So, here I am, in lock down, with time enough at last to write some fresh comedy material. But on the other hand, with all the theaters shut down, there's no where to send it to. Oh, well. Good thing there's an internet, right? So, watching the news, it's almost like the whole virus response thing is being run by the Three Stooges or something. And that's what was the inspiration for our next sketch, which is some repurposed Stooge bits with some new jokes. Give it a read and let me know what you think. And if you're producing a comedy show, drop me a line...
Well, if this pandemic has taught me anything, it's that I'm not nearly as driven creatively as I would have liked to believe. When I was younger, I was writing all the time; on the train, on the ferry, on my lunch break, and to be completely honest, at my work desk in lieu of actual work. But lately, I've grown lazy about it. I spend too much time on Twitter. It's like a creative fix. Knock out a dozen pithy and/or snarky remarks and I'm spent. Sure, I was turning out a skit once a week, some jokes and the occasional prose piece, but those venues have been closing all around me. I had done some "industrial"-type work last year for a Chinese company, but we all know what kind of shape they're in these days. I'm barely updating this blog.
I hear and read about these people binging streaming shows, cooking, baking, streaming their own shows and I'm perplexed by this. My day job has me working from home. I'm doing like a normal 8-hour shift at my PC. And when I leave my work station in the basement and commute upstairs, I still feel spent. And, of course, I want to spend time with my wife, and that's when we do our TV viewing. But instead of writing my next big screenplay, I'm clearing out the basement. When the weather improves, my wife will have me cleaning up the backyard. There's chores and whatnot. So even in a lock down, I'm still not able to carve out any major writing time. This post may be it for the day. I know, I know, people are suffering and dying out there. People's lives are being turned upside-down. But my ordinary life moves along in extraordinary times. I'm trying to keep in contact with my family, spread across the east coast. I'm trying to stay informed. But if there's an occasion to rise to, I don't feel like I'm rising to it. So, I post my anxiety on a blog no ones reading and try to vent it out of my system.
Thanks for the moment.
One of my odder writing gigs was a freelance job I had from 2007 to 2013, writing for the conservative news site, Newsbusters.
I have to say, that even though the series was seriously bias (because, you know, everyone else was too bias the other way) Newsbusted did do a couple of things right. They often ended the set with a general pop culture or neutral current events story, so that gave me some wiggle room on submissions. They were open to more absurdist punchlines that came from a less stringent angle. And they let me do some self-referencing jokes about doing the show itself and how little everyone was making. Sometimes just making a joke about the item, inside of being against it, was enough for them.
I was going to to their site every day to check the "news stories" that were making them angry. Then I started following some other sites they linked to find out what was annoying them as well and turn it into a joke. There are some scary rabbit holes out there. I wrote about the fine folks over at Gateway Pundit about it once...
Even by September I was doubting my ability to keep working for them. I wrote "Saw the bit on "Newsbusted" The guy's delivery is okay. Material is weak. Even my NBC news/illegal immigrant line was stupid. Plus--I'm still kicking myself for not including the topper--"Not only should it increase ratings, they work a lot cheaper!"
In October I write that I got the latest check. "I feel dirty, but" it's a check!
One of my odder writing gigs was a freelance job I had from 2007 to 2013. I was writing jokes for Valleyheart Productions in LA. What was Valleyheart Productions? They produced a weekly comedy video for the wacky folks over at Newsbuster.org, the home of irrational political discourse.
Now, how did I, a NPR-produced, Garrison Keillor-style tax & spend liberal, wind up writing conservative comedy for a humorless Tea-Partisan organization? Easy, I responded to a Craigslist ad. A gentleman, whom I came to know as Eric Peterkofsky, was hunting for comedy writers who could write jokes from a more conservative perspective. I'm not a very political person, but if I'm annoyed at something I can come up with some jokes. And, I'm pretty good at reading a room and designing jokes to fit it. So, I submitted some sample jokes. Probably some anti-Hillary jokes. That was like catnip for them.
I took this as a challenge. I don't think it's bragging to say I can write good comedy. But trying to write right-wing comedy? It's like capturing a unicorn or a compassionate conservative; does it exist? And, to be honest, I really didn't have much going on at the time and a gig's a gig. My sample worked. Eric did a demo for the Newsbuster site and he was brought in to produce a weekly "Weekend Update" style video, joking on the liberal follies of the day.
Here's the thing, conservatives (Bob Hope, Milton Berle) can do great comedy, but conservative comedy is not a thing. First, it's very hard to create comedy solely by agenda because the comedy will always come in second. Bob Hope was famous for poking fun at everyone. Conservatives will not poke fun at other conservatives (unless they go rogue). And what they do go on about sounds like a sermon. I'll also note here that comedy is best when it punches up, speaking truth to power. Making fun of women, civil rights and immigrants really isn't "punching up." I quickly learned that Conservative comedy usually was simply a matter of putting the words "Hillary" or "Obama" as the punchline and turning up the laugh-track.
Look, not everybody in politics is right all the time. Not every program is a good one. So, I was able to find things to mock. Also, sometimes, it's very, very easy to pander to and mimic the audience. Once they got the green light, I began submitting material. At first I was submitting it daily, going to the Newsbusters website, seeing what their latest outrage was and trying to turn it into a joke, with an actual punchline. And I was hitting the mark. I was getting 2 to 3 jokes a week in. And not to brag, mine were the most solid ones in the videos. And also, mine actual jokes.
Freelance writer, still hacking away.