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

Congrats to Annie Hill 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: Annie Hill, Follow her on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: Overcome Turbulence Fear While Flying, Write Your Name With the Opposite Hand

Punch Line: Fun writing prompt: your last will and testament

Annie might have used Punch Line Maker #3 to create this great joke. That’s the technique where you ask a question about the topic.

One question Annie might have asked is, “What should I write with my opposite hand?” To get her punch line, she answered that question by using an association of the topic: she associated “turbulence” with “fear of death,” which has the sub-association “last will and testament.”

Notice that Annie mentally took “your name” out of the setup so it would work better with her punch line. That is, her completed joke would actually read something like this: “To overcome turbulence fear while flying, write something with the opposite hand. Fun writing prompt: your last will and testament.”

As long as your setup stays true to the facts of the news story, which Annie’s revised setup does, you should word it in the most effective way possible. Click through to the actual news story if you have to check the details.

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.”