This week a 2,350-pound pumpkin won a pumpkin-growing contest in California. Spectators were amazed. It’s orange, it weighs a ton, and nobody made a joke about President Trump.
How I wrote it:
When I read this news item I immediately thought of my Punch Line Maker #2: Link the topic to pop culture. The topic handle “pumpkin,” and its association “orange,” immediately called to mind the often-commented-on skin tone of our president, Donald Trump.
But I had a problem. Jokes about Trump’s orangey hue have been hacky for a long time, and I try not to be hacky.
Still, the other topic handle, “2350-pound,” also suggested Trump, who is known for being overweight. The fact that I could link that prize-winning pumpkin to Trump in two ways made a Trump/pumpkin punch line impossible to resist.
To minimize the hackiness of the joke, I decided to write a punch line where the surprise was that none of the spectators made a hacky Trump/pumpkin joke. That way I could do the hacky joke without actually doing it, thus preserving some of my self-respect.
The angle beginning “Spectators were amazed” smoothly leads the audience from the topic, which describes an amazing pumpkin, to a punch line which is surprising but also makes sense: the spectators were amazed by a phenomenon entirely different from what the audience for the joke expected. “Surprising but also makes sense” describes all well-written punch lines.
I got lucky that the pumpkin weighed 2,350 pounds. It meant that I could write “weighs a ton” and be both factually accurate about the pumpkin and colloquially accurate about Trump.