At all times in this and any other joke-making process, keep an eye out for links and connections between one subject and another. A general rule applies: wherever there's a link there's a joke - you just have to find it, then cut and polish it like a diamond. I'll be guiding you on this later.
A pun is a joke which relies on a disguised second or third meaning (or more) of a word. Many English words have more than one meaning.
To find these you can simply grab an English dictionary and scan through it, eg: I just opened my Chambers Dictionary at the word 'lock' and saw:
A fastening device
An enclosure in a canal allowing boats to be raised / lowered
Part of a firearm
A position in Rugby Football
and numerous others.
It is more than possible to create jokes from these snippets. The process is the same as for subject-specific pun-type jokes, which are fairly easy to engineer. It's not brain surgery and it's not rocket science, as I'll show now.
I am illustrating this process via subject-specific jokes because normally as a joke-writer you'll probably be looking to tying your comedy to a theme, as in a sit-com.
BUT: Feel free to go where your mind takes you, into any other subject - don't block your creativity.
Brainstorm every piece equipment, playing surface, every piece of slang, jargon and lingo related to a chosen subject.
I'm taking golf as an example. here's what I can drum up in a few minutes, just by running through the sport in my head:
Hole in one
Rough / in the rough
This list could go on and on.
Pull out some of the terms which have two or more meanings:
Tee: cup of tea / evening meal
Ball: a type of posh dance / having a ball
Club: one to hit the ball with / a social club / a club foot
Driver: a golf club for long range shots / a car driver / a F1 driver / Minnie Driver (actress)
I'd like to pick out three of these, namely the tee, the green and a hole in one, but you can do this with any of them.
We are looking for ways to deceive a joke-hearer into thinking we're talking about the tee when your punchline is about a cup of tea, or the greens as vegetables, or having to replace your socks because you've got a hole in one. This isn't impossible, in fact it gets easier with practise. I'll demonstrate what I mean in a moment.
NB: Don't bin bad jokes!
Get any jokes and half-jokes that come out of this process down on paper as well as good ones. Keep your mind open. Good gags often come out of bad gags, and besides the process is partly about getting a flow going. Also a joke you find rather flat may well be hysterical to someone else... And never forget that if you ban unfunny jokes from the process you will also stop the good ones from coming.
Bad gags as well as good ones can open comedy doors.
For this reason you won't find all of the jokes I come up with in this blog funny. They're here to show you how to do it, to show you the process, not to be hysterical in themselves.
Here we are then, we'll start by having a go at some wordplay. From the above I'm having a go at three golfing terms:
Al: I've lost my tee.
Bill: I saw you drinking it in the club-house.
Charlie: You know, I was so engrossed in chatting that I went and left my tea in the coffee shop.
Dora: It's OK, I've got a spare one in my pocket.
Best man talking about the Groom, a golfer: The Bride wanted Denis to feel comfortable today, so she made sure the meal was full of greens. It could have been worse: We could have been surrounded by water hazards, the rough, sandy bunkers and a machine blasting low-flying golf balls at us.
A hole in one
I took a new pair of golfing socks back. I had to explain that although one sock was whole because it didn't have a hole, the other was definitely holed below the shoe-line - or, summarising, there was a hole in one, and one wants one's money back.
As I said earlier, there are books which can help with this sort of creative thinking.
To help you compile your initial brainstorm, Step 1, a Reverse Dictionary is worth getting hold of. The object of this type of reference book is to help you with finding the full terminology of a subject. Referring to it now, I see that if I'd simply looked up 'golf' in it I'd have instantly found 24 golfing terms, most of them not included in my brainstorm list above.
To me, this indicates that for a comprehensive punning treatment of any theme it pays to create an initial brainstorm from your head and follow it up with a quick reference to a Reverse Dictionary.
I'd also recommend a full English dictionary, which can help spotting words with multiple meanings plus other comedy clues like words that begin with the sound 'tee,' a bit like 'tee-hee' above.
Tea-caddy: a box for carrying tea
Folks, this an example of a comedy gift - it's a link between two subjects, namely tea and golf. Remembering that wherever we find a link between two subjects there is a joke, all we have to do is unearth it. Here goes:
A caddy could mean a box for carrying tees, which could cause confusion when you say to your caddy "Caddy, would you pass me the caddy, please?"
On the other and, you might carry your tees in a sack, which'd quite likely be called a tea bag, which might have been the tea that you left in the coffee shop earlier. (Links, links, links!)
I'd like to repeat the value of owning a full English Dictionary. As well as its usefulness as outlined above, you can easily find other puns simply by looking for words / phrases which begin with 'tee' and 'tea,' and think what else they could mean, and as ever, looking for links.
I've found the following:
Tea biscuit: edible tees for energy during a physically gruelling round
Tea plantation: a forest planted to grow wooden tees
A tee service: a dinner service made out of tees belonging to great golfers
Tea service: link with a tennis serve
The most effective rhymes are multiple-syllabled words ending in a short word, eg tee.
Settee: set tee: possible link with tennis - I can imagine something humorous coming out of 'set tea' instead of 'set point', where the players retire to a settee / sofa to decide the set by who drinks their tea most competitively.
Does this tee come with a guarantee? It's a warren-ty, actually, but it only covers you for loss due to rabbits running off underground with it. (Pun on warren)
What do you call a tee that isn't where it should be? an Absentee.
I've designed a tee that emits a laughing sound so you don't lose it. It's called a tee-hee.
And after all those adventures, we dry our collection of tees with a tee towel.
Have a go at these techniques, have a laugh with it and Enjoy.