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

Congrats to Nick Staron 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: Nick Staron, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Man smashes record 302 walnuts in 55 seconds

Punch Line: Just a few less nut smashes per minute than America’s Funniest Home Videos.

To write this great joke, Nick used Punch Line Maker #2: Link the topic to pop culture.

He started by focusing on two distinctive elements of the topic: “smashes” and “walnuts.” Then he brainstormed around those elements and came up with the association “smashing nuts.”

That association suggested something in pop culture, “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” a TV show known for its frequent depictions of objects accidentally hitting guys in the crotch. So AFHV became Nick’s laugh trigger, which goes at the very end of the joke.

Then Nick had to write an angle that guides the audience smoothly from the topic to the laugh trigger. He could have written something like “That’s almost as many nut smashes as an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.” That angle would have been clear and logical and would have worked fine.

But Nick edited his joke with Joke Maximizer #9: Get specific. His surprisingly precise metric “nut smashes per minute” gives the joke a little extra pop.

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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