Now in theaters, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” It’s very exciting. Mothra, Rodan, and the three-headed King Ghidorah decide the only way to stop Godzilla is to impeach him.
How I wrote it:
Newly released movies tend to make good joke topics, especially on slow news days. People are usually interested in movies and their titles often lend themselves to surprising interpretations.
The new Godzilla movie seemed especially promising because Godzilla is a huge monster who causes a lot of chaos and conflict and I thought people would associate it with President Trump. That is, the topic led me quickly to my Punch Line Maker #2: Link the topic to pop culture.
But this wording of the joke, for example, would have been way too direct: “Now in theaters, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters.’ In this movie, Godzilla is scarier than ever. He behaves like Trump.” My Joke Maximizer #11 is “Don’t be too on-the-nose,” because on-the-nose jokes aren’t as surprising and therefore aren’t as funny.
So I decided not to mention Trump explicitly in the punch line. I also decided not to rely on the associations “Godzilla” = “monster” = “Trump,” because I thought that equation might split my audience unnecessarily.
Instead I based the punch line on how the monster Godzilla is attacked by his monster adversaries. The surprise is that they use the same technique that some of Trump’s adversaries are considering using on him.
The result is a political joke that’s unlikely to divide a mass audience because it’s based on a fact‑‑impeachment talk‑‑instead of an opinion that may not be universally held.