The Justice Department is accusing Chinese telecommunications company Huawei of stealing U.S. trade secrets. Officials became suspicious when they saw Huawei banging on a trash can in their dugout.
How I wrote it:
This news item had appeared pretty prominently in the media for a few days so I wanted to write a joke about it.
The two most likely topic handles are “Huawei” and “stealing secrets,” but I wasn’t sure an audience would know much about that Chinese telecommunications company.
So instead of using “Huawei” to help generate a punch line, I focused on “stealing secrets” and turned to my Punch Line Maker #2: Link the topic to pop culture.
“Stealing secrets” was associated in my mind with another big story at the time about how the Houston Astros cheated by stealing signs during ballgames. So I decided to base my punch line on linking Huawei to the Astros.
At first I considered ending the joke something like this: “On the plus side, Huawei was just hired to manage the Houston Astros.” But that didn’t seem to make the connection to stealing secrets clearly enough, and my Joke Maximizer #4 is “Make everything clear.”
I also didn’t want the punch line to be too on-the-nose. So I ended the joke by painting a vivid mental picture of Huawei’s forbidden activity without explicitly saying “stealing secrets.”
I was pleased that “banging on a trash can in their dugout” sounded funny, having some assonance and many stop consonants.
I ended on “dugout” because I thought it was the most surprising word in the punch line by a little bit.