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Be advised there are 117! jokes here!!!
Paul Giles is an Ohio-based writer, humorist, and professional MC who has worked in venues in New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Illinois. Giles is also a professional writer who has written material for Jay Leno and Bill Maher. And is a former staff writer for A&E networks' "Caroline's Comedy Hour."
Check out HumorMall.com's all current verion of Real World Examples of Editing and Updating Jokes with Susan Cerce doing the editing honors.
Giles' comment: That one's weird. Doesn't make sense, doesn't work as nonsense. Also, WINEBAGO confuses things. You're looking for a connection that's not there. Maybe prefabricated is the wrong word. How about advertising?
Giles' rewrite: Corporations are sponsoring all sorts of races these days. Formula 1 cars have two or three sponsors, NASCAR racers are covered in logos. Just the other day I was reading a bedtime story, "The Tortoise and the Hare" to my kid, and when I opened the book the tortoise had an STP label on his shell.
Giles' comment: Needs a reason to have Jell-O in his pool.
Giles' rewrite: My neighbor's into kinky sex. How kinky? He's the only guy I know who has a hot tub filled with Jell-O.
Giles' comment: Confusing. Truth in advertising, shoes, beef by-products. I know what you're getting at, but there may be a better way.
Giles' rewrite: Vegetarians are getting really radical on labeling. Do we really need to have labels on shoes that say, "Made with beef by-products?"
Okay, maybe not BETTER, but...
Giles' comment: Again, too much information makes the joke confusing.
Giles' rewrite: I don't think my parents liked me. When other kids' teeth fell out, they got a quarter under their pillows. When one of mine fell out they left more candy.
Giles' comment: That one's kind of lame. The tie-in doesn't work. Not sure what to do with it. Go in an entirely different direction?
Giles' rewrite: My neighbors are not very concerned about hygiene. Yesterday their dogs bought them some 2-in-1 flea collars.
Giles' comment: Don't like leather factory. It really doesn't mean anything.
Giles' rewrite: Did you hear about the latest California religious cult? It's called the 1st Church of Whips and Chains. They believe when you die, your soul goes to Fire Island. (Or other gay hotspot-San Francisco, the Castro District, etc.) (Still not quite right.)
Giles' comment: (Shorten.)
Giles' rewrite: Have you read the latest book on jogging? It's all footnotes.
Giles' comment: Too long. The point you're making can be clearer, too.
Giles' rewrite: My brother-in-law is a real go-getter. He jogs whenever he goes to pick up his unemployment check.
Giles' comment: Doesn't work.
Giles' rewrite: After only one karate lesson I got my first belt-a right to the mouth.
Giles' comment: Swingers and wife swappers. Kind of old hat.
Giles' rewrite: I hear a lawyer in Utah's found a way to drum up business. He's offering a Mormon divorce special. Get rid of two wives for the price of one.
Cantu Says, Although a little bit late, can still be topicalized a bit more by tying into the Olympics - outside influence on Mormon Life. . .
Giles' comment: Not bad nonsense, but it's still a little too confusing. Tough / hot connection is flimsy.)
Giles' rewrite: I hate it when people come to work sick. Like yesterday, I went to a diner, and the cook had the flu. I'm not sure what his temperature was, but he fried my eggs on his forehead. (Well, not great, but..)
Giles' comment: Artificially lighted has no impact.
Giles' rewrite: Nowadays, if you look on the bright side, you'll probably find out it's on fire.
Giles' comment: I'd like to cut down the wordage on this one and eliminate any elements which may be unnecessary.
Giles' rewrite: A credibility gap is when a weatherman predicts "warm and sunny" while standing in a snow drift
Giles' comment: My thought is that the weather satellite idea is good, but straining your eyes and Rorschach confuse things a bit. I might try an entirely different angle if you want to combine the two.
Giles' rewrite: Our local TV weatherman used to be a psychiatrist. It's weird-whenever he puts up one of those satellite pictures of the clouds, he interprets them like they were a giant Rorschach test. "I see a warm front moving in, as well as two melons, which means more rain and a mommy issue."
Giles' comment: A slight change in the punch line might help here, as well as a bit in the setup.
Giles' rewrite: I don't want to complain about pollution, but last night I got up and chewed a drink of water.
And as a follow up from Giles: I poured a pot full into my Mr. Coffee, the brewing process actually made the water less brown; I poured a pot full into my Mr. Coffee. A week later he had to change his name to Mr. Cancer; After using the water, my Mr. Coffee turned me in to Mr. EPA; Stop me before I write another one-
Cantu here: It would be very easy to use this concept to lambast the Bush's cavalier approach to the environment. As Bush says, "Hey, if you've seen one unsullied fruited plain, you've seen them all."
Giles' comment: Update a bit.
Giles' rewrite: (MIKE FAILURE) Is there a cell phone in the house? Or- Everyone give me your cell phone numbers-I'll call this in.
Giles' comment: Some perverted fantasy of yours, John? It's a bit weird, and doesn't quite make sense. The sun causes wrinkles. Also, an update wouldn't hurt.
Giles' rewrite: Hear about the new tanning booth for busy administrative assistants (our/your) company got? Well, it's not really a tanning booth. They just replaced the light in the Xerox machine with the bulb from a sun lamp.
Giles' comment: After he's ELECTED makes more sense.
Giles' rewrite: When a politician says the country is due for a re-awakening he hopes it won't be until after he's elected.
Cantu: Giles' rewrite is a perfect example of the 'right' word versus the 'almost right' word.
Giles' comment: That one's got to be researched by the speaker. What's on the ballot. Who's running, etc. Maybe-
Giles' rewrite: Enthusiasm for term limits is the result of voters getting tired of politicians doing to them what pigeons do to statues.
Cantu: This can be adapted locally and be use over and over between now and November elections.
Giles' comment: Ditto, though readers of this should scan news reports for recent government malfeasance and adapt to that department. Or can use as corporate joke.
Giles' rewrite: I'm surprised the SEC didn't figure out what was happening at Enron sooner. It's the only energy corporation that took deductions for a getaway car.
Giles' comment: Easy update.
Giles' rewrite: (WHEN YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY OVER/UNDER DRESSED) I feel as conspicuous as Eminem at an Osmond family reunion.
Giles' comment: Maybe not. Image isn't really funny, nor is Samurai intrinsically funny here, especially with the excess verbiage, like "defeated."
Giles' rewrite: That's about as useful as a coupon for 25 cents off a Mercedes Benz.
Giles' comment: How about-
Giles' rewrite: Some people are born great. Some achieve greatness. And some have greatness thrust upon them. The rest of us finish as runners-up on The Weakest Link.
Giles' comment: I love that one. I'm stealing it.
Giles' comment: Again, it's a little late in his papacy to make Polish jokes. It's a great joke, though.
Cantu - Yep, great Polish joke in 1978 but Polish joke have fallen into disrepute as well.
Giles' comment: First, Indian squaw won't cut it today. "How" also. I'd avoid the issue entirely, and rethink Western, since there aren't any on TV these days. And the lead in doesn't explain why you're talking about the subject.
Giles' rewrite: I think we're getting a little lax on what constitutes appropriate TV programing for the Family Hour. Just last week I saw an afternoon special: "The Olsen Twins Do Dallas."
The average person looks at a joke and thinks 'It works' or 'It doesn't work.' The creative person thinks, 'How do I make this idea work for me?' Giles's rewrite constitutes virtually a brand new joke, which is why a professional comedy writer on deadline or suffering from writer's block has no compunctions about skimming joke books.
You look, not necessarily for jokes to be used whole cloth, but for an idea that you can rewrite into a virtually new joke.
Giles' comment: It's a little awkward. Also, boredom doesn't fit in with the follow up jokes. Have you listened to any of these radio talk shows? Perhaps talk is the wrong word. Have you listened to any of these radio yell shows?
Giles' rewrite: The whole idea of these shows is that anything goes --- and the first thing is respect for a different opinion.
Giles' comment: Update time.
Giles' rewrite: I've heard things said on those shows that Yasser Arafat wouldn't say to Ariel Sharon.
Cantu adds: That joke was edited before Israel entered Palestinian territory a few weeks ago. Notice how much stronger the passage of time has made this joke. Also, note the longevity of the joke if you get past the simplistic idea that this is a joke abut President Carter or about George Meany.
If you focus on the relationship expressed in a joke, or the emotion underpinning the joke, or the human comedy truth contained in it, you have much more latitude in adapting the joke to your needs over and over and over.
This joke is a perennial that can be used forever, if you simply change the protagonists to two people who are in the news and are miffed at each other.
Giles' comment: Thought we could cut this down a little, and make the punch line a little punchier.
Giles' rewrite: You ever listen to any of those radio talk shows? It's amazing how they'll insult anyone. I heard one host tell a guy, "You're a small-minded, money grubbing little cheapskate! I don't know why I work for you!"
Giles' comment: Get the subject and the definition a little closer together.
Giles' rewrite: A regular feature of these shows seems to be UFOs-Undeniably Foolish Opinions.
The tightening by changing the position of 'UFO' is the touch of an experienced writer. When I first wrote this 1978 joke, I had only been writing jokes for four or five years and wasn't seasoned enough to see the power of that extra edit.
Giles' comment: The camera throws things off here. It's not something you use on your body. And sixty second camera is a little dated.
Giles' rewrite: There must be something to biorhythms. Today my 48 hour deodorant, my 12 hour cold capsule, and my 24 hour bra all expired at the same time. (Yes, bra, - there are women out there who need these jokes, too!)
Giles' comment: Not sure what the connection is between image and bill paying.
Giles' rewrite: I'm taking a crash course through the mail on staying out of bankruptcy court. It's called "Paying Your Bills."
Giles' comment: Needs a setup.
Giles' rewrite: My nest egg is ridiculously small. Let me put it this way. I have all my money in a Savings and Moan company.
Giles' comment: The Combination guide book and check book kind of lays there. And it's a dated topic.
Giles' rewrite: Because of all the terrorist problems, very few Americans are traveling abroad. It's had such an affect on European economies, the French have even started being POLITE to foreigners.
Giles' comment: Dated again. A little fix MIGHT help.
Giles' rewrite: Maybe we haven't been contacted by extraterrestrial beings because all this while they've been trying to e-mail us, and their version of Windows keeps crashing.
"Wow - brilliant update (then again maybe it's just because I have never been a fan of the 20th century robber barons at Microtheft).
Giles' comment: I'd edit this a lot.
Giles' rewrite: (NERVOUSNESS) I'm pretty nervous tonight. I'd knock on wood for luck, but my knees are doing that for me.
Edit, edit, edit. My original joke is a perfect example of a beginner's tendency to overwrite and also to not think of the joke will sound.
Giles' comment: Needs updating, although everyone still knows who Diller is. Also, everyone's been to a department store, so the setup is unclear in relation to the joke. Also, using Dolly Parton is odd, since you think of her as the woman with the large breasts, and Diller as the one without them. Why would shopping deflate breast size? It was beauty you were going for.
Giles' rewrite: My wife made the mistake of going to the mall during a half-price sale at (holiday near date joke is used.) I don't want to say the place was crowded with crazed women bargain hunters, but my wife went in looking like Kate Hudson, and came out looking like she had been swimming in the Hudson. (You can also do two people's names that are the same. Went in looking like Halle Berry, came out looking like Marion Berry.)
While both jokes are acceptable, the Halle Berry version is superb. You have an immediate visually strong before and after image (It was Woody Allen who said the best jokes are verbal cartoons).
What makes this joke great is that Halle is so gorgeous, even if you think of the wrong Marion Berry - i.e. you think of the white Arkansas congressman, instead of the former black Washington, DC mayor, the joke works.
Giles' rewrite: Once my congressman tried to sell his soul to the devil, but all could get for it was $1.50. Satan said, "Supply and demand, baby! We're overstocked on politicians' souls!"
This joke has been in the pending file for a while. Yes politicians are a perennial for humor fodder - have been for centuries, as illustrated by this excerpt from Aristophanes' play "The Knights"
However, to make this joke even more topical, for a while, I'd use a CEO exec.
Giles' comment: Update, and if possible use a local sports star who's been on team forever. Edited down, also.
Giles' rewrite: (NAME) has been in the league so long, his first contract was sent by Pony Express.
This is where being clear on the essence of a joke will help you get versatility - Giles kept the sports connection. I know nothing about sports, but I do realize this is actually a joke about longevity and could be used in a variety of non-sports topics. (BLANK) has been with the company so long, when he joined they didn't send documents by Federal Express, they sent them by Pony Express.
Giles' comment: I'd make this more fluid.
Giles' rewrite: (WHEN ANYTHING GOES WRONG, OR SOMEONE LEAVES) Something like that would have bothered my when I first started, but not anymore. These days I'm experienced, poised, confident, and before every speech I take three Valium. (I drink three martinis.)
Giles' comment: Update again. Who smokes a lot? These days not many famous people, although you could go with Arnold Schwarzenegger and cigars. "Arnold S. smokes too many cigars. His teeth-"
I went to this page which lists celebrity smokers and wrote joke this way: Brad Pitt is considered to be Hollywood's coolest smoker. But how cool is it, when your teeth are so nicotine stained you have to floss with pipe cleaner?
Giles' comment: These days, you might be better saying, "You only eat when you see an actress without breast implants."
Giles' comment: Okay, I'm lost on that one. A play on run, Jane run?
This an example of a joke becoming dated thru familiarity - in the seventies jogging was a novelty done by health nuts -so it was simply plugging the concept into a new situation. The same as today which the use of www.anything jokes: The beggar with sign www.beggar.com; baby's new name www.baby.com; he just said his first word www.dad.com, ad nauseam.
And for "My sister jogs . . " Giles said: Legs not too funny, or a good image. Whose weight is in her legs?
Giles' rewrite: My sister-in-law jogs because she carries a little too much weight in her butt. You can tell. She'll run a block, then has to wait for her caboose to catch up.
Giles' comment: Not sure that one works. Nursery rhyme / nursery center don't fit together well to get point of modernity across.
Giles' rewrite: If Mother Goose were alive today, we wouldn't have nursery rhymes to entertain kids. We'd have a video game called, "Mother Goose vs. the Kung Fu Killer Aliens." (Not great, but-)
Actually, I think it's a great update.
Giles' comment: Small compact is redundant. Better version: Small car? When I bought it, the salesman said, "You want a bag for that?"
Best version: Not everyone's buy a SUV. I bought a small car the other day. I mean small. The salesman said, "You want a bag for that?"
Giles' comment: I think changing the order of the joke's elements and personalization would help.
Giles' rewrite: My brother-in-law heard more accidents happen in the home than anywhere else. Second place was on the highways. Now he's really depressed. He lives in a mobile home.
Giles' comment: Mrs. Olson and Foster Brooks are a bit dated. There's really not a modern equivalent of Brooks. And we don't need New Year's jokes right now. Hmmm-
Giles' rewrite: Have you ever had an Irish coffee? It tastes like what you'd get if Starbucks merged with Seagrams.
Giles' comment: Those are two ideas looking for punch lines. You need a better visual image or funnier take on fortune telling. Mine may not be much better, but-
Giles' rewrite: You know you're in trouble when a fortune teller does a Tarot reading for you, and the first two cards she turns over are a coyote and a falling safe.
I would still try my version out once or twice - it's just that your life is full of pending horrible experiences, no fortune teller wants to be around you when they happen.
Giles' comment: Even George Steinbrenner's not that bad anymore. Maybe you should change topics here. (Note: Remember, this exercise is to learn how to adapt John's jokes to any situation. Here's a good example.) Also, a faith healer wouldn't have a job at an AMA convention, so it makes very little sense.
Giles' rewrite: More layoffs announced at (COMPANY). These days the American worker has about as much job security as a Palestinian suicide bomber.
Giles' comment: Not quite sure what that one means. The rhyming aspect is good, but you need it to make at least a little sense.
Giles' rewrite: Clumsy? He's always bumping into things. He's the only guy I know whose glasses have airbags.
Giles' comment: Not sure why a sander would help with the toast, unless you're referring to scraping off the burnt parts. It's unclear.
Giles' rewrite: Terrible cook. You know how when Emeril cooks he yells, "Bam!"? That's what my husband's/wife's recipes do when he/she mixes the ingredients.
Giles' comment: So you can use it anytime, drop the New Year's reference, change punch line.
Giles' rewrite: I'm trying to give up smoking. I used to smoke two packs a day, but now I'm down to ten fingernails.
Cantu Says I would also change 'I used to smoke two packs a day' to 'I used to go through' two packs a day.
Giles' comment: How about "sensually rub" instead of finger? Less dirty.
Giles' comment: I like it. You can also get another Marin joke out of it.
Giles' rewrite: Marin is so pretentious. Last week I went through the drive-through at Jack-in-the-Box, and the clown said, "Welcome. My name is Jack, and I'll be your server. Tonight's special is a succulent beef patty imported from New Zealand, topped with luscious arugula from Argentina and served with a special sauce our chef is famous for. As a side dish...
You can go on and on with this by writing down what a waiter in a fancy restaurant would say, then substituting fast food items. The jokes write themselves. It's a good example of the substitution joke giving you a one or two minute chunk.
Giles' comment: Mortuary is too formal. Get the "death" closer to punch line.
Giles' rewrite: I believe there is something else after death...the bill for your funeral.
Giles' comment: Not sure rubdown's the best word here.
Giles' rewrite: A guy runs into a pet shop. "My dog's got fleas. What do you have to get rid of them?" Clerk says, "Have you tried flea powder?" Guy says, "Flea powder? I want to get rid of them, not change their diapers."
Giles' comment: If you're going to do a sports joke which includes a wife, she should be the one involved. Also makes for better logic. Why would you kick the TV? Team losing? You don't say.
Giles' rewrite: I think my watching so much football has affected my wife. Last Sunday she held her own punt, pass and kick contest. Today I'm shopping for a new TV.
Giles' comment: I'd generalize that one. The boss would be good.
Giles' rewrite: Alex Rodriguez signed a $22 million contract. Do you realize that he could be the richest athlete in the world if he does just one thing...moonlights as a plumber.
Cantu Says "Great editing - typical of what has to do to update properly - look at all elements - Rose - Rodriguez and $3.5 million - $22 million
Giles' comment: The "poor neighborhood" has nothing to do with the joke and confuses it.
Giles' rewrite: My high school had the worst sports coaches. They never motivated the athletes. We'd go to track meets, instead of running the mile, we'd hitchhike.
Cantu Says - the right word versus the almost right word can be applied to the right concept or premise versus the right concept or premise
Giles' comment: you can and should substitute any political or talk show figure that suits your politics.
Giles' rewrite: (AFTER PREPOSTEROUS STATEMENT) That's about as believable as Rush Limbaugh starting a speech with "I'm a man of few words."
Giles' comment: You can use this for any local politician, or even labor leader, etc. Just sub name for Kennedy's.
Giles' comment: That one's not too strong, really. The disco beat joke works okay, but the fractured tibia doesn't. Also, why use a medical designation like tibia when foot would do?
Giles' rewrite: I attended one of those churches that tries to attract young people with modern music. The kids liked it, but I'm not sure I'm ready for a minister doing the Ten Commandments Rap. Not only that, but since it was rap, he broke 3 of the commandments just doing the sermon.
When I was a newbie comedy writer I had a weakness for funny sounds. "tibia on the pulpit" just seemed funny to me.
Giles' comment: Since this one is dated, we need to change it a bit.
Giles' rewrite: In the new service economy wages are actually dropping. It's a shame when your area code is higher than your monthly take home pay.
Giles' comment: I might change the punch line a bit. I usually don't like to add words, but sometimes you need a little more explanation to make the joke clearer. Also might change the setup, too.
Giles' rewrite: My brother-in-law...crooks run in his family. If they walked, they'd be easier for the cops to catch.
Giles' comment: No reason in your version of the joke for it to be a teddy bear. Why a kid's toy?
Giles' rewrite: Hear about the new toy they have for the children of S&M couples. Leather teddy bears.
Giles' comment: A very nice joke. I'm going to do another just to show how you can go a different way with it.
Giles' rewrite: I asked my wife for a birthday cake that really says "Me." She brought home a Twinkie.
Giles' comment: These days not much is censored, including network television. Hard to think of something more current than a Civil War reference that would still have the same impact. But I'll try...
Giles' rewrite: There's too much talk today in schools about banning books with harsh language, but this is ridiculous. Last week a school in Alabama changed their science textbooks to read, "The North American beaver uses trees to build darns."
Giles' comment: Not sure who the new jogging guru is. Maybe best to just make this a generic joke about someone you're talking about.
Giles' rewrite: (NAME) is a real jogger's jogger. He/She can run longer than a broken toilet.
Giles' suggestion of 'generic joke' rewrite is a great "humor helper" suggestion.
Giles' comment: That one doesn't quite work. Impeach the dead has no real meaning, and as nonsense it's not quite there. How's this...
Giles' rewrite: (LOCAL TOWN) has some strange people. Like the town mortician has a Grateful Dead tattoo.
Giles is a great editor. Most comedy writer's don't have as fine an analytical mind ("Impeach the dead has no real meaning, and as nonsense it's not quite there") as can be discovered on way too many sit-coms.
Giles' comment: We're going back a ways on this one. Let's just update a word.
Giles' rewrite: (NO LAUGHS) It may not be funny, but I'll guarantee my jokes contain absolutely no saturated fats.
Giles' comment: Lumps may not work with meal. Too generic.
Giles' rewrite: In closing, just remember: show me a man taking his lumps and I'll show you a man who's eating my (SPOUSE'S) gravy.
Two principles here: Twain's classic quote in his 1888 letter to George Bainton: "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
And the other principle that I teach in my how to use humor speeches - you can make a joke more effective if you personalize, localize, and specify - this is a good example of specify.
Giles' comment: In how many situations would a speaker be in an office that someone might force them out? It's a joke that doesn't read clearly.
Giles' rewrite: I don't want to sound like a pessimist, but if I made a killing in the stock market, it would be me running over a cow in an uninsured car.
Giles' comment: Here you crossed an animal with an object. It's always better to try to use two of the same, if possible. Try this.
Giles' rewrite: It's an exercise in redundancy. Like crossing a boomerang with a yo-yo.
Yes, best to cross like with like, and also realize that the combo result can be something else: I crossed a gorilla (animal) with a mink (animal) and I got a mink coat with very long arms (a thing containing element of both animals).
Giles' comment: Another candidate for updating. Here we can go a couple ways.
Giles' rewrite: President Bush just filed his income tax return. Can you imaging the IRS auditing the president? "Tell me, Mr. Bush, do you have any liabilities?"
This illustrates the major danger in using topical material - how quickly something can go out of date. This joke had more impact when it was published back in June 2002 using the "Harken Energy" version.
Giles' comment: That one doesn't quite work for me. If you said, "You can tell he's a banker by the pin striped dandruff" I could see it. It's not funny, but makes more sense. A toupee wouldn't leave dandruff. And if there was dandruff, then it would be harder to tell, not easier.
Giles' rewrite: My brother-in-law is a banker through and through. Even his toupee is pin striped.
Giles' comment: Here, for a change, more words might be better.
Giles' rewrite: Tip for the unemployed: Move to Venice and sell low-cut, short fur life jackets to the streetwalkers.
Cantu note on next two jokes. Not all old jokes can be salvaged.
Giles' comment: Here's an example of one that really can't be updated to keep the same flavor as the original. You might get a Hussein or Bin Laden joke out of it, but it wouldn't be the same. I'd drop it.
Giles' comment: That one can be updated too, but not sure it's worth it. The punch line is a bit tame.
Giles' rewrite: The CIA said that Saddam Hussein wouldn't survive the first year of President Bush's administration. That's the CIA. The last time they were right about the Middle East power situation was when an analyst said David would probably beat Goliath...and that was last week.
Cantu's summary: Sometimes the best you can say about an old joke is forgeddaboutit.
Giles' comment: The update on this one would be futile. No Terig. (Forget who he was, anyway.) You might go with this...
Giles' rewrite: The Chinese people have something like the old Ed Sullivan show now. Last week they had a Mao impersonator doing a medley of his greatest hits. 99 Bottles of Soy Sauce on the Great Wall, Szechuan Szechuan Harvest Moon, and Way Down Upon the Yangtze River.
Common comedian trick - take a reference that doesn't exist any more (i.e. Ed Sullivan Show) and transpose the idea to another country - or to a dream you had - or to a childhood memory that's never left you . . .
Giles' comment: The update on this would be the reverse side.
Giles' rewrite: Did you ever think you'd see the day when the Japanese dream was to have an American economy?
Nicely done. Total reversal.
Giles' comment: Electric abacus is good. Electronic abacus is better. To update, drop the already.
Giles' rewrite: The Chinese are having an influence on American products. I didn't even know Texas Instruments made an electronic abacus.
Giles' comment: I didn't get this one. At least not the real humor to it. So he uses the name of someone ethnic. You keep wondering why Stevie Wonder. He's blind, he's a musician, why him? I'd go a different route.
Giles' rewrite: In the next elections, the Republicans are going after the ethnic vote. Have you seen their new television commercial? George W. Bush saying, "Vote Republican! Habla espanol! Never voted Republican before? I'm down with that, Bro!"
Amazing. You'd think this joke was a reference to the republicans trying to recover from Lott's faux pas. But the original is a 1970's joke. What's with the Republicans and their consistent racial insensitivity?
Giles' comment: I'd change Adidas to Nike. The rhythm's better.
Cantu: Rhythm is so important - to be fully effective with your humor, you must say your jokes aloud and hear them in your ear.
Giles' comment: Could be worded better.
Giles' rewrite: Cold? I saw a live production of Joan of Arc, and at the end her sentence was to be frozen at the stake.
Once again the idea of rhythm.
Giles' comment: I found this one confusing. A clean frog? Are they known for that? Then the adoption and giving the frog your room adds two more confusing elements. Not sure if this is salvageable, but we'll try.
Giles' rewrite: My parents were mean. Like when I was a kid I had a frog. Well, my parents called him a frog. Everyone else called him Pierre, the French foreign exchange student.
The original joke illustrates several basic bonehead beginner mistakes. As Giles notes way too many elements makes it way too clunky. Always edit, edit, edit. When in doubt throw it out.
Giles' comment: The "front of your head" is confusing, just a bit. A pony tail is at the back, so where it attaches is the back, too, so the back of the head would be the butt. Not the front. Still, it works, and not sure "what does that make the back of your head" does anything but ruin the joke. That's a good example of not worrying about the logic, since on a quick hearing no one will parse it out to figure it's wrong.
Giles' comment: I'd just drop the Woody Hayes jokes. They're dated, and with Bobby Knight gone there's no one really who fits. You could just make it a generic tough guy, though, or tough coach. They would then work for a roast.
Giles' rewrite: Yesterday a reporter annoyed (ROASTEE) so much, he tore three days off the guy's calendar watch.
Giles' comment: I like that joke. Little word change here, though. Rather than he can, change it to 'uses'. It's active, shorter.
Giles' rewrite: Is (BASKETBALL PLAYER) tall? He uses his forefinger to speed read skywriting.
Giles' comment: Dated reference again, but these are old jokes. You can get away with that movie, since it always runs on TV. Or you can tell your readers to scan the movie listings for current usable titles and then adapt the setup a bit.
An 'old' joke is one that doesn't get a laugh.
Giles' comment: I think a word change would be better here. Always look for the right word. Here you have show and tell, so some variations on those two words would be better. 'Told' doesn't quite work.
Giles' rewrite: Violence in schools is getting out of hand. Last weekend during show and tell a kid showed another his switchblade while telling him to give up his money.
After the Columbine school massacre, this joke is now fairly weak, but I use it reinforce the oft repeated direction: 'Always look for the right word.'
Giles' comment: It's a little hard on the logic, since wiring or writing you still have to know how to read and write. And no one wires anyone anymore. Try this.
Giles' rewrite: My neighbor got depressed when his son in college wrote home for money. It's not so bad that he wants money, it's just that the kid misspelled 'money'. And 'Dad'. And 'send'. And...
I thought this was a good joke when I originally wrote it but my inexperience shows through drastically. Giles points out my faulty logic - a common occurrence amongst neophytes (I think at this time, I had been writing jokes for less than five years) who focus on just getting to the punchline. Also, Giles' rewrite is an excellent example 'showing us' the humor instead of my version where I 'tell' the humor. Once again, remember 'Show us, don't tell us."
Giles' comment: The beer and pretzels thing throws me. It's not exactly progressive. It's more abusive. Try this.
Giles' rewrite: Of course it's my neighbor's fault sending him to alternative schools. Like in his kindergarten, nap time was called unconsciousness raising. They couldn't even teach them to tie their shoes. And all their shoes used Velcro. Or other lines in a similar vein.
Notice how by honing and polishing this joke, Giles has made it his own. You maybe see the similarity but he goes off in a completely new direction - and he gets an extra laugh with 'nap time was called unconsciousness raising.' This is an example of great 'rewriting an old joke' to make it fresh.
Giles' comment: You could also update this to a new movie just out.
Giles' rewrite: Lloyds of London is offering a new insurance policy. It pays if Harry Potter has a sudden attack of diarrhea while flying directly over you.
For all the elaborate work done above on other jokes, sometimes a joke update is just this simple.
Giles' comment: This one is dated, of course, so it could be updated. I'd also change the type of commercial and the setup, since television isn't necessarily the problem. (Cantu note: 'Jiggles' was a reference to 'Charlie's Angel's' since most of the scenes were three hot babes, usually braless in a flimsy top. Their show was often referred to as a 'Jiggle Show').
Giles' rewrite: Advertisers really use sex to sell these days. The other day I turned on the TV and saw a beautiful babe in a thong bikini. What made it amazing was they were selling baby food.
Giles' comment: The wording on that one's a little stilted. And perhaps use a specific reference instead of the generic beauty parlor. Oil of Olay is a good name for that stuff. It's supposed to make women younger. My wife tried it for six months, and all I can say is their claims are a lot of Toro.
Giles' rewrite: My wife is still upset. She used Oil of Olay for six months - the other day on the street someone tried to sign her up with the Gray Panthers.
Note Giles reference to specify for more impact. In my classes I also say "localize' and 'personalize'.
Giles' comment: Maybe change the wording so it's quicker.
Giles' rewrite: Let's face it. If God exists, He must be a teenager. Who else would believe he knows everything?
One of my favorite quotes is from Jerry Seinfeld, who when interviewed for the Great Comedians, said, "I will sometimes spend an hour trying to get an eight word sentence down to five."
Giles' comment: A good joke. But here we shouldn't use a specific team, but let the season and team records make the choice.
Giles' rewrite: It could be the Lakers during basketball season, or the Bengals during football season.
Giles' comment: Avoid using the word "kid" twice. And maybe shorten it.
Giles' rewrite: Golfing can make you feel young again, especially if you had a lot of temper tantrums when you were a kid.
Giles' comment: Wouldn't his wife go on vacation with him anyway? And it's no sacrifice to go on vacation, so it doesn't make sense.
Giles' rewrite: The boss has the worst bad breath. Let me put it this way...if he were going to prison, his wife would go with him. It's better than kissing him good-bye.
Giles' comment: There are no gas lines today but here's an easy, topical update.
Giles' rewrite: I just saw a tear-jerker movie made for TV. It's about this couple who want to get married and take two weeks for Niagara Falls. So they have the wedding, but spend the two weeks in airport security lines.
Giles' comment: It's a little long, and the whole thing with the escaped animals is a little unbelievable. Try this.
Giles' rewrite: (CO-WORKER) is a serious golfer. Once when we were playing I looked over and the foursome behind us were Playboy Playmates. I said, "(NAME), did you see that?" He said, "Yeah, you hooked that last shot."
Giles' comment: Not sure about that one. Park and mortuary? Is the park crime-ridden? Then it would make more sense. If that's not it, not sure of the connection. Maybe a little different joke. This is one I used for a roast a big corporation did a couple months ago.
Giles' rewrite: I grew up in a really small town. The local brothel was self service.
Giles' comment: Nanook confuses this joke. Many people would know what you meant, others wouldn't. And in this case personalizing isn't better, even though it usually is.
Giles' rewrite: Cold? Last night I woke up and found three Eskimos ice fishing in my waterbed.
Giles' comment: Of course, with a Charlie's Angels movie and possible sequel, that one might work, but people should just substitute a bad but popular TV show here.
Giles' rewrite: In (LOCAL SNOWED UNDER CITY) people are doing anything physical to keep warm. Like applauding Madonna in Swept Away.
Giles' comment: Could use a little editing to make it tighter.
Giles' rewrite: Did you hear about the guy who was so concerned about public health that he'd walk up to women and hug them so they wouldn't catch cold? The judge didn't believe him, either.
Giles' comment: I'm not sure about that one. I don't get a clear picture of what and how the headphones are being installed. Maybe this will help.
Giles' rewrite: I can't believe how rich these Arab oil sheiks are. One just put a complete sound system in his mansion...the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.
Giles' comment: I'm not sure who Mark Eden was. It may be dated. Try this.
Giles' rewrite: Is this man a salesman? He could sell a Weight Watcher's membership to Kate Moss.
Giles' comment: Ouch! Only for comedy clubs.
No Giles' rewrite:
Another thing to watch for is the need to justify the setup. In the following joke Giles comments: It's not clear why he would buy an inflatable doll. Not smart? Over sexed? In his rewrite he justifies why the boss might buy an inflatable doll.
Giles' comment: You might want to add to the set up. It's not clear why he would buy an inflatable doll. Not smart? Over sexed? Try this.
Giles' rewrite: I suspected the boss was a bit of a pervert, then the other day his broker told him to invest in plastics. He bought an inflatable doll.
Giles' comment: Might want to change this one completely, since the topic is no longer fresh.
Giles' rewrite: Robert Torricelli is stepping down from his Senate seat because of allegations he took illegal gifts. From now on the State Song of New Jersey will be You Always Hurt the Ones You Gov.
Giles' comment: Good gag. It may be a bit dated, but can be fixed.
Giles' rewrite: People wonder if all the oil we're importing from Mexico will change our attitude. I don't know, but the Statue of Liberty is now holding a taco.
Giles' comment: Might want to update this in terms of Bush and Iraq.
Giles' rewrite: Ever get the feeling that Bush's foreign policy is, "Accept our terms or accept our bombs?"
Giles' comment: Easy update
Giles' rewrite: The Republican Party has authorized a Bush re-election committee, but they're waiting for United Nations approval to use it.
Giles' comment: Update
Giles' rewrite: Saw some army ants in the back yard the other day. I know they were army ants. They were being led by Donald Rumsfeld.
Cantu's comment: Easy update
Cantu's rewrite: One of the first things new minority leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi is going to do is put out a booklet to describe Bush's economic policies for the average American. It's titled Ouch!
Giles' comment: This one is dated, of course, so it could be updated. I'd also change the type of commercial and the setup, since television isn't necessarily the problem.