A Top-Ten List is a great vehicle for creating and delivering humor. It’s a regular feature on the David Letterman show.
The key isn’t TEN items. The key is that it is a LIST. Yours could be a Top Five List. In fact, you’re usually better served to make your list shorter. It’s better to be short and brilliant, than long and good. The risk of using a longer list is that you run out of funny lines before the list is complete!
It works well to make the theme of the list topical. In other words, select for the theme of the list something that is current and a subject of discussion. Some examples:
– If the boss is retiring: Ten Things the Boss will Be Doing in Retirement.
– If you best friend is turning 50. Ten Great Things about Turning 50.
– If your sister just had twins. Ten Reasons Twins are More Fun.
Once you’ve selected a theme, you have a structure to work with. Writing jokes to fit a structured theme is easier than just writing jokes in a vacuum. Let’s look at the first example and ask some questions:
1. What hobbies does the boss have? Make a list. Then look for funny twists. Golf? Cooking? Going to Las Vegas?
2. What does the boss hate to do? Wash the dishes? Make her own coffee? Get up early?
3. Any characteristics or habits that stand out? Tall or short? Speaks with a strong accent? Always smiling?
4. Find trivia by using all resources. A spouse? A secretary? Friends? Conduct some interviews.
5. Come up with your own list of questions that will enable you to create a working list from which you can mine humor.
Create as many lines as you can. If you’re doing a Top Ten List, try to create at least 20 or 30 lines. From that list you can then select your best ten. I the “boss” example, working your list of questions maybe you would come up with some list items like:
Ten Things the Boss will Be Doing in Retirement
1. Going to Las Vegas to invest her retirement funds.
2. Buying some golf balls that float.
3. Replace her fine china with paper plates.
4. Move to Germany where her accent will not be noticed.
After you pick your top ten (or five), figure out which lines are the funniest. I’d suggest closing with your best line…and opening with your second best line. Weave your stronger lines throughout the list. Some lines may have the sequence set, as one line may provide the set up for another line. And the final product is presented as a countdown, from the TENTH reason all the way to reason number ONE (your best line).
There you have it. Good luck.