According to the Biden administration, free Covid test kits will be made available to anyone who wants one starting later this month. The bad news is, the test kits are being provided by Elizabeth Holmes.
How I wrote it:
I thought this news story would be good to base a joke on because it was widely covered. Also, the number of free test kits promised–500 million–was conspicuously huge, although I edited that detail out of my final joke when it turned out to be unnecessary.
Partly because the topic has only one obvious handle–“free Covid test kits”–I gravitated toward using my Punch Line Maker #3: Ask a question about the topic.
One question that popped into my head was “Who will provide the test kits?” That’s probably because another big story at the time was about Elizabeth Holmes. She had just been convicted of fraud in connection with her blood testing company, Theranos. So I decided it would be funny if she was the one providing the test kits. And I had my punch line.
But I had to decide exactly how to word it. My Joke Maximizer #4 is “Make everything clear.” That argued for a detailed punch line, something like “the test kits are being provided by convicted Theranos fraudster Elizabeth Holmes.” But my Joke Maximizer #11 advises “Don’t be too on-the-nose,” which a detailed punch line ran the risk of being.
In the end I made a judgment call, which comedy writers often do, and limited the punch line to just “Elizabeth Holmes.” I decided to pay my audience the compliment of assuming that they would know who she is.
I often use the efficient angle “The bad news is” to guide the audience from a positive topic to a negative punch line.