Joke writing: some insider secrets you’ll love, part 2

First the good news, which in a way is bad news too: joke writing is a craft, not an art. Someone once said that there are only about 6 truly original jokes – the rest are all developments or adaptations. You CAN learn to write jokes for business and social uses, and in this. the second of these two articles, I show you how that works. (If you haven’t already read part 1, click here.)

Combining “in-jokes” with switched gags for business speeches

The following two speeches were given at an awards function for a division of a well-known company. I haven’t shown them in their entirety because they’re quite long, but I hope I have included enough for you to see how the theory works…

The first speech was delivered by Lesley Joseph – “Dorien” in the hit TV comedy series “Birds Of A Feather.” My role as scriptwriter was to write her a speech that included lots of in-jokes – plus some switched gags that I had in my database – and all in the style of her TV character.

I worked quite closely with Lesley on this to make sure I got the characterization right, and on the day I’m told it brought the house down. In the following script you’ll see that the in-jokes are pretty much self-explanatory, but I have underlined the switched gags. All other non in-joke gags are original (by “moi!”)

Lesley Joseph:  (IN THE STYLE OF DORIEN)  Well, I seem to have several hard acts to follow.  All of you previous speakers have given presentations rather like my skirt, actually.  Short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the business.

Before I start I must tell you about my journey to the Dorchester here this morning.  NAME NAME is such a gentleman, he came to fetch me himself.  I was sort of expecting a limo, but I really didn’t mind the 36-wheeler lorry, did I, darling?  Bit tricky climbing into the cab in high heels, but NAME gave me a push up.

So, we were chatting and having a bit of giggle, you know how one does as one drives along.  Well, shouting, I suppose, over the diesel engine.  And I told NAME I was a witch. Of course he laughed, and then said, OK, prove it.  So I started running my fingers up and down his thigh, and hey presto!  He turned into a lay-by.

And I can’t wait to see all NAME’s passive components in the back when he takes me home later.  Don’t forget, NAME … you promised.

I was so excited to be asked here to share this day with you.  Before we came into lunch, you know, when we were chatting in the bar … I was delighted to hear that several of the COMPANY management people are keen sportsmen.  I love good sports … as long as you remember that men play the game, and women know the score.

NAME NAME’s a great golfer, but someone said … what was it?  Oh, that’s right.  He has a serious handicap.  Certainly doesn’t seem handicapped to me.  Even though he told me older women are best because they always think they may be doing it for the last time.

And do you know what else he whispered in my ear over drinks?  He said golf and sex are the only things you can enjoy without being good at them.  Well, practice makes perfect, darling.  Perhaps you and I could work on our bunker shots sometime.

I had a long chat with NAME NAME, as well, you know, COMPANY’ new Sales and Marketing Director.  He told me he loves tennis … so do I, darling.  As long as you change balls every seven games.  At least, I think he was talking about tennis.  He was terribly enthusiastic about working in this new racket …

And do you know, he’s invited me to his beautiful new company flat for a drink later.  I can’t wait to see it … it’s very luxurious, apparently. The shag pile carpet’s so thick you can’t see anyone below the neck.  Six o’clock sharp, okay?


And now for some of the company CEO’s speech material…

(Loudly) Ladies and gentleman!  Hello once again. I hope you enjoyed your lunch … not like my local cricket club lunch last summer. The food was so terrible, I wrote to the club secretary to complain. The letter he wrote back said, “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your meal. Please bring it up at the annual general meeting.”

And now, let’s turn our attention to the COMPANY Components Distributor of the Year Award.  Before we go into that, though, NAME NAME would like to bring you up to date on the latest developments within COMPANY Components itself.

As many of you know, NAME’s very keen on golf, but he’s still got a way to go to get to the top.  In fact if he grew potatoes, they’d come up sliced. And he’s just managed to turf his entire back lawn out of divots. The other day, he’d hit his ball into the biggest bunker at Sunningdale, so he shouted up to his caddie asking what club he should use. The caddie shouted back that what club he used didn’t matter, as long as he had a good supply of food and water.

Whatever his golf handicap, though, he’s a terrific Managing Director.  Please give a warm welcome to NAME NAME!


A fine performance all round, I’m sure you’ll agree, and all superb examples of well-run businesses.  In fact the last time I visited (NAME OF 2nd OR 3rd PRIZE WINNER) I was in (MANAGING DIRECTOR)’s office, admiring how well they were doing. I know (NAME) is a keen cricketer, and I noticed on his desk he had three trays marked IN, OUT and LBW. I wondered how this helped move the business forward, so I asked why LBW. He said it wasn’t Leg Before Wicket but “Let the Buggers Wait.”

I know you’ll agree with me that we’ve got all the top distributors in the industry right here in this room!  And now, hopefully to endorse that opinion as well as bringing us up to date on key issues both here and in the States, please welcome the Chairman of NAME, NAME NAME


(If there has been a Q & A session …)Well, it’s been an extremely interesting discussion. I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today, but perhaps NAME will come back next year so we can continue! Thanks very much, NAME.

As most of you know, NAME NAME recently joined us as Sales and Marketing Director. Like the rest of us he’s a keen sportsman, playing a variety of games including tennis, squash and massaging the sales figures.

He hasn’t taken up golf yet but after hearing what I said about NAME’s golf earlier on, NAME has challenged him to a round at £100 a hole.

A beginner, maybe, but NAME’s an optimist. He told me he’s going to wear two pairs of socks when he starts playing golf, in case he gets a hole in one.

Anyway, without further ado, please give a warm welcome to our new Sales and Marketing Director, NAME NAME!


Well, Lesley, what can I say? (confirm this gag with Lesley beforehand) I’ll see you in the lorry in about half an hour, OK?  (brief pause)

Please join me in giving her another round of applause … Lesley Joseph!  We’ve just about come to the end of our Awards for another year.  Before we go, though, I’d like to offer my personal congratulations and thanks to COMPANY, (NAMES OF 2nd AND 3rd PRIZE WINNERS), and all the rest of you who have put in some truly sterling efforts throughout the year. Your hard work has played a huge part in helping COMPANY go from strength to strength.

A couple of final thoughts before we leave today … remember there’s another good thing about today’s Awards. They’ve given you a chance to sober up before the Friday night drinks after work. And don’t forget, you can always tell when you’ve had enough to drink. It’s when somebody steps on your tongue.

More insider secrets to great writing:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English