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

Congrats to Terry Stain 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: Terry Stain , Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: World’s first text message sent 25 years ago today

Punch Line: And since the user was on AT&T, it just now arrived.

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

One handle of the topic, “text message,” has as one association “AT&T,” which Terry associates with something like “slow service.”

The other handle of the topic — the other element that makes the topic interesting — is “sent 25 years ago.” That handle has a sub-association like “arrived.”

Terry’s punch line links “slow service” and “arrived” by saying that the old text message just arrived.

A punch line has to be true to be funny. Is it true that AT&T messaging is really, really slow? I don’t know, but the confident assertion strikes me as plausible, so I accept that the punch line is true and I laugh.

Notice Terry’s use of Joke Maximizer #8: Wildly exaggerate. Twenty-five years is a ridiculous amount of time for a text to be delivered, which makes the punch line more surprising and instantly clear.

Terry also made sure to end on the laugh trigger, the most surprising word: “arrived.”

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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