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

Congrats to Kevin Cusumano 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: Kevin Cusumano, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Kim Jong-un has ordered flight attendants to wear shorter skirts to boost tourism.

Punch Line: Now all they need is an airplane.

To come up with that great joke, Kevin used Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.

One handle of the topic, “Kim Jong-un,” has the association “North Korea,” which has the sub-association “poverty-stricken.” Another handle of the topic, “flight attendants,” has the association “airplane.”

Linking “poverty-stricken” with “airplane” yields the idea that North Korea has no airplane, which becomes the basis of Kevin’s punch line.

That topic has two additional handles that might be used for joke writing, “shorter skirts” and “tourism.” Sometimes a topic with more than two obvious handles can be challenging because it diffuses the focus of the audience. So Kevin did a good job of picking two handles that were productive.

Plus Kevin used Joke Maximizer #1 — Shorten as much as possible — and Joke Maximizer #2 — End on the laugh trigger.

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.”