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

Congrats to Phil Johnson 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: Phil Johnson, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: The first film to be shown in Saudi Arabia after a thirty-five year ban is The Emoji Movie.

Punch line: It’s all a ploy to make Saudis never want to see a movie again.

Phil might have used Punch Line Maker #3 to write this great joke. That’s the technique where you start by asking “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” questions about the topic.

“The Emoji Movie” is an odd choice, so Phil might have asked, “Why did Saudi officials pick that movie to show first?”

The next step in Punch Line Maker #3 is to answer the promising question in a surprising way using associations of the topic. The topic handle “The Emoji Movie” has the prominent association “horrible movie”; it only scores 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. So Phil made “because it’s a horrible movie” the basis of his punch line.

To complete his joke, Phil added a logical angle that explains why Saudi officials would do something that, on the surface, seems illogical: show their citizens a horrible movie. The angle is logical because it’s consistent with what the topic implies, that the Saudi government doesn’t believe its citizens should watch movies.

Notice that Phil also used Joke Maximizer #11: Don’t be too on-the-nose. His joke allows the audience to make the connection themselves between “The Emoji Movie” and a metaphorical pile of garbage.

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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