Tobe Frank: the art of a good joke 5



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To be frank I’ve never been very good at telling jokes. Writing? Maybe (I’ll let you decide). Perfectly timed one-liners oozing dry wit and sarcasm? Most definitely. But straight up ‘three doctors in a bar’ jokes? Nup, nein, not even close.

It’s not through want of trying, nor lack of a storage vault full of crackers. Typically, I’ll start the joke well enough. Delivery is right: plenty of Italian-style gesticulation, appropriate for the subtext of the story; enough variation in the tone and emotion; and usually I stick to the plot. But about half way in I reckon I get nervous about one of the following:

  1. I’m losing the audience.
  2. I’ve forgotten a key part of the story and need to back track faster than an election promise.
  3. I’m not telling this joke anywhere near as good as the person who told it to me, doing it about as my justice as a rap on the knuckles for a serial DUI offender.
  4. I’ve had a mental blank and have forgotten the ending.

Usually, at this point I panic and the result is I go off on more tangents than a geometry textbook. I change tact more times than John Bertrand on Australia II. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to the end – maybe via the scenic route – but mostly I bumble my way through the rest of the joke until either a) it peters out to an anti-climactic and grossly unfunny end or, b) I give up and try to change the subject as quickly as possible, moving on before the perplexity of the on-lookers takes hold.

Oh and should the joke require an accent (for dramatic effect), be it Irish, Scottish, English, American or otherwise, it may start out genuinely enough but it always, ALWAYS ends up being Indian! What the hell is with that? I’m not kidding. The joke will start out “there’s an Englishman, Irishman and American in a bar…”, and half way through the joke a man from Bangalore walks in! It always ruins my train of thought and ultimately the joke. I can’t stop it either. I try but then it ends up being this crazy mixed up Irish/Indian quagmire…like a leprechaun’s had a love-child with Ghandi!

As a result, over the years, I have learnt to stick to my knitting – lying in wait for the stealthy execution of the perfectly timed one-liner; the (to the missus’ disgust) toilet humour tearjerker or the superbly honed the dry, sarcastic, witty reply.

Yes, I know sarcasm is the lowest for of wit, but I’m happy to be lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut if it makes people laugh. If my piss-poor attempt at a joke makes people raise their eyebrow in wonder, then I’d rather poke fun at my own inability to deliver, so at least there’s a laugh…even if its at my own expense.

And that’s been one of my sacred mottos in life: Never pass up the opportunity for a laugh…particularly if it is at yourself.

But, seriously, how good are some people at telling jokes?


What is your favourite joke? Are you good at telling it or are you like Tobe? Tell us below.

Tobe Frank

Tobe Frank is a recently retired 62 year old gentleman with many views. He has grand ambitions for his retirement he just isn't sure what they are yet and is constantly looking around to find them. Tobe shares his views on Starts at Sixty regularly as one of our columnists.

  1. Oh my my this is so me. I dream of being a stand up comedian,( my kids think I don’t need to stand up). I share a bit at church and I always go for the funny lines. I so identity with the Indian accent. Maybe because I am Latino!!!!!!!

  2. This is me. Funniest joke ever gets lost in the telling.Its me that gets the laugh ,not the joke.

  3. Oh how funny! Your man from Bagalore, my Irish man who turns into a Scot half way through, and these days I have to ask permission to tell a joke as I have never been known to hit the right punch line, which always turns into a joke itself, while everyone offers suggestions!

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