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Can ChatGPT be funny?

A look at how to (and how not to) use ChatGPT to write funny marketing content.

By Jeff Cardello · July 6, 2023
Screenshot of ChatGPT logo on a yellow background

I'm a professional writer who specializes in tech. But along with my expertise in how software and coding work, I'm also a comedy nerd. I've written for humor websites, performed in countless improv shows, and done stand-up. I've even been paid actual money for it. Granted, the profits amounted to just enough to cover the cost of a couple of gas station taquitos, but that's beside the point.

I've experienced success, but I've also bombed so badly that you could hear the crickets—and it was the sound of them snoring in unison. If only I had a magical joke machine that would take my comedic premises as input and spit out quality humor that would get me the laughter and approval I'm seeking. 

Maybe ChatGPT is just that: a comedy machine that exists to make our work as writers, social media managers, and comedy creators easier. I've seen ChatGPT produce a few chuckles, but I've also seen it get the same cricket snores I'm so familiar with. So here, we'll take a look at how to make ChatGPT funny—or at least, funnier.

The common elements of comedy

Humor takes something mundane and transforms it into something amusing, creating joy where none existed before. Businesses use humor, particularly on social media, to create lighthearted moments that build rapport with their fans and help personalize their brand identities. 

Before getting into whether or not ChatGPT can generate legitimately humorous content, let's quickly go over some of the basic building blocks that go into writing jokes, through the lens of some big brands that manage to be funny in the right way on social media.


Irony is about incongruity. It gets laughs from the unexpected turns found at the end of joke setups. 

Arby's throws a bit of snark at McDonald's in this Halloween post. You may find Ronald McDonald inherently terrifying, but we don't usually associate haunted houses with fast food, and this twist catches us off guard.


Absurdist comedy gets weird, subverting what we know with something that's bordering on surreal.

The notion that Merriam-Webster could have its own signature shoe is ridiculous (even if it might find success with a very specific MFA demographic). The idea makes you laugh because of how preposterous it is.


Twists of phrases, malapropisms, and other creative ways of manipulating language are particularly effective for social media posts, which often depend on text in conveying humor. Here's an example from Pop-Tarts.

You might groan along with your chuckle, but that's the point.

How to make ChatGPT funny

What makes one person laugh will make someone else wince in pain. But ChatGPT is kind of a comedy equalizer. It doesn't have strong emotions about The Big Bang Theory or opinions about the comedic value of a well-placed whoopee cushion. All it knows are the terabytes of data that's been dumped into it. 

ChatGPT has been trained on basically the entirety of the internet, so it can—in theory—make jokes that will appeal to anyone. But it's only as good as the prompts you put into it. Here are some things I've found helpful when asking my comedic sidekick for help.

Instruct it on what style of comedy it should create—and for what purpose

Just like asking a comedian to "say something funny" usually results in the opposite, telling ChatGPT to "'write something funny" won't get you the results you want. Here's an example:

Prompt: Write something funny about donuts.

Result: Remember, donuts are like friends—some are glazed, some are powdered, and some are sprinkled. But they're all deliciously lovable!

Would we call this "funny"?

Instead, start by telling it what type of funny. I mentioned a few common comedic devices earlier, so let's go back to the wordplay example. We also need to tell it why it's writing the funny (in this case, for a social media post).

Prompt: Write a funny social media post about donuts that uses wordplay.

Result: Life is like a donut—sometimes it's filled with surprises, other times it's sprinkled with laughter. Either way, it's always delicious!

Still a little tooth-achingly sweet, and not quite funny, but it's definitely better than the first version. And it's a good starting point for you to take it over the finish line. How about "Life is like a filled donut: sometimes you get jelly when you thought it was chocolate. Either way, you're gonna eat it."

One thing to keep in mind: ChatGPT seems to know at a basic level how social media platforms differ from each other. If you instruct it to write something for Twitter, it will give you posts that are concise and fall within its character count. Likewise, when specified to write a post for Instagram, you'll end up with wordier posts that are more likely to reference visuals. So when writing prompts, be sure to indicate where on social media these posts will appear, and you should get more specialized results.

Tell ChatGPT how far to take it

Without providing ChatGPT with the magnitude of the joke, it tends to push things to the max. Here's what happened when I told it to be sarcastic.

Prompt: Write a sarcastic joke about donuts.

Result: Hey, do you know why donuts are the healthiest food on the planet? Because they have a hole! That means zero calories, right? Who needs vegetables when you have a perfectly balanced diet of circular sugar bombs?

This feels like Bill Burr levels of sarcasm. If that's what you're going for, great. But if you want a little more nuance, you'll want to use some guardrails (like the word "subtle").

Prompt: Write a lighthearted post about donuts that makes a subtle joke about why they're better than vegetables.

Result: Just remember, folks, donuts may not be the healthiest option, but they sure know how to make us smile and forget about kale for a while.

It still needs a lot of editing (Why are we starting with "Just remember, folks"?), but it followed the "lighthearted" and "subtle" suggestions.

Give ChatGPT a specific setup or premise

You might have an idea for a joke but only a vague idea of what the punchline could be. That's a good time to give ChatGPT the premise and see what happens.

Let's say you want to write a Halloween-themed post. 

Prompt: Write a funny Halloween post with wordplay about ghosts and donuts.

Result: If you see a donut floating in mid-air this Halloween, don't be scared! It's just a friendly ghost who wanted to share its favorite treat with you. Just make sure to say, "Boo-licious!" before taking a bite!

The idea of a floating donut is inherently funny (just me?), but "boo-licious" is a bit corny (and is that what it's calling wordplay?). The exclamation points also need to go. Let's see if it can tighten things up, leaning more into the disembodied ghost aspect.

Prompt: Let's put more emphasis on the ghost offering a floating donut, and get rid of wordplay like boo-licious, and less exclamation points.

Result: Don't be startled if you come across a donut floating in mid-air this Halloween! It's just a friendly ghost, eager to share its beloved treat with you. Remember to thank the ghostly pastry chef before taking a bite. Enjoy the spectral sweetness!

Still not amazing, and still exclamation points, but a little better. I imagine I could continue prompting it to get it somewhere, but I also think I could take it from here.

Have ChatGPT impersonate your favorite funny person

If there's a comedian or humor writer whose voice aligns with your brand, ChatGPT can (kind of) impersonate them, if you tell it to write "in the style of" the person. Here's an example.

Prompt: Write a joke about donuts in the style of Hannah Gadsby, the comedian.

Result: You know, donuts are quite fascinating. They have this perfect circular shape, all symmetrical and enticing. But you take a bite, and it's like a betrayal. It's an empty promise of satisfaction. I mean, really, it's just a deep-fried disappointment. Donuts are like that toxic relationship you keep going back to, hoping it'll change. But it won't. It never will. So, if life gives you donuts, well, maybe it's time to reassess your life choices.

Not nearly as funny as Hannah Gadsby, but this is definitely the best we've gotten. That's because it's pretending to be a human, so instead of a computer writing jokes, it's at least a computer pretending to be a human writing jokes.

ChatGPT doesn't have actual personal experience to bring to the table—and that's often what makes funny funny. That's why asking ChatGPT to write in the style of a comedian can be a good start—though there are obviously some weird ethical implications there.

The verdict: Humans are funnier

I wasn't blown away by the ChatGPT results, but so much depends on the prompts you give it. I've also found that certain words and phrases led to better results. Here are some that worked well for me (instead of "funny"):

  • Wordplay

  • Irony

  • Subtle joke

  • Lighthearted

  • Absurdity

  • Clever

  • Hyperbole

  • Analogy

  • Upbeat

Do comedians, writers, social media managers, and other creatives who make humorous content have anything to worry about with the emergence of ChatGPT? Not yet. But ChatGPT can be a helpful writing partner, providing plenty of raw material that you can use to get some laughs. And probably a lot of crickets.

Related reading:

  • How you can (and when you shouldn't) use ChatGPT to write marketing copy

  • The best AI chatbots

  • How to automate ChatGPT

  • How to train ChatGPT to sound like you

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