The CDC says that the risk of the coronavirus to Americans is low. So if you see somebody who’s nauseous, vomiting, coughing up blood…it’s just Mike Bloomberg after last night’s debate.
How I wrote it:
Sometimes when writing a joke you can start with a punch line and work backwards.
I wanted to write a joke about the Democratic debate, and about how most of the candidates took turns attacking Mike Bloomberg, because it was a big story.
Using my Joke Maximizer #8–Wildly exaggerate–I imagined the other candidates physically punching and kicking Bloomberg until he staggered around, woozy and coughing up blood.
So this rough structure of a joke formed in my mind: describe those symptoms, and then unexpectedly reveal in the punch line that I’m talking about Bloomberg after the debate.
But I usually start writing a joke by selecting a topic, and this time I didn’t have one; I only had a punch line.
Any topic I created couldn’t mention the debate itself because that would violate my Joke Maximizer #5–Don’t telegraph the punch line.
So instead I thought about who else might have symptoms like Bloomberg’s. And I realized that if I worded the symptoms carefully they could also apply to a victim of the coronavirus, which was also in the news. That led me to writing a topic about the coronavirus.
The topic sentence I came up with not only fit the structure of the joke I wanted but was also true; I confirmed it on the CDC website. The topic of a joke should be factually true so it doesn’t distract the audience on their way to the punch line.