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

Congrats to John Corcoran Jr. 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: John Corcoran Jr., Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Penthouse Offers $1 Million for Compromising Trump Tapes

Punch Line: If they publish them, it will be the first time ever anyone believed you bought Penthouse just for the articles.

To write this great joke, John used Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.

One handle of the topic, “Penthouse,” has as one association “lie that you buy it just for the articles.” The other handle of the topic, “Trump tapes,” has as one association “public wants to see them.” John’s punch line links those two associations.

To set up his punch line effectively, John had to solve a problem: The alleged Trump tapes are video recordings, so how can John link them to the print articles in Penthouse?

John solved the problem by carefully choosing the vague word “publish” for his angle. The angle “If they publish them…” smooths out that potentially distracting logic bump and delivers the audience efficiently to the punch line.


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.”