By Noah Stern:
There is quite literally nothing more comedically potent than a good, crisp, witty one-line comeback. With practice, a well-timed one-liner is the equivalent of a Mike Tyson uppercut. Let’s say you’re hanging out with your friends and it somehow comes out that you are unable to tie your shoes. As in, you have your mom pre-tie them and then you just slip in and out of them without undoing the laces. Comedically, your friends are salivating. You are a legal adult and you can’t tie your shoes. And your mom is clearly complicit in this! You are exposed. Your friends could come at this from several angles.
But then, right as they begin the onslaught, you turn the tables. If you are able to find the perfect witty comeback, you can use your opponents’ comedic momentum to your advantage. Like Steven Seagal would. The worst host in the history of SNL. You could be him.
In all honesty, the following one-liner formats probably won’t help you do that. But they are good for maybe a chuckle or two.
I Barely Know Her
With this line, you can turn any word ending in “-er” into something vaguely sexual. Observe:
Dave: “Hey Chris, did you see they’re making a new Spiderman? Let me show you the trailer.”
Chris: “Trailer?! I barely know ‘er!”
Explanation: Now, obviously Dave was not asking Chris to actually trail a woman. However, Chris seized the opportunity to pretend like this was the case. And he was so taken aback by Dave’s request that he felt the need to inform Dave that he is not familiar enough with this woman to do so.
With this template, you don’t even need to feel like the “-er” word has to make sense in the context of the bit. Observe:
Professor Jones: “Erwin Schrödinger was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian-Irish physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in quantum theory; the Schrödinger equation provides a way to calculate the wave function of a system and how it changes dynamically in time.”
Chris: “Schrödinger?! I barely know ‘er!”
What’s an ass ___?
This line is great to instantly suck the wind out of someone’s sails as they are passing judgement on something. Let’s take a look:
Dave: “Bro, you seriously look like a giraffe. Why do you have such a long-ass neck?”
Chris: “What’s an ass neck?!”
Explanation: As you can see, Dave was trying to use “long ass” as a compound adjective to describe Chris’s neck. But Chris, ever the quick thinker, pretended as if “long” was the adjective Dave used to describe his “ass neck.” Now Dave looks like a fool! There is no such thing as an ass neck, Dave!
Miner #1: Look at this massive cave, I bet there’s a ton of coal down there.
Miner #2: Yeah, that’s a big ass hole.
Miner #1: What’s an ass hole?
Miner #2: ...
Miner #1: wait.
Responding with an adverb
This one is tricky. We can give you the rough outline, but ultimately, most of the execution is really up to you. When someone asks a question along the lines of “how was this done?”, the burden of choosing the perfect adverb is on your shoulders.
Dave: How do you think Bear Grylls is gonna get back to his raft without getting bitten by that snake?
Explanation: Yes, Chris! He is going to do it carefully! Dave was expecting a serious answer, banking on the assumption that his good buddy Chris would be able to provide some insight on the matter. However, Chris chose the easy way out of Dave’s query, making Dave look like an absolute fiddlestick in the process.
And that about covers it! Using these techniques, you should have all you need to obliterate anyone who has the audacity to ask for your opinion on something, make a genuine observation, or even try to have a little fun at your expense. Now please go learn how to tie your shoes. It’s seriously embarrassing.