Mark Twain knew how to tell a humorous story. This is, as he points out, different than a funny story:
There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind–the humorous. I will talk mainly about that one. The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter.
They are mostly difficult because they are more subtle:
To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct. Another feature is the slurring of the point. A third is the dropping of a studied remark apparently without knowing it, as if one were thinking aloud. The fourth and last is the pause.
This is hard:
If you’ve got the pause right, she’ll fetch a dear little yelp and spring right out of her shoes. But you must get the pause right; and you will find it the most troublesome and aggravating and uncertain thing you ever undertook.
This vaguely reminds me of the last movie I saw, “The Informant!” It relies on a slow, seemingly inscrutable release of information, stringing you along with jokes that only complete themselves later. Learn more here.