Yesterday was the launch of the $10 billion Webb Space Telescope. Astronomers say it’s so powerful that it’ll be able to scan the universe and find someone who actually went to see Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”
How I wrote it:
I wanted to write a joke about the Webb Space Telescope because it was a big news story. Plus I thought I could use my Punch Line Maker #2: Link the topic to pop culture.
To do that, I thought of associations of the topic handle “Webb Space Telescope.” One association, which was highlighted by the news coverage, is “very powerful.” Then I tried to think of somebody or something in pop culture that you’d need a really powerful telescope to see.
Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” is part of pop culture. A friend told the story of how he and his wife went to see it and were only two of six people in the theater. A quick search online confirmed that multiple sources said the movie is a bomb in terms of ticket sales. So I linked the topic to pop culture via a punch line stating that very few people went to see the movie.
Were attendees at the movie so scarce that you’d need an incredibly powerful telescope to spot even one of them? Of course not. But my Joke Maximize #8 is “Wildly exaggerate.”
I added “scan the universe and” to emphasize how hard it would be to find someone anywhere who had seen the movie. I also thought that phrase would help misdirect the audience into thinking that the joke would be about finding astronomical features. That misdirection would heighten the surprise, and funniness, of the punch line.
Is the joke too mean? No. Steven Spielberg is one of the most successful directors in history. So this joke is “punching up,” and therefore almost certainly acceptable to most people.