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

Congrats to Scott Parietti 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: Scott Parietti, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Mother “told to prove lactation” at Frankfurt Airport

Punch Line: And was denied boarding until each of her breasts contained only 3.4 ounces of milk.

Scott apparently used Punch Line Maker #1 — Link two associations of the topic — to write this great joke.

One handle of the topic, “lactation,” has the association “milk.” The other handle of the topic, “airport,” has the association “security screening,” which has the sub-association “3.4 ounces of liquid.”

Scott then linked “milk” to “3.4 ounces of liquid” to create a laugh trigger. And he made sure that his laugh trigger came at the end of his punch line, to maximize the surprise factor.

Notice that Scott’s angle, “and was denied boarding until…,” smoothly and logically leads from his topic to his punch line: as the mother “proved lactation,” the amount of milk in each breast decreased until it reached 3.4 ounces. It’s nutty, joke logic, but it’s logic.

That angle is a little more effective than an angle that doesn’t flow as smoothly from the topic. An angle like “She also had to prove that…” wouldn’t direct the audience quite as strongly toward the punch line. As a result, the punch line would be a little less surprising.

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.”