In my previous post on this subject, we looked at the basic building block of comedy, the set-up/punchline dyad. (Dyad is such a poncy music-theory kind of word, isn’t it? Possibly ‘combo’ is more appropriate here.) Our tutor, James Cook, quite sensibly started us off on the purest, simplest form of joke – the one-liner – in order to make this fundamental structure clear. You know, like when you’re teaching harmony, you build a lot of phrases using I-V-I before you start doing fancy stuff like substitute chords and modulations.
Now, one-liners are great as instant pay-off. They require the absolute minimum from the audience in terms of cognitive engagement over time, as the punchline comes hard on the heels of the set-up. No need for deferred gratification at all. It’s a spend-all-your-pocket-money-at-once style of comedy.