Okay, this is not necessarily a how-to for anyone else to write jokes, because, perhaps, I’m a little idiosyncratic, but nonetheless, by extrapolation, there may be something useful here. For someone. Maybe not you, but not only me. Someone in between.

Playing with generally accepted sayings is my shtick. For instance, by way of example, given that we need to start somewhere, let’s take “Flattery will get you everywhere”. The opposite is also popular, according to Dr Google. And various online and offline dictionaries and thesauri. That is, “Flattery will get you nowhere”.

A near-conventional take on the former is “Philately will get you everywhere”. Now, that’s a pretty good line, but it’s been done.

Let’s go one step further:

“Philately will get you everywhere, but numismatics will get you home”.

There’s a beat or two missing with the tag, so how about:

“Philately will get you everywhere, but numismatics will get you back again”.

Now we’re in the tricky situation of wondering whether our audience is going to know what ‘philately’ and ‘numismatics’ are, and whether they’ve heard the wholesale reference (“Flattery will get you everywhere”) and its retail riff (Philately will get you everywhere”).

And collectors, including stamp and coin collectors, are OCD (for those with OCD, that is obsessive compulsive disorder). It’s compulsory. Here’s a too-frequent-heckler killer line I’m playing with:

Me                         I see you have impulsive-compulsive disorder.

Heckler                 You mean obsessive compulsive disorder.

Me                         Oh, you too?

Score – comedian: one; heckler: nil.

So far I’ve tried this about 50 times, and no onstage or offstage heckler has responded they way they’re meant to, in my imagination.

I even asked a psychiatrist friend (what? a comedian can’t have a psychiatrist friend? you assume that I’m masking a professional relationship?) and he was simply silent with my entrapment line, “I see you have impulsive-compulsive disorder”. When I asked why he didn’t correct me, he said that he didn’t want to be patronising.

So, comedians (and comedy writers) love to create set-ups with multiple tags. That way, the original gag becomes a catchphrase for the joke-teller, and can be rejuvenated and tailored in an ad hoc way, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Here’s the set-up with a dozen alternative tags.

Philately will get you everywhere, but numismatics will:

  1. get you home
  2. get you back again
  3. establish your reputation for pretentiousness
  4. establish your reputation for pretentiousness, self-importance and affectation
  5. establish your reputation for pretentiousness, self-importance, affectation – and for using words and concepts that will alienate you from any audience
  6. weigh you down
  7. allow people to hear you coming
  8. allow people to hear you coming, and take appropriate action, such as leaving
  9. last longer than Bitcoin
  10. save you from overdosing on glue
  11. get you insulted
  12. buy complementary medicine.

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