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November 21, 2014 / 28 Heshvan, 5775
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Seinfeld: How to Write a Joke

seinfeld ny times

Jerry describes the anatomy of his Pop-Tart joke, still a work in progress, and shows his longhand writing process—documented by the NY Times.

It occurred to me that the process of writing a joke is similar to the process of writing a poem – for totally different reasons.

The poet wants his or her message to be as precise and complete as possible.

That’s the farthest thing from the mind of the joke writer, who just wants to make the audience laugh.

Is there a way to merge the two?

Are there poetic joke writers out there with drawers full of unpublished stuff?

It somehow makes me feel reassured.

It makes me feel reassured, somehow.

Yes, these jokes belong in the drawer, makes me feel safer.

Good, keep ‘em there.

Yes, I’m going with that one: Good, keep ‘em there.


About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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3 Responses to “Seinfeld: How to Write a Joke”

  1. We were so poor I was born naked.

  2. Last night I dreamt that I swallowed a giant marshmallow. In the morning my pillow was gone.

  3. Somebody already linked poetry and joke writing, Yori. "There once was a man from Nantucket…" When I see Mr. Seinfeld's approach, it is a lot like writing a poem. You worry about the rhythm, the syllable counts, and the right order of wording. I'd say when it comes to the punchline and the setup, it takes more precision in comedy to get a laugh than in poetry to get any other response. That's when the worded joke is the main part, not the delivery. Oddly enough, Mark Twain had a great knack for stand-up comedy and wrote a bit on the subject…like Seinfeld and other great comedians, Twain understood that the timing of the joke was as important as the joke itself. Yori probably has a few good poems and jokes stored away in a dresser drawer and he should share them with others…I just hope he doesn't confuse them with his other unmentionables. Yeah, I should keep most of mine locked up too.

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