I'm still stuck on my recent discovery that while I no longer find the same jokes funny that I did at the age of 13, new 13-year olds do.
It makes me want to add comedy to my theory of transitional art. That one needs to get through slapstick comedy and yo mama jokes before thinking Russell Brand is funny (this is his audition from the film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Because Brand's comedy is a play off everything else. It's a new punchline to the same joke. (It also involves a rich vocabulary and a bit of pretention, which I can't help but admire.) But it only makes sense if you've already heard the joke.
For instance, if someone provides you with a set-up line referencing 6 in the morning...
"6 AM? What am I, a milkman?" is the correct and obvious answer. As a humorist, this should be your instinctual response. But more often, we're attempting to entertain an audience who has already heard that joke before. So, you need to go further. And this is what I argue Brand does better than just about anybody else right now. His humor fools you. His punchlines are unguessable.
Now, many comedians do this well. For instance, Tommy Johnagin, one of my favorite stand-ups from the last five years offered his take on that same punchline with, "I don't get up in single digits."
Same joke. New angle on the delivery. Made me laugh again.
Now, I haven't heard the Russell Brand take on this premise. But I assume it would be something like, "What sins are you attempting to hide from the sun?"
It's all the same joke. But the new slant prevents staleness.
Always be listening for set-up lines. But don't offer the easy punchline, unless there are 13-year olds present.