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

Congrats to Joel Bergen 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: Joel Bergen, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Photo of an airliner with “Cathay Paciic” painted on the side.

Punch line: Someone had no more “F”s to give.

Joel’s great joke is an example of how you can use the same techniques to write a funny caption for a photo as you would to write a punch line based on a news item.

When you’re writing a funny caption for a photo, cartoon, or other picture, the topic is a short sentence you come up with that describes the picture. You’ll use this descriptive sentence to bridge the visual picture and a verbal punch line, i.e., the funny caption.

In this case, the descriptive sentence is something like “an airliner with ‘Cathay Paciic’ painted on the side.” Joel took that sentence and applied Punch Line Maker #1 to it, that is, he linked two associations of the topic.

One handle of the topic is “F is missing,” which has the association “no Fs.” Another handle of the topic, another attention-grabbing element, is the concept of “carelessness,” which has the association “doesn’t give an F.”

Joel created a punch line that links those two associations with the idea that someone ran out of Fs.

He also edited his caption using the same Joke Maximizers that one should use to edit any joke. He kept his joke as short as possible and ended on the laugh trigger, Fs to give.

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.”