So now you know what to put in your speech, let’s write some jokes for your best man speech to add some much-needed spice to the curry of mixed metaphors that is the modern wedding. How do you make a joke? With your tool kit of course. Didn’t think joke writers had a tool kit? Well, think again. A plumber may have a van packed full of spanners and lengths of pipe, a window cleaner has a bucket and series of enormous ladders. And the comedy speech writer has a paper, pen and the contents of his head. So unless you have an enormous head your toolkit is relatively easy to carry around. And if you have a comically enormous head then you’ve got one laugh already.
Making jokes is about taking the ideas gathered in your time knowing the groom and applying structures to them to make them funny when delivering your speech at the wedding. A kind of refining process; as the great sculptor Sir Henry Moore answered when asked how he made a statue of Labour leader Bevin:
“I removed everything that wasn’t Bevin from the stone.”
Comic Tool No. 1: Clash of Context
This isn’t the description of the happy couple’s first falling out. Rather it’s one of the most basic tools for writing a joke and this is how it works.
• Taking an existing normative situation that people can understand and once they’re comfortable with it throwing them a curveball.
Put an incongruous element in that shouldn’t be there. For example;
“Brian’s so absent minded he doesn’t notice anything. He can’t find anything! Just the other day he lost his keys. So he was looking in the bedroom. Were the keys in the new cupboard? Under the new plant pot? Eventually, he just said, “Derek when you’ve finished sh@gging my fiancee could you tell me where my keys are?” Silly prat – they were on his belt.”
So think through a situation and add something that seems entirely wrong and incongruous. Such as; the violent pacifist or the atheist vicar both of whom you’ll meet after delivering your speech.
“Oh Lord who I doubt is in heaven.”
The really important thing is the audience spots the incongruity and you don’t tell them about it. As you will see throughout this article, that leap of intuition is where most of the humour lies. It’s that moment of going “Oh! that’s what’s wrong”. That, my friend, is where the humour lies.
That’s pretty much it. Next, we’ll learn how all good things (and jokes!) come in threes and how to exaggerate the best man wedding speech.
Comic Tool No. 2 ‘The Rule of Three’
Three is a magic number. Divinities come in 3’s – The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. In Hinduism, it’s Brahma the creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the destroyer. People say deaths always come in 3’s and running ‘gags’ definitely do. Even with serious matters, it’s always three. Martin Luther King actually had 3 dreams in that famous speech. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s always 3. If you need to say how fast someone was, how ugly or how cheap, always write 3 ‘gags’ about it. Try it out when you buddy up; 2 isn’t quite there and 4 is overkill. Three is the magic number.
As a comedy writing tool ‘The Rule of Three’ is a relative of the ‘Clash of Context’ in that it relies on absurdity. Here is the basic structure to create jokes for your best man speech:
E.g.: He was tall, dark and hunchbacked.
We introduce the subject matter, we confirm the subject matter and then we screw around with it. That’s obviously the violation.
Here is a list of Rule of Three examples:
- Discreet, careful and dead
- Pious, faithful, and loved altar boys
- He was strong, silent, and dressed as a bat
- The politician smiled, kissed a baby and nuked a small African nation.
What we see is that the most absurd the better. The more shock value the better.
– “Brian had a lot of work to keep a long distance relationship working with Jen. You have to do so many things to keep it going…phone sex…raunchy emails…sending your j@zz back in the mail”
Let’s practice the Rule of Three for a bit. Take the first association that springs to mind, build on that to confirm what you seem to be telling the audience, then stretch that truth until it takes them by surprise. For example:
Nurse- The nurse was gentle, caring, and addicted to prescription drugs. (TV show – Nurse Jackie)
Comic Tool No 3: ‘The Reverse’
The reverse is as it sounds. It is where you juxtapose two key elements in a situation.
e.g. The hotel I stayed in was so cheap – they stole my towel.
Now think of some situations and reverse them. Just try some at random to get yourself started; perhaps pick a word of one of your earlier lists. Once you’ve gone through a few, start trying to make them funny. Remember the trick here is to make as big a change as possible, don’t be subtle.
Comic Tool No 4: Hyper-Exaggeration
This is absolutely the easiest thing to do in comedy:
- You’re an idiot if you don’t get it; you’re so stupid you couldn’t get into a clown academy for the educationally subnormal.
- You couldn’t get in on ‘give an idiot a place at college’ day and you’re the only idiot applying.
- If you don’t get this you’re so thick you’ve got ‘don’t eat sausage’ tattooed on your penis and even then you’re so stupid you can’t read it and you probably think you’re a girl.
- I mean you’re so colossally stupid you got lost in a phone booth.
You see what I did there? If you think it’s hard to do, wait till the next time you see a cop ticket your car, or you step in some dog mess and you can see the sh*t machine that dropped it. Then you’ll get it.
If you can’t be right – be loud. The more irrational, the more excessive, the better the exaggeration, the bigger the laugh; if you want to see a master class in this, then try watching Blackadder or Red Dwarf.
E.g.: I was arrested by a policeman who was so dense…light bent around him.
This is an example of taking a regular description of the groom and expanding it.
Brian is brave.
Brian is as brave as a lion.
Brian is so brave that when he got pissed on a Saturday night he’d turned up at the zoo, jumped the fence on the lion enclosure, kicked the biggest lion up the bum and yelled:
“Come on then I’ll take you on, you and your whole pride!”
Brian is mean.
Brian is so mean he made Jen watch DVDs instead of going to the cinema.
Brian was so mean Jen said can we see the Dark Knight? So he turned the lights off.
So now we’ve got the tools done. Let’s work on the skills to use. You can have the greatest tools in the world but if you lack the skills you’ll end up shaving with the lawn mower.
Make your jokes work harder than you do.
Now there are three things that will kill any joke stone dead and they are; over-explanation, lack of clarity, and over-lengthiness. To explain let me introduce you to one of the world’s oldest jokes.
“My dog has no nose. How does he smell? Disgusting!”
A Nice and simple joke based on the double meaning of the word smell.
Now let’s look at these versions.
1 Lack of Clarity
“I have this dog, his name is Terence, anyway he’s got 3 legs and bad breath and he smells and he’s got no nose. How does he smell? I said he smells terrible.”
As you can see you can’t see anywhere to focus in this joke what’s significant; the smell, the 3 legs, the name?
“So I adopted this dog; because chicks dig guys with dogs and I wanted a companion. But what kind of dog? A Rottweiler or a Chihuahua or a Portuguese water dog…”
Do I really need to explain this? At great length?
“So I bought this dog that smells terrible and he also had no nose. Remember that because it’s important for the next part of the joke. Where my friend asks about how he smells and I pretend not to know the difference between the two meanings of the word smell.”
A good joke is rather like kicking heavyweight boxers in the goolies You need to get in, make an impact and get out really fast.
Brian had a lot of trouble picking up Jen, have you seen the size of her?
So there you go, wasn’t so hard was it? Take pride in your new comedy toolkit. But be careful when using them in your best man speech at the wedding. Otherwise, the punch line may end up on the end of your nose.