How to Write a Joke Book

Have you ever wanted to write a hilarious joke book that makes people laugh when they read it? Luckily, there is a simple, mechanical process that anyone can follow to generate 120 pages of comedy jokes.

Step 1: Decide how many jokes you are going to write. To do this, pick a nice round number, such as 100 or 1000, and then add 1. Shoppers will be impressed by your surfeit of imagination and jokesmanship.

Step 2: Breathe a sigh of relief, because the hard part is over. Now all you have to do is write 101 or 1001 jokes. Lucky for you, there are only three types of joke: story, riddle, and “knock knock”. Each has a well-defined form.

For example, “Knock knock” jokes always begin with the line “knock knock”, and not with seemingly similar variations like “here I am!” or “what’s happening, buddy?”. The following joke, from 101 Laugh Out Loud (LOL) Jokes Volume 3, demonstrates the perils of straying from the formula:

“Are you in there?”

“Hang on, I’m coming!”


“What’s that?!”

“Rich for the sky, this is a stick-up!”

“I said I’m coming!”

Step 3: Many English words have multiple meanings. You may have heard of the technical term for these: “joke words”. The realisation that one word can mean two things is always funny. Study the following riddle joke from 501 PricelessFinancial Jokes for Investment Bankers:

Q: How is a withdrawal from a term deposit like your child’s ballet recital?

A: They both make you lose interest!

Notice how you burst into laughter when you read the word ‘interest’? That’s because it’s a joke word - it means both ‘attention’ and ‘a sum paid for the use of money’.

At least 50% of the jokes in your book should follow this pattern. That sounds like a lot, but it’s easier than you think. Just write a list of every joke word you can think of, then form each one into a hilarious joke. Sometimes you will forget to use both meanings of the joke word, but that’s okay, as demonstrated by this gag from 1,001 Jokes from the Wacky World of History!!!:

How was Depression-era racehorse Phar Lap like Alexander the Great’s horse Bucephalus?

Because they were both horses!

Did you know?
The world record for the best joke word is held by James Joyce, for this joke from Ulysses: The Companion Joke Book:

How is an invoice for valuable goods like a proposed law and also like a thousand pound banknote and also like the list of acts at an all-night cabaret show and also like the beak of an Aylesbury duck?

Because they are all large bills!

Cambridge University is offering a £1,000,001 prize for anyone who can prove the existence of a joke word with 6 different meanings.

Step 4: There are many English words that sound similar to other English words. Strictly speaking, these are not joke words, but can still be used to create hilarious riddles:

What is hot, dark, sonorous and full of marshmallow?

S’more-gan Freeman!

Note that there is a similarity between the word “s’more” and the first syllable of Morgan Freeman’s name. The above joke, from 10,001 Classic Hollywood In-jokes, combines these to a form a hilarious new invented phrase: ’S’more-gan Freeman’. Re-read the joke until you understand.

Write down all words or phrases that sound similar to each other. Using the above template, you should be able to create at least one excellent joke from each pair.

Step 5: Eventually, you will run out of joke words and words that sound similar to each other. At this point, select a group of people whose nationality or physical characteristics are suggestive of negative character traits (called ‘joke groups’). By convention, these are:

  • blondes (known for stupidity);
  • the Irish (known for stupidity and alcoholism);
  • the Scots (known for alcoholism and parsimony);
  • the Jews (known for parsimony and noses); and
  • mothers-in-law (known for being annoying, fat, dumb, old, and disapproving of my career choices).

Without delving too deep into joke theory, these jokes work by revealing that a certain character possesses the relevant negative character trait to a surprising degree. But what qualifies as ‘surprising’ will change over time. The level of stupidity required to make an Irish joke has skyrocketed in recent years, as shown in this joke from 1,000,001 Jokes About Other Races (2015 Edition):

An Englishman, a Frenchman and an Irishman are at a bar. The Englishman says to the others, “The English countryside is the most beautiful in the world. From the steep, weathered cliffs of Yorkshire to the picturesque country lanes of Suffolk, there is every sight a man could ever hope to see.”

Non, non!” the Frenchman replies. “It is the French countryside that is the most beautiful! From peaceful Picardy down to the majestic Pyrenees. I hope to die with beautiful France before mes yeux.”

The Irishman says, “To be sure, I think ye’re both wrong.” Before he can finish, he falls off his stool and breaks his arm, but he doesn’t even know about ambulance cover, so his friends end up taking him home in a cab but he can’t remember his address because he’s so stupid, so he ends up sleeping outside in the cold. He also loses his job later because he is a drunk and is really, really dumb, even for an Irishman, but he can’t collect unemployment benefits because he can’t fill out the form correctly, and he tries to call his family for support but he can’t remember any of their phone numbers either or where they live so he dies.

Congratulations, you have written a joke book. Even if it’s not very good, people will still buy it - usually as a gift for somebody they once heard tell a joke but don’t know very well. Now send it off to your nearest publishing house!