In ye olden times, you’d hear about a comedy friend or friend of a friend claiming to write for The Tonight Show or Letterman, sending in jokes by fax.
In 2017, what’s a fax?
Funny or Die has not only made an app for that, but also perhaps revolutionized the process of finding new comedy writers. Forget Twitter. Or, keep Twitter. Pitch is a more focused site. Or rather, an app.
Funny or Die unveiled Pitch formally with a launch panel this July at Montreal’s Just For Laughs ComedyPro conference.
Funny or Die writer Matt Klinman (who also has written for The Onion and Comedy Central’s Problematic with Moshe Kasher) created Pitch with help from designer Brad Mahler and software engineer Yin Zhu. “My hope is that, as the community grows, Pitch becomes the place where many writers sell their first joke and, eventually and ominously, their last,” Klinman said.
They spent a year beta testing it with the Funny or Die team and an active user base of about 350 comedy writers. You’ve already seen some of its results daily on Funny or Die’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as the #avosecrets Super Bowl ad campaign for ‘Avocados From Mexico.’ Now they’re also working with IFC, digital agency VaynerMedia, and talking with a sports TV show, among other clients. Klinman said in Montreal that the app is designed from the back end, allowing other companies to use the platform as another way to buy written content.
The sales pitch for writers? Aside from getting paid for content and owning your jokes, Klinman, Funny or Die CEO Mike Farah, and Funny or Die head writer Zack Poitras said Pitch also encourages an anonymous meritocracy where the funniest joke writers emerge and could get full-time job offers out of it.
“It’s a tool for writing comedy and a tool for comedy writers,” says Klinman. “It’s sort of like Twitter if Twitter was only for comedy writers and made for comedy writers. For me, our goal, the thing that really guides us, is that we want Pitch to be the best place where a comedy writer goes to get their start, and the best place for comedy writers to dick around, make some beer money and maybe make some new connections and meet new people.”
It’s invite only. You can ask to join at http://pitch.live.
Once invited to Pitch, you can pick any open topic and start pitching jokes, as well as voting for other already-pitched jokes you like. Once a topic closes (usually topics remain open for 24 hours, although timely topical Newsflashes straight from FoD open and close within an hour), you can see which jokes received the most votes. Only jokes receiving at least three votes have the writer’s name attached to them. So you don’t get penalized for pitching a bad joke.
“It’s OK if I put a shitty joke out there, because it will disappear into the void and my name will never be on it,” Poitras said.“But if it’s good, then your name appears on it, and people will notice.”
There’s also a search function to type in your proposed punchline and see if anyone already has pitched it. Although, after a month of playing with Pitch myself, I’ve seen plenty of topics receive multiple variations of the same exact punchline.
My Top Pitches so far:
- Future dating sites for the elderly: AssistedLoving
- Other Professions Considered for HBO’s Hard Knocks: Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Fun Responses to ‘The civil war had nothing to do with slavery!”? “You think that’ll get you out of jury duty?”
- Items Sold On Trump’s Reelection Campaign Site? “MAGA 2: This time it’s personal” hats
But I’ve had other pitches receive more votes yet not rank as the winning joke, and pitched great jokes in other topics that didn’t receive any votes. So there’s an art and a strategy to scoring a winning pitch on PITCH.
When in the timing window you pitch may affect your results. Karma, too, may be a factor, because if someone has to vote for you, you probably should remember to vote for other jokes in other topics and remember that you’re not the only funny writer making pitches. The most popular topics, which so far tend to be the paying ones from FoD, also receive several hundred pitches in an hour. So winning that vote is as tricky as scoring a viral Tweet during a live event.
The process of culling through joke submissions is ultimately the same, though, whether it’s on an app like Pitch or through email submissions like The Onion, or on a bulletin board in a writer’s room.
“I thought that it would be more fun, more efficient, and you could involve more people if you turned it into what we made Pitch,” Klinman said.
Plus, FoD or other companies might identify a great joke writer who could become their next new full-time hire.
As Farah joked: “We made sure to poach Matt before he came up with the idea. But that’s what drew us to it, is it was actually created by a comedy writer who knows what comedy writers’ needs are. We get all sorts of pitches for apps and things like that, but the fact that he actually knew what he was talking about and knew that this could provide a lot of utility for comedy writers was what got us excited.”
“We don’t want it just to be for us,” Farah added.
“It was either this, or we try to bring fax machines back,” Poitras said.