14 Ways to Write Funny Tweets

Omri Marcus
8 min readMay 31, 2020


If there is one good thing you can say about social media is that comedy now is no longer generated solely by a select group of privileged white males. These days, even a granny from Bumfuck, Montana can tweet and effortlessly entertain people on the other side of the world. If she has some luck, a pithy tweet, and the right timing, the road to her 15 minutes of fame is paved. Easy it ain’t, but not impossible either.

Exactly a decade ago, I published a piece in the Huffington Post, that later went viral, under the title: Ten Ways to Write One-Liners, a crash course of sorts in the concoction of punchlines. It was based on my experience as a comedy writer for Israel’s most popular comedy show, Eretz Nehederet, and on my longstanding addiction to monologue jokes (a.k.a. one-liner jokes). The decade since then has ushered a lot — a pandemic, a Trump, a few iPhone models, and as said, a much more dominant social-media landscape.

It is silly to expect to be able to teach someone to be funny on Twitter or at all. However, the essential elements of the craft — like structure and technique — are not rocket science. That being said, doing it well demands talent, experience, and a solid ability to endure and recover from failure. Not to mention the risk of rubbing people the wrong way, like in the famous case of Justine Sacco and that one bad joke that blew up her life. She lost her job and was the target of a global shaming campaign. So keep that in mind before trying to post a joke on Twitter.

Basic Structure

The hardest part about my grandmother’s death was making it seem like an accident. (Dick David)

There are two parts to this one-liner. The first part, “the hardest part…” is the SET-UP: It sets the audience’s mind in an obvious emotional direction. You are “set up” to be led in a predictable way — the usual platitudes about the hardships of losing a loved one. But instead, you get the PUNCHLINE, a surprising twist you weren’t expecting, which puts the first part in a totally different light. In this case — making it seem like an accident.

Even though there are exceptions, there are two basic rules to this. The first is the length of the joke — the shorter the distance between the set-up and the punchline, the funnier it is. The second is that the punchline will always come at the end.

Now the question remains — what makes a tweet funny? When you break it down, it turns out the funniest ones use at least one of the following techniques:

Verbal Comedy: Pun

One word, two meanings. Our brain hears the first part of the sentence and assumes meaning A, but then the punchline twists it, and it turns out to be meaning B. It can be the word itself or its context in the sentence. For example:
It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally. (unknown)



Note — a visual setup can save words. For example:


Worlds Collide-Based Comedy

There are two ingredients — one is banal, the other unusual or outlandish. The comedy derives from drawing unexpected parallels between them.
It can be a combination of high-brow and low-brow, for example:


Note — I especially love this tweet because it made me recall the rules of Fight Club and, once I did, feel I belonged to a cultured elite. Better still, it made fun of the annoying people who can’t shut up about their CrossFit training.



Reality Tutorial Comedy

Since we are bombarded with endless infographics, how-to manuals, step-by-step, recipes, lists, etc., the conventions are on our mind. Taking elements from our daily life, as banal as they can be, and breaking them into tutorials will change their proportion and shake our thinking paradigm with a funny result. Here are a few examples:


Reverse Comedy

The point is to change the perspective of the situation in a way that will either emphasize different aspects that are expected or look at something from the other side.
A mysterious man was knocking all night long on Paris Hilton’s door. Come morning, she was fed-up with it, so she let him out. (David Letterman)


Comedy Based on Approving a Stereotype

Stereotypes are one of the methods our brain uses to simplify the complicated reality around us. One of the most common ways of writing funny tweets is to treat those stereotypes as if they were solid truths. Yes, it is a double-edged sword when irresponsibly handed to racists, sexist people, or the President of the United States. But if it comes with good-spirited intentions, rather than meant to put down a stereotyped group, you might get away with it.

A new survey claims that in 67% of households, the woman is in charge of the cleaning. The rest of the houses are dirty.



Situation Comedy

In these kinds of funny tweets, the writer creates an unusual situation. The set-up has to be as vivid as possible to generate the picture in the reader’s mind. Now that the necessary assumptions are made, the punchline adds an unexpected twist that entirely changes the picture. The comedy here is a result of the chasm between the assumptions we made about the outcome of the situation and the surprise generated by a completely different and usually absurd outcome. For example:


Note -The first part makes the readers imagine a giraffe in their mind, and the second one places the giraffe in the quicksand’s tragic/comic situation.

Observation Based Comedy

Unlike the situation-based comedy, the observation-based comedy is based on an undiscussed truth. It can be a different angle on a very daily routine or breaking it into its ingredients to make it look different. It can be a bottle of juice that’s hard to open or the fact that you always get stuck with an annoying aftertaste with a particular brand. For example:






20% Exaggeration Based Comedy

It’s similar to observational comedy but makes it a bit weirder by exaggerating 20% more. Optimally, you start with a regular observation and slowly move the needle. In the Trump era reality begins at 20% crazier, so it is sometimes hard to spot the difference.




“How-far-will-they-go?” Comedy

Laughter can also deal with our deepest fears. If we can’t control what scares us, the second-best thing to do is to laugh about it. The result is a great feeling of power, a small victory over fear. Let’s say the worst imaginable thing, and enjoy the one second our Id goes wild before our better judgment kicks in. For example, here is a one-liner about the most common fear — death:


Or sex:

I met an amazing girl on the internet. Smart, sexy, uninhibited…of course, it turned out to be a twelve-year-old paraplegic boy. I’ll be honest — the sex was disappointing. (Jimmy Carr)

Surrealism-Based Comedy

To understand these jokes, you sometimes need to be in college, with a bag of weed. Otherwise, it might sound like a mistake rather than a joke.



Timing-Based Comedy

Since Twitter has put us all on the ADHD spectrum, the timing of posting the one-liner is one of the more significant ingredients for its success. When Fortnite servers collapsed in 2018, the PornHub Twitter account quickly retweeted their message with the perfect comment:


Playing with People’s Expectations of Yourself

Our perceptions, opinions, and knowledge can be the “set-up” if the punch-line” twists it. For example, A perfect tweet was an answer to the question, “What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever received?”. The real Monica Lewinsky answered:

or the CIA, that is quite a serious organization made a funny tweet when launching their official account:

Meta: Playing with Technology and Digital/Social Media Conventions

The digital universe and technology created a lot of conventions and subcultures. From the character limit on Twitter to the shape of emojis. Making fun of the Twitter generation while you are on Twitter makes it likely that your audience will know what you are talking about.



Playing Dumb

Since the line between laughing with you and making fun of you is so thin, giving the readers the feeling they are superior will generate a smile and doesn’t necessarily make the writer look like an idiot.


Bottom line

the great thing about comedy is that every day I understand how little I know, and, every few years, I see something funny that goes against all conventions. I love it because it keeps me on my toes and makes me constantly re-think my values, my positions, and my morals.

Which leads to the final point I want to make — It might be easy to “punch down” but it is hurtful and simply an act of bullying. Good comedy will always punch up. My old boss used to tell me, “you can make fun of everything, but if you are making fun of less fortunate people than yourself — you need the joke to be really extremely funny.”



Omri Marcus

Makes Things Interesting