Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers

Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers

Mike Sacks

Language: English

Pages: 480

ISBN: 0143123785

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY NPR

Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, Adam McKay, George Saunders, Bill Hader, Patton Oswalt, and many more take us deep inside the mysterious world of comedy in this fascinating, laugh-out-loud-funny book. Packed with behind-the-scenes stories—from a day in the writers’ room at The Onion to why a sketch does or doesn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live to how the BBC nearly erased the entire first season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus—Poking a Dead Frog is a must-read for comedy buffs, writers and pop culture junkies alike.

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truthfully. I’m not sure why anyone does it. But there just comes a time when you have to decide. Did you ever graduate college? I did. After I went to community college, I transferred to what later became the College of New Jersey. At the time it was called Trenton State College, but they later changed their name. They didn’t want anything to do with the name Trenton. [Laughs] They felt Trenton, New Jersey, wasn’t a great selling point. It took a long time for me to graduate. It took me about

show is infamous for having one of the best writing staffs for any nineties TV show, and included Mike White, who wrote the 2006 movie Nacho Libre and created HBO’s series Enlightened. When we were hiring writers for the show, I was not very interested in reading their spec scripts for other shows. I felt that I wouldn’t learn anything about a writer if I was reading a Buffy the Vampire Slayer script because I’d just be seeing how they could copy somebody else’s style. Plus, they would already

but even if a show is based on real life and realistic situations, you still have to write the scripts. I did, and I had to produce a lot of material over the years. I had to come up with an idea every day. Every single day. Over the years, how many scripts did you write for Ethel and Albert? More than twenty thousand. Twenty thousand?! How is that possible? Well, listen. I wrote for the show for many years, first for radio and then for TV. This was off and on, but mostly daily. And we’d

ever heard that people even aspired to that kind of thing if they were freelance writers. The difference is that I didn’t hope to write for TV. Magazine writing was fine. I actually prefer writing full sentences. So you’re not apocryphal? You’re no Bigfoot or Abominable Snowman? You do exist? I do exist. [Laughs] By a thread. PURE, HARD-CORE ADVICE PAUL F. TOMPKINS Writer, Mr. Show with Bob and David, Real Time with Bill Maher, Best Week Ever, Bob’s Burgers There can sometimes be a division

a big fan of the comedians who dealt with misfortune. Those who weren’t successful, happy people, but those who somehow triumphed. Even if they didn’t, they thought they did. W. C. Fields, a big influence. I was a huge Chaplin fan, but I was a much bigger Buster Keaton fan. Chaplin was obviously brilliant, but he could be a bit mawkish at times, whereas Keaton was all about funny. Talking to me about influences is difficult, because I’ve had friends who have influenced my comedy. I have some

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