Jan 2, 2019–My current reading throne book is called Poking a Dead Frog.
Now what do you imagine that is about?
Ok, wrong. It’s subtitled “Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers.”
Author Mike Sacks conducted in-depth and freewheeling interviews with the brilliant and eccentric individuals who write the jokes and stories for sitcoms, movies, web sites, radio programs, and basically any form of media meant to entertain us pedestrian clods. You probably won’t recognize the names, but they are the people who worked to make the masses laugh at everything from Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, and Cheers, to The Oscars, The Onion, and The Office.
As I navigate life’s stages, I love to collect the best nuggets of wisdom as they apply to my current interests. Not that I plan to write comedy, but I just like to dissect (get it) how writers do what they do, what works, and what doesn’t (like putting “get it” in parentheses as a lame reference to the book title).
At the same time I am acutely aware that sharing these memes is annoying. Very annoying. Just look at any timeline on Facebook. While the thoughts may speak to your current situation, odds are low that many others are contemporaneously going through the same breakup/depression/career crisis/what do I fix for dinner tonight/insert your dilemma of the day.
But as I went over the list of some favorite phrases–which I chose solely as they pertain to my curiosity about writing–it became apparent this writing advice had application to pretty much any area of interest or ambition.
In that spirit–and the absolutely unforeseen coincidence that this marks the start of a New Year–I share my favorite bits of conversation from Poking a Dead Frog.
“Writing is making spaghetti, then sitting with someone and having spaghetti. That’s basically all life is.”
Dave Hill, WFMU
He also said: “Do your best to entertain yourself. Or entertaining the 15-year old in you.”
What struck me is that while what you do for work is work, those that succeed and persist enjoy doing it for its own sake.
“Life is short and this should be fun.”
Paul F. Tompkins
This one is counterintuitive, but correct:
“Everything came together for me when I stopped caring about it. I was just constantly worried. And then when I stopped worrying about it, that’s when all the gigs came. When I gave up worrying about it all is when it all got better.”
Jon Wurster, The Best Show
Here’s the writer’s version of advice I’ve used on anyone asking me about how to become a musician/a basketball player/a writer.
“Write every day. Or at least worry about it.”
Bruce Jay Friedman, Stir Crazy, Splash
What if you can’t make a living at first?
“Start doing it–even if you’re not getting paid.”
Adam McKay, Saturday Night Live, Anchorman
And, good advice no matter what field or level of compensation:
“Keep a low overhead.”
Whether you are writing a script, choosing a friend, or planning your life’s path, remember this:
“My approach has always been that story comes through character, rather than character from story.”
Christopher Penfold, All Creatures Great and Small
And in the end, this:
“All you can really hope for is to connect with people and to hopefully put food on the table–and to then get a chance to do it again the next day.”
Tom Scharpling, The Best Show, Monk
That is all. Go forth and make spaghetti.