How to tell a Joke in English
“How do you know you’re in America? A pizza can get to your house faster than an ambulance.”
Did that make you laugh at all? A giggle or smile isn’t so bad either. Telling a joke is one of the best ways to reach out to people, establish rapport, and make friends regardless whether you make them laugh or not. The goal is to present yourself as someone approachable, but for this article, the real objective is to practice your English by learning how to tell a joke.
As you speak and attempt to get your joke across, you are actually improving your English-speaking ability without you and the people around you noticing. Plus, you are having fun at the same time. Here are 5 tips on how to tell a joke and have fun while doing it.
1. Know your audience.
A good conversationalist knows who the audience is. What do they want to hear? What are their interests? What are their hobbies? How old are they and what usually makes them laugh? For instance, people who are over 50 may not appreciate crude jokes, people who you barely know may not enjoy hearing jokes with sexual innuendos. For this group of people, keep it light and heartwarming. Here is a good one you might want to try on them:
“What did the shark say when he ate the clownfish? This tastes a little funny.”
2. Find some good materials and practice telling them to yourself.
The internet is replete with jokes and funny anecdotes. Try this site for instance: Link, it has tons of funny jokes, some a bit funnier than another, some are shorter and quicker to say, and some lengthier, which is good for practicing your English and conversational skill.
When looking for the best joke:
- Choose what you understand and what makes you laugh. Have you ever been to a party and people started laughing and you just laughed along not knowing why? It is really bad if you’re telling a joke you yourself don’t understand.
- Pick a joke or two that you can memorize and tell it to yourself in a mirror. It doesn’t have to be too long. The longer the joke, the harder it is to say and the more chances that you bore your audience.
- Pick a joke that is not offensive to you. If you find it repelling, there’s a good chance most people wouldn’t like it either.
- Practicing your joke is important because the more you practice, the more it becomes natural and real. Memorize the joke and let it sink until you know how to say it that you can even substitute the original words with your own words. Don’t rely on the actual words because you could end up sounding wooden.
- Try recording yourself on your phone and observe yourself. Did you have a lot of awkward pauses? Did you have plenty of “ah’s” and “um’s”? Are you funny enough? Is your English good enough? You can ask your best friend to critique you.
Here are a few jokes you can practice with:
“Why did the stadium get hot after the game? All the fans left.”
“What kind of music do mummies listen to? Wrap music.”
“Yesterday I saw a guy spill all his Scrabble letters on the road. I asked him, ‘What’s the word on the street?’”
“Did you hear about the new restaurant called ‘Karma’? There’s no menu. You get what you deserve.”
3. Set it up.
The best jokes are the ones you don’t see coming. Don’t stand up, tap on your glass, and announce to everyone that you’re about to tell a joke. Set up your joke based on what’s going on around you. If people are talking about politics, don’t crack a joke about the NBA or NFL; if your friends are talking about relationships, don’t tell a joke about the president; or if your group is discussing business, don’t whip up a mother-in-law joke.
Keep these in mind:
Be at the moment
Keep it real
Make sure you are funny to yourself
Add a lot of details and personality. Don’t be boring.
Don’t use a joke until you’re completely comfortable with it.
4. Make your punchline pop!
Needless to say the most important part of a joke is the ending, the punchline, the funny part. Take a look at these jokes:
“Of all the superheroes, Iron Man is the nicest husband. He knows how to iron clothes.”
“In a race, the barber always wins because he knows a shortcut.”
“I overheard the football coach fuming really mad and shouting at the broken vending machine. He said, ‘Give me my quarterback!’”
Notice that the endings are what’s supposed to be funny. Build up towards it. Vary your voice by starting low and ending high. Talk slowly to create suspense and pause for effect before you deliver the punchline.
5. Don’t laugh before people should.
A lot of people fail with their jokes because they start giggling and laughing before the punchline. This will give away your joke and raise false expectations. Your joke may not be as funny as you think to some people and so don’t oversell. Keep in mind that the best jokes are those people don’t see coming.
Telling a joke is one of the best ways to crack a meaningful and engaging conversation. Practice the art. Exercise your conversation skills. Use your English as often as you can. Smile and make people happy.