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

Congrats to Adrian Wolf 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: Adrian Wolf, Follow his on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Migrant rescues child dangling from balcony, gets new life in France

Punch line: Trump warns people: “Did you see how fast those illegals could climb into your apartments???”

Adrian might have used Punch Line Maker #2 — Link the topic to pop culture — to write this great joke.

He would have started by identifying a handle of the topic. The news item as stated offers a few options, but if you’ve seen the video you’d probably say that the most interesting element of the story — the handle — is something like “climbs up balconies.”

One association of “climbs up balconies” is the crime of “breaking and entering.” Brainstorming in pop culture on the idea of a migrant committing a crime suggests Donald Trump, who has long claimed that undocumented immigrants commit crimes.

Once Adrian linked the topic to Trump, he created an angle that fleshes out that connection into a specific, wild-eyed, Trumpian warning about the heroic rescue.

You could also look at Adrian’s joke as a variation of Punch Line Maker #3: Ask a question about the topic. In this case, the hypothetical question might have been, “What would Trump say about that climbing migrant?”

Asking yourself how various people in the news — Roseanne Barr? Samantha Bee? Harvey Weinstein? — might react to an unrelated news story can be another useful way to generate a joke.

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.”