What About Good News Bad News Jokes? (Explained)


According to a 2013 study, most people give the good news first when there’s both good news and bad news to give. This is not because people want to hear good news first (in fact, most prefer to get the bad news over with ). It’s just considered a sensitive way to approach ‘the bad news’, whether or not this is true.

Good news bad news jokes follow a positive, negative pattern. Usually the humor is dry, wry, or sarcastic, but typically the ‘bad’ punchline is light. It can take a dark, shocking turn easily though. The simple construction makes them a favorite of clergy, kids, or those needing an icebreaker.

Here I’ll take a closer look at the purpose of good news bad news jokes; who they’re most popularly used by and why; and some examples. As well, I’ll share what makes good news bad news jokes actually good for kids.

One way to build humor with your kids is to use it strategically through routines or regular activities. For instance, our Fun Jokes For Kids Coloring Book is a great tool for embedding humor through kid-friendly activity.

What Are Good News Bad News Jokes?

Jimmy Fallon’s bit “I’ve got good news and good news” is a play on Good News, Bad News Jokes.

Jeff Mack wrote a popular children’s book titled Good News Bad News (available on Kindle or in hardback/paperback form on Amazon) which only uses these four words. So what are ‘good news, bad news’ jokes?

Good news bad news jokes usually start as if you’re giving the listener good news personal to them. Then it follows up with a related bad news, that negates any positive perception from the good news. It’s a common pattern simple to construct and that’s one reason for its popularity.

Let’s use the aforementioned book by Jeff Mack to consider this type of joke, as I found this tactic an effective teaching strategy.

Mack’s book has two characters, a rabbit and a mouse. Rabbit is the ‘good news’ character while Mouse presents the bad news. They’re going on a picnic and encounter both good and bad events that alternate as the story progresses.

  • The first good news is the picnic; the first bad news is it starts to rain.
  • Next for good news is that Rabbit has an umbrella to deal with the rain but then the umbrella blows away as Mouse is holding it (‘bad news’).
  • And it goes on from there…you get the idea!

In Mack’s book there’s a definite arc of Rabbit representing positivity and Mouse representing the negative too.

Rabbit = Positive, bright-side person

Mouse = Negative, downer person

This joke style is easy to construct which makes it useful and popular. You just need to have a clear positive side and an equally clear negative side. However, both sides need to also have a clear tie or bond with each other, ‘an analogy’ of sorts.

As well, there’s another reason that this style is useful and popular. It has to do with how our human nature commonly reacts or responds to good news, as well as to receiving bad news. Good News, Bad News, And Affect (2012) by Douglas Maynard addresses this.

In his book, Maynard tackles this human relationship between both good and bad information and our emotions from a research perspective. It investigates and analyzes how we react to perceptions of good information (i.e. ‘good news) and bad.

Because this response is standard or normalized, it makes ‘good news bad news jokes’ work.

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Why Do Pastors Use Good News Bad News Jokes?

One group of people that seem to flock to good news bad news jokes is clergy. Why is this?

Pastors, priests, and other clergy like to use good news bad news jokes in their official talks or one to one discussions with members of their religious groups. One reason is the simple and clear nature of this style of humor; also good news bad news jokes are instant engagement tactics.

Clergy is defined as “a group ordained to perform pastoral or sacerdotal functions in a Christian church.”

Merriam-Webster

As a teacher, I appreciate the simple nature of good news bad news jokes because it is efficient for lesson planning. This is also why it’s appealing to clergy.

Examples of ‘Clergy’ include Protestant pastors and preachers, as well as Catholic priests and deacons.

Being ‘simple’ means it’s not difficult or particularly challenging to create original jokes like this, which is especially good for teachers, and clergy. You can tailor the joke for your group of students, or audience.

It also means they’re relatively quick to create- the patterned set up and ‘tie’ provide good guidance for developing the joke.

Last, the clear nature of the joke (what’s good and what’s bad) makes it easy for the listener to get, whether the audience is in a classroom or a church.

Good News Bad News Jokes As Pick-Up Lines

But clergy aren’t the only ones who like to use good news bad news jokes. They’re actually quite common as pick-up lines.

Good news bad news jokes are popular as pick-up lines because they’re easy to do. They’re easy because it’s not hard to remember; you can vary them up; they’re instantly recognizable because of the pattern; and good news bad news jokes are cheesily endearing and engaging.

What’s a pick-up line? A pick-up line is a ‘line’ or conversation that a person uses to start talking to a potential romantic partner. It’s what someone says to begin a conversation with a stranger with whom he or she is attracted to. The hope is to engage the other person through humor and initiate a mutually enjoyable interaction.

Good news bad news pick-up ‘jokes’ can be regular good news bad news jokes that you just simply use when trying to meet someone.

However, there are some different good news bad news jokes that are designed specifically as ‘pick-up lines’. Not surprisingly these can get racy, and aren’t suitable for kids’ ears (like all pick-up lines), but here’s an example that’s G rated:

  • The good news is that your dreams have come true.
  • The bad news is that your friend can’t say the same thing.

Yes, it’s cheesy. No, it’s not really funny. But hey, with the right smile and delivery, it might get you a conversation with someone you’re interested in…the rest of the conversation is up to you!

My suggestion though, if you’re into using ‘pick-up’ lines (and for some, it’s a safe tried and true tool), that is if you are just basically trying to initiate a conversation with someone you’d like to know better, to not resort to the cheesy pick-up line style of good news bad news jokes such as the example just previously given. Instead, use a good good news bad news joke to start up a conversation with someone. Do some pre-planning and have it in your back pocket, so to speak.

Good News Bad News Jokes Ice Breakers

There are some other reasons that good news bad news jokes are popular.

Good news bad news jokes are popular as icebreakers in new and/or uncomfortable situations. Because of this, teachers might use these at the start of school years to help their new students acclimate and often it’s part of staff meetings or team building activities.

Good News Bad News Jokes As Icebreakers Can:

  • Provide levity to stressful moments
  • Help others connect
  • Initiate further discussion
  • Help build trust
  • Work as means to start introductions

Example for work situation:

  • The good news you’re hired.
  • The bad news you’re hired.

Another work-related one:

  • The good news you have a paycheck.
  • The bad news is it’s not much.

A final work/job good news bad news joke:

  • The good news is that you have tomorrow off.
  • The bad news is that you have every day off.

And here’s a good news bad news icebreaker for generic situations:

  • The good news is that you just got a new skylight.
  • The bad news…..is that you have it was put in by the falling tree.

Now a fun activity that combines ‘icebreakers’ and ‘good news bad news jokes’ is this: This is something I’d do with my older students, middle and high school. You start by writing ‘good news’ down on a piece of paper. Then someone write a related bad news. Then fold the paper so only the bad news is shown. And then pass it to the next person who’ll write a connected good news. And keep this going until everyone has written down something. Then open up the paper and take turns reading the ‘good news bad news’ out loud. I promise everyone will be laughing within minutes! This is best done in small groups of 5-10.

Why Do Kids Like Good News Bad News Jokes?

Children’s author Jeff Mack wrote Good News Bad News just for kids that’s super easy to read since it only contains four words.

So now with all of this background on good news bad news jokes, let’s look at how it relates to parenting, grandparenting, or educating kids.

Good news bad news jokes are an appropriate joke style for kids, and quite popular with them as soon as they’re introduced. This is mainly due to the simplistic, clear pattern good news bad news jokes follow, which makes it easy for kids to grasp and duplicate, eventually.

As already mentioned, teachers like to incorporate good news bad news jokes as icebreakers and hooks for lessons.

  • For icebreakers, it’s a way to build camaraderie and classroom community.
  • For lesson hooks, it’s a way to build engagement and grab students’ attention right away.

Good news bad news jokes are really good to use with students, similar to Knock Knock jokes, for many of the same reasons, mainly because both follow a structure and recognizable pattern.

Parents are kids’ first teachers, and in the case of homeschooling moms like me, sometimes their only teachers. Though in actuality, kids ‘learn’ from lots of sources like TV, friends, extended family, even in cases of being homeschooled, so for this reason, it’s prudent to always be mindful of who has access to your kids.

But side note aside, good news bad news jokes are useful for parents and grandparents, too, not just teachers.

Parents (and grandparents) can use these jokes to teach their kids about patterns and structure. This is a good skill, and supports problem solving among other things.

Also, it’s good to incorporate good news bad news jokes because it’s a fun, easy way to teach perspective and point of view. As Catholics, we believe our attitude is more important than our circumstances, because for us, God is always there for us in our circumstance. He is in control. But our attitude can hinder that. So ‘good news bad news’ talk is a way to teach that very important life lesson.

But you might be wondering how can parents/grandparents do this? Well, you can be direct, just like traditional teachers are in their lesson plans and for those who struggle with humor, this might be the best option.

Ways to be direct:

  • Read Mack’s Good News Bad News book as a bedtime story.
  • Read other good news bad news joke books.
  • Sit down and write out good news bad news jokes together, teaching the style/structure in the process.
  • You can deliberately recite good news bad news jokes y as your day unfolds- once or twice a day (maybe start the morning with a GNBN joke or end the day with it). As you model this, your kids/grandkids will start mimicking you.

But you can also be indirect. You can throw them out as it makes sense. My advice is to start directly and as you and your kids/grandkids become more comfortable with the process, you can move to being organic and indirect.

Caution: Kids are very black and white, which is one main reason kids gravitate to good news bad news jokes and enjoy them. There’s a definite, clear ‘good’ part and likewise, a corresponding, ‘bad’ part that kids understand. But you have to make sure your good/bad parts are in fact, black and white and not shades of gray, otherwise kids won’t quite get the joke. Save grayer jokes for older kids, who have a better grasp of innuendo, multiple meanings, and satire.

Good News Bad News Jokes Punchline

The punchline to good news bad news jokes is that these jokes are often eye-rolling cheesy, but remain popular. This is because these jokes follow a strict structure; are simple; clear about good and bad; and can be tailored to your specific audience, which is actually the best kind of joke (the kind your audience ‘gets’).

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Jackie Booe

A mother to four kids, grandmother ("Oma") to a growing number, a retired teacher for over 18 years, and a wife to Mat since 1994, Jackie knows kids and laughter. She holds a license to teach in 3 states and is certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners, with practical experience at all levels. She holds three degrees in the field of education and has taught education courses online at the university level as an adjunct professor, too. She has mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, in addition to homeschooling her own children.

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