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

Congrats to Kelsey Farrell 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: Kelsey Farrell, Follow her on Comedywire

Joe’s comments:

Setup: First Woman Picked to Play Dr. Who

Punch Line: Rumor has it she’ll spend the first episode trying to explain to everyone that she’s not a nurse.

To create this great joke, Kelsey probably used Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.

One handle of the topic, “woman,” is commonly associated with occupations like secretary, elementary school teacher, and nurse.

The other handle of the topic, “Dr. Who,” is associated with “doctor,” which has the sub-association “not a nurse.” Kelsey’s punch line links “nurse” from the first handle to “not a nurse” from the second handle to reveal something that’s true in a surprising way.

Notice the unusually long angle: “Rumor has it she’ll spend the first episode trying to explain to everyone that…” But there’s no obvious way to shorten the angle without hurting the joke. And even though the angle is long, it works because it obeys Joke Maximizer #5 and doesn’t telegraph 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.”