The Woes of Explaining a Joke

Uncle Mike September 19, 2017

Jokes are a perfect way to break the ice and turn any dull moment into a fun one, but do you have to explain them?


funny joke


Jokes are the most effective tool of a public speaker and a writer to spark interest, break the ice, or remove the seriousness in a room. But have you ever been in that awkward situation when you tell a joke, and no one just gets it? Explaining a joke is never pleasant. That is why you need to consider your audience and tell one within the right context.

Timing and delivery—this essential combination makes all the difference between a bad and a good joke to tell.

Try to picture that one friend who always kids around and makes everyone laugh—the expert in telling a funny joke. Most of the time, that friend knows how to find the perfect timing. Now, picture another friend with a troubled mind. It will be hard to make that friend smile even with the best joke. Why? It’s because the timing isn’t right. This is the part that you want to spend hours in perfecting. A moment too soon or too late can ruin everything.

According to comedian Lucy Porter, you should be happy and confident when telling a joke. If people trust that you’re going to make a good knock knock joke, then they will laugh at it. Even the most cliché lines delivered in a funny manner will still be laughable.

Without the perfect timing and delivery, you will leave your audience confused, and you’ll simply be the person who has told the bad joke of the day. But will explaining your joke help get you the laughter you so desire?


Unfortunately, explaining a joke is never funny. It removes the context and eliminates the punch line. Punch lines are the heart and soul of a really funny joke. These short and snappy sentences make any simple situation laughable. A good joke about musicians, a joke about math, a funny joke to tell a girl, a funny joke to tell a friend—all of these require a solid punch line. Removing the magic of punch line is similar to burying the best joke ever told.

Any joke book will tell you that explaining a joke removes the “funny” in the “funny line.” It’s something that you will want to avoid. If you want to be able to tell the best joke of the day, get the perfect timing and delivery.

What do you think makes a funny joke? I would like to hear your opinion about this, so leave a comment below. If you want to discuss the topic further, you can reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. Check out my book, Quasar, and witness how I integrate jokes in a story.



Carrell, Amy. “Joke competence and humor competence.” Humor-International Journal of Humor Research 10, no. 2 (1997): 173-186.

Kuipers, Giselinde. Good humor, bad taste: A sociology of the joke. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2015.

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