What Do They Mean When They Say Humor is Written Backwards

The last line—the joke—is created first. Then the anecdote or setup is written to prepare the audience. For instance, in a play on words (POW) you might accidentally discover a unique literal interpretation of a cliché or a reformed cliché (which can happen just as easily when you accidentally make a whittle typing error). But creating setups isn't easy; you might try half a dozen before the best one is apparent. Then you can spend hours changing words and whittling it down whittle by whittle.

Some say the reason there are so many Jewish comedians is because Hebrew lettering is read from right to left, i.e., backwards. But the one who's really a master of the art is Bill Cosby. His technique is to find the expression he wishes to use and then to start building his monologue. Here are some examples (italicized) in material which lasts only one minute, ten seconds. Note how Cosby uses introductory material to set up each punch line.

My mother could not stand my room. My mother was an authority on pigsties. "This is the worst looking pig sty I have ever seen in my life. And I want it cleaned up right now. How anyone can live in this filth is beyond me."

I love it when they give you "another think coming/' "If you think that I was put on this earth to be your slave, you've got another think coming."

And mothers are always more interested in the condition of your underwear than in your body. "If you're ever in an accident " They tell you that, "I hope for my sake if you're ever in an accident you have on clean underwear." Well, I thought that was what an accident was. Look, you're driving a truck, here comes another truck who's going to hit you. Now whether you hit the truck or not you're going to have soiled underwear. Because first you say it, then you do it.

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