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If I start a joke with a question, then answer it as part of a joke. What is the answer of the joke called? Is there a specific term for it? I am pretty sure there is, but can't remember what it was. Also, what if the main part of the joke isn't an answer? What would it still be called?

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I'm not sure if it's the 'main' part (after all, the setup is just as important) but you're probably looking for the phrase punch line (also spelled as a single word punchline):

the sentence, statement, or phrase (as in a joke) that makes the point

(source: Merriam-Webster)

It's often used for jokes which are like short stories; I'm not entirely sure if it applies to Q&A jokes as well (I'm not a native speaker).

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    And for the record, the first part of the joke also has a name: The "setup". – Darrel Hoffman Apr 17 at 13:27
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    I'd say Q&A style jokes are some of the easiest to determine what the punchline is. For a simple example, in "Why is six afraid of seven?", you would call "Because seven eight nine!" the punchline because you could say it is the sentence/statement/phrase that makes it a joke. – JMac Apr 17 at 14:13
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    @Glorfindel I can't think of any rule that absolutely defines what counts as a "line" in English (or the origin of "punchline"). Presumably, if it's anything like scripts, what constitutes a "line" has nothing really to do with how many words the line is. Also, I would say a single word can still be a statement, so it can fit your definitions still. – JMac Apr 17 at 14:34
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    To build on what JMac said in reply to @Glorfindel. "Punchline" and "setup" don't even have to refer to words at all and can apply to jokes that are entirely non-linguistic. When someone says "Pull my finger", that is the setup, and the ensuing fart is the punchline. – Shufflepants Apr 17 at 15:52
  • For example if you go to a ball, there would be a line to hire a tuxedo, a line to hire a car, a line for the girl you want to ask out but hopefully there won't be a punchline. – Borgh Apr 19 at 7:08
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The other part (which may be the long part, so it may count as the "main" part to some) is the Setup.

I found a Glossary of Comedy Terminology, if you have other humor-related questions.


I re-read and saw you were answering about the "punchline" area -- I think it's not so much that this second part is an "answer," but that it typically changes/challenges the audience's assumptions.

In the one liner: "Take my wife... please!" the assumption at the start is "I've got a good example about someone who does something stereotypical, my wife." But then with the "please!" it changes from an introduction to a longer section, to a direct, imperative command. Take her. Now. Make her go away. It's not pretty, but it's a change-in-direction, and that's what made it "work."

Some related terms from the Comedy Glossary that may help identify these parts of the joke:

Decoy Assumption - the misdirecting assumption in a joke's setup which creates the 1st story and is shattered by the reinterpretation.

Connector - at the center of a joke, the one thing perceived in at least two ways. One way of perceiving it constitutes the decoy assumption; the second way of perceiving it reveals the reinterpretation.

Shatter - with reference to joke structure, the point at which the audience realized that their assumption is incorrect.

Punch or Punch Line - the second part of a joke that contains a reinterpretation that creates a 2nd story that shatters the setup's decoy assumption.

Reveal - within the punch, the pivotal word, phrase, or action that exposes or presents the 2nd story's reinterpretation.

Tag or Tag Line - an additional punch immediately following a punch that does not require a new setup

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As everyone else has said, the bit at the end that (hopefully) causes the audience to collapse in fits of laughter is known as the punchline.

If it's a more lengthy humorous story with lots of funny bits, but either a weak punchline, or no punchline, or a more serious point at the end treated lightly by what came before, then the whole thing may be a shaggy dog story, which Wikipedia defines as:

an extremely long-winded anecdote characterized by extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents and terminated by an anticlimax or a pointless punchline.

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Edit: I didn't properly read what Glorfindel said, but he's right. My bad, sorry.

I would say this is still called a punchline: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/punchline

"The last part of a story or a joke that explains the meaning of what has happened previously or makes it funny".

It's usually what finishes off the joke and makes people laugh.

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