This year Halloween trick-or-treating is a little different with the coronavirus. For example, Mars Candy just announced the 3 Musketeers bar is down to 2 Musketeers because D’Artagnan is in quarantine.
How I wrote it:
I had seen a lot of news stories advising people how to celebrate Halloween safely during the pandemic. So I thought I’d distill them into a generic news item and write a joke about it.
The topic promised to be fertile because both of its handles, “Halloween” and “coronavirus,” have many associations that I could use in my Punch Line Maker #1: Link two associations of the topic.
One of my most prominent associations of “Halloween” is candy, so I brainstormed the names of candies.
And strong associations of “coronavirus” are “social distancing” and “quarantine.” So I sought out candy brands that were names of people to whom I could attribute those pandemic activities.
That thinking led me to the Three Musketeers candy bar. I thought about maybe having its maker (which my research confirmed is Mars) issue a special coronavirus edition of the candy consisting of three individual One Musketeer bars, so the Musketeers could socially distance. But I decided that it was tidier to link the two topics handles with a punch line that put one of the Musketeers in quarantine.
More research told me that the original Three Musketeers were Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. But I felt that not enough of my audience would immediately recognize those names and I wanted to obey my Joke Maximizer #4: Make everything clear.
So instead I quarantined another, more familiar, swashbuckler from the tale, D’Artagnan. In doing that I took advantage of the fact that a punch line doesn’t have to be factually true. The audience only has to accept that the punch line is true long enough for it to make them laugh.