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I found it hard to summarise this in the title, and I thought a few examples would illustrate what I mean best:

"Well known local celebrities include Alan Bennett and Barry Cryer" (lead up)

<Audience woo>

"Wait a minute: Well known local celebrities include Alan Bennett, and Barry Cryer used to know his milkman". (Extra information).

<Audience laugh>


Another example:

"'Open fire!', roared the Colonel." (lead up)

<Gunshot sound effects> (reaction)

"Yes I do love an open fire, he went on, warming his hands by the blaze" (Extra information, in this case laughing at the expense of whoever's in charge of sound effects).


I hope I've made myself clear as to the type of comedy I mean, I'm just wondering whether it has it's own name.

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  • 1
    Both your examples involve ambiguity/mis-direction...
    – Dan
    Jan 21, 2017 at 19:20
  • Variants on this device were famously used by the Two Ronnies. Jan 21, 2017 at 20:01
  • 1
    That’s called a ... wait for it.... joke ! ;-)
    – Jim
    Jan 21, 2017 at 22:04
  • 1
    Yes and doesn't Dan's comment describe all jokes? Feb 4, 2017 at 17:23

1 Answer 1

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These could be considered examples of the device called paraprosdokian:

A paraprosdokian (/pærəprɒsˈdoʊkiən/) is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

(Source - Wikipedia, emphasis mine)

(I earlier thought these were garden path sentences, but since the trickery here is withheld information, not unusual parsing, this seems a better fit.)

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  • I was just about to say that the latter part of your answer is better fit, but then got caught up in the humorous affect of examples of paraprosdokian.+1
    – Nikki
    Jan 22, 2017 at 6:29
  • @Nikki Yes, those are hilarious. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Seems like editing out the first part was the right choice.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jan 22, 2017 at 6:32
  • 1
    @TusharRaj Thanks for keeping you edit in parentheses, otherwise I wouldn't have found out about garden path sentences as well as paraprodokians.
    – thosphor
    Jan 23, 2017 at 10:01
  • @user3087409: Happy to help. Have fun exploring...
    – Tushar Raj
    Jan 23, 2017 at 10:03

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