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!
PURE, HARD-CORE ADVICE
By AMY POEHLER
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 [ThisAmericanLife host] 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.