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

Congrats to Patrick Burns 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: Patrick Burns, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Crash test dummies get heavier as American body weights rise

Punch Line: The good news is we’re too fat to go through the windshield.

There are a couple of ways Patrick might have written this great joke. I’d say he used Punch Line Maker #5: Visualize the topic.

Patrick started by calling up a mental picture of the topic: a large American sitting in the front seat of a car.

Then Patrick formed a different perspective on that mental picture by exaggerating one aspect of it: the American isn’t just large, he’s so fat that he fills the car. Then, when the imaginary car crashes, the enormous guy lurches forward but doesn’t fit through the windshield. That mental observation became the basis of Patrick’s punch line.

“The good news is” is an economical angle that efficiently leads the audience toward the punch line; shorter is always better in a joke.

And Patrick deftly took any possible hurtfulness out of the fat joke by using the word “we’re”; he included himself in the group of overweight American motorists. If an audience considers a joke too hurtful, they won’t laugh.

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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