Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was just sold for $22 million. Per his wishes, the sale was handled by the real estate company Century Under-21.
How I wrote it:
I, along with many other comedy writers, wrote a lot of Michael Jackson jokes when he was alive. That’s because he had many vivid associations that could be used to create punch lines, like his sequined glove, his plastic surgery, and Bubbles the chimp.
Plus Jackson was such a huge star that any joking at his expense was acceptable to a mass audience because it was “punching up.”
But writing a joke that connects Jackson to the sex abuse of children is potentially tricky. He’s still beloved by many people, plus he died an untimely death. And were those accusations of sex abuse ever proven? I don’t remember.
But a punch line doesn’t have to be factually true. For a punch line to work, most people just have to accept it as true. And I thought that most people would accept the idea that, at the very least, Jackson really liked young boys.
So I decided it was okay for me to use my Punch Line Maker #1–Link two associations of the topic–and associate the topic handle “Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch” with “underage children.” The other topic handle, “sold,” I associated with “real estate company.” Then I linked those two associations in the phony name “Century Under-21.”
I included the descriptor “the real estate company” to make sure the audience would immediately realize what company I was talking about; “Century 21” was also a fairly well-known department store chain.
I also added the phrase “per his wishes” to the angle of the joke, so the audience would immediately connect “under-21” to Jackson. If they didn’t make that connection, the joke wouldn’t work.