Eventually comedy fandom evolves from mere appreciation into the search for every behind the scenes detail, including what is inside the minds of the writers.
And Here’s the Kicker is a compilation of 21 interviews with comedy writers. The interviews were conducted and edited by Mike Sacks.
Here is what I learned from my favorite interviewees:
Stephen Merchant: Ricky Gervais and he wrote the dialogue by improvising into a tape recording and then editing it down to be typed; M*A*S*H was shown without a laugh track in England; “…there’s always the danger that we as comedy fans are writing comedy for other comedy fans [as opposed to writing for an audience]; [on the differences between American and British humor] “American humor—they’re not ashamed to use slang and vernacular…Whereas in England, there’s a need to display one’s intelligence”
Larry Wilmore: decided to devote his life to comedy after his family’s roof caved in, “I already had nothing—it’s not like I could achieve that twice;” he does a “writer’s stand-up act” (meaning it isn’t personality-driven, jokes are somewhat disconnected); worked on a canceled pilot for Fox about a white writer who joins the writing staff of a black sitcom (it was canceled because the lead wasn’t attractive enough—the actor? Paul Giamatti); “There should be no racial loyalty so much as comedy loyalty”
Bob Odenkirk: reputation as a perfectionist; considers the Mr. Show sketches “Clumsy Waiter” and “Philouza” to be the worst; “honesty is everything;” was unhappy with SNL’s writing process (if something didn’t go over well at the pitch meeting it was permanently rejected)
Paul Feig: “I’m very much a purist about memories and the truth in stories…I can think of a lot of funnier endings for everything that’s ever happened to me in my life, but that’s not the point;” while working as a script reader he realized that 99.9% of script are terrible; “the cruel side of me likes creating situations where people get buried deeper and deeper [thus raising the stakes for humiliation]
Mitch Hurwitz: earned theology and English degrees from Georgetown; [on being reluctant to encourage people to go into entertainment] “It can make a lot of people very, very unhappy;” “In retrospect, perhaps a majority of people didn’t want to see such a detailed show [Arrested Dev] and didn’t want complexity with their humor;” writers need to have compassion for their characters/stories; there was a hug in almost every episode of Arrested Dev
David Sedaris: if you want to be a good writer, you need to read; rejects exaggerating in his earlier stories (he was ‘trying too hard’ and that embellishing made it hard for audiences to believe him); edits his pieces while reading to an audience; “My main concern is to not be too corny;” he gets out of bed at 10:26 am every morning
Each interview is 10-15 pages, and covers what the writers think of their previous work, how they write, what motivates them, and their advice for aspiring comedy writers.
There’s also advice about getting hired as a sitcom or late-night writer or acquiring a literary or screenplay agent and a list of recommended reading.