Former Head Writer for The Tonight Show Picks His Joke of the Week

Congrats to Rane of Terror for winning this week’s joke pick!

Pro comedy writer Joe Toplyn, Former head-writer of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman, picks his joke of the week:

Winner: Rane of Terror, Follow her on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Parachuting Santa Crashes and Breaks Leg

Punch Line: A rescue team administered emergency milk and cookies.

Rane could have used Punch Line Maker #1 — Link two associations of the topic — to create this great joke.

One handle of the topic, “Santa,” has as one association “give him milk and cookies.” The other handle of the topic, “breaks leg,” has as an association “administer first aid.” Rane’s punch link links those two associations by substituting “milk and cookies” for “first aid.”

When you first read that topic, you might consider using “parachuting” as the second handle with “Santa.” But parachuting Santas are pretty common. What really makes this topic interesting to a reader or listener is that Santa broke his leg. So Rane was right to choose “breaks leg” as the second handle.

Notice that Rane’s punch line benefits from Joke Maximizer #7: Use stop consonants, alliteration, and assonance. “Milk and cookies” includes three uses of that classic comedy stop consonant, K.

Congrats, Rane! Joe will be sending Rane an autographed copy of his book, “Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV,” the book that teaches you how to write jokes like a pro.

Be sure to keep writing and staying engaged every day. The more your write and the more you vote, the better your chances of becoming next week’s winner!


Four-time Emmy winner Joe Toplyn is a former head writer for David Letterman and Jay Leno. He also wrote the book “Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV.”

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