A Great Joke and How to Tell it

Two guys walk into a cigar bar. One turns to the other and says, “What is this? Some kind of joke?” The other replies, “No. I think it’s just the set-up to an article."


Not everyone was blessed with a quick wit or a natural sense of humor, but you don’t need to be a comedic genius to earn a few laughs. There’s a wonderful little invention, passed down from generation to generation that allows even the most uncreative among us to soften a crowd or charm a phone number out of that cute girl at the bar.

All you need is a reliable joke, and more importantly, the ability to tell it perfectly.

Is that two jokes in your pocket or is this some kind of clever wordplay?


We think everyone should have at least two jokes memorized. People will usually want to hear a second after you tell the first, but it also helps to have an alternate if you think people might already know one of the punchlines. You’ll want a quick one and a longer one, but both should be less than a minute in length. Try to use jokes that most folks don’t know, and you’ll have to retire them from time to time and make room for fresh material.

For the sake of education, we’ll make the sacrifice of sharing our all-time favorite joke and give you all the notes on how to tell it right. Don’t worry, we’ll find a new one.

Hopefully.

The Joke


So the penguin is driving his car on a hot day and his car breaks down, so he takes it over to the Walrus to get it checked out. The Walrus takes a look at the car and says, “I think I know what’s going on here. Go across the street and get yourself some ice cream while I check it out.”


So the penguin waddles across the street, gets some ice cream, and then he heads back over to the shop and sits down to wait. After a half hour, the Walrus comes back out and says, “Sorry pal. Looks like you blew a seal.”


Penguin cries, “What - THIS!?” Nah this is just ice cream!!”


If told right, it’s a guaranteed laugh every time. Let’s break down the delivery.

The Preamble


Start with a confident smile. If you believe you’re going to get a laugh, your audience is going to be more willing to laugh with you. We like to start out by saying something like, “Have you heard the one about the penguin whose car breaks down?” This signals that you’re telling a classic joke, it’s already an amusing premise, and it helps protect you from telling a joke that everyone already knows. If they’ve heard it, move on. If they haven’t, jump in quickly while their curiosity is piqued.

The Set-Up


So the penguin is driving his car on a hot day and his car breaks down, so he takes it over to the Walrus to get it checked out. Speak quickly, with a smirk, and try to make eye contact with a few different people in the group to draw people in. Make sure to nail the annunciation of the two animals here, otherwise the punchline won’t work.

The Walrus takes a look at the car and says, “I think I know what’s going on here. Go across the street and get yourself some ice cream while I check it out.” Give the Walrus a slightly deeper, manly tone. Varying your voice keeps things interesting, and you’ll help paint a clear mental image of the burly, mechanic Walrus. I like to give him a slight Jersey accent.

So the penguin waddles across the street, gets some ice cream, and then he heads back over to the shop and sits down to wait. Deliver this part speedily, as if you’re bored to repeat the steps one by one. After a half hour, the Walrus comes back out and says, “Sorry pal. Looks like you blew a seal.” Use the same gruff voice you gave the Walrus earlier, emphasis the final 3 words, but remember that you’re still talking cars at this point.

The Punchline


Penguin cries, “What this!?” Nah this is just the ice cream!!” Elevate the volume and pitch as you hit the punchline, and give a wild, exasperated gesture towards your mouth as you say the word, “this.” It’s better to act as if you ARE the penguin rather than a calm narrator.


Hopefully you get the words out before a roar of laughter, but don’t sweat it if you don’t get the laughs you were expecting. You didn’t write the joke, so don’t take it personally if it doesn’t land. Keep the conversation moving and hopefully things have loosened up a bit.

Closing Thoughts

Here's a quick summary:

  • Everyone should have two jokes. Go find them - no pressure to make it up yourself.
  • Confidence, annunciation, and timing are the most important aspects of any joke delivery.
  • Rehearse the joke in your head once to make sure you don’t screw it up. 
  • Looking for more jokes? Check some of the enormous threads on Reddit.
  • If you know any racist jokes, forget them.
  • Don’t give away the joke before you tell it. If we had warned you our joke was a bit dirty, you wouldn’t have liked it as much.