This week a Virginia woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for running a massive scam involving counterfeit grocery coupons. The good news is, her sentence was 50% off.
How I wrote it:
This news item got my attention because it has two topic handles that seemed to have enough associations to link into a punch line. So I used my Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.
One topic handle, “sentenced to 12 years in prison,” has as one association “12 years.” The other topic handle, “grocery coupons,” has the association “X% off.”
Because both of those associations involve a number, I got the idea of creating a punch line that applies some percentage discount to the prison sentence.
After I wrote the punch line, I used my Joke Maximizer #1–Shorten as much as possible–by paring the topic sentence down to its essentials. The original news item was worded something like “A Virginia Beach woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for running one of biggest coupon counterfeiting rings in U.S. history.” I shortened “Virginia Beach” to the also-true “Virginia,” and the description of the historic size of the counterfeiting ring to “massive scam.”
I also used my Joke Maximizer #3–Backload the topic–by ensuring that my topic sentence ended on the topic handle “grocery coupons.”
Often when a topic describes something bad happening I’ll consider using the angle “The good news is,” which is the angle I used for this joke. Adding “because she had a coupon” to the angle would have clarified the logic of the joke a little but would also have telegraphed the punch line. So I left those extra words out.