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Building To The Punchline June 13, 2015

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Joke, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

Andrew Stanton begins his TED talk with a joke about three men in a bar in the Scottish Highlands ~ a backpacking tourist, a bartender, and an old man.

He uses the joke as a tool to convey compelling storytelling:

* The old man engages the audience, drawing us into his world and revealing his character as he shares his tale with a strong Scottish brogue.

* He makes us care as he explains how he built the bar, constructed the stone wall out front, and installed planks on the pier . . . “with me bare hands.”

* The old man claims center stage with the sole speaking role, yet all three characters are necessary.  None is extraneous.  The tourist provides the reason for the telling of the tale.  The bartender’s presence establishes that the old man is not exaggerating.

* In the same way he crafted the bar, the stone wall, and the pier, the old man builds his story on a firm foundation, one piece at a time.  He keeps the finish line in mind.  He never veers off course.  He steers the story to its predetermined end.


* He creates drama (“anticipation mingled with uncertainty”) as he decries the fact that he’s not called “MacGregor the Bar Builder” or”MacGregor the Stone Wall Builder” or “MacGregor the Pier Builder.”

Now he’s got us!

We’re curious.  We want to hear the end of the story.  We want to know what he IS called.  We are ready for the reveal . . .

* When he delivers the punch line, he doesn’t complete the sentence. He allows the thought to hang mid-air.  He doesn’t spell it out.  He doesn’t beat us over the head.  He doesn’t insult our intelligence.  He doesn’t reveal his actual nickname.

He allows us to follow the breadcrumbs and connect the dots.

He’s given us 2 + 2 and leaves it to the born problem solver in each of us to fill in the blanks and come up with the solution.

And we do.

Mickey-OKSince he constructed his tale with the same precision he used when building the bar, the stone wall, and the pier, we lay the last piece with confidence.

There’s no wiggle room.  We cannot misplace his meaning.

“Och, mon . . . ye must be MacGregor the Story Teller!”

Aah . . . that’s better!

First published: L. Marie’s Blog ~ The Stanton Effect: Building To The Punchline



1. Hariod Brawn - June 13, 2015

Brilliant Nancy; it’s so often the punchline that writes itself which results in the greatest humour. I’m laying off goats cheese for week or two though.

nrhatch - June 13, 2015

Thanks, Hariod! Not a baa’d idea.

Hariod Brawn - June 13, 2015

Clearly it’s having thoughts of MacGregor. XD

nrhatch - June 13, 2015

No doubt! :mrgreen:

Pix Under the Oaks - June 14, 2015


2. L. Marie - June 13, 2015

That was such a great post, Nancy. I’d love for you to write another one at some point. 😀

nrhatch - June 13, 2015

Thanks, Linda! You chose a great jumping off point for that series. Stanton’s storytelling presented the perfect punchline AND made several great points to ponder along the way.

3. Val Boyko - June 13, 2015

Storytelling is joke telling… Love this video Nancy … And your punch lines too 🙂

nrhatch - June 13, 2015

Glad you enjoyed the video, Val ~ he did a fine job with a wee bit of Scottish brogue.

Val Boyko - June 13, 2015

As we would say in Scotland… He did well for not being Scottish 😉

nrhatch - June 13, 2015

Perfect! :mrgreen:

4. diannegray - June 13, 2015

I’ve saved this to watch later. I love the fact that there is a born problem solver in each of us. Great words, Nancy.

nrhatch - June 13, 2015

Thanks, Dianne. Here’s to finding the right solution to each problem that appears on the horizon.

5. Jill Weatherholt - June 13, 2015

I’ll definitely bookmark this to watch in the near future. Thanks for sharing, Nancy!

nrhatch - June 13, 2015

You may have seen it when Linda did the series. It was the departure point for 5 or so posts by guest bloggers and Linda.

6. anotherday2paradise - June 14, 2015

This is brilliant! 😀

nrhatch - June 14, 2015

Thanks, Sylvia. Glad it resonated.

7. Pix Under the Oaks - June 14, 2015

“Wonder”… that does it for me. I enjoyed this video so much. I have to admit to having a teeny crush on this guy… 😀 I knew I really liked him and what he had to say when I found out he had something to do with WALL-E.. 🙂 Toy Story, Nemo… this made my morning a whole lot better, it’s the little kid in me I guess. A very well spent 20 minutes! Thanks, Nancy.

nrhatch - June 14, 2015

Glad the little kid in you enjoyed his talk, Pix ~ he’s an inviting speaker who knows how to streamline story lines to share intriguing plots with tiny tots. :mrgreen:

Per your comment, I swapped out “little person” for “little kid.”

Pix Under the Oaks - June 14, 2015

Thanks Nancy… 😳

nrhatch - June 14, 2015

To infinity and beyond!!!

Pix Under the Oaks - June 14, 2015


8. livelytwist - June 14, 2015

This is one of my favourite TED talks on story telling! 🙂
I agree that the greatest story telling commandment is make me care. The devices we use vary. And at the end, the story should “. . . ideally confirm[ing] some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings.”

nrhatch - June 14, 2015

Yes! If we don’t care, we end up just turning pages (or scrolling through words on our electronic devices).

Here’s to deepening our understanding of who we are!

9. Grannymar - June 14, 2015

I see I missed out here, I did not recognise the name face or voice, but WALL-E, Toy Story & Nemo are just names to me.

nrhatch - June 14, 2015

When Linda shared his TED talk, I didn’t recognize Andrew Stanton by name, face, or voice . . . but I am familiar with a few of his films, including WALL-E, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo.

10. colonialist - June 16, 2015

Now, that IS unusual. A DIY punchline! Fortunately the kit comes with enough instructions to complete the project.

nrhatch - June 17, 2015

Exactly . . . no hammer required!

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