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

Jul 10, 2017 · 2 min read

Congrats to Stephen Ignatious 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: Stephen Ignatious, Follow him on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: World’s most expensive fidget spinner on sale for $16,800 USD

Punch Line: It’s a perfect distraction from how much money you’ve spent on it.

To write this great joke Stephen used Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.

One handle of the topic, “most expensive,” has as one association “too much money.” The other handle of the topic, “fidget spinner,” has as one association “a distraction.”

Stephen links those two associations to get a punch line that would surprise most people but also strike them as true: spending that much money on a silly little toy is the sort of thing a person might not want to think about.

Stephen used Joke Maximizer #1 — Shorten as much as possible — but he didn’t shorten the joke so much that he hurt it. A punch line like “It’s the perfect distraction from how much it cost” would have been shorter but it also would have shifted the focus off the worried buyer and therefore weakened the punch line.

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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