Monday is Valentine’s Day, and everybody’s getting into the spirit. Even Vladimir Putin sent Ukraine a Valentine reading “Won’t you be mine?”
How I wrote it:
I wanted to write a joke about Valentine’s Day because it’s a well-known cultural phenomenon. It also has lots of associations–cards, candy, flowers, Cupid, and so on–which makes it a fertile topic for joke-writing.
Valentine’s Day is such a fertile topic that when I wrote for “Late Night with David Letterman” we did a Desk Piece called something like “How They’re Celebrating Valentine’s Day.” It consisted of about a dozen jokes linking various associations of Valentine’s Day to associations of various celebrities.
Remembering that Desk Piece, I decided to use my Punch Line Maker #2: Link the topic to pop culture. Because Russia’s possible invasion of Ukraine was also in the news, I decided to link Valentine’s Day to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
To do that, I brainstormed associations of Valentine’s Day, one of which is those little candy hearts with sayings printed on them. The first such saying that popped into my head was “Be Mine.” Luckily for me, “Be Mine” seemed to express how Putin feels about Ukraine. So I had the idea for my punch line.
Mentioning the candy hearts in the actual joke seemed unnecessarily distracting. So I simplified the joke by having Putin just send Ukraine a Valentine with the saying.
But I worded the saying as “Won’t you be mine?” instead of “Be Mine.” Shorter is usually better, but I thought that making the joke clearer was worth adding two words.
If Russia does invade Ukraine, jokes like this will be trickier to pull off. But because the tanks haven’t rolled yet, I decided this joke would be acceptable to the audience.