BALLOT COUNTING UPDATE: Minutes ago there was a problem in Pennsylvania. A ballot counter got that song “867-5309” stuck in his head and had to start all over.
How I wrote it:
The results of the presidential election hadn’t been determined yet. So the counting of ballots was the focus of a lot of media attention, and therefore promising fodder for a joke.
Rather than get into the details of the multi-state counting operation, I wrote a general topic sentence about ballot counting and applied my Punch Line Maker #3 to that. I asked myself the question, “What could go wrong with the ballot counting in one of the states?”
To answer that question, I brainstormed associations of “counting,” one of which is “losing your place because you’re distracted by other numbers.” That seemed like a promising basis for a punch line.
But my Joke Maximizer #9 is “Get specific,” so I needed a simple, surprising, specific way that numbers could distract a ballot counter. Did Trump or Biden supporters burst into the counting room and start shouting random numbers? That idea seemed pretty vague. And why would they want to slow down the counting?
I decided it made more sense that a song with numbers in it would get stuck in a counter’s head, as songs sometimes do. I immediately thought of the song “867-5309,” but wasn’t sure that enough of my audience would know it.
An online search of “songs with numbers in their titles” produced other candidates, but none that sported as nice a string of random digits as “867-5309.” So I went with that.
Starting the joke with that important-looking, all-caps headline made the silly punch line more surprising in contrast and, therefore, made the joke a little funnier.