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A fascinating, laugh-out-loud funny look at the mysterious art of comedy, as told by legendary humorists from Amy Poehler to Mel Brooks What makes people laugh? How do you know if a joke will “click” with the audience? And how do you get a job as a comedy writer, anyway? In Poking a Dead Frog, top humor writers like Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights), Michael Sc A fascinating, laugh-out-loud funny look at the mysterious art of comedy, as told by legendary humorists from Amy Poehler to Mel Brooks What makes people laugh? How do you know if a joke will “click” with the audience? And how do you get a job as a comedy writer, anyway? In Poking a Dead Frog, top humor writers like Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights), Michael Schur (The Office, Parks and Recreation), and Glen Charles (Cheers, Taxi)—many of whom have never before been interviewed at this length, or at all—offer insight into their influences and creative processes, their self-doubt and breakthroughs, and how they managed to succeed in the mysterious, unpredictable business of comedy. Packed with behind-the-scenes stories, from a typical day in the writers’ room at the Onion to why a sketch does or doesn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live, Poking a Dead Frog is a must-read for comedy buffs, writers, and pop culture junkies.


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A fascinating, laugh-out-loud funny look at the mysterious art of comedy, as told by legendary humorists from Amy Poehler to Mel Brooks What makes people laugh? How do you know if a joke will “click” with the audience? And how do you get a job as a comedy writer, anyway? In Poking a Dead Frog, top humor writers like Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights), Michael Sc A fascinating, laugh-out-loud funny look at the mysterious art of comedy, as told by legendary humorists from Amy Poehler to Mel Brooks What makes people laugh? How do you know if a joke will “click” with the audience? And how do you get a job as a comedy writer, anyway? In Poking a Dead Frog, top humor writers like Adam McKay (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights), Michael Schur (The Office, Parks and Recreation), and Glen Charles (Cheers, Taxi)—many of whom have never before been interviewed at this length, or at all—offer insight into their influences and creative processes, their self-doubt and breakthroughs, and how they managed to succeed in the mysterious, unpredictable business of comedy. Packed with behind-the-scenes stories, from a typical day in the writers’ room at the Onion to why a sketch does or doesn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live, Poking a Dead Frog is a must-read for comedy buffs, writers, and pop culture junkies.

30 review for Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Seymour Glass

    Arrrgh, I have a lot of frustration about this one and I'm conflicted about how to rate/review it. On the one hand, it has some extremely valuable insights from some very accomplished writers; the actual verbatim packet of sketches that got someone hired on a late night show, Paul Feig's Bible from 'Freaks and Geeks', and real industry knowledge and tips. Also opens up the minds of a lot of cool people that not even extreme comedy nerds would know about - Peg Lynch, for example. BUT. Like 'And He Arrrgh, I have a lot of frustration about this one and I'm conflicted about how to rate/review it. On the one hand, it has some extremely valuable insights from some very accomplished writers; the actual verbatim packet of sketches that got someone hired on a late night show, Paul Feig's Bible from 'Freaks and Geeks', and real industry knowledge and tips. Also opens up the minds of a lot of cool people that not even extreme comedy nerds would know about - Peg Lynch, for example. BUT. Like 'And Here's the Kicker', the little instances of misogyny really pissed me off. James Downey who was head writer at SNL for ages makes a 'joke' about women having had their senses of humour removed at birth in THE FIRST CHAPTER. That massively turned me off. Then when some dude (I don't know who, they all blend into one after a while) talked about how Andy Kaufman made a girl strip for him in his office, again 'as a joke', he said he'd probably think it was funny if it had happened to someone else because it was funny in theory. Nah, bro. It probably didn't help that I read this book in the week that the Harvey Weinstein shitstorm happened and the #metoo stuff was going around social media so I was inundated with stories of male repugnance all round. Also, as always, NOT ENUFF LAYDEEZ. Amy Poehler is cited as an interviewee on both the front and back covers but her contribution amounts to one page of a 467 page book. Peg Lynch and Carol Kolb were great interview subjects and I liked the little bits from Megan Amram as well but...it's not enough. There are TONNES of amazing female writers and performers out there - Samantha Irby, Jessica Williams, Megan Ganz, Samantha Bee, and Kate McKinnon just to name some of the American ones. He could even scrape the barrel with the over-exposed Lena Dunham who, rightfully-derided as she is, has created some amazing comedy over the last few years. Urgh, I don't know, man. I learned a lot from this book but it also made me pretty angry. It's whatever. Read it if you really want to get into comedy writing and need some tips. Avoid it if you just can't take any more Dude Dumbness.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sunil

    The wonderful thing about birthday gifts is you end up reading books you never would have picked up on your own, so I am extremely grateful my friend, who knew that I loved both comedy and writing, guessed that I might enjoy a book of interviews with and advice from comedy writers. Though the title Poking a Dead Frog refers to a quote implying that attempting to dissect humor is an unwise endeavor, I found this book fascinating and inspiring. Mike Sacks presents the words of dozens of comedy writ The wonderful thing about birthday gifts is you end up reading books you never would have picked up on your own, so I am extremely grateful my friend, who knew that I loved both comedy and writing, guessed that I might enjoy a book of interviews with and advice from comedy writers. Though the title Poking a Dead Frog refers to a quote implying that attempting to dissect humor is an unwise endeavor, I found this book fascinating and inspiring. Mike Sacks presents the words of dozens of comedy writers here, many of whom I had never heard of, even though I knew their work (and some whose work I didn't know either). Some offer Pure, Hard-Core Advice, which read as short personal essays focused on one or two bits of advice for aspiring comedy writers. Few of these are revolutionary (write a lot, network well, write what you know, etc), but they're nice reads because of how they're tied to the writer's personal experience. And it's a testament to the writers that even when the same advice gets brought up multiple times throughout the book, it serves to reinforce in new ways rather than becoming annoyingly repetitive. A more interesting segment is Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge, which, as the name implies, takes a deeper dive into something like writing for award shows or finding an agent. They offer really cool behind-the-scenes tidbits like excerpts from the Freaks and Geeks series bible or an actual submission packet for Late Night with Conan O'Brien (with commentary). And there are the interviews. My God, I did not realize how much interviewing was a real skill until I encountered a man with real skills at interviews. Mike Sacks does extensive research on his subjects and asks them questions they've never been asked. He gets the most incredible stories and anecdotes out of them. As I said, I'd never heard of some of these people or their work but I loved reading interviews with them and now I want to seek out their work. Hell, I wish the whole book had just been extensive interviews with every single person (some of the Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge pieces are shorter, more focused interviews). Poking a Dead Frog is full of inside comedy knowledge, and at times I was surprised to learn about comedy classics or comedy history that was presented as obvious absolute fact that everyone in the comedy world was familiar with (like the fact that people love Cabin Boy and Chris Elliott?). But I enjoyed that peek into the perspective, especially hearing from so many comedy writers I admired like Mike Schur and Mel Brooks and Amy Poehler and Kay Cannon. If you enjoy consuming or writing comedy, this book is a must-read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Katzman

    Eh. A lot of gossip and very little writerly advice. I became bored halfway through.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    Whilst comedy is something that we all enjoy (and if you don't, I'm afraid we'll never be Bosom Buddies - Golden Girls maybe - remember how missionary Dorothy was??) this book is really all about the background of the industry and what it takes to break into it. Long story short - it sucks. You have to beg, grovel, sell your soul and your body (here's lookin at you Chris Farley - one word: Chippendales). It warrants some merit for the insider stories, but basically it comes down to write, write, Whilst comedy is something that we all enjoy (and if you don't, I'm afraid we'll never be Bosom Buddies - Golden Girls maybe - remember how missionary Dorothy was??) this book is really all about the background of the industry and what it takes to break into it. Long story short - it sucks. You have to beg, grovel, sell your soul and your body (here's lookin at you Chris Farley - one word: Chippendales). It warrants some merit for the insider stories, but basically it comes down to write, write, write then write some more, then bust your arse with anything from stand-up to improv to dancing on tabletops (well honestly, you're welcome to do that regardless if you want to go into comedy - I wholeheartedly encourage it!). Overall, it's a bit of a sad and boring read - bc really the vast majority of comediennes don't make it. Pretty much my life story right there... until you see my re-make of that Chippendales sketch...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    Loved this book. 'Make yourself laugh' and 'you have to love it' are repeated over and over by these writers. Inspiring and a must for comedy nerds. Loved this book. 'Make yourself laugh' and 'you have to love it' are repeated over and over by these writers. Inspiring and a must for comedy nerds.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dillon Harris

    For anybody who’s interested in comedy writing, or even just writing as a whole, Poking a Dead Frog is an absolute must. Full of sage advice and some mind blowing observations, I truly feel like I know more about the craft after reading this, and I wouldn’t really say that about most other books I have read about writing. It’s for anyone who’s interested in comedy. You may assume it’s just for writing on tv, nope. Interviews on writing books, film, stand-up and even radio are included. It’s full For anybody who’s interested in comedy writing, or even just writing as a whole, Poking a Dead Frog is an absolute must. Full of sage advice and some mind blowing observations, I truly feel like I know more about the craft after reading this, and I wouldn’t really say that about most other books I have read about writing. It’s for anyone who’s interested in comedy. You may assume it’s just for writing on tv, nope. Interviews on writing books, film, stand-up and even radio are included. It’s full of insights from people who love what they do and never get pretentious about it. It’s constantly honest and pure. A personal favourite I can easily see myself coming back to often.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Shaffer

    Want to write humor? Read this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike Kowis

    An excellent book for aspiring comedy writers as well as fans of classic comedy TV and movies! This book has great, in depth interviews with some of the greatest comedy writers of all times, such as Mel Brooks. It also contains interviews with writers that, quite frankly, I've never heard of, but their shows/movies are legendary, including writers for Monty Python, SNL, Cheers, Seinfeld, David Letterman, etc. It also includes valuable career advice from today's popular stand-up comedians/comedy An excellent book for aspiring comedy writers as well as fans of classic comedy TV and movies! This book has great, in depth interviews with some of the greatest comedy writers of all times, such as Mel Brooks. It also contains interviews with writers that, quite frankly, I've never heard of, but their shows/movies are legendary, including writers for Monty Python, SNL, Cheers, Seinfeld, David Letterman, etc. It also includes valuable career advice from today's popular stand-up comedians/comedy writers, such as Anthony Jeselnik and Amy Poehler. Bottom line: If you are an aspiring comedy writer or just a big fan of comedy TV/movies, this book is a must have!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Even if you aren't an aspiring comedy writer, you just might enjoy Poking a Dead Frog. There's a lot of material here, and you may not click with every interview, but at over 400 pages, there's plenty here for any comedy fan. The interviews are in three different formats, a traditional question and answer, Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge, and pure hard-core advice. The interviews are longer and give the subject opportunity to reminisce and expound. The other two formats are short, only a page or Even if you aren't an aspiring comedy writer, you just might enjoy Poking a Dead Frog. There's a lot of material here, and you may not click with every interview, but at over 400 pages, there's plenty here for any comedy fan. The interviews are in three different formats, a traditional question and answer, Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge, and pure hard-core advice. The interviews are longer and give the subject opportunity to reminisce and expound. The other two formats are short, only a page or two, about the comedy business -- how to get a literary agent (don't bother), writing jokes for the Oscars show, and so on. Much of the advice is no surprise -- keep at it and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I have no career aspirations, so I was able to enjoy this book for the laughs. In fact, if you don't read anything else in the book, read the interview with Peg Lynch. I had not heard of Peg -- she is over 90 years old and got her start doing interviews on the radio before World War II. She transitioned to comedy almost by chance, and then to TV without much difficulty. That's all quite impressive, but what had me in stitches was her extravagant name-dropping. Her first interview was with "the baseball player who retired before his time? Gary Cooper played him in the movie." Lou Gehrig?! She goes on to offhandedly mention Knute Rockne, James Thurber, John Cheever, and on and on. It's hysterical. Amy Poehler, Glen Charles, Mel Brooks, Roz Chast, and a couple dozen more do interviews as well, and they're all entertaining. Bob Elliott's interview is also great.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Frederic Kerr

    The title of this book refers to the old quotation about how analyzing humour is like dissecting a frog, in that the frog dies and nobody laughs. Unfortunately, the book lives up to that premise, in that is neither funny nor very insightful about comedy. The chapters include interviews with various writers and performers, most of which are not that interesting on their own. The chapters labelled "pure, hardcore advice are mislabelled. The ones categorized as "ultra specific comedic knowledge" ar The title of this book refers to the old quotation about how analyzing humour is like dissecting a frog, in that the frog dies and nobody laughs. Unfortunately, the book lives up to that premise, in that is neither funny nor very insightful about comedy. The chapters include interviews with various writers and performers, most of which are not that interesting on their own. The chapters labelled "pure, hardcore advice are mislabelled. The ones categorized as "ultra specific comedic knowledge" are no more insightful and the interviews with people associated with various shows and websites are mostly pretty dull. The grim insight of this book is that even people who have done great work in comedy, dazzling us with their material, sometimes come across as no more interesting when discussing their craft than, say, pro athletes, who have great skill but are mostly not compelling interviews.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    I read Mike Sacks previous book, Now Here's The Kicker, on an airplane and it definitely entertained me. Reading about these figures in comedy, both in front and behind the camera, was an amazing insight into the industry and how some of my favorite shows are made. So of course I picked this up. To me it had just as great a selection of interviewees as the prior book, mixing stand-up with long time writers (of Articles, Websites, Radio, Television, Movies) both new and old. It's a thick book to rea I read Mike Sacks previous book, Now Here's The Kicker, on an airplane and it definitely entertained me. Reading about these figures in comedy, both in front and behind the camera, was an amazing insight into the industry and how some of my favorite shows are made. So of course I picked this up. To me it had just as great a selection of interviewees as the prior book, mixing stand-up with long time writers (of Articles, Websites, Radio, Television, Movies) both new and old. It's a thick book to read front-to-back like I did, but worth the read no matter how you tackle it if you're interested in the topic of Comedy. The advice given throughout the interviews can vary, but you will notice when it starte to overlap, so if so many influential people think the same thing it must be true!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve Garriott

    A great collection of modern and past comedy writers talking about what they do and how they do it. The first 100 or so pages are worth the read, but after that, it's pretty repetitive. The tips for writing comedy are pretty much the same rules you should apply to anything you want to get good at. I won't spoil them, but you probably already know. I was disappointed that there weren't more stories associated with these people, but then that probably wasn't the point. The interviews with veterans A great collection of modern and past comedy writers talking about what they do and how they do it. The first 100 or so pages are worth the read, but after that, it's pretty repetitive. The tips for writing comedy are pretty much the same rules you should apply to anything you want to get good at. I won't spoil them, but you probably already know. I was disappointed that there weren't more stories associated with these people, but then that probably wasn't the point. The interviews with veterans Bob Elliott (of Bob & Ray) and Mel Brooks should be on your list of interviews to read. The take-away: Writing is hard, no matter what kind you're doing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Wow! If you are a writer or a fan of comedy (or both), you won't be able to put this down. Sacks interviews comedy legends like Mel Brooks or Cheers co-creator Glen Charles, or shares "Pure, Hard-Core Advice" from talents like Amy Poehler, or "Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge: Writing for Monty Python" by Terry Jones. Paul Feig shares the "character bible" for Freaks and Geeks. SNL's Bill Hader suggests 200 movies every comedy writer should see. The scope of the project is incredible and he execu Wow! If you are a writer or a fan of comedy (or both), you won't be able to put this down. Sacks interviews comedy legends like Mel Brooks or Cheers co-creator Glen Charles, or shares "Pure, Hard-Core Advice" from talents like Amy Poehler, or "Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge: Writing for Monty Python" by Terry Jones. Paul Feig shares the "character bible" for Freaks and Geeks. SNL's Bill Hader suggests 200 movies every comedy writer should see. The scope of the project is incredible and he executes it flawlessly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John G.

    Absolutely the best book I've ever read on comedy writing and one of the best about comedy and humor in general. I've read his other book on comedy writing and was kinda meh, not so with this one. This is a warm, loving, kind hearted book with a wealth of knowledge about comedy history and each individual's take on comedy and their par there. I found this book very inspirational and enlightening. It has just a smattering of stand-up comics, which is my background, and it just has totally expande Absolutely the best book I've ever read on comedy writing and one of the best about comedy and humor in general. I've read his other book on comedy writing and was kinda meh, not so with this one. This is a warm, loving, kind hearted book with a wealth of knowledge about comedy history and each individual's take on comedy and their par there. I found this book very inspirational and enlightening. It has just a smattering of stand-up comics, which is my background, and it just has totally expanded my conception and understanding of the comedy and humor worlds. Loved this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    JZ

    So many good stories and tips in this compendium of interviews with everyone from Mel Brooks to the youngest writer on The Onion. I like the approach of each interview dealing with different aspects of comedy writing. It's not a technical book, but it certainly takes aim at how to do things from a comedy pov. Several good quotes, all boiling down to: Write what makes you laugh Write more of that. Share it around. Write more stuff that makes you laugh, and give it away for free until someone wants to So many good stories and tips in this compendium of interviews with everyone from Mel Brooks to the youngest writer on The Onion. I like the approach of each interview dealing with different aspects of comedy writing. It's not a technical book, but it certainly takes aim at how to do things from a comedy pov. Several good quotes, all boiling down to: Write what makes you laugh Write more of that. Share it around. Write more stuff that makes you laugh, and give it away for free until someone wants to pay you. Now you know. lol

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    This book is worth it just for the 20-page interview with Jim Downey. Everything else is gravy. Pretty good goddamn gravy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Narek Margaryan

    Easily among the most essential books for comedy writers, no bullshit

  18. 5 out of 5

    Corbett Buchly

    Although this book is really just a series of anecdotes about writers' experiences in the business, I did enjoy it. I found the final interview with Mel Brooks brilliant fun. Although this book is really just a series of anecdotes about writers' experiences in the business, I did enjoy it. I found the final interview with Mel Brooks brilliant fun.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pixie

    These are interesting interviews about comedy writing in various mediums. Some were living history, and the reader feels grateful that the author did the interviews before everyone from those eras died out. Before the longer interviews the author gives overviews of the writers' careers, and those stories are also interesting. Many interviews were current at time of publication, 2014. The reader will be relieved to know that many of the writers and their shows are still familiar; some are still o These are interesting interviews about comedy writing in various mediums. Some were living history, and the reader feels grateful that the author did the interviews before everyone from those eras died out. Before the longer interviews the author gives overviews of the writers' careers, and those stories are also interesting. Many interviews were current at time of publication, 2014. The reader will be relieved to know that many of the writers and their shows are still familiar; some are still on the air. So, the book does not feel "dated" to read. These are interviews and advice about work, not necessarily a book trying to be funny. But the last sentence on the last page is very funny (if you have watched the same shows I have over the years). Don't miss it. I just want to add a note about something that triggered me in one of the interviews (I'm looking at you, Dan Handler). A writer had complained to him about the cost of getting her work self-published. He recalled stealing toner cartridges from his employer when he worked for a dying man, and basically said if you can't find a way to steal paper or whatever from your day job you don't deserve to be a writer. I wonder if he thinks that way now that he is successful and possibly has an assistant. It reminded me of Just Kids where Patti Smith reminisced about stealing art supplies. Would that mean if you can't afford art supplies and won't steal that you don't deserve to be an artist? Screw that. There is no excuse. Stealing is not noble or romantic. It really annoys me that someone would think a thief is more deserving than an honest person. Btw, most of the interviewees are very clear about how much luck is involved in their business, that they know many deserving people who don't get a break. They all seem very grateful for their breaks and all the people who helped them along the way. Which is to say, this is not just a book of disparate interviews. It all coheres since they are all talking about the same business and more or less know all the same people, even if they don't all work in the same medium.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kirsti

    YOU MUST READ the interview with Peg Lynch. She was so funny and accomplished and groundbreaking that I thought Mike Sacks made her up. But no, The New York Times tells me that she was a real person. Lynch wrote and starred in Ethel and Albert, a long-running radio drama that transitioned to television. Lynch basically invented the sitcom. ("In one episode, Ethel challenges Albert's assertion that he could go the entire day by just using his peripheral vision.") Some useful advice: "Find a way to YOU MUST READ the interview with Peg Lynch. She was so funny and accomplished and groundbreaking that I thought Mike Sacks made her up. But no, The New York Times tells me that she was a real person. Lynch wrote and starred in Ethel and Albert, a long-running radio drama that transitioned to television. Lynch basically invented the sitcom. ("In one episode, Ethel challenges Albert's assertion that he could go the entire day by just using his peripheral vision.") Some useful advice: "Find a way to remove that anxiety and pressure. Just do your best, the same way that you would try to do your best with anything, like making spaghetti. Basically, I think life is way more knuckle-headed than people make it out to be. It's making spaghetti, and then it's sitting with someone and having spaghetti. That's basically all life is." --Dave Hill "A problem never comes without a gift in its hand." --Tom Scharpling Sacks includes interviews with some people I don't consider humorists, such as the artist Daniel Clowes. But all the interviews are well-researched and illuminating.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The follow-on to Sacks “And Here’s the Kicker,” this book has a more in-depth examination of comedy. There are 44 interviews and Sacks is as well-prepared to talk about his subjects’ work as in his first book. But this time he digs in Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge; Pure, Hard-Core Advice; how to make submissions to publications; how to write sit-coms; how to engage and use an agent. Being five years later than his first set of interviews on comedy writing, there’s a lot more on contemporary sho The follow-on to Sacks “And Here’s the Kicker,” this book has a more in-depth examination of comedy. There are 44 interviews and Sacks is as well-prepared to talk about his subjects’ work as in his first book. But this time he digs in Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge; Pure, Hard-Core Advice; how to make submissions to publications; how to write sit-coms; how to engage and use an agent. Being five years later than his first set of interviews on comedy writing, there’s a lot more on contemporary shows. A couple old-timers are in here as well: Bob Elliott on writing for radio (Bob & Ray) and Mel Brooks. It’s a wonderful read. But if you’re in the TL;DR category, try Mike Sacks essay, “18 Things You Learn After Interviewing 80 or So Comedy Writers,” https://www.mikesacks.com/18-things-y...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave Allen

    I admit that I sort of skipped around and skimmed parts of this one. The "ultraspecific comedy knowledge" and "hardcore comedy advice" were often super deep dives, not really for a general audience, but there were a few that really stood out, especially the short, smart and personal bit from Megan Amram. There were also quite a few writers featured whose work I was not familiar with. My favorite parts were the Mel Brooks interview, which closes the book (the man is a treasure, one of our country I admit that I sort of skipped around and skimmed parts of this one. The "ultraspecific comedy knowledge" and "hardcore comedy advice" were often super deep dives, not really for a general audience, but there were a few that really stood out, especially the short, smart and personal bit from Megan Amram. There were also quite a few writers featured whose work I was not familiar with. My favorite parts were the Mel Brooks interview, which closes the book (the man is a treasure, one of our country's greatest, smartest and funniest people); Michael Schur talking about David Foster Wallace and the interviews with Jim Downey (emerging from retirement/semi-obscurity) and George Saunders (a different, literary slant on comedy, and someone whom I'd read talking about practically anything).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    There are some excellent gems in here, both from the most obvious comic legends (Mel Brooks, Adam McKay) and less well known geniuses like Peg Lynch. Perhaps my favorite take - because it felt the least typical - was the conversation with George Saunders. There are some sour notes and some flat notes, but they don't last for very long. As a few of these minds noted, reading about comedy won't get you any closer to doing comedy if you're not also doing it. By far the most common advice given: jus There are some excellent gems in here, both from the most obvious comic legends (Mel Brooks, Adam McKay) and less well known geniuses like Peg Lynch. Perhaps my favorite take - because it felt the least typical - was the conversation with George Saunders. There are some sour notes and some flat notes, but they don't last for very long. As a few of these minds noted, reading about comedy won't get you any closer to doing comedy if you're not also doing it. By far the most common advice given: just do it, do a lot of it, and be ready to do it for free for a long time. That wasn't revelatory, but it was fascinating to see how truly diverse the backgrounds and attitudes of these people are. Oh and it seems folks from The Onion are the saddest by far.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’m not sur I can sit down and say that if you need to read this if you’re an aspiring comedian, but getting an insight behind a writer of your favourite sitcom, or even one of the most successful sitcoms ever, is a wonderful thing to read about. Sitcoms have been my favourite thing to watch since I was about 16, and the calibre these days is simply unbelievable, but with this book you get to hear from the people who helped pioneer this genre to the people who hold th Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’m not sur I can sit down and say that if you need to read this if you’re an aspiring comedian, but getting an insight behind a writer of your favourite sitcom, or even one of the most successful sitcoms ever, is a wonderful thing to read about. Sitcoms have been my favourite thing to watch since I was about 16, and the calibre these days is simply unbelievable, but with this book you get to hear from the people who helped pioneer this genre to the people who hold the high standards it has today. Really interesting read. 4 stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Teddy Desmarais

    I haven't quite finished this book yet, but I'm well over halfway through. What a delightful collection of honest advice for not only aspiring comedy writers but people generally interested in the particulars of the comedy industry and improving their comedic skill and charm. Will be following up with my favorite quotes. I especially liked the bit about the girl who submitted a script about a kid and a dad watching tv, that was very smartly funny. Will be lending this to friends. I haven't quite finished this book yet, but I'm well over halfway through. What a delightful collection of honest advice for not only aspiring comedy writers but people generally interested in the particulars of the comedy industry and improving their comedic skill and charm. Will be following up with my favorite quotes. I especially liked the bit about the girl who submitted a script about a kid and a dad watching tv, that was very smartly funny. Will be lending this to friends.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Falduto

    This book was an amusing collection of interviews with great comic writers. It is interesting how quickly some of it aged, as this book is from 2014. Reverence to Bill Cosby. Also it was too heavy on dude writers. Some women interviewed, but not enough. Definitely not an advice book for aspiring comic writers in spite of its intent; each writer seems to contradict the next.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Entertaining for much of the book, but I'm not sure that this is worth reading unless you're thinking about getting into comedy writing/performing. I enjoyed the little nuggets of information that Sacks was able to extract, but I'm not sure how skillful he is as an interviewer and the quality of his subjects was pretty hit or miss. Entertaining for much of the book, but I'm not sure that this is worth reading unless you're thinking about getting into comedy writing/performing. I enjoyed the little nuggets of information that Sacks was able to extract, but I'm not sure how skillful he is as an interviewer and the quality of his subjects was pretty hit or miss.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eve Schaub

    Anyone who is curious about comedy will love this fascinating excursion into the minds of comedic writers of all stripes. Pretty much every piece of advice in here is contradicted at some point by someone else in the book, but in a way that's the point. One of the biggest take-aways? Only be a comedic writer if you absolutely, positively can not help it. But then? Never, ever give up. Anyone who is curious about comedy will love this fascinating excursion into the minds of comedic writers of all stripes. Pretty much every piece of advice in here is contradicted at some point by someone else in the book, but in a way that's the point. One of the biggest take-aways? Only be a comedic writer if you absolutely, positively can not help it. But then? Never, ever give up.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ty

    This is an excellent read for comedic writers but also anyone that even touches writing. Mike Sacks clearly knows his subjects very well, his interviews ask a lot of abstract questions I wasn't really expecting. Comedy nerds will love this book. This is an excellent read for comedic writers but also anyone that even touches writing. Mike Sacks clearly knows his subjects very well, his interviews ask a lot of abstract questions I wasn't really expecting. Comedy nerds will love this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rds

    An unexpectedly enjoyable read if you'd like to spend some time trying to understand how writers approach their craft. The book has interviews and essays from many different eras of comedy writing. You can dip in and out of the collection. An unexpectedly enjoyable read if you'd like to spend some time trying to understand how writers approach their craft. The book has interviews and essays from many different eras of comedy writing. You can dip in and out of the collection.

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