Understanding jokes, comedy and phrasal verbs | DailyStep English

Understanding jokes, comedy and phrasal verbs

Jane Lawson English Teacher Hello, I'm Jane at DailyStep English. Understanding English jokes and humour will help you make friends and do business. So, let’s start today, with Brendan’s new video. Also, in next week’s Level 5 Lessons you can learn more about English humour. But first, can you understand these jokes?

Host: Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Harry Hilarious. He is here to tell you his hilarious jokes. Give him a big round of applause. (sound of clapping)

Harry Hilarious:  Good evening ladies and gentlemen. What a lovely audience and what a great venue. This is the kind of place you play twice in your career, once on the way up and once on the way down. It’s great to be back folks! (sound of laughter) I used to work as a teacher in a school and one day a pupil said to me 'Sir, sir my pen has run out', and I said 'well, you’d better run after it.' (sound of people laughing)


Why is it funny?   By Jane Lawson at DailyStep.com

Let’s take a look at the jokes that Harry uses in his comedy show:

Joke 1: 'This is the kind of place you play twice in your career, once on the way up and once on the way down. It’s great to be back folks!'

Here, Harry is suggesting that his career is in decline because he is returning to a venue where he appeared  before he became successful enough to appear in bigger venues. This is a classic comedy technique, where the comedian laughs at himself.


Joke 2: ‘I used to work as a teacher in a school and one day a pupil said to me ‘Sir, sir my pen has run out’, and I said ‘Well, you’d better run after it.’

This is a very common type of joke in English, using a double meaning.  In this case, the joke uses 2 meanings of: RUN OUT

Meaning 1:if a supply of something runs out, there is no more remaining because it has all been used.

(note: here, RUN OUT is a phrasal verb because it has a completely new meaning from the literal meanings of RUN and OUT.)

‘My pen has run out’  means ‘My pen has no more ink, because all the ink has been used.’

We can also say ‘My pen has run out of ink’, or ‘My car has run out of petrol’.

Meaning 2: to exit by running

(note: this is not a phrasal verb because it uses the literal meanings of both RUN and OUT. So, here, RUN OUT is a verb + a preposition.)


Here, the teacher deliberately misunderstands the pupil by imagining that the pupil’s pen has legs and has run out of the classroom.’

So,  ‘My pen has run out’ could mean ‘My pen has run out of the room.’

When the teacher says ‘You’d better run after it’, in other words ‘You had better chase it,’, he uses a common comedy technique of answering wrongly based on  a double meaning.

If you are a DailyStep subscriber you can download the audio for this lesson at the bottom of this page. There is also a vocabulary sheet and free PDF for everyone to download.

Now, listen to these free audio summaries of all the topics in next week’s DailyStep Subscriber Audio Lessons:

DailyStep Level 5: Advanced Level

Understanding English humour and comedy.  In these 5 lessons, Alice and Robert discuss the British sense of humour from both British and American standpoints. You will learn about different types of comedy and its cultural importance in politics, business and everyday life.  They also talk about regional differences within Britain, and some favourite comedy shows. These 5 lessons will help you to understand English humour, and also introduce you to the characters in some best-loved comedies. Of course,  you will also learn new idioms, phrasal verbs and advanced conversation techniques. 

Buy Level 5  DailyStep Audio Lessons

DailyStep Level 4: High Intermediate Level

Husband and wife arguing!  Charles and his wife are lost on a mountain. They realise that they are going to have to spend a freezing night up there. Will they ever be rescued? And will Charles’ wife ever speak to him again? These 5 lessons will teach you the language of arguments and recriminations, of promises and anger – and how to argue with your partner! You’ll also learn plenty of intonation and sentence stress techniques, and lots of idioms and phrasal verbs. 

Buy Level 4  DailyStep Audio Lessons

DailyStep Level 3: Intermediate Level

Conversation about transport.  

Conversation about transport - DailyStep Audio English LessonsJane and Matthew discuss trains, buses, boats and other modes of transport. These 5 lessons will help you to say which ways you like to travel, and why. You will also learn how to ask for and give opinions, agree and disagree, make recommendations and other important functional language. 

DailyStep Level 2: Elementary Level

A visit to the dentist.   

How to visit the dentist in English - DailyStep Audio lessonIn these 5 lessons, you will learn how to talk about tooth problems, make an appointment at the dentist and what to say when you are at your dental appointment. Useful lessons for all levels!

DailyStep Level 1: Beginner Level

Travel English. In these 5 lessons, you will learn how to ask for directions and give directions. Very useful language if you are a traveller or if you speak English with tourists. Also, you’ll learn the correct way to ask and answer questions.

Buy Level 1 DailyStep Audio Lessons

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