The Truth About Set-up Lines And Punchlines

Training Module One: Intro And Lesson Links



Another one of the core aspects of “conventional” joke writing seems to focus on understanding the terms “set-up” and “punchline”.

I fully intend to prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that without the proper context and application, merely knowing what set-ups and punchlines are from a “conventional” perspective has little or no value when it comes to developing stand-up comedy material that will actually work for you on stage.

Let’s take a close look at two different “conventional” definitions for set-up lines and punchlines — one from a typical “stand-up comedy tips” blog and the other from an established and published stand-up comedy “guru”.

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Part 2

Conventional Definitions For Set-up Lines And Punchlines

Here is the first set of definitions of set-up and punchline you can find all over the internet:

Set-up: The foundation of a joke.

Punchline: The climactic phrase or statement of a joke, producing a sudden humorous effect.

Here is another set of definitions of set-up and punchline that I found on the website of an established and published stand-up comedy “guru”:

Set-up: The first part of a joke that contains a target assumption to misdirect the audience into accepting a bogus 1st story.

Punchline: The second part of a joke that contains a reinterpretation that creates a 2nd story that shatters the setup’s target assumption.

Note: There is another stand-up comedy term called a tag line (also referred to in ancient stand-up comedy terminology as a “topper”) that is nothing more than a punchline that directly follows another punchline.

Please note that the information that I have just provided you regarding set-ups and punchlines is 100% representative of what you are going to get to help you “write” stand-up comedy material in almost EVERY resource on comedy “writing” — stand-up comedy books, workshops or classes outside this online course.

So, armed with this so-called critical information provided that is supposedly “essential” in the process of “writing” stand-up comedy material, please answer these simple questions for yourself…

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Part 3

The Questions

Based on the information about set-ups and punchlines provided in the last section…

  • How does knowing the definitions of a set-ups and punchlines help you in any way to “write” or develop stand-up comedy material based on your sense of humor and already developed comedy talent?
  • How does knowing the definitions of a set-ups and punchlines help you produce stand-up comedy material that is structured to generate headliner level laughter levels on stage when you deliver that material?
  • Outside merely being able to identify what parts of your stand-up comedy material that are set-up lines and punchlines, how does knowing the definitions of a set-ups and punchlines help you in any meaningful capacity to develop stand-up comedy material that actually generates ANY laughter on stage — much less at headliner levels?

Those aren’t trick questions — these are valid questions that deserve valid and actionable answers.

As a matter of fact, I challenge you to write those questions down and ask any comedian (who hasn’t taken this online course) or so-called comedy “expert” — and experience for yourself first hand the non-actionable gibberish that they have to offer.

Here’s the brutal truth if you can handle it…

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Part 4

The Truth About Set-ups And Punchlines

Simply knowing the definitions of set-ups and punchlines (which represents most, if not all of what the vast majority of comedians and comedy “experts” can offer) does absolutely NOTHING to help you in any way when it comes to:

1. Knowing how to develop any kind of comedy material for the stage that has even an average chance of actually working well to produce laughter

2. Knowing how to properly structure your comedy material for maximum laughter frequency for each performing minute

3. Knowing how to generate punchlines based on your sense of humor and already developed comedy skill

4. Knowing how to structure punchlines for maximum laughter generation

5. Understanding line length when it comes to structuring set-up lines for word economy

6. Knowing how to structure your comedy material to reflect and accurately represent your natural speaking patterns, rhythm, word usage and natural comedy timing

7. Knowing how to target the areas in your comedy material that require the most attention when it comes to performance improvement

In other words…

Simply knowing the definitions for set-ups and punchlines and even being able to identify them on a piece of paper is no different than…

Well, it’s really no different than me giving you the definition of liver transplant surgery and expecting you to be able to skillfully perform the operation.

But wait! What if I also showed you hundreds of examples set-ups and punchlines from proven funny jokes delivered by famous comedians?

That’s what’s missing, right?

The truth of the matter is…

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Part 5

The Truth About Trying To Study Stand-up Comedy “Joke” Examples

It doesn’t matter how many set-up and punchline “joke” examples you study.

It doesn’t matter if you can skillfully identify set-up lines and punchlines in another comedian’s stand-up comedy material because…

Any stand-up comedy set-up/punchline joke example that I could possibly provide you (there is an endless sea of these in stand-up comedy videos on YouTube and in the “conventional” references that I provide in the last lesson in this Training Module) presented without a truly accurate context as it relates to YOU is virtually WORTHLESS because…

Those example “jokes” (or stand-up comedy material) were developed from that particular comedian’s perspective, point of view, sense of humor and delivery style — not yours.

It would be no different than me showing you hundreds of photographs of liver transplant surgeries performed by dozens of different surgeons and then expecting you to skillfully perform the operation yourself.

I’m going to bet my house that given the conditions that I just detailed, your patient would croak.

Don’t get me wrong — there are some real advantages to studying other comedians if you know how and what you are looking for.

But when it comes to merely presenting examples of set-up and punchline “jokes” or stand-up comedy material — again, that does absolutely NOTHING for you when it comes to helping you develop stand-up comedy that is developed specifically for you, your comedy talent and sense of humor.

As a matter of fact…

Being able to identify set-up lines, punchlines and tag lines in your stand-up comedy material on paper is nothing more than an academic exercise of no value to you whatsoever until you have determined what you want to say to an audience in the first place.

It shouldn’t be a surprise at all why naturally funny people struggle to produce stand-up comedy material that actually works for them on stage — given the information (or the true lack of information) they have to work with.

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Wrap up

Wrap Up

It should be abundantly clear at this point that there are significant and critical pieces of information that are missing from the “conventional” joke writing methodologies most people try to use to develop stand-up comedy material.

But I would prefer that you don’t just take my word for it — verify the information that I have provided in this lesson and in the remainder of this course for yourself.

You can do that by asking comedians or so-called comedy “experts” the questions I have presented in this lesson and see if they can give you ANY usable information on your quest to develop headline level comedy material for the stage.

FYI — the information you need IS provided in this course.

But let’s continue on and talk about that so-called “special character” you are supposedly tasked to become in order to be an effective comedian on stage…

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Training Module One: Intro And Lesson Links