The Guardian newspaper are running some articles about comedy and comedy writing next month. They asked me to write something for them, so here's my "Write A Joke In 10 Steps" guide...
WRITE A JOKE IN 10 STEPS
1. Choose your subject (EG vacuous celebrity culture)
2. Define your attitude. How does the subject make you feel? Happy? Sad? Angry? A passionate point of view makes a joke stronger.
3. Write as much as you can about your chosen subject. Use similes, oxymorons, clichés, proverbs, double entendres, whatever you want.
Make lists of people, places and things associated with the subject. (EG Jordan, Kerry Katona, Big Brother, Paris Hilton, Heat magazine, BBC3, Lily Allen, Pete Doherty, her with the rats maze hairdo and tattoos, Heather Mills buying a shoe.)
4. Cast your eye over what you've written and the funniest bits will stick out. That's the bits we want.
5. Edit, edit, edit. Cut away as much as possible. Your mildly amusing two-page story can become a fantastic one-line joke.
6. Misdirection. Inflate the balloon. Lead the audience as far away from the joke as you can.
"Me and my friend Allison have been invited to a fancy dress party…"(*)
…We're going as Paris Hilton and Jodi Marsh."
7. Time for a PAUSE. What you don't say is just as important. The audience thinks quicker than you can speak so let them do their work. Let them conjure up their own pictures of a fancy dress party.
8. Quickly spin them in the opposite direction and burst the balloon.
"I'm getting a lobotomy and Allison is having her vagina widened."
9. Listen to the audience. Audiences will help you write the joke.
Originally Allison and I were going to be "John Leslie and Ulrika Jonsonn", then we were going to be "Lembit Opik and Abi Titmuss", it was the British public who, after much trial and error, chose "Paris Hilton and Jodi Marsh".
(*) I'm aware that it should be "My friend Allison and I…" but (10) jokes don't obey no rules of English grammar, baby.
PS Always put the punchline at the end, don't laugh at your own jokes, don't get them wet, keep them out of strong sunlight and never feed them after midnight.
Jo Caulfield is one of the most successful and instantly recognisable comedians in the UK.
Jo has been nominated as "Funniest Woman" (LAFTA Awards), "Best Female Stand-Up" (Chortle Awards) and one of "The 100 Greatest Stand-Ups" (Channel4).
The Guardian calls her “Scathing, bitchy and intelligent with masses of attitude", while The Observer advocates "Jo Caulfield is an inspiration to all would-be female comedians".
A regular guest on "Mock The Week", “Have I Got News For You” and “Never Mind The Buzzcocks”, Jo is also the star of her own critically acclaimed Radio 4 comedy show “It’s That Jo Caulfield Again”.
“Many of the points Jo Caulfield makes about the human condition would have sociologists stroking their beards in admiration, but her audiences tend to be laughing too much to notice” – The Times.
“Pick of the day. Scathing, bitchy and sharp-witted comedy” – Radio Times.