Summer Reads: Amy Poehler’s Pure, Hard-Core Advice in “Poking a Dead Frog” by Mike Sacks

Any time is a good time to pick up a book, but summertime sure feels like the right time to lounge poolside or on the beach, or anywhere you feel most comfortable, really, with a great read to pass the carefree day away. On weekends this summer, The Comic’s Comic will showcase an excerpt from a worthy hardcover or paperback in the world of comedy.

This week it’s “Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers,” by Mike Sacks, the follow-up to his first book of comedy interviews, And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft For “Poking A Dead Frog,” Sacks has sat down for lengthy talks with the likes of Mel Brooks, Terry Jones, Paul Feig, Adam McKay, Mike Schur and more. And by more, that includes some original essays from Diablo Cody, Marc Maron and Amy Poehler. We’re pleased and honored at The Comic’s Comic to offer you this excerpt from Poehler’s essay, “Pure, Hard-Core Advice.” A good read any day of the week; even more so, considering this weekend marks the 16th annual Del Close Marathon — the improvised comedy gathering of thousands from all over the world to celebrate the late improv guru, Close, as well as the influence of his disciples at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Of which Poehler is a founding member and guru herself. Enough of my intro. Let’s get straight to her advice!



Actress/Writer, Parks and Recreation, SNL

Read  your  stuff  out  loud.  Sometimes  the  way  it reads  in your  head sounds  different  when someone  says it.

Be open to changing all the material you think  is really brilliant. Even the most  talented people  don’t  fight every day for every one of their jokes. There’s always some better way to do things when you’re working with good people.  I find the most talented people  tend to be the best collaborators.

Being flexible can mean  people  want  to work  with  you.  A lot of people  say fight for what  you believe in and don’t  let them  change  it, but I want  to say, fight less, and be open to the fact that  other  people might have a better  idea.

I’m paraphrasing that great quote  from [ThisAmericanLifhost] Ira Glass—basically the sentiment of, “Keep doing it, even though all your  stuff is going  to be pretty  bad.  But don’t  be discouraged by its imperfections; embrace  it if it’s half good. Fake it till you make it. Put things  up. If they’re sloppy,  keep trying.” I love his thought that  no- body  carves  out  this perfect  jewel. Everybody struggles  and  does all these  half  attempts, and  it’s really  more  about time  than  it is about perfection.

Just put in the time, and don’t be too precious  about things. Work with your friends.  And maybe,  eventually, you’ll get paid.  [Laughs]  If you’re doing it for the money,  then just forget it. When you sit at your computer and think,  I’m going to write something really political  and interesting, it’s like, Okay, good luck with that!

People quit because  it’s really hard.  It’s hard  to not have a house, hard  not  to have money,  hard  not  to have insurance, hard  not  to be married, hard  to  have  your  parents ask  you  every  day  what  you’re going to do with  your  life. It’s hard  to wait  tables  while you’re doing improv  shows.  It’s hard  to get up onstage  and  bomb.  It’s hard  to lug your props  around everywhere. It’s hard  to submit  things  that  get re- jected.

It’s not  easy! Good  people  make  it look  easy, and  a lot of people want  to do it because  they think  it looks  easy. If you stick around, if you’re a good  collaborator, if you’re open  to new ideas and  you keep trying,  then you’ll find there’s a lot of different  ways you can work  as a writer. You  can  generate  original  material, or  you  can  be a staff writer, or you can write about the comedy scene—all different  things you might find you’re good at if you stick around long enough.

From Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Mike Sacks, 2014.


Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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