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Them That Can, Do.  Them That Can’t, Teach.

So after 15 years of retirement, I’m back in the classroom teaching Oral Presentation Through Comedy to 5th graders. It isn’t my goal to make comics of them. My goal is to get them comfortable speaking in front of their peers and taking away their fears. The butterflies disappear when they are trying to write and perform a joke.

Most 5th graders think they are already funny, but they’re prisoners of the knock-knock jokes, yo mama jokes, and jokes out of Boy’s Life. To write their own original joke is so much harder than they ever expected.

I start them with a one-liner whose set-up is “I’m so . . .” and they have to come up with a finish to the setup and a punch line. They will say something like “I’m so skinny I could fit in an envelope.” Granted, that’s not hilarious, but that is the type of joke they write. It might get better with a tag line like “Oh no, my mom may send me to Albuquerque.”

The second joke they work on uses the rule of three. I ask them to state their pet peeve. The next week, they have to tell three reasons why it is their pet peeve. The third reason is supposed to be the punch line and if they can work in a “k” sound, that’s a winner. “K sound” is the funniest sound in the alphabet. So a rule of three joke might be “My pet peeve is my little sister.

She picks her nose

She pulls my hair

I’m kicking her to Cucamonga. (K sounds)

Cowabunga, that’s not bad for a 5th grader. But you get the idea. Try writing a couple of your own jokes and you’ll see how hard it is to think out of the box.

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