The Rule of Three in comedy is actually a rule that is followed, when a comedian is either writing something new, or when he is presenting an old joke in front of an audience. Making people laugh is considered as one of the most difficult things in the world. It takes skill, a straight face, quick wit, and an amazing sense of timing. In the world of comedy, timing is the key to everything. This Buzzle article explains the usage of the Rule of Three or the comic triple.
Three men enter a bar, one is an American, one is a Russian, and the third is an Indian. Now, all three are upstanding citizens, who have never got even a parking ticket. Suddenly, a fight erupts in the bar, and all three die. Since they have never sinned in their life, all three go to heaven, where they meet an angel who grants them three wishes. The American thinks for a moment, and tells the angel that he wishes to drive a Ferrari from the east coast of USA to the west coast. The angel grants his wish in an instant. The Russian says that he has never ridden a Harley Davidson, and his wish is granted too. It's the Indian's turn now, he ponders about this, and tells the angel that he has never had a cigarette in his life. The angel sends him to a room that is filled with the best cigarettes in the world. A little while later, the American returns all happy and thanks the angel, so does the Russian. The Indian, on the other hand, returns all grumpy and irritated. When asked why, the Indian says, "you put me in a room full of cigarettes, but you didn't give me a lighter!"
► 3 wishes- driving a Ferrari, riding a Harley Davidson, and smoking a cigarette
What was different with the last scenario, was that only the Indian was dissatisfied even though his wish was granted. And why was he unhappy? It was because the angel had not given him the lighter, which is the most obvious thing you need to have a smoke. In the above joke, the same thing (driving and riding, essentially the same) is repeated twice, but the last scenario has a twist to it. If the Indian's wish was granted to him with a lighter as well, then the joke would not have been funny at all.
Therefore, the Rule of Three, means, having three elements in a joke, out of which the first two elements are completely normal, and they have normal responses and reactions. The third, however, is the one that has something out of the blue happening to him, which makes the joke funny. So, the first two elements and situations are repeated twice in two different ways, but the third person, and his scenario is absolutely different, as compared to the first two. The Rule of Three is applied to add humor in a story, but to only the last element, by creating a buildup to it. This rule is a classic joke structure, wherein, you have a setup, the buildup to the end, and the punchline and the end.
In the above joke, if she had carefully crossed the pavement the third time too, she would not have slipped and fallen, and therefore, it would have just been a normal story about some little girl walking back home. It would not have been interesting, neither would it have been funny. The Rule of Three adds that element of interest to a story and converts it to a joke.
- Laura Kightlinger
- Jon Stewart
- George Carlin
- Chris Rock
- Groucho Marx
- Mel Brooks
- Tim Allen
In comedy, timing is everything. Making someone laugh is a skill that everyone wants to possess, but very few can pull off. Using the Rule of Three is the most basic technique applied in comic writing and stand-up comedy. It's the easiest rule to abide by and the easiest to learn very quickly. All you need is an audience, quick wit, and impeccable timing.