Comedic Styles: The One Liner Comedian

Let’s continue our look into different comedic styles (I finally found a title that works!). This week, we will look at the one liner comedian.  A style that is very old, and very hard to master.  Some of the great one liner comedians are Mitch Hedberg and Steven Wright.

This style of comedy is very simple in that there are not a lot of moving parts.  It is called “one-liner” probably because most can be written on one line on a sheet of paper.  It is actually a joke that is broken down to it’s basic parts.  You have the setup and then the punch.  There are usually no extra bits of information to allow the audience to see why it was funny.  All of the information to make the punchline more effective is in the punch itself.  The audience makes the conclusion, usually at the end of the joke, why it was funny.


Comedians using this style can usually get more jokes into the same amount of time.  One liners are usually no more than about 4-5 seconds long.  So if you were doing a five minute set, just imagine how many jokes you can get in there (really imagine it because I am terrible at math).


This style is writer intensive.  That means that you will have to write more than most comedians to effectively get the same amount of time out of your material.  Because the jokes are shorter, you will have to write more to get to say, a true feature length set.  It is also more writer intensive because unlike other types of jokes, because there are few moving parts, there is less to rewrite to make it work, so most of the time the joke gets thrown out.

It is hard to fill feature and headline time with one liners.  Even the great Steven Wright does other things in his act like play piano (while still telling jokes of course).  I just saw Emo Phillips.  One of the greatest comedians on the planet and he knew to break up his material with different aspects, while still delivering his material.

If this is how you mind works, then you have to understand what you will be required to do.  You will have to write a lot and you may want to find ways to keep the audience from sinking into a hole, especially if you are deadpanning your material.  I hope this helps.


Comedic Styles: Current Events

I didn’t know what to title this article.  Is it a philosophy or voice? I have no clue.  I will be doing a series on styles of comedians.  This week we talking about the comedian that slings current events.  I don’t know the proper term, if there is one, I just know that this is an distinct style from other forms of comedy.  With all of these articles, we will go over the pros and cons.  Lets get to it!

The style of slinging jokes about current events is usually in the realm of late night TV.  So think of all the late shows and late late shows and you have a good idea.  Some of the best in this style are mainly late night guys, guys that are telling jokes almost every night.


This style revolves around being able to write jokes about current events (duh).  So comedians that use this style are always writing and usually can get better, faster than the comedian that have a set that really never changes over time.

Comedians using this style always seem in the thick of things because they are always talking about things that recently happened.  This gives the audience a sense that the jokes that are being told are fresh.


One of the biggest issues with this style, is that some comedians who want to tell jokes like this may not know the time limit on what is current.  I think about it like this:  If it is a national story that is ongoing then you can keep going with it.  If it is a weird news story that no one has heard of, then it is best to walk away from it.

If you are not writing up new material often, your set can seem stale.  If you are talking about a thing that happened years ago, it looks as though that is when you stopped writing jokes.

This may not be a viable style for comedians that write a lot, but don’t get to perform the jokes often.  The reason for this is limited feedback to see if the way you are writing is connecting with the audience.

Conclusion: This style always seems hip, until you see someone pulling out old ass stories.  The best way to circumvent this is by writing it in a way that it does seem like it was ripped from the headlines.  Don’t use opening lines like, “I was reading the news the other day.” or “Have you heard this story?”  Those trigger the audience to assume this is something that you just came up with.