The Triple Reverse

A very popular combination of techniques is to start off with a triple, then switch to a reverse.

I'd like to introduce a man with a lot of charm, talent, and wit. Unfortunately, he couldn't be here tonight, so instead. . . .

Any of you see Hollywood Wives on TV last night? Talk about plot, drama, great acting—it had none of those things.

My wife's family consisted of three brothers and a dog: Tom, Dick, Harry, and Rover. Harry was the dog.

A Joke on the Way to a Joke

Triples can also be used to enhance a mild piece of humor. Topping the first bit of humor with two additional comments should encourage the audience to build a laugh track and not judge the first part as "Is that all there was to it?"

Bob Nelson does a visual triple during his monologue about college football players being interviewed on camera. He places two balloons under an oversized sweater to indicate shoulder pads. But as he is putting them under the sweater he starts off with a visual triple. He first pushes the two balloons underneath from the bottom and leaves them momentarily side by side. "Wanna see my grandmother?" he asks. Then he moves the balloons midway up the sweater and says, "This is my idea of what my dream girl looks like." Then he moves the two balloons, one to each side of the sweater, and says, "My dream girl lying down." Finally, at this point, he puts them in the shoulder pad position for his football segment.

This is called a joke on the way to a joke. It's an effective device when changing props takes more than an instant. Except for pregnant pauses, silence is a comic's deadly enemy.

Here are a few more examples of triples written as toppers. The idea is that each one of the three is a small laugh. After a short pause, when the audience laughter comes halfway down (never wait until it stops completely because it's so hard to restart), the second (or third) line is added. This build, when it works, is one of the techniques which contributes to a burst of jokes called a roll, equal in comedy to a home run with the bases loaded. That also means "For God's sake, don't stop me now."

A gossip is one who talks to you about other people. A bore is one who talks to you about himself. A brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself. —Dr. William King

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