Saturday, March 27, 2010

And Here's the Kicker

by Mike Sacks, Conversations with 21 top humor writers on their craft, 2009

here's the nice little picture of the book that I took from Amazon website, but you can't really look inside of this one!

I picked this book up at the library...cannot even remember exactly why. Put it on hold for several months, and when I checked it out, expected to have it sit untouched for three weeks until it became due....but proved myself WRONG because in fact I became obsessed with the interviews and couldn't put it down for the next week!!!

It was fascinating to read these interviews with people behind the creation of so many movies, tv shows and periodicals that have been so much a part of my life.....Buck Henry who wrote The Graduate, Larry Gelbert, (Tooties), Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day), Todd Hanson (The Onion), George Meyer (Simpsons), Allision Silverman (Colbert Report), Mitch Hurwitz (Arrested Development) Dave Barry, Jack Handy, and countless people who have written for David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, SNL (it seems that about 1/2 of the comedians interviewed spent some time writing for one of these shows).

Also I discovered some people who's work I had never heard of.....Paul Feig who wrote 1999 show "Freaks and Geeks" that I am now watching (and enjoying) on Netflix, and Stephen Merchant, who's interview encouraged me to finally watch all of the BBC Office and I am glad that I did! I found that I actually like it even better than the US version, and I really really wish that it had gone on for several more seasons!!

One of the things that I also liked about this book is that it also gave lots of tips for writers from people like David Letterman or the editor for "Shouts and Murmurs" at The New Yorker. Very encouraging advice, like "don't expect to ever get published even if you have been writing non-stop for over 11 years, but here's some places where you might send some of your work if you are interested in trying." I found this advice very helpful.

Probably largest criticism of the book is that it was just so LONG! (337 pages). I sped read the last four interviews just because I had to return the book to the library and had other things that I needed to start reading. But the interviewer Mike Sacks certainly knew the background on all the people he interviewed, and could ask very detailed questions about shows and material they had written.

Some things I discovered from this reading that fascinated me; did you know that 95% of Bill Murray's role in Caddyshack was improvised? Or that deciding on names for characters in BBC Office took more time than inventing the characters themselves? David Sedaris was an apartment cleaner in NYC before he became a writer, and Todd Hanson, founder of the Onion, only earned $120/month for the first seven years the Onion was published, and made the rest of his living working as a dishwasher? The biographies of these people were fascinating. (the keyword for describing this book is fascinating.)

Some similarities that I found between all of the interviews; many people cited that good comedy needs to be based in real life, and not on jokes that have already been written in other shows, and also many of the comedians said that having a difficult childhood oftentimes aids in developing a good comic.
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