Conventional wisdom dictates that timing is the key to comedy

Kazakhstani reporter Borat Sagdiyev learned during his journeys through America for his classic 2006 documentary, Borat! He visited with a humor coach, who tried to impart a basic principle of comedic time using a “not joke” regarding the shade of Borat’s suit.

This really is obviously hardly a joke, if it even deserves that name. It nonetheless perfectly exemplifies one of the very widely accepted ideas about time in comedy: pausing before the punch line.

Psychological research and social science on comic timing is restricted, but what exists indicates the layperson’s comprehension of the means by which the cycle of joke delivery works is entirely erroneous. It could be that our sense of the importance of humorous timing comes more from how we regard jokes than from how they’re delivered. And, for comedians, the time following the punch line is what actually counts.

More at the NYMag.

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