The Joke Mine: 5 Steps To Effortlessly Connect Any Personal Story To An Offer Using Comedic Structure
Ahoy, Digital Writers!
Most beginning storytellers start with a boring list.
I went to the grocery.
And I bought some grapes.
Then I got in my car and drove home.
But then, the new storyteller learns from their mistakes. They read up on Pixar’s 24 Rules Of Storytelling and Trey Parker’s But & Therefore Rule. They add conflict, cause, and resolution to the story.
And voila, their story feels complete (not like an everyday trip to the grocery)!
Which is great, if you only want to tell a story.
But if you want to use your story to persuade your reader to sign-up for your newsletter, join the waitlist for your course, or buy your product, then you have to find a way to connect your story to your offer. The problem is most advice on how to do this sounds like this: “All you have to do is point the reader to a realization you had and why they should care too.”
I’ve read 20+ books on storytelling in the last 2 years.
None of them really show you how to bridge your story into your offer.
So today, I want to teach you a framework I learned from comedian Greg Dean that will help you add the “zing” you need to bring a story to life and connect your reader naturally into your offer.
But before we get to what I learned from Greg, I want to introduce you to another book first.
The only book that comes close to explaining how to connect a story to an offer (besides the one we are going to look at in a minute) is Tiny Thunder by Sue Rice.
Sue’s book is a practical read on metaphoric storytelling. I highly recommend it. In the book, she outlines 5 different ways you can make a point with your story.
A pain point you address
A benefit your prospect wants
A dream you can help your followers attain
An obstacle you can help your audience overcome
A value your product / service / company / idea embodies
For some of you, the list above may be enough and you can go about your day.
But if you want something a little more actionable—keep reading.
Let’s go back to the grocery story. And let’s say instead of buying grapes and going home, you trip on the curb, feel embarrassed, shake the dust off, wave “hi” to your neighbor as they help you up, all is well and you go on with your day.
What the heck does that have to do with helping people Write With AI, start a newsletter, or build a great business partnership, for example?!
Well, let me tell you about another book I recently read.
Step-By-Step To Stand-Up Comedy
I picked the book up on a flight from Miami to New York.
The flight is 3 hours. It’s the perfect amount of time to burn through a short read. So, before I hopped on the plane, I flipped open my Kindle to see what I could find.
One book caught my eye:
Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy by Greg Dean
I like comedy. So I thought, what the heck. Lets see if I can learn to be funny..step-by-step.
The book delivered.
But not in the way I expected.
What Makes A Joke Work
Greg masterfully broke down a very mysterious art “being funny” into a tangible practical approach that left me dumbfounded.
He not only removed the veil of how a joke works. But he literally broke it down in true Feynman fashion—so a 5 year old could understand it. It’s so simple. But, full transparency, you probably need to be at least 13 to follow along.
In his process he shows you how to move from one idea to the next through a concept he calls “reinterpretation”—which is what makes something funny.
The lesson for me was how he thought about making those connections.
Which I’m going to show you here. (You will have to read the book to get the full perspective.)
Here are my core takeaways:
A joke must be surprising. And you can’t be surprised unless you’re FIRST expecting something else. That’s what a joke does. It causes you to expect something, and then it reveals a surprise.
If a joke doesn’t have two stories, it’s not a joke. The setup to a joke creates an expectation by building a story in the reader/listeners mind. The punchline reveals a surprise. How? With a 2nd story that’s compatible with, yet different from what the reader is expecting—which is surprising.
Two interpretations of one thing are required to make a joke work. Every joke with a performed setup is designed to manipulate an audience into imagining a 1st story by making assumptions. The punch then reveals an unexpected 2nd story that surprises the audience by targeting one key assumption and making it wrong...that’s the target assumption.
It’s the third point that flipped a light on for me.
When you tell a story, your reader builds a set of assumptions in their mind based on your topic and the details you provide. For example, what do you think of when I say “I call my father all the time.”?
Stop reading until you think of something.
Here’s what I know: you’ve probably made an assumption based on one of the words in the sentence. Let’s say you focused on the word “call.” If you did, then you probably assumed “telephone call” and you have an image in your brain of picking up a phone and calling your Dad. Maybe you even pictured him picking up your call. The brain is amazing like that.
Now, here’s where the comedy comes in.
“Call” can actually mean a lot of things.
We talked about the telephone already. But it could also mean to shout, to make a decision, to label, etc. So in the joke writing process you “reinterpret” the meaning (and make it negative) to deliver the punch line and make it funny. So the punchline to “I call my father all the time” becomes something like “I won’t repeat what I call him.”
That’s how this works
To get to the punch line you had to first create a 2nd story. Which comes from the different meaning of “call.” And that story would be something like “I called my father a drunk because of his mean game of staring me down.”
Here’s how it looks in graphical form:
“Great party trick Cole, but how does this help me sell my offer?”
The Joke Mine: How To “Reinterpret” A Story To Sell (In 5 Steps)
Here’s the insight for storytellers and how you can take advantage of this technique to share a helpful lesson, tie it into your offer, and leave the reader with a great takeaway: