How to tell a joke by comedian John Evans


Britain’s John Evans is one of the most respected comedians on the circuit. In this Podcast he shares his secrets on how to tell a joke, what subjects to avoid and how you can inject some comedy into your show.

Where and when

Good singers have a sense of where and when to sing particular songs. It’s the same with joke telling. An experienced comic will have a huge arsenal of jokes, the trick is sensing the audience and choosing the right lines at the right time. If you’re just starting to introduce humour to your act tread cautiously. Begin with gentle, safe material and don’t be tempted to go off-script until you’re ready.

Don’t steal material

There have been some famous rows between comics accusing each other of stealing material. This is always a tricky one. John thinks if a line has been published or broadcast it should be avoided. If you do hear someone else’s line and want to use it, John suggests changing it to make it your own. Give it your own personal stamp and develop it in some way. Before you know where you are that original idea can develop into a whole new section that’s unique to you. What you must never do is steal a whole routine. It’s wrong, you’ll be found out and besides, where’s the fun in that? There are bits in my act that I’ve refined over the years. I’d be very upset if someone just nicked them. It’s much more satisfying to develop your own material.

Where can you find gags?

As well as writing much of his own material John is always on the look out for new lines. He listens to people at the bar, signs up for text alerts and emails from jokes sites online.

Here’s are John’s top tips for budding comedians:

  • Just because something can get a laugh it doesn’t mean to say you should use it.
  • Anyone can be funny, it all depends how much truth there is behind it.
  • Anyone can tell a joke but if you’re a singer it might be better to be more anecdotal.
  • Stay away from contentious subjects. If you don’t feel conformable with the material it will show.
  • When telling a joke, less is more. Get to the punchline as quickly as possible.
  • Enjoy yourself. If you enjoy performing it will transmit to the audience.

You can connect with John on Twitter here.

Recorded onboard Cunard cruise lines in July 2013

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