The founder of the television shopping network QVC died. He was 88, marked down from his regular age of 152.
How I wrote it:
This news item caught my eye because the QVC network and death each have a lot of potentially useful associations.
But “death jokes,” although they’re a familiar format, can be tricky. When are they acceptable?
The formula “Comedy equals tragedy plus time” means that even somebody’s death can be an acceptable joke topic if enough time has passed. But the founder of QVC died very recently. Does that mean the news item is off-limits?
Not necessarily, because I also consult another formula that I devised: “Comedy equals tragedy minus emotional connection.” Although people close to the QVC founder wouldn’t be amused by a joke about his passing, most people have little emotional connection to him. That means they would probably allow themselves to laugh, especially because the founder died a natural death.
Once I decided that a joke about that news item would probably be acceptable to a mass audience, I turned to my Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.
One handle of the topic, “died,” has the association “age of the deceased.” The other topic handle, “QVC,” has the association “marked down from regular price.”
My punch line links those two associations by stating that the age of the deceased had been marked down from his unrealistically-high “regular age.”