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

Congrats to Greg Cartin 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: Greg Cartin, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: This watch turns your arm into a touchscreen

Punch line: …and your body into a tumor.

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

What about this topic grabs your attention? Not the fact that it’s about a watch, but the idea that it turns your arm into a touchscreen. So the two handles of the topic are “arm” and “touchscreen.”

One association of “arm” is “skin.” Associations of “touchscreen” are “electricity” and “radiation.” You can link “skin” with “electricity/radiation” using the idea that a tumor would form, which Greg turned into his punch line.

To get a laugh, a punch line has to strike most people as true, and I agree with Greg that most people who read about that watch would accept the statement that it can’t be healthy.

Notice how Greg carefully edited his joke. He used Joke Maximizer #1 — Shorten as much as possible — when he limited his angle to the few words “and your body.” He made his punch line parallel — Joke Maximizer #6 — by copying the structure of the topic. And he used Joke Maximizer #8 — Wildly exaggerate — by saying that the watch gives you a full-on tumor instead of just, say, a sunburn. Let’s hope it’s benign.

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.”