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

Congrats to Ben E. Bram 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: Ben E. Bram, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Report: Trump’s 2005 Taxes Revealed

Punch Line: I can’t believe he claimed every illegal immigrant as a dependent.

Ben’s great joke is a product of Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.

One handle of the topic, “Trump,” is associated with “thinks illegal immigrants take U.S. resources.” The second handle of the topic, “taxes,” is associated with “cheats on taxes,” which itself is associated with “claims too many dependents.”

Ben’s punch line links the associations of the two handles by creating a surprising way for Trump to cheat on his taxes that would also strike most people as being totally in character and “true.”

Ben’s joke uses Joke Maximizer #8: Wildly exaggerate. For Trump to claim all 11 million illegal immigrants as dependents is totally ridiculous.

But the wild exaggeration also helps make the joke clear (per Joke Maximizer #4). If the punch line were, say, “I can’t believe he claimed 6 illegal immigrants as a dependents,” the point would be unclear: Is Trump a common tax cheat or, instead, is he making a political statement about illegal immigration?

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.”

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