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

Congrats to Anthony Hudacs 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: Anthony Hudacs, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Today, July 20, Is the 49th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Punch line: It was one small step for man, one giant leap for conspiracy theorists.

Anthony’s great joke is an example of Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.

The most prominent handle of the topic is “the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.” Anthony brainstormed associations for that and focused on two of them.

The first association is Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong’s quote, which is usually taken to be “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A second association of Apollo 11 is the belief of conspiracy theorists that the moon landings were faked.

Anthony linked those two associations of Apollo 11 by replacing “mankind” in Armstrong’s quote with “conspiracy theorists,” creating his punch line.

Notice that Anthony used two associations of the same topic handle to create his punch line. But Punch Line Maker #1 is often applied to associations of two different topic handles, for example “the Apollo 11 Moon Landing” and “49th anniversary.”

A punch line resulting from that pairing might state, for example, the unexpected way that NASA marked the occasion, or tell us what offbeat anniversary NASA celebrated next.

This shows that there are usually several ways to link elements of a topic to create a surprise that gets a 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.”