Short-form comedy, the kind on comedy/talk shows, often turns up in consumer products. That’s why the same writing techniques used on late-night shows can also be used to create funny products like tee-shirts, bumper stickers, and novelty gifts.
For example, here’s how I used late-night comedy writing techniques to create two greeting cards that the staffers of Late Night with David Letterman sent out to their holiday mailing lists.
In both cases I started with the joke topic “Late Night holiday card.” The two handles—the distinctive elements—of that topic are “Late Night” and “holiday card.”
One association of the handle “Late Night” is “General Electric,” the show’s new corporate parent at the time; a sub-association of General Electric is “stuff for sale.”
And one association of the handle “holiday card” is “gifts”, which also has the sub-association “stuff for sale.” Linking those two sub-associations together gave birth to the official Late Night holiday card of 1986.
For the 1989 holiday season I started with the same joke topic: “Late Night holiday card.” This time I linked the “Late Night” association “Dan Rather” (a CBS newsman and friend of the show) to the “holiday card” association “buying gifts” by using the shared sub-association “credit card.” Here’s the greeting card that resulted.
That holiday card generated some nice publicity for the show, including a mention in The New York Times.
Writing techniques like these are used to craft Monologue jokes, Desk Pieces, Joke Basket Sketches, and a lot of the other comedy on comedy/talk shows. Learn these techniques by reading my book Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV.