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Writers' Bloc Podcast
51 minutes | 5 years ago
Episode 51: Hasan Minhaj
Hasan Minhaj is a comedian, actor, correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and now the star of "Homecoming King", a one-man show he wrote that's running at The Cherry Lane Theater in New York City thru November 15, 2015, and hopefully even longer than that. Oh! And he was also in a Pizza Hut commercial! I mean, this guy is killin' it. In this episode, Hasan and I talk about "Homecoming King" - where the idea came from, how he turned it into a one-man show, and the people who helped him put it together. I know it's a one-man show and all, but you still don't do this kind of thing without a lot of help. Hasan speaks very openly - as he does in the show - about racism and human judgment, two things he's been battling his entire life. And we talk a lot about one of the main themes of the show, "Log Kya Kahenge", which is Urdu for "What will people think?" It's a hell of a question. This is a good one, BlocHeads. Don't put it off... put it on!
40 minutes | 5 years ago
Bonus Episode: "Over The Edge" w/Mike Sacks
"Over The Edge" is a 1979 movie about teenagers who rebel against the monotony of their planned suburban community and the adults who force them to live there. It's not the most famous movie you'll ever see. It's also not the best movie you'll ever see. But it got 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty damn good, it was Curt Cobain's favorite movie, and it stars a 14-year-old newcomer named Matt Dillon who, as we all know, went on to have sex with Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in a pool. Not a bad career progression. Anyway, it happens to be a big favorite of WBP, episode 50 guest, Mike Sacks, so Mike and I decided to get together one more time to tell you all why we like it so much. Hint: is has a lot to do with the fact that we both grew up in the 70's and at least one of us lived a very similar life to the characters in the movie. Also, it's a surprisingly solid movie. Enjoy.
47 minutes | 5 years ago
Episode 50: Mike Sacks
Mike Sacks might know as much about comedy writing as almost anybody. Why? Because he's interviewed dozens of the best comedy writers on television for his books, "And Here's the Kicker" and "Poking a Dead Frog". But wait! There's more! Mike also co-wrote the hilarious "Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk" with several other writers including Bob's Burgers writer and producer, and Writers' Bloc alum, Scott Jacobson (episode 20). Mike has also written for literally piles of publications including The Washington Post, The New Yorker, GQ, Men's Health - the list goes on. Currently, Mike is a writer and editor for Vanity Fair who enjoys laughing and taking long walks on the beach. He didn't actually tell me that. I just assumed it. Mike and I talk about the importance of having many and varied influences, and he shares a few tricks he's learned to help him become a better writer himself. We also talk briefly about Mike's fascination with the 1979 cult hit "Over the Edge", a fascination I now share. But more on that later. Much more. For now, thank you for joining my conversation with Mike Sacks.
53 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 49: Sarah Pappalardo
Sarah Pappalardo is the co-founder of Reductress, the first and only satirical women’s magazine. Reductress is a hilarious website conceived, developed, and run by Sarah and her co-everything, Beth Newell. Sarah tells Writers' Bloc all about how she and Beth took an idea and made it into an actual product, and trust me, there's more to it than meets the eye. So it's good that you'll mainly be using your ears from here on out. We also get into a welcome and substantive conversation about women in comedy and some of the challenges they face that aren't always understood or even recognized by their male associates. It's long overdue on Writers' Bloc and I think you're going to enjoy hearing it. Sarah has also produced a small handful of documentary shorts, including Reverence , which was featured in IFC Theater's DOCNYC this year. And she's written several plays including Cold, which was produced at the Plays and Players Theater last summer in Philadelphia. I hope you'll be as pleased with this episode as I am. And, as usual, if not - your money back. (WINK!) Now get to listenin'! Or, if it suits you better, you can listen on iTunes. See if I care!
48 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 48: Matthew Diffee
Matthew Diffee is a very funny man and an excellent artist, which makes him perfectly suited for the world of cartooning. Matt has been contributing cartoons to The New Yorker since 1999 and he now has a fantastically entertaining book out called “Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People.” We start, as usual, at the beginning, discussing the mutual love of art and comedy that eventually "drew" Matt to cartooning. (See what I did there?) Matt talks about an early attempt at stand-up comedy that proved he could write jokes, but didn't seem equally capable of telling them, so he made the adjustment. We find out what influenced his decision to pursue cartooning and how he eventually landed a contract with the The New Yorker. It's worth noting that Matt is also the editor of volumes one and two of “The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw and Never Will See in The New Yorker” and is the recipient of the 2013 National Cartoonist Society’s Silver Reuben Award for single panel cartooning. But for now, he's simply "Writers' Bloc Podcast Guest #48".
52 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 47: Arthur Meyer
Arthur Meyer is a writer and performer on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and the proud co-author of the fake menu "FUDS" which he, Dan Klein and Kelly Hudson lovingly crafted into the book, "FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia". BUY NOW! Arthur and I somehow manage to shove aside the obvious sexual tension and get to know each other on a personal and professional level. We talk about early jobs, performing in clubs, and stalking major league umpires - all the usual stuff. But most importantly, Arthur gives us some quality first-hand knowledge of what it takes to get a book not only written, but actually published. It ain't easy, but if that's your goal hopefully this episode will help you accomplish that. In addition to his Tonight Show job, Arthur continues to write and perform with the sketch comedy groups Pangea 3000 and Two Fun Men, but his biggest credit will always be as a member of the 3-sibling Wilmette, Illinois living room-based sketch comedy show "Meyer Kids' Night", performed to his parents weekly. (Sorry. No link to that one.) Listen on iTunes.
49 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 46: Ted Alexandro
In an earlier phase of his life, Ted Alexandro was a music teacher, an experience he used to help co-create the web series "Teacher's Lounge" which recently won best Best New Comedy Web Series at the Cynopsis Awards. Ted and I talk almost exclusively about creating the web series and what it takes to bring a project like this together on both the creative side as well as the business side. Ted got his start writing and performing sketches with his writing and performing partner, Hollis James. One of their earlier short films, "Nobody's Dummy: The Horace and Huey Story", wasn't nominated for an Academy Award, but admit it, that would be pretty awesome if it had been. Time Out New York called Ted "One of the top comedians working today". He has appeared on David Letterman multiple times, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, The View, and he's taped two half-hour specials on Comedy Central. Ted is also serious about the business side of show business and was the driving force behind the New York Comedians Coalition which successfully negotiated a pay raise with the notoriously under-paying New York comedy clubs. Pencils ready, everyone. It's Ted Time!
42 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 45: Jessi Klein
Jessi Klein is the Executive Producer and Head Writer for "Inside Amy Schumer" which is all an intelligent BlocHead such as yourself should need to know to just go ahead and start listening. She was also a development executive at Comedy Central which means she knows the business as well as the creative side of comedy writing and she's got a few thoughts about that that are well worth hearing... so just go ahead and start listening. Jessi also wrote for SNL for a short time (we don't talk about that) and several other shows (which we also don't talk about) mainly because we're busy the whole time talking about her influences, her journey to comedy writing, and, of course, "Inside Amy Schumer" which is hilarious... so just go ahead and start listening. This episode was taped live at Fontana's Bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan as part of New York Podfest 2015. If you missed it this year, look for it in 2016. As Podfests go, it's definitely one of the best. And don't miss Season 3 of "Inside Amy Schumer" starting April 21st. Now will ya just go ahead and start listening already?! Jeesh!!
49 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 44: Eric Drysdale
Eric Drysdale is a man of many talents not the least of which is the writing of materials suitable for inclusion in the category of televised comedy/variety. On Thursday, December 18th Eric and his co-scribes ended their long run writing for The Colbert Report on Comedy Central and with any luck he'll will soon be employed at the network that for some odd reason has a weird eye as its logo. Eric's life in comedy began at an early age. He seemed destined for creating comedy in one form or another and he's fortunately been able to test those waters in many forms. From movies shot on film as a teenager to an actual paid comedy writing job for a Canadian TV show just one year out of high school to a European "walkabout" to The Daily Show and then to Colbert, Eric's journey has been long, exciting and fruitful. And now he's a guest on Writers' Bloc! Talk about moving up!! I'm happy to have him as a friend and thrilled to have him as a guest on the podcast. Hear it with your ears asap! Listen on iTunes.
52 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 43: Doug Abeles
Doug Abeles is one of the cockiest comedy writers in the business, or more accurately, whatever the opposite of "cockiest" is. Those of you in your late 20's or later might be inspired to hear that Doug is a successful, Emmy Award winning comedy writer who didn't even start trying to get into the business until his early 30's. And even then, he still had to go through the ups and downs common to the life of pretty much any comedy writer. But he made it through! He made it through the rain! Glory be to persistence!! Doug and I talk about getting your foot in the door by submitting jokes to your favorite shows, moving out to L.A. to work on a show that lets you go after just 5 weeks, and bouncing back from that letdown to find more work. Eventually, Doug landed at Saturday Night Live where he wrote for the Weekend Update segment for 10 years. He shares some great stories about that experience including an extremely unusual "meeting" with Norm Macdonald. Like every episode of Writers' Bloc, this one has it all! Listen on iTunes.
46 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 42: Hugh Moore
(undisclosed number of) years, so I was thrilled to find out he was not only working but also willing to talk to me about it. His latest gig was writing for a new sketch show called "Friends of the People" that will air on Tru TV starting in October. Hugh shares that experience with me as well as what it's been like for him to chase work and find work and then chase work again and find work again and then chase work yet again and find work yet again. He hustles. That's what he does. And, equally as important, he's talented and fun to be around. Hugh's resume varies wildly including stints at "Chocolate News", "Wildnout", "Vibe", "Best Damn Sports Show", and now "Friends of the People" as well as the cartoon "Black Dynamite" on Adult Swim. He's also a great comic and performer who often appears on the show's he writes for including one particularly funny bit he did on "Vibe" called "Shy Tony". We talk about all of this in between almost constant and highly entertaining reminiscing.
53 minutes | 6 years ago
Episode 41: Jason Ross
Jason Ross is a writer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, but here's the rub - he lives in L.A. even though the show tapes in New York City. What what?! We discuss how a writer living 3000 miles away from what you would imagine would be his office can, 1 - do his job, and 2 - get his job. Both answers are great stories. Before moving to L.A., Jason spent 11 years writing for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and he shares what made him finally pack it up and head west. We talk about taking meetings in L.A. (do the words "seduced and abandoned" mean anything to you?) and what it's like to pitch an idea without realizing the studio you're pitching it to is already working on a "very similar project". Lesson: they have very little interest in an idea they already have. Jason also offers up some very interesting insight on the writing process in general and we close it out with a laugh-filled discussion of his wide range of early comedy influences. Lend me your ears, BlocHeads! I swear I'll give them back.
57 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 40: Chris Regan
Chris Regan is a comedy writer who won five Emmys during his seven seasons on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He talks with us about leaving a lucrative (potential) career in advertising to chase a very potentially un-lucrative career in comedy writing. It turned out well. We talk about the early days at TDS and what it's like to leave a secure, high-profile job in entertainment because you're pretty sure you've got something else going on that it turns out you actually don't really have going on. Then we move on to how you bounce back from that. Short answer: hard work and talent. Chris currently writes for Fox’s long-running animated hit Family Guy, and previously worked on The Jeselnik Offensive, The Burn with Jeff Ross, and Lopez Tonight. He also contributed to the best-selling America: The Book, was the author of Mass Historia: 365 Days of Historical Facts and (Mostly) Fictions, and co-authored the humor book “Shatner Rules” with William Shatner. He recently had the great honor of delivering the commencement address at the Ithaca College Class of 2014 graduation ceremony.
55 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 39: Charlie Grandy
Charlie Grandy was a writer on The Daily Show without Jon Stewart. He was also a writer on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and was on staff with me when we won our first Emmy. Good times. We talk about those years, the difference between the “Jon” and “non-Jon” writing processes, and what it’s like to get a job where you feel like the least qualified writer in the room. After The Daily Show, Charlie moved over to Weekend Update at SNL and within a couple of years was running that department. It’s Writers’ Bloc’s first in-depth look at the process at SNL and it’s a good one. We also talk about his first sitcom writing job at a little sleeper show over on NBC called “The Office” and what it’s like to get your own show on the air only to have your own show taken off the air. Ouch! But don’t worry. Today, Charlie is writing for The Mindy Project and he still has all of his hair… which is nice.
43 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 38: Lesley Arfin
Lesley Arfin was one of the growing number of fantastic people I'd never met before talking to them on the podcast. Fortunately, we hit it off nicely and had a great conversation about her work as a writer on Girls, Awkward, Portlandia, and Brooklyn 9-9. As you might imagine, these are all very different shows which means very different styles of writing, and though Lesley herself admits it wasn't always the best fit, it was always a good experience, or at the very least a learning experience. We also talk about smoking crack by accident and how good writing staffs consist of people with different strengths although it never hurts to be strong at everything. Did I mention the "smoking crack by accident" thing? In addition to her work in television, Lesley wrote for Vice Magazine as well as numerous other publications, and her book, Dear Diary, though according to Lesley is full of "bad writing" is still very entertaining. Currently Lesley is not working on anything she wants to talk about because she might believe in jinxes. Too late!
53 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 37: Damien Fahey
Damien Fahey is a writer for Family Guy on FOX. We discuss that. He also voiced two episodes of Family Guy called, “Peter’s Daughter”, & “I Dream of Jesus”. We forgot to discuss that. In addition to writing for the TV box, Damien has also appeared on it, first as the long-running host of MTV’s flagship program, TRL, then as the guest host of The Late Late Show on CBS, then as the co-host of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here on NBC. We talk about all of those things and much, much more including how Damien's focus and work ethic allowed him to continue finding work even when work wasn't looking for him. And we also discuss the far less common flipside of that, which is what it's like when work seems to track you down. Never one to let a single job keep him happy, Damien also writes for Someecards.com and regularly performs improv comedy with his group "Triggerfinger" and sketch comedy with "Top Story Weekly" at iOWest. Once, in 2006, Damien went almost 6 minutes without checking his iPhone.
53 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 36: Rebecca Drysdale
Rebecca Drysdale grew up in Versailles, France and Vancouver and Montreal, Canada, which makes her sound more like a line of designer clothing then a comedy writer, but comedy writer she is! For the fantastically funny Key and Peele show on Comedy Central. Rebecca attended Sarah Lawrence College for a minute, where she met her writing partner, none other than Jordan Peele himself, and subsequently moved to Chicago to pursue sketch comedy and improvisation. Rebecca is an Alum of Boom Chicago in Amsterdam, and The Second City Chicago, and in 2005 she won the first ever "Breakout Performer Award" at the Aspen Comedy Festival. Fortunately, she was willing to talk about all this and more as she takes us through her unique and what seems like exhausting path to her current state of being which includes the writing gig at Key and Peele as well as on screen appearances in the film Enough Said, Kroll Show, Key and Peele, and the upcoming season of Orange Is the New Black (a great show!) As if that wasn't enough, Rebecca also owns and runs the Clubhouse, an independent improv theatre in Hollywood. So go there! (listen on iTunes)
55 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 35: Mike Royce
In this episode we talk to Mike Royce (executive producer of "Enlisted", Fridays at 9 on Fox) about the intricacies of transitioning from comedian to staff writer to executive producer and showrunner, which is not as easy as it sounds, and it doesn't even sound easy. We also discuss different shooting styles and writing styles and the benefits of getting a scene shot the way you wrote it and then allowing the actors to improvise in the event they can think of something far better than you struggled for hours to think of, which, unfortunately, they often do. Mike grew up in Syracuse, New York, and graduated from film school at Ithaca College. From there he moved to New York City to try his hand (and mouth) at stand up comedy eventually appearing on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien". In 1999, Mike joined the writing staff of “Everybody Loves Raymond” winning Emmy Awards in 2003 and 2005 for "Best Comedy". Mike was the executive producer and showrunner of HBO's “Lucky Louie” starring Louis CK, and is currently the executive producer of “Enlisted". So watch it! (It's really good.) Enjoy!
54 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 34: Lisa Ann Walter
Lisa Ann Walter is, and always has been, a very busy woman. Known for stand-out roles in features such as The Parent Trap, Bruce Almighty, War of the Worlds, Killers and Shall We Dance, Lisa also co-created, produced and starred in several half-hour sitcoms including Life’s Work for ABC, and she's the creator and judge of Dance Your Ass Off for the Oxygen network. I get tired just thinking about all of it! But wait! There's more! Lisa is also the co-creator, writer/producer and director of the hit action web-series, Gonzo Girlz as well as The Naughty Show – All-Girl Comedy Review, as well as hosting The Fabulous Lisa Ann Walter Show on KFI Radio. Still not enough? Walter’s book of comedic essays, The Best Thing About My Ass Is That It’s Behind Me was #12 on the NY Times Comedy Bestseller List. But most importantly, Lisa is a great friend and a wealth of advice and valuable information for people who strive to be as busy as she is. WARNING: this episode contains dangerous levels of genuine fun.
50 minutes | 7 years ago
Episode 33: Chuck Tatham
To say Chuck Tatham's resume speaks for itself... is ridiculous, mainly because resume's don't have the power of speech. They're inanimate objects. The very concept is absurd. As resume's go, however, Chuck's is very impressive to look at: 22 years in the business as a writer and producer at 15 different shows including "Arrested Development" and most recently "How I Met Your Mother" - season finale on March 31st! And all while suffering from a debilitating banana allergy, or at least as debilitating as a banana allergy can be. For our purposes, however, the important thing is that Chuck has learned from many of the biggest names in sitcom creation, production and writing and he willingly shares much of that knowledge for our benefit. Plus we finally get to hear a few stories about "Arrested Development"! It's the total package, so what are you waiting for? Rip it open!
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