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Punch Line

  • By: Julia M. Taylor
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

The term punch line refers to an important part of the joke, often following the joke setup, that produces an unexpected twist in the narrative, resulting in humor. It is possible, in a one-liner, for the punch line to constitute the whole joke, in which case the setup is implied. The punch line is typically the very last part of a joke, but in rare cases, parts of the setup follow it.

A punch line can be looked at as the highest point of tension toward the end of the joke. Once such an assumption is made, a joke can be looked at in terms of “pulses,” in Robert Hetzron’s terminology, and the punch lines can be described in terms of the pulses or episodes of ...

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