Today New York legislators decided to take away the pandemic emergency powers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The weird part is, Gov. Cuomo suggested that they do it during a game of strip poker.
How I wrote it:
The original news item had a headline something like “New York lawmakers strip Gov. Cuomo of emergency powers.” The topic handle “strip” jumped out at me because I realized that I could link it to a vivid association of “Gov. Cuomo,” namely the allegation that he proposed a game of strip poker to a staffer.
That is, I spotted an opportunity to use my Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.
The problem was that if I used “strip” in the topic of my joke, the audience might guess how the Gov. Cuomo joke was going to end. And my Joke Maximizer #5 is “Don’t telegraph the punch line.”
Plus basing a punch line on a word that a headline writer just conveniently happened to use felt to me like cheating.
So I substituted “take away” for “strip” in the topic of my joke. Luckily, visualizing the legislators taking something away from Cuomo also suggested a game of strip poker, with Cuomo handing over his powers instead of his undershirt. So I got to keep my strip poker punch line.
I wrote the angle to have Cuomo suggesting the game, instead of the legislators, because that’s what he allegedly did in real life. That way the internal logic of the joke would be clear.
And I added “The weird part is” to more smoothly and naturally bridge the topic and punch line.