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

Congrats to Alexandria McCale 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: Alexandria McCale, Follow her on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: AeroMexico is offering discounts on flights to Americans who can prove that they have Mexican DNA.

Punch line: They’re calling it the Señor Citizen discount.

Alexandria used Punch Line Maker #4 — Find a play on words in the topic — to write this great joke.

Her first step was to pick two handles of the topic. One element of the topic that gets your attention is “discounts,” so that became one handle. “DNA” is also a distinctive element, but it doesn’t mean much without the “Mexican” modifier, so “Mexican” became the second handle.

Alexandria’s next step was to brainstorm associations of those two handles. Associations of “discounts” include various types of discounts, one of which is “senior citizen discount.” Associations of “Mexican” include the Spanish language, and a well-known word in Spanish is “señor.”

To construct her punch line, Alexandria then linked “senior citizen discount” with “señor” by inserting the latter into the former and creating a play on words.

But just serving up “señor citizen discount” as the punch line would have been too abrupt, so Alexandria added an angle, “They’re calling it…” It’s an effective angle because it smoothly guides the audience to the surprising punch line by promising them an answer to a question that they might logically have about the topic, namely, “What are they calling the discount?”

Alexandria also used Joke Maximizer #1 — Shorten as much as possible. Even with the addition of the angle, the joke doesn’t have any unnecessary words.

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.”