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

Congrats to Luis Vazquez 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: Luis Vazquez, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Female doctor has sex in hospital bed with cancer patient

Punch line: Make-A-Wish is really stepping up their game.

Luis might have used Punch Line Maker #1 — Link two associations of the topic — to write this great joke.

One handle of the topic, “cancer patient,” is associated with the Make-A-Wish charity.

The second handle of the topic is either “has sex” or the more detailed “female doctor has sex in hospital bed.” Either way, the second handle is associated in most people’s minds with the idea of “a fun experience.”

So Luis linked the associations “Make-A-Wish” and “a fun experience” by writing a punch line revealing that the experience was arranged by Make-A-Wish.

“Make-A-Wish” is the laugh trigger, the most surprising words in the punch line, and usually a joke is its funniest when the laugh trigger is at the end. So why is “Make-A-Wish” not at the end? Let’s look at some other possible ways to word the punch line.

“Apparently the patient got really lucky with his Make-A-Wish” asks the audience to accept that a cancer patient is lucky, which they may not accept.

“It’s being called the best Make-A-Wish ever” has a logic problem, because currently Make-A-Wish is for children, who don’t have sex.

“Apparently now even adults can participate in Make-A-Wish” doesn’t capture the over-the-top fantasy aspect of the occurrence.

So Luis went with a punch line that doesn’t have “Make-A-Wish” at the end but also doesn’t have any of those weaknesses. And he kept his punch line short to put “Make-A-Wish” as close to the end as he could.

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.”