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

Oct 16, 2017 · 2 min read

Congrats to Michelle Nussey 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: Michelle Nussey, Follow her on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: CDC: Americans’ Obesity Reaches Record High

Punch Line: Turns out the seas aren’t rising, America’s land mass is just sinking.

To create this great joke, Michelle might have used Punch Line Maker #5: Visualize the topic.

That is, Michelle might have started by forming a mental picture of the topic, maybe an image of millions of obese people standing on the continental U.S.

Her next step would have been to really exaggerate the weight of those people. In her imagination, the millions of obese citizens grow so extremely fat that they start to depress the land that they’re standing on. The continental U.S. gradually sinks, the ocean begins to flood over the shoreline, and Michelle has the basis of her punch line.

Michelle was careful to make her joke clear (Joke Maximizer #4). She wrote an angle — “Turns out the seas aren’t rising” — that directs the audience toward her punch line about coastal flooding.

She also wrote “America’s land mass” instead of “America” to make it immediately obvious that she’s referring to the physical land, not the concept of the nation.

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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