Imagine you’re at a fancy party wearing a stunning hat. Now imagine putting another hat on top of that hat. Sure, each hat might be fabulous on its own, but together? They’re just competing for attention, making you look like a confused milliner’s mannequin.

That’s exactly what “hat on a hat” means in comedy writing – it’s when you stack two jokes on top of each other, causing them to compete for attention rather than enhance each other.

## A Perfect Example from SNL

The Bill Hader story provides a brilliant illustration of what’s NOT a hat on a hat. Let’s break it down:

- The first comedic element: Hader being told he has to play Elliot Spitzer in the cold open
- The punchline: “Who’s Elliot Spitzer?”

This works because the second element (his ignorance) builds on and pays off the first element (the assignment). It’s not a hat on a hat because these elements work together to create a single comedic moment.

## What Would Make It a Hat on a Hat?

If the writer had added, say, Hader tripping over a chair while asking who Spitzer was, or having someone else burst in wearing a ridiculous costume during his question – that would be a hat on a hat. Each joke would distract from the other, diluting both laughs.

## How to Spot (and Fix) a Hat on a Hat

**Ask yourself**: Can these jokes exist independently?**Consider timing**: Are two funny things happening simultaneously?**Evaluate focus**: Is your audience being pulled in different directions?

The solution is usually simple but requires courage: Pick your favorite hat and donate the other to comedy Goodwill. Your audience will thank you.

## The Golden Rule

Remember: Comedy is like a fine hat shop – it’s not about how many hats you can stack on one head, but about finding the perfect hat for the moment.

And just like in real life, one great hat is always better than two hats fighting for attention. Unless you’re a street performer in a circus. Then stack away!