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

Congrats to Taylor Wilson 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: Taylor Wilson, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Baby Born with Itty, Bitty Tooth…Which a Dentist Promptly Pulled

Punch line: “It gets worse,” said the family’s Rabbi.

Taylor must have used Punch Line Maker #1 to write this great joke. That’s the one where you link two associations of the topic.

One handle of the topic, “baby,” has as one association “circumcision.” Another handle of the topic, “tooth pulled,” has the association “body part removed.” Taylor’s punch line links those two associations by implying that soon the baby will also lose his foreskin.

Notice everything that Taylor did to make that basic joke as funny as possible. He added the angle “It gets worse,” which sets up the audience to expect something even more unpleasant.

He also used Joke Maximizers #1, #2, #5, and #11, which advise “Shorten as much as possible,” “End on the laugh trigger,” “Don’t telegraph the punch line,” and “Don’t be too on-the-nose.”

To see how much those Joke Maximizers add, here’s a hypothetical draft of the punch line where they haven’t been used: “Then the family’s rabbi said, ‘His foreskin is the next thing to be removed.’” Much less funny, right?

So whip your rough drafts into top shape with those editing tools.

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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