10 – Just be funny 3.6% of the time

I ran across an interesting story last week.

It’s about a lawyer who traveled over 200 days each year helping politicians get elected.


Jon Macks worked as a consultant for more than 20 political campaigns. He also handled debate preparation for the last five presidential campaigns. Politicians often use humor to demonstrate their humanity. Jon Macks was a joke writer before he even knew he was one.

Macks was asked to help insert some humor into a speech that Senate candidate Paul Simon would deliver. Simon’s speech was a great success. Speech writer and former press secretary for Robert Kennedy, Frank Mankiewitz told Macks that he should write jokes for a living.

That was the turning point.

It was 1990, and Jay Leno was getting ready to take over The Tonight Show.

At the time, Leno accepted joke submissions from freelancers.

Macks decided to submit some jokes.

Macks received his independent contractor status from The Tonight Show (along with thousands of others). He continued submitting jokes.

Apparently, he made an impression … he was offered a 13-week staff writer position with The Tonight Show in 1992.

He wrote 100 jokes every day.

If 4 jokes made it on-air, it was a huge win.

Jay read 1,000 jokes per day and chose 25  for the monologue.


The process:

  1. Find nine topics for the day.
  2. Create association jokes.
  3. Find the small, strange, odd ball stories.
  4. Let it develop from there.
  5. Volume was the strategy.

After a 22 year career with the Tonight Show:

Wrote 500,000 jokes and 482,000 jokes ended up in a landfill.

That is a 3.6% success rate.

7 Emmys.

Writer for 18 Academy Awards.

Writer for the Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and the Tony Awards.

Writer for Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg.

My takeaways from this quick story:

  1. Opportunity is everywhere.
  2. Signs will present themselves as long as you are present.
  3. Write, write and write more.
  4. It’s hard to be funny on purpose.

52 Musings creation challenge:

  1. Read the major headlines tomorrow.
  2. Try and write 2 jokes.
  3. Post in the comments section of 52 Musings

OR …

If you are feeling inspired, write your own ticket!

Submit Jokes to Jimmy Fallon

See you next time!


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