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Punching Up is making jokes at the expense of someone who is of higher power, class, or privilege. It is also called “speaking truth to power,” which is an expression for confronting authority figures, oppression, and injustices.


  • Give a man a gun and he will rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he will rob everyone.
  • Why do straight people even need dating apps? Don’t they meet each other at grocery stores?

Punching Sideways is making jokes at the expense of yourself and your own direct experiences and birthright.

Example from a Hispanic who is a burn survivor: I learned that when a Mexican catches on fire, it does not smell like fajitas.

Example from a non-cisgender person: When I was in Vancouver, we saw a road called the Trans Canada Expressway and I said, “What, was it assigned USA at birth?”

Punching Down is making jokes at the expense of people from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities based on age, disability, gender, marriage status, size, veteran status, pregnancy and maternity, race/ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. Punching down is insulting, offensive, and often bigoted. Punching down could mute underrepresented voices in comedy and reject inclusivity. Racist jokes, sexist jokes, gay jokes, rape jokes, ableist jokes, ageist jokes, are all examples of punching down. They are all at the expense of marginalized groups. Targeting marginalized groups continues to abuse the already abused. Always punch up. Never punch down.


  • Question: Is Google male or female? Answer: Female, because it doesn’t let you finish a sentence before making a suggestion.

Write what you know — write and perform your stories and experiences. You should write sketches or stand-up about things that you are in the position to write. It is best to not write on behalf of someone else, especially if the person is from a marginalized group, as you do not have ownership of that experience. For example, if you are a cis person, don’t write on behalf of a trans person’s experience. If you are a white person, don’t write on behalf of a POC’s experience. Writing about an experience that is not yours is unintentionally punching down.