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

Congrats to Larry Ryals 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: Larry Ryals, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Toys ‘R’ Us Is Closing 180 U.S. Stores

Punch line: Toys “Were” Us.

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

One handle of the topic, “Toys ‘R’ Us,” has as one association the word “are.” The second handle of the topic, “closing,” has the association “going out of business.”

Larry’s punch line links the two handles by changing the verb in the name of the chain to the past tense.

Most jokes benefit from having an effective angle, which misdirects the audience and clarifies the joke. But Larry dispensed with an angle and jumped right to the laugh trigger.

I think that was a good choice because adding an angle like, say, “They’re also changing their name to…” might give the audience a chance to predict this punch line. As Joke Maximizer #5 states: Don’t telegraph the punch line. Telegraphing a punch line weakens the surprise and, therefore, the laugh.

Doing without an angle also makes the joke really short, and as Joke Maximizer #1 says, “Shorten as much as possible.”

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.”