Simple Truth Exercises

Having read the above jokes, now you should be able to finish some on your own. Read the first part of each of the following clichés, and see if you can come up with a simple truth tag. To help you get started, the key word with the best possibility for a double entendre is in italics. Check your pay-off line with the ones suggested on page 64.

1. Every twelve and a half seconds, some woman in the US is giving birth.

2. Boy: Are you free tonight?

3. My girlfriend was faithful to the end.

4. We never serve women at the bar.

5. Why was George Washington buried at Mount Vernon?

6. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

7. Judge: The court awards your wife $200 a week for support. The Non Sequitur

Another category of humor that's similar in many ways (although not technically a cliché) is the non sequitur, an illogical statement which is humorous because of the juxtaposition of two elements. "One must have some grasp of logic even to recognize a non sequitur," wrote Allen Paulos.

I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas,

I'll never know. —Croucho Marx

A hundred years from now the works of the old masters will be a thing of the past. —Grove Day

Roadhouse sign: Clean and decent dancing every night but


Store sign: Big Sale—Last Week! A Few for the Road

A famous actor, Edmund Kean, on his deathbed, was reported to have said, "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." In the same vein, reading about cliché construction is easy. Creating original humor material using these techniques is hard, because it's just not funny while you're examin ing it. E.B. White once wrote, "Dissecting humor is like dissecting a frog. They both die in the process." You'll understand this better in a minute.

What's the best way to structure literal truth humor? Take the line: "Can you tell me how long to milk a cow?"

This is a straight question, but a questionable straight line. The joke isn't apparent because the language of humor isn't applied. But "How long should a cow be milked?" is a question that permits a take-off rebuttal (we'll come to that technique shortly), but there's no literal truth possibility. However, if we transpose a few words and the question is restated "Can you tell me how long cows should be milked?" it's obvious we now have a long cow. An answer could be: "The same way as short cows."

Try a few yourself. Complete the last lines of these two setups:

I've been on the road for three weeks ... I have to get on a plane ... They're starting to get easy now, aren't they?

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