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

Congrats to Mark Schulte 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: Mark Schulte, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: 78-Year-Old Indian Woman Says Eating Sand is Key to Her Good Health

Punch Line: It would explain her hourglass figure.

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

One handle of the topic, “sand” has as an association “hourglass.” The other handle of the topic, “good health,” has as an association “good shape,” which has the sub-association “hourglass figure.” Mark’s punch line links the two handles through their shared association.

To boost the laugh potential of his joke, Mark used Joke Maximizer #1 — Shorten as much as possible — and Joke Maximizer #2 — End on the laugh trigger.

Mark also took care to construct an angle — “It would explain” — that flowed logically out of the topic by promising to explain why the woman would say eating sand is healthy. With that angle, Mark maximized the misdirection of his joke and the surprise of his laugh trigger. He didn’t just provide a generic angle and write something like, “Talk about having an hourglass figure,” which would have been less effective.


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.”