

Ghandi walked barefoot everywhere, to the point that his feet became quite thick and hard. Even when he wasn’t on a hunger strike, he did not eat much and became quite thin and frail. He also was quite a spiritual person. Furthermore, due to his diet, he ended up with very bad breath. He became known as a super-calloused fragile mystic plagued with halitosis.

Riddles are usually two-liner jokes that consists of a question and an answer. The introduction is an example of a riddle. The question serves as the build-up and the answer in the second line is the punchline. The one-liners are very short jokes where the build-up and the punchline is combined in one line. An example of a one-liner is the following, culled from the journal Language and Linguistics Compass: “I don’t approve of political jokes . . . I’ve seen too many of them get elected”

The surprise effect of the joke can lead a person to laugh. It is the ambiguity of a joke’s meaning that elicits laughter from the audience. However, a build-up and a punchline does not guarantee that the joke is a successful comedy. A joke’s success is in how it is delivered. Even the best jokes ever created would depend on the joke-teller’s masterful delivery for its success. To a joke-teller, timing is always everything. A joke’s timing should be flawless, relaxed, and comfortable. The teller should know when to pause and when to throw the knockout punchline to successfully deliver a joke. Without the proper timing and delivery, the material will only be another lame joke to forget.

There are times that mastery of delivery and timing is not enough to get a positive reaction from other people. There are jokes that may confuse them, or worse, they may find it rude and offensive. The audience should be considered when delivering a joke because a lot of jokes are usually cultural. A person who is from Australia may not understand a joke delivered by someone from America; this is because of each person’s cultural difference. It is like an inside joke. The other person who don’t share the same cultural understanding to that of the joke-teller may not understand the joke and find it silly and not funny at all. This is the reason why some people react passively when they hear a joke. This may be because they do not understand the joke culturally, or they are not familiar with the humor that the joke-teller is expressing.

Also, some jokes are just contextually offensive without intending to be so. The joke materials may have contained sensitive subjects like racial slurs and the like. This may provoke a negative reaction from the receiver of the joke. Materials containing sensitive subjects should be handled carefully so as not to aggravate the listeners. It is better to practice a good, clean joke that can be enjoyed by a lot of people.

Practicing a good joke with other people is a good way of improving sense of humor, a good way to decrease stress. A good laugh a day is very satisfying and even better when you draw out this laughter from others with a quick, good-natured joke. Others may not find a good joke or two funny, but that does not mean that the joke is bad. It may just be that the joke is not suited to their taste.

Do you know a joke or two that you’d like to share? Feel free to part some laughs in the comments below. You can also grab some jokes from my books, A Belly Full of Laughs and More Belly Full of Laughs. If you want to discuss further or share some of your jokes, I am on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Bill McJunkin. “Ghandi’s Health Problems.” The Heggen Pages (January 21, 1999). Accessed January 29, 2018.

Dynel, Marta. “Beyond a Joke: Types of Conversational Humour.” Language and Linguistics Compass 3, no. 5 (July 23, 2009): 1284–1299. Accessed January 29, 2018. doi:10.1111/j.1749-818X.2009.00152.x.

Giora, Rachel. “On the Cognitive Aspects of the Joke.” Journal of Pragmatics 16, no. 5 (November 1991): 465–485. Accessed January 29, 2018. doi:10.1016/0378-2166(91)90137-M (Journal)

Hadgraft, Beverley. “Your Sense of Humour Reveals a Lot.” Whimm, My Body and Soul. May 17, 2009. Accessed January 29, 2018.

Lui, Herbert. “How to Develop Your Sense of Humour.” Humor. March 11, 2015. Accessed January 29, 2018.

Wilde, Larry. “What It Takes to Make People Laugh.” Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. Accessed January 29, 2018. (Article)

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