A Singer’s Guide to Telling Jokes with Tom O’Connor


Comedy legend Tom O’Connor thinks it’s pretty easy to tell a one liner but telling a story takes me skill. If you’re a singer who wants to add a little humour to your set don’t try and become a comedian. Start with small safe lines that won’t leave you exposed if they don’t land well. Introduce a little gentle humour early in the act. Self depreciation is always good and Tom recommends Frank Carson’s advice “Take the quickest way to the tag”. That doesn’t mean tell the joke quickly. It means take out anything that doesn’t need to be there. Take the shortest route to the punchline.

Don’t steal material

Keep your ears open for funny lines you hear but don’t steal material from other comics. As Tom says, “They’ve probably nicked it from someone else anyway.” Listen to things people say in every day life, find lines on calendars or in the paper and adapt them to make them your own.

Keep it clean

Just because something might get a laugh it doesn’t mean to say you should use it. Tom is well known for keeping his act totally clean and inoffensive. It would be hard for anyone to be offended with any topic Tom tackles. Take a leaf out of his book. Keep it clean.

What if they don’t laugh?

You need to be prepared for a joke not working. It could be because they’ve heard it before, they don’t understand it or you didn’t tell it well. If you do get complete silence Tom suggests you say, “The first time I heard that I went quiet myself.” Whatever you do, keep going. It’s critical the audience always feels confident in your hands. Hopefully though you won’t have any tumbleweed moments. Try your material out with friends before using it in your act. Personally I avoid telling what you’d call “jokes”. I tell short, amusing, personalised stories. I don’t try and get a huge laugh, I’m happy to just sprinkle a little humour in the show and leave the real jokes to the professionals.

Recorded May 2013.

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