Today Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing him to run for president two more times. The law also extended absentee voting: whoever votes against Putin goes mysteriously absent.
How I wrote it:
I focused on this news item because I felt like, for a change, writing a joke about a politician who isn’t American. Plus this story made the national news in the U.S., so I thought my audience might have some interest in it.
First I distilled the news item into a topic sentence that contained only the elements I thought I’d need to write a joke. Some versions of the item had a headline like “Putin signs law that could keep him in Kremlin until 2036.” Other versions had a headline like “Putin signs law allowing him to run for two more terms as Russian President.” I adapted the latter headline into my topic sentence because it referred more directly to elections, and I sensed that I’d be writing a punch line about the election process.
Once I had a topic sentence, I used my Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic. One topic handle, “run for president,” has the association “voting,” which has the sub-association “absentee voter.”
The other topic handle, “Vladimir Putin,” is associated in most people’s minds with “does terrible things to political opponents.” So I realized I could link the two topic handles with a punch line featuring some wordplay on “absentee voter.”
But working out the exact wording was a little tricky. I wanted to use my Joke Maximizer #6: Make the punch line parallel. But making the angle and punch line both refer to “absentee voter” would result in a punch line something like “whoever votes against Putin mysteriously becomes an absentee voter,” which doesn’t clearly communicate the idea that Putin is making them disappear. The wording that I settled on trades parallelism for clarity.