The Knack: How to tell a joke

Keep it short and don't attempt accents, says Jenny Eclair
If you embark on a joke, slip it into the conversation - then, if it doesn't hold your audience's attention, you can pretend it was just a story. Take a very deep breath and shout the joke because people will try to talk over you to spare you and them the embarrassment. Don't stop until you reach the end of the joke, and never ever forget the punchline. There is nothing worse than limping off halfway through. If you do, the best thing is to faint - then people won't be talking about how rubbish you are at joke-telling; they'll be tipping brandy down your throat.

Timing is important. If you're going to tell that joke about the dwarf and the cucumber, don't do it when you're having lunch with his mother. You've got to find the joke funny yourself but not to the point of incontinence. The idea is to make other people laugh until they wet themselves, not to have you purple and shrieking with wee trickling down your leg in the middle of a joke, while your audience is left wondering what's going on. Keep it short and don't attempt accents unless you are with the Radio 4 Drama Rep Company. As to content, I think anything around the gusset area and words like "poo-poo" are terribly funny, but that's just me. At the end of the joke, you are allowed a smug titter - as long as everyone else is laughing.

Comedienne Jenny Eclair is starting a new UK tour

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