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

Congrats to Margaret Hennebach 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: Margaret Hennebach, Follow her on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Airbus Beds Allow Passengers to Sleep in the Cargo Hold

Punch line: Great, now I can discover my luggage isn’t on the flight before I land.

Margaret might have used Punch Line Maker #3 — Ask a question about the topic — to write this great joke. One question that the topic could have raised in her mind is, “Why would a passenger want to sleep in the cargo hold?”

Margaret came up with a surprising, and therefore funny, answer to that question by brainstorming associations of the topic handle “cargo hold.” One association is “luggage,” which has the sub-association “missing luggage.” And “missing luggage” became the basis of her punch line.

To complete the joke, Margaret devised an angle that smoothly and efficiently connects the topic to the idea of missing luggage. One possible angle/punch line combination might have been: “Great, now I can discover that my luggage is missing.” But that hypothetical line doesn’t adhere to Joke Maximizer #4 — Make everything clear: Why would it be great to discover that your luggage is missing?

Instead, Margaret wrote an angle/punch line combination that eliminates that logic problem by pointing out the advantage of seeing that your luggage is missing before you land: you can start complaining about it as soon as you touch down.

This is an example of a type of angle that’s often useful, an angle that presents your punch line as an unexpected advantage of something that appears, at first, to be completely stupid.

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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