I reached out to Peter Mehlman with zero expectation of a response. I mean, he's Peter Mehlman. He wrote some of our most beloved episodes of Seinfeld including "The Smelly Car" and "The Sponge"...not to mention he single-handedly coined some of the most famous expressions from the show we still use today like "yada, yada, yada" and "double dip". Now, he's written a new book called It Won't Always Be This Great that every Seinfeld-lover would appreciateHis list of accomplishments goes on for miles, but I have to stop myself somewhere.

When Peter responded to my email, my first reaction was utter shock. A moment later, sheer joy. Quickly followed up by absolute panic. What can I ask him that he hasn't been asked before? Should I still include questions he gets all the time in case my readers don't know the answers? Will he think I'm prying, or will my questions not be introspective enough? I found myself overthinking the situation, a habit Peter is markedly known for. Maybe he would understand. And he did. His answers are thoughtful and honest, and despite having been in the industry for many years, he brings a fresh perspective I haven't yet gotten from anyone else. 

Peter didn't send me a selfie, but he was kind enough to share this old photo of him, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David having a laugh on set in 1998. It's a little blurry, but iconic nonetheless.

Peter, I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to do this. Your email came through on my birthday and made my entire week. Happy birthday! Glad the timing worked out so flawlessly.

I’ve done more Peter Mehlman research over the past 24 hours than any writer I’ve worked with. There’s just so much to know! Not necessarily about your career or your many accomplishments, but about your perspective on things. I appreciate hearing your thoughts. Fire away. These kinds of questions benefit me too…just focusing on where my ever-changing thoughts are at the moment.

You said something in a recent interview that struck a chord with me which was “I don’t think of it as being funny, I just think of it as the way that I think”. You aren’t out to make people laugh. You’re simply making an observation around a topic that you find interesting yourself, and it just happens to be funny. It’s great to make people laugh and there are times that’s the goal, but being funny can just be an off-shoot of how you see the world. A lot of times, people laugh in response to something I say or write and I’m genuinely surprised. That’s good in a lot of ways and scary in others. It’s reassuring to actually be aware of what’s funny but surprises are good too. It makes me re-think what made them laugh and if I’m lucky, it starts to make sense.

Do you feel more understood through your writing than you do through in-person interactions?Definitely. Having the time to construct your thoughts into clear English leaves much less room for misunderstandings arising from all the variables of speech: voice tone, facial expression, ungrammatical utterances, slang-y word usage. All of those things affect others in unpredictable ways. In writing, there’s much more control over the message.

I agree. I fear I'm misinterpreted in person since I'm so hyper-aware of these variables. The over-analyzing leads to me avoiding body movement and vocal inflection at all costs. Basically, I come across as Spock. What were you like as a kid? Pretty much innocent and eager to please. I did like making jokes and getting people to laugh but I’m a much more rebellious as an adult than I was as teenager. I don’t think I was very focused as a kid… kind of dreamy. Very into sports, heavy New York accent (which I’ve lost most of)… that’s all I can think of. Anything people tell me about myself as a kid is kind of surprising. I do notice, especially through Facebook, people are much more consumed with their childhoods than I am. They also seem to remember me better than I remember me.

How did you begin your career? I wangled my way into a job at the Washington Post. After hearing they weren’t hiring white males, I wrote a job letter as a woman. It was a really funny letter and they offered me a copy aide job. Then when I fessed up to being a guy, they liked me even more. I was a bad copy aide… hanging up on people calling in stories from Asia, etc. After a while they just let me write.

You moved to Los Angeles with no expectation to become a screenwriter, and then you met Larry David. A short time later, he and Jerry Seinfeld welcomed you to their writing staff for Seinfeld. What comes to mind when you look back on the experience? The first couple of years on staff were a whirlwind. The show took off like a rocket and, having never written scripts or comedy before, I was nervous and holding on for dear life. Writers were being fired left and right so I remember it being an exciting yet insecure time. After I’d written a few episodes that were fairly notorious, I got secure in my job. From then on, it was a lot of fun and exciting – even though I was still wrestling with the whole concept of creativity. All in all, it was a like a beautiful dream…almost like being back in college where you’re hanging out on a campus with funny people.

You’re known for your observational humor. Does it overwhelm you being so in-tune with your own thoughts? It overwhelmed me for a while at Seinfeld, but now I’m pretty much at peace with it. I don’t have to force it and I’m just relaxed enough to live life while not consciously observing it.

How did working with Larry David change your perspective? Larry is responsible for me looking inward and being more aware of my own thoughts. That was huge for me, although every job I’ve ever had has impacted my perspective. I worked for the sportscaster Howard Cosell and he was influential in lots of other ways. Every job you have should alter the way you look at the world.

What do you think of his Bernie Sanders impression? It’s funny and pretty much spot on. What’s especially good about it is that’s not an exact impression, it’s a satirical impression. That gives it a less obvious point of view, which is more interesting than just straight imitation.

Just as "Larry David" in 'Curb' was a satirical version of himself. He's pretty good at that. Prettyyyy, prettyyyyy, pretty good. The writing process for Seinfeld was very different than most other sitcoms in that there was no formal writers’ room. How did that affect your work? It helped my work. As a person with a journalism back ground,  I’m not an overly collaborative person. Sitting in a group of people all trying to out-funny each other would have been a disaster for me. So Seinfeld, where you were left to your own devices, was a perfect fit.

Which leads me to my next question. In what ways do you feel the writing landscape has changed since Seinfeld? Comedy-wise, it’s not too encouraging. It kind of scares me how rarely anything in TV or movies makes me laugh. I worry it’s me: I’m out of touch. I don’t get it. Humor writing seems a little cheap… button-pushing references and shock value rule the day in a time when no one is shocked by anything. The drama writing, especially on TV, has become fantastic. Mad Men was my favorite show ever, but there are so many great dramas out there now.

Your latest fictional novel, It Won’t Always Be This Great, centers around a good-natured family man who has a momentary lapse in judgment, leading him into a spiral of unfortunate events. How did you come up with the concept? It just kind of happened on its own. It deals with certain preoccupations of mine: How easily a respectable life can unravel; how religion is less about personal feelings and more about foisting it on others; how suburbia is so intense and lacking in privacy… there are just a bunch of themes that started me off. I was 30 pages in before I realized I was writing a novel.

How do you know when an idea is worth your time? Good question. Sometimes you start and realize it’s not worth your time. But one little rule I have, which arose from Seinfeld, is: If I can describe my story in two sentences or fewer and grab your attention, it’s probably a story worth pursuing.

What was your writing process like for the book? I’m not that disciplined in general but I strove to just make some progress everyday. Even if it was just a paragraph. Then, once I sat down, chances were, I’d write more than one paragraph.

Were you always more interested in literary writing? Vaguely. The more I read, the more interested I became. John Updike, Philip Roth, Lorrie Moore, Don Delillo, Joan Didion…all of them tweaked my interest.

Why are you a writer? I don’t know. I never really had career goals or anything. In college, I wandered into the student newspaper office without thinking about it and it was instantly alluring. My father was very into proper grammar which was handed down, I guess. But I haven’t given my career much conscious thought. The concept of goals always rubbed me the wrong way…like, why limit yourself?

Totally agree [shreds personal goal chart into a million pieces]. What career path would you have pursued if writing wasn’t an option? No idea. I like law and photojournalism but law school demands too much drab study and photojournalism might be a little outside the lines of my taste for adventure. I’m blown away by war photographers and while it’s appealing, there’s definitely a personality type required and I don’t have it.

How do you feel about the media landscape today? I’m a little worried that the New York Times is the only place still devoted to serious journalism. But I’m optimistic that journalism is important enough that there will always be a demand for quality work. It’s also a little troubling that there’s no one voice that people trust in journalism...a Walter Cronkite type who is clearly trustworthy. The sad thing is that everyone flocks to the slant of journalism aligning with their own opinions. It’s a strange time in the field, but all the tumult is still pretty recent so hopefully it’ll pan out in a constructive way.

Speaking of serious journalism, I’m a huge fan of your tweets. Do you enjoy being on social media? Eh. It’s fun sometimes and I’ve met or gotten in contact with some great people, but the occasional nasty response to a tweet cancels out the joy. We always knew there were crazy people in the world but now they access to you. It makes me want to update my home security system.

Is there anything in your career you would have done differently? A million things. I’d have been more disciplined at the Washington Post. I’d have done grittier pieces for ABC Sports. On the other hand, it all worked out better than I could have expected. The thing is, people who say they wouldn’t change a thing and have no regrets…they strike me as being out of their minds. It’s okay to have regrets as long as they don’t overwhelm you. It’s kidding yourself to think you wouldn’t change a thing.

What do you want people to know about you outside of your writing? That I have nothing to hide. Otherwise, as little as possible.

To close, I would be honored if you would share an exclusive Peter Mehlman thought. Just something that’s been bothering you lately or a rumination you want to bring to the forefront. Latest thought: The biggest sector of the American economy is the manufacturing of stress.


Josh Gondelman's got me thinking. Am I a terrible person? The answer might shock me: it's yes. 

As I'm reading through his new book, You Blew It!, I've come to the realization that just because I perceive myself as being highly self-aware, OTHER people might not get the same sense. For example, just yesterday I asked my husband to pause Homeland no less than 97 times because "who's the guy in the red?!" and "why do they talk so fast?!" and "does Clare Danes' hair look yellower this season? It's definitely yellower". Basically, I realized I am the person I hate most, all thanks to Josh.

If you'd like to get a solid read on your own personal shortcomings and learn more about how to do life better, I'd suggest you pick up Josh's book on Amazon and see for yourself. All proceeds go toward people hating you less. 

You can also catch Josh's work on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver which airs Sundays at 11pm on HBO. 

This is the only acceptable way to take a bathroom selfie. 

Josh! Thank you for joining my circus. It’s a pleasure to be here!

First of all, congrats on the book! Thanks! I’m so delighted it’s out in the world for people to read and (ideally) enjoy now.

Have you read it yet? Several times! I’m fairly familiar with the contents at this point.

You co-wrote the book with Joe Berkowitz who is a fellow writer friend and staff editor for Fast Company. What made you want to write a book together? The two of us have very similar senses of humor, and it seemed like a natural fit. We had a really good time working on the proposal, which seemed like a good sign.

Explain your relationship with Joe in five words or less. We’re good collaborators and pals.

Tell us how you came up with the premise. We’d pitched a fake pickup artist guide called Getting It Wet: The Nice Guy’s Guide To Tricking Women From Friendzone To Bonezone, and we met an editor who liked our writing but thought that book was too niche, so we tried to find a fun project that would be slightly less obscure.

I know it’s a humor book, but I’m hoping this is also the precursor to a larger social movement for heightened self-awareness. We can come up with a hashtag later. Haha, I like your style. But also I’m so jealous of people who aren’t self-aware and just amble through life blissfully ruining other people’s days.

How long did the book take to write? It took about nine months for the first draft and another three or four going back and forth with notes and everything.

What was the writing process like? It was terrific. We’d meet up and brainstorm and outline. Then we’d write and edit separately. Then we’d meet up and eat pizza and more outlining. Then came the doubting everything and more re-writing.

What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced in the process? Joe and I both became increasingly busy as the writing process went along, so it was harder and harder to make time to meet up in person!

Can we expect another literary piece from you in the future? I’d love to do one if someone will let me!

Let’s backtrack a bit because I want to know more about how Josh Gondelman came to be. Where are you from? I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, but I say “Boston” and then people ask me to be more specific, and then they don’t recognize the name of my town, which is why I didn’t say it (Stoneham, MA) in the first place.

Never heard of it. What led you to a career in writing? I’ve always loved to smash words together. In high school and college I had writing projects even outside of school, which looking back was not like…what everyone did, but it felt fun and natural so I kept doing it and now I’m technically a professional.

Did you know you were funny early on? I think so? I mean, I thought I was funny early on, but others would argue that it took me a while to actually get there.

In 2012 you and writer Jack Moore created the Twitter account @SeinfeldToday which gives a glimpse into what it would be like if Seinfeld were still on the air today. You have nearly 1 million followers. What will you do to celebrate the milestone? We should go out for soup from the most disagreeable vendor in the city!

Are you and Jack still the only writers for the account, or have you enlisted help? It’s just the two of us.

What other shows besides Seinfeld have inspired your writing style? I think years of watching and loving The Daily Show and The Colbert Report helped prepare me for my job now. Other than that, I don’t know about shows that inspired my style, although I really love the tone of The Simpsons, Arrested Development, and lately Bob’s Burgers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

You currently write for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. How did you land the gig? It’s a very boring story! I submitted some sample materials, then some more. Last year I was hired to create all the digital content, and this year I’m writing for the show itself.

Describe a typical day at the office. It varies. But my main tasks are reading the news, pitching stories, writing up stories I’m assigned, pitching jokes with the other writers, and eating salads.

Sounds rigorous! No one understands how hard it is to eat a salad. How does writing for ‘Last Week’ differ from other projects you’ve worked on? Mostly it has to be about topical things. So when I do stand-up or write freelance pieces, it can be about any nonsense I’ve been thinking about that day, but the show has a tighter focus. I couldn’t come in and be like "what about we do a five minute piece on why bagels have holes in the middle?".

What’s your personal writing process like? Any rituals or special requirements before you get to work on a project? I usually get an iced coffee before I sit down to write, year round. It’s not even for being awake or focusing. It’s more like: “Now it’s time to work. You have no excuses.”

I need a prompt like that. I tried listening to music for awhile, but I get distracted and start looking up "how to dance like Bruno Mars" videos on YouTube. What do you do when you’re struggling to come up with ideas? I nap.

What’s next for you? Gosh, yikes. That’s very grandmotherly of you. “You’ve just written a book and are coming to the end of the season of the tv show you work on, but what do you DO?” There are a few more Last Week Tonight episodes this year, so I’m excited for those. Plus I’m going to do a little standup around the country in November and December. But mostly I think I’m going to lie on the couch and catch up on Veep and rub my dog’s belly.

To close, I’d love for you to write a haiku pitching You Blew It!

Don’t ruin your life. 

Joe and I can improve it.

Well, I mean, maybe?


Hold the jokes for a minute because I'm about to get real sensitive. This week I got to interview an incredible writer who currently works for one of my all-time favorite comedy heroes. Those who know me are well aware of the abiding love and respect I have for Conan O'Brien. I've loved him since the moment I laid eyes on him in sixth grade, and I love him even more now that he's lost a job at NBC, toured the country performing live for his most devoted fans and launched a new show on TBS where he's free to be the beautiful, untamed animal he is. Life threw him lemons, and damnit, he made the most delectable lemon meringue pie this side of the Mississippi.

Today, there is no one I would rather talk to than Jessie Gaskell, writer for Conan and all-around superb human. The fact that her work is present in the show every single day is something I could only ever dream of, and she does it so, so well. Not only does she write, produce, improvise (and, frankly, ball) she's also the regional director for a women’s writing conference that takes place in NYC and LA with fellow lady writers. You can check it out at

Oh! And you can follow her on Twitter at @jessiestwats where you can expect thousands of professional selfies just like this one.

Jessica Gaskell, I want you to know I’ve never been more excited for an interview. Wow, seriously? Even more than your exclusive with JD Salinger? You’ve done interviews with a lot of people I admire, so that’s very flattering. Also, please call me Jessie, because that’s my name. Just “Jessie.” I know it’s crazy, but my parents were doing a lot of Tylenol PM at the time.

No, really. I’ve been staring at my computer screen for an hour just typing questions and deleting them. How can I do this interview justice? What can I ask you that helps emphasize how much I appreciate you? I think the name thing was enough. This has been great. Let’s call it a day before I have a chance to lower your expectations!

I don’t know how to say this without sounding hysterical, but Conan is my comedy hero. I grew up watching Late Night every night, and since I wasn’t allowed to be up past my bedtime, I would sneak to the basement and watch him on mute. His face brings me joy. Now that I’m saying this out loud, it sounds very disturbing. I feel the same way! I always felt very connected to his brand of humor, and he had a lot to do with my comedy evolution. It was basically Conan, Seinfeld, and SNL in my early days as a budding young comedienne (at this point, the reader tunes out, having been made suddenly and violently aware of my gender). Sidenote – is Conan better when you watch him on mute?  

It's not completely the same not being able to hear his very masculine, baritone voice, but the string dance can exist on its own with zero audio assistance. Also, sometimes I slow clap for him when no one is looking. What? Let’s start from the beginning. You mentioned you grew up moving around Latin America. Explain this to me. Yep! My Dad worked for the State Department (cough, CIA) consulting on development projects (cough, military coups). No, he really did work with USAID, helping farmers in developing countries grow crops. We were part of this group of Embassy and military families who would get 2-year contracts and were never in one place for very long.

What was your childhood like? Weird! Interesting! Lonely! Looking back, of course, I wish I had been more appreciative of the experience I was having. I got to see how people lived outside of the U.S., and that did a lot to shape my world-view and perspective on how good we have it here. Also, I got to see a lot of beautiful and historic places, and I learned Spanish pretty much concurrently with English, which has been a huge benefit. So I appreciate it now, but at the time I complained a lot. Because I was isolated and couldn’t go ride my bike around the cul-de-sac, I spent a lot of time writing and watching TV. We had satellite TV so I was pretty much current with your average 6th grader who was watching Saved by the Bell and Fresh Prince for 6 hours every day after school while eating guava sandwiches. Everyone else did that too, right?

Ew, no. Guava? Gross. No, here in America we like to eat what we call "Extra Fatty Fat Fat Sandwiches". Speaking of your secret CIA family, there was a moment where you thought you would end up pursuing politics as a career path. What made you realize that was a terrible idea? Ha! I studied Poli Sci and Spanish in college, plus I interned with a senator and worked for various non-profits, when I wasn’t writing comedy sketches. But at the time I was all into you know, being the change I wanted to see in the world, and I didn’t think comedy was a viable option. After graduation I moved to D.C. to work for a think tank, and  I was miserable - the only thing that made me happy was the improv group I was in. They all thought I was insane for moving to D.C. from L.A. to do improv.

Tell me about the first time you realized you were actually meant for comedy. Comedy was always a huge part of my life and the thing I loved most – it just took a while to click that I was “allowed” to do it as a career. As a kid I wrote these weird comedic short stories. In middle school I would make up Weird Al-style parody songs. In high school my friend and I cribbed SNL sketches and performed them at school assemblies - we’d do this Cheri Oteri and Will Ferrell morning show sketch “Morning Latte” but substitute in school news. And then in college I was part of a big sketch show and also hosted a comedy radio show. But it probably took going down the “legitimate” path and hating it for me to realize I was going to have serious regrets if I didn’t give my dream of being a comedy writer a fair shake.

Are you Type A or Type B? I don’t know! Which one do single men like better?

Type C: Anything that breathes. You started your career writing for a web series called “Dorm Life” which was a mockumentary about life in college. You co-created, wrote and starred in the series which is pretty impressive for a college graduate. Tell me about the experience. I did! It was my first real writers’ room. We worked about 30-40 hours a week together, creating a show bible, breaking out storylines, then writing scripts. We wrote and produced 40 episodes over 2 years. Oh, and we weren’t getting paid for any of it! What idiots. Looking back it’s remarkable that we were so committed to creating a professional show-running experience when we had no business doing so. But we took it really seriously, and we all made it work despite having day jobs. It was so rewarding to say we made it completely on our own without any “grown-ups.” And looking back, that may be the last time any of us get to work unconstrained by any network notes. At the end of it we were exhausted and wondered if it was even worth it, but I think it helped set us all on the right path.

You also worked as a writer on The Soup which led to a spin-off show called The Dish which you wrote for as well. Do you ever see yourself writing for a sitcom, or do you prefer a more short-form, segmented writing style? When I started I just wanted to do any kind of comedy writing I could, so I wrote everything - specs, pilots, screenplays, wafflemaker instructional manuals.  At some point I started narrowing my focus to late night/variety, probably when I was working on The Soup and fell in love with fast, topical content. There’s something about the immediacy and high turnover that makes it exhilarating, and you never get too attached to your ideas, for better or for worse. But I’d be interested in transitioning to sitcom writing at some point. Having a strong joke-writing background is good, but you still have to learn how to tell a story, so that will be my challenge.

What brought you to ConanConan had always been my go-to, pie in the sky, dream writing job. Early on I was lucky enough to get connected with a Conan monologue writer, Berkley Johnson, and he gave me a lot of great advice about crafting jokes and late night writing in general. I won’t say he was my mentor because I’m not sure he’d want to be credited that way, but his help meant a lot to me. Then a few years ago I was hired to write on a Conaco-produced sketch/talk show hosted by Conan writer Deon Cole. It was called Black Box, and unfortunately only lasted for 10 episodes. But through that, I was introduced to more people at Conan, so when they were hiring later that year I submitted. I think it helped a lot that they already had a reference to my work and knew I wasn’t going to steal office supplies. 

Talk to me about a day in the life. What is it like going to work every day? It’s incredibly fun - as long as I can remember that we’re producing comedy, not performing emergency surgery. It’s funny how quickly you lose perspective and find yourself super stressed because you needed a blow-up doll for a sketch, but the one the props department bought has a weird face, which isn’t the joke, because it’s just supposed to be a straight blow-up doll, so now you’re painting a new face on the weird-faced blow-up doll. Or you’re in with the graphics department and someone is literally speed-drawing a picture of a penis for a news parody that’s going on the air in half an hour. And then you’re debating, “Should the balls have hair? Is that a nice touch, or does it make it TOO realistic?” I work with the funniest people on the planet in an exciting and challenging environment, which is exactly where I want to be.

What is the writing process like? We come in every morning around 9, have a pitch meeting at 10, then if one of your pitches gets accepted you’re off and running. If it’s something for that day, it’s a crazy-fast turnaround: you have to have it done by rehearsal at 1pm. Or you might have a video piece that you’re rushing in to Conan’s dressing room right before the show, which is an intense amount of pressure. Usually everyone’s concurrently working on a longer-term project that might be for later that week. And we do a combination of solo writing and collaborating, depending on what needs to get done. Because the time frame is so tight, there’s almost always something you wish you could have done better or taken more time with. But the upshot is it’s done and you don’t have too much time to dwell before you’re back at it again the next day.

Oh – one thing I should mention because I think a lot of people don’t know this, but we produce all our own sketches too. So everything from casting, to sound effects, costumes, graphics, we cover all of that. We have extremely talented people in all those departments who we work with, but it’s totally your responsibility to see something through to the end. It’s not like you print out a page and hand it to someone and then go to lunch.

That makes perfect sense, so the concept doesn't get lost in layers of communication and ownership. Very wise. Conan seems to care a great deal about what he does, who works for him and keeping his fans happy. How involved is he in the day to day writing process? Conan is the smartest, funniest person in any room he’s in, so the meetings where we get to hang out and brainstorm with him are incredibly fun (if not productive). I spend most of the time laughing so hard I’m crying, and then regretting that I didn’t wear waterproof mascara. Conan’s super involved in that he approves all the pitches, then when we rehearse something he’s always improvising and tweaking things, and his input always makes it funnier. He was a writer first, so he’s really hands-on when there’s an idea he thinks has potential.

What’s your favorite part about working for the show? I love the immediacy and variety of what we do. I love the rush of producing a sketch and getting it on the air. I love when someone has a birthday and there’s leftover cake in the breakroom.

Do you know how lucky you are? Oh, yes!

There is nothing funnier on planet earth than Conan doing a remote. He most recently crashed a viewing of Magic Mike XXL. How much writing and planning goes into a segment like this? I agree! I’ve produced a lot of remotes, including the Magic Mike remote. I love the remotes because people get to see how quick Conan is on his feet. He also has this great improvising style where other people get to be the straight man and he’s the butt of the joke, which means everyone’s having fun and no one feels manipulated. The metaphor we often use when producing is that we’re creating a jungle gym, and then letting Conan play on it. So a lot of it involves coming up with premises, locations, characters, and props that you know he’s going to have fun with. Then you make sure all of that stuff is ready to go (like immediately ready to go, there’s no down time) and Conan comes in and we just shoot everything continuously. Sometimes there are lines I throw out there but most of it is Conan improvising. And then I take all this footage into the editing bay, and we output the funniest possible version.

The show has a massive digital following with acting as the hub for fans to engage and interact with all sorts of content from the show. Do you write any exclusive, online-only content? Not…usually. Sometimes we have things we create that end up online because they’re not quite right for a live audience. But there are also weird WGA rules that govern the web and we’re not allowed to go over a certain time limit or else they have to pay us more. I don’t totally understand it. There’s also a whole separate wing of web content creators that work for, and they’re putting stuff on the site daily.

How do you feel about the world of social media? Exhausted? I think it’s great that there are so many outlets for comedy and that more people have the opportunity to create content that gets seen by a lot of eyeballs. It makes the whole system much more democratic. And it’s interesting that TV shows are now competing with people who are making memes and photoshops and video re-cuts. I’m constantly amazed at how fast that stuff gets made and put online. But also, no one knows exactly how to make money doing it. I think most people are doing that to eventually get TV jobs, but TV is being replaced by these other mediums. So it’s a bit of a Catch-22. For me personally, I like having a place to workshop ideas and put things I couldn’t put on the show. But the flip side is I feel a lot of pressure to have this cohesive online “brand” and be marketing myself. Some people are really good at it, and I’m very jealous of them. I don’t know how to take selfies (see above). I want there to be a class that teaches you how to take selfies.

It's only a matter of time before professors are teaching How To Instagram a Salad 101. Most of Conan’s fans are like me and have been fans of his from the beginning. How do you keep the show fresh while still nurturing its essence? I think late night in general has entered new territory, because most people aren’t actually recording and watching full episodes, but they’re watching clips online. In this sense it’s smart when we can do stuff that stands alone and is also internet friendly. But a lot of people really enjoyed Late Night (as in, Late Night with Conan O’Brien) for its weird absurd character bits and anti-comedy, and we’re all still big fans of that too. I think the remotes are a nice blend of Conan being Conan, and having something that plays well online as a stand-alone video.

 What can Conan fans can look forward to in the coming weeks/months? We just got done shooting a week of shows at Comic-Con, which went fantastically well and I think everyone’s feeling really energized right now. It was such a natural partnership, I can’t believe we hadn’t done it before. I think there’s a lot of crossover between Comic-Con fans and people who enjoy the type of comedy we do at Conan. At the end of the week, we announced we’re going back to do the same thing next year, so I think that’s going to be an ongoing fixture. And shooting our special in Cuba got us excited about the possibility of doing some more adventurous travel shows, so we have some locations in the works as well. North Korea, perhaps?? “Conan digs a mass grave for dissidents!”

You have experience in all aspects of comedy, from producing to writing to improv. What gives you the most gratification? I’m so glad I have experience with all of them, because they feed each other. To use corporate speak, they’re very synergistic. I’ll circle back to that later when I come up for air. I love writing, but the best is when I get to produce the thing I’ve written and have the ability to bring my vision to life. And I love performing in stuff I’ve written when it’s in my wheelhouse. But like, I’m probably not going to do a good Margaret Thatcher impression.

 What’s next for you? The comedy writing thing’s fun, but my real dream is to open up a bakery! You know the middle part of the cinnamon roll? We would just sell that. It’d be called “Cinnamiddles,” something like that. No joke – I am constantly coming up with ideas for “fake” businesses that I half-start, buy the domain names for, then give up. I wish someone would pay me to do that.

Here's a freebie: "Cumberbuns" -- a sandwich wrapped in cucumbers instead of bread. It's healthy, so I feel like the state of California would eat it right up. Anyway, I feel bad you’ve missed out on your political career, so I’d love to end the interview with a very bureaucratic writing exercise. You are running for President in 2016. Write your formal campaign announcement. “Hello, my fellow Americans. I have only one campaign platform. Only one promise to you. Vote for me, and I will pass a law that McDonald’s has to serve breakfast all day. That is all.” *Drops mic* *Wins 100% of the popular vote.*

Gaskell/Colantoni 2016?


Community, man. It's a gripping topic. I've spent a lot of time on Reddit this week among passionate fans who are desperately awaiting news of a next season (or even more highly anticipated, a movie!). And with such speculation and joy comes the joining of keyboards to reminisce on what was and the burning desire to predict what will be. The Reddit universe is fascinating. But even more fascinating? The Reddit Community community. THESE PEOPLE LOVE THIS SHOW. 

Every article I've read lately gets heated with differences of opinion on Season 6. So I won't get into the endless debate about whether the show is "losing its luster!" or "has never been better!" or how "Abed isn't himself without Troy!" or how "'SeaWorld should be shut down forever!" (sign the petition). But what I WILL do is invite writer, Alex Rubens, to give you his perspective. He's written for the show for several seasons, knows the characters inside out and isn't afraid to fight you if you disagree with him. Right Alex?! He wanted me to make sure I said that.

I'm really excited to post this interview because I now understand how painstakingly devoted and determined Community fans are. But I'm also equally nervous to post this interview because I know how painstakingly devoted and determined Community fans are. Just please, I beg you, be nice to me. And please be nice to Alex because he's been stuck in this position since he took this selfie last week. Doctors are looking into it.

Alex! I knew I’d see you here. Your overconfidence will be your undoing.

Let’s get the most pressing question out of the way. The Season 6 finale of Community aired on June 2 with no mention of a next season. What’s the deal, man? We’re trying to stay true to our roots. A Community that knows its own future is not Community. The fact that we were allowed to do whatever we wanted this last season was trouble enough already.

Can’t you just email the Marissa Mayer and ask for an update? I feel like she would understand. The impression I get is that the problem with Season 7 has nothing to do with Mayer or her people (the Mayerites), who have been excited and supportive throughout and clearly love having the show on Yahoo Screen. There are a lot of factors, but my sense is—and I’ve been out of the loop for months now, so I should clarify I don’t really know what I’m talking about—that there probably won’t be a Season 7 but that a movie is not unlikely.

What have you been up to while the show is awaiting its fate? I’ve been working on a million things (give or take nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-four). I recently got to visit the set of Keanu, the Key & Peele movie that Jordan Peele and I wrote, which is shooting in New Orleans as we “speak.” Also, Rich Talarico and I are just starting to write another Key & Peele movie, Substitute Teacher. And then there are about a hundred (give or take ninety-six) other film and TV things I’m working on that I don’t think I should talk about yet, this early in the process, but that I’m really excited about.

Community has – and I mean this with love in my heart – spent its six seasons on the verge of cancellation. With that, is there a pressure to make every season finale feel resolved yet open for more? I only worked on two seasons of the show, but both times Harmon was very clear that he didn’t want to write a series finale. At the same time, though, we all knew (both times) that the series finale is exactly what it might end up being. The Season 6 finale is, I think, a beautiful series finale, whether or not it ends up being that—and I think the way it’s open-ended isn’t so much about “keeping it open” as it is about representing the way “endings” actually work in real life. Nothing but death is final, and even with death the world continues along into (you could pretentiously say) seasons untold. Anyway, Harmon & McKenna really knocked that episode out of the park. That’s a sports metaphor, by the way, from the game of parkball.

How is writing for Yahoo different than writing for NBC? The short and annoying answer is that I didn’t write for Yahoo or NBC, I wrote for Harmon. So in that regard it was no different. The slightly longer answer is that in Season 5, the fact that Harmon had been rehired made him effectively unfireable, which in turn meant he could pretty much do whatever he wanted...whereas at Yahoo I guess you could just take out that “pretty much”? Maybe the real difference between working with Yahoo and working with NBC was just that at Yahoo we felt like a prize possession and at NBC we felt like increasingly unwelcome guests.

If you, yourself, could write any final ending for the show, what would it entail? This sounds like a cop-out, but I loved the Season 6 finale so much, I don’t think I’d do a thing differently. But in order to make this answer less boring, I’ll share with you my totally real but half-joking (OK, maybe three-quarters-joking) pitch for the finale: “A skinny, snaggletoothed Somali pirate shows up claiming to be Troy. He's obviously not Troy, he's a Somali pirate. But his presence here and his attempt to steal Troy's identity lead some in the group to believe that the Pharaohs have returned.” (The Pharaohs thing is an inside joke. Laugh as if you get it.)

The general consensus on Reddit is that Season 6 is darker and more realistic than past seasons, and it’s obviously functioning with only 4 out of the original Greendale 7 characters. What were some of the biggest challenges that were discussed in the writers room going into this latest season? I think the biggest challenge going in was dealing with the fact that the show no longer had anything holding it back. Sometimes having something to fight against is fuel for creativity. Maybe that struggle is even built into the DNA of the show. Harmon said something in an interview recently about no longer having any enemies this season and as a result sort of self-destructing. It’s like he had to become the bad guy himself, or he had to make the show the bad guy. There’s a line in one of the episodes like, “You realize you guys are rebelling against yourselves.” There was definitely an element of that, and I think it contributed a lot to what made Season 6 what it was, in good ways and bad. But Harmon really is a genius—one of the few people who get called “genius” and actually deserve the title—and whatever challenges we faced were transformed into greatness by the nuclear reactor at the center of that weird, amazing brain of his.

Chevy Chase, Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown have all departed the show since its start. Which character exit was the most difficult to navigate? Donald was the hardest. It was devastating to Abed and to the comedic rhythm of the show. And also, I mean, he’s just so fucking talented. Everything he does, he nails. Before he was a TV star, he was a star TV writer—on fucking 30 Rock of all shows. (I’ve heard rumors that he was instrumental in creating the voice of Tracy Jordan.) He’s also of course an amazing improviser. So when he decides, “I’m done being a comedic genius, I’m gonna go do hip-hop,” of course he has to go do it. And of course he gets nominated for a Grammy. But it was a real loss and a real bummer that he left the show. Donald is magic.

Do you have a favorite character? In Season 6 it was Britta. I was talking with another one of the writers—I think maybe the great Carol Kolb (The Onion, Review)—and we were sort of realizing together that Britta is or had become the perfect sitcom hero: passionate and in a very deep sense good-hearted, but at the same time bumbling and flawed and bound to screw things up whenever she tries to fix them. And the fact that Gillian is a brilliant comedic actress doesn’t hurt too much either. This cast, man, I can’t say enough nice things. Or I guess I should say I’ve already said enough nice things that I’m a little worried they’ll think I’m some kind of stalker. So I’m just gonna play it cool. Hi, guys! I’m in your crawlspace!

Tell us something about the cast we may not already know. I’m in their crawlspace.

Which season is your particular favorite? My three favorites are probably Season 2, Season 3, and Season 1 (in descending order), but I love Season 1 too. One thing that was fun about working on this show is that there was literally no other network show I would rather have written for—except possibly The Simpsons in the ’90s. Community was my favorite show and Dan Harmon is my favorite writer. Oh, and I can’t be objective about Seasons 5 and 6, but I think the stories were stronger in Season 5 and the comedy was better in Season 6 (a progression I think The Simpsons also experienced in the ’90s, by the way). It’s too bad there never was a Season 4. Who knows how that would have turned out!

I have to mention your ex-girlfriend writes for Inside Amy Schumer and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Why would you ever break up with her? Because she’s a horrible person.

In all seriousness, it’s pretty impressive that you’re both successful comedy writers. But which one of you is more attractive?I’m kidding about Emily Altman being a horrible person. She’s a great person and a great comedy writer and a great friend—not to mention the fact that she basically got me into comedy writing. But to answer your attractiveness question, I think she’d be the first to admit that she is grotesquely ugly. Really just hideously misshapen. It’s sad, but it’s also inspiring.

What’s your favorite show right now? Naming Game of Thrones is a bit like naming Sgt. Pepper when asked about albums—but what can I say, it’s a great album. I really enjoyed Better Call Saul, and I continue to be in love with Louie (the show, not the man...although I guess Louie can get it too). Haven’t seen all of Broad City but what I’ve seen is hilarious. Oh, and some of the Amy Schumer show this past season was instant-classic-level great. What else? My wife and I have been watching a lot of Forensic Files lately...

You used to be an English teacher. What grade did you teach? Mainly high school. But over the course of a few years I taught sixth, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth.

Would you say your teaching style is more John Keating from Dead Poets Society or John Kimble from Kindergarten Cop? More Miyagi in The Karate Kid. I basically just had them build me a guest house.

You’re also a novelist. What genre is your favorite to write? I used to consider myself a novelist. I don’t want to be one of those pretentious assholes who’s all like, “The novel is dead,” but the novel is dead. No, it’s not dead. As Frank Zappa said about jazz, it just smells funny. I’m reading Knaussgaard’s My Struggle right now and it is pretty great, but a big part of what’s great about it is how it breaks the novel. I guess if I ever wrote a novel again, which who knows, then I’d probably want it to be, like, a darker Douglas Adams...or a more user-friendly Thomas Pynchon (arguably another way of saying the same thing). I like things that are funny and dark but not hateful.

What made you realize you wanted to get into screen writing instead? I got into fiction as a kid because I didn’t know how to make movies. I wanted to write Star Wars: Episode VII (currently available on my web site at and Gremlins 2, and I never had the directorial bug, so basically I got into novels by way of novelizations. I finally figured that out when it hit me that I loved Monty Python at least as much as I loved Nabokov, and I’d be at least as proud to have written Ghostbusters as I would be to have written Infinite why was I focusing my energy into the passion that I shared with far fewer people? My taste in fiction is a little weird; my taste in comedy isn’t wildly far from the mainstream. Not to mention the fact that all my favorite writers were just on the edge of comedy writing already—sometimes arguably well over the line. So when I realized that becoming a comedy writer would not only not be selling out but would in fact be much truer to what I loved...well, life got a whole lot easier.

 Is there a passion project you’re currently working on? I probably shouldn’t discuss some of the stuff in development, but I’m continuing my stupefyingly lucky streak of working with my heroes. And yes.

Where do you envision your life/career in five, ten, 200 years? Five? Dead. Ten? Alive again. 200 years? I’m hoping dead and for good this time, but really it’s anybody’s guess.


Hello, internet website (powered by Squarespace)! I'm back to business after a month-long hiatus which I feel is acceptable behavior since I'm a mother to a toddler and I'm not being paid for this. But I couldn't be more excited to be back, and I'll attribute this rare, enthusiastic temperament to Eric Ledgin, my latest interview buddy and writer for two of FX's most treasured comedy series, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and The ComediansSoon, he'll be making his way to NBC to lend his talent to their newest workplace comedy, Superstore, set to air in the 2015-16 season.

Like most writers I've talked to, Eric is incredibly smart and entertaining, but there's a particular masterful flow to his writing that makes you recognize why he's in the position he's in. I asked him if he's ever considered another career path, to which he responded "Yes, but only like three or four times a day", but I'm here to communicate my unsolicited argument that he should continue down the screen writing path for a very, very long time. (At least until a Kardashian is elected President, at which point we can all just give up.)

And while I'm doling out free-willed judgment, Eric, this is clearly not a selfie. Your arms are not in optimal positions to be holding a camera, and your general demeanor does not scream insecurity. But I've chosen to let it slide as I am extremely sensitive to conflict.

Welcome to my blog, Eric. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. It’s totally fine. We all have to do things we don’t want to in life. 

I feel a little anxious because you didn’t respond to my email, so I’m very uncertain you even exist. Tell me something I should know about you. Prove to me you’re a living man. I got immediately defensive when I read this question and started searching through my email to prove it wasn’t true and shove that in your (dumb?) face. Then I saw you were right and really had to adjust my attitude. I think that story does a solid job of proving I’m a man.

Though, to your point, my face is a little dumb. What traumatic life events guided you into comedy writing? Did you know you wanted to become a writer from a young age? I don’t really buy into that idea, that every comedy person has had that. But there was that one time in middle school where I had no friends for two years…

We all owe middle school a big shout out, I think. Middle school, thank you for hair that was so structured it looked like a lamp shade, my subsequent nickname "Lamp Shade" and for my compensating personality. Tell me about a time you had to pay your dues as a newcomer in the industry. I spent a summer doing internships where I read movie scripts and did “coverage,” which is an industry term for “book reports.” I read about thirty awful, almost unreadable scripts, and then one really good one. I thought I had struck gold and ran to my bosses going “I found one! I FOUND ONNNNE!” And they were like, “Oh yeah, that. It’s not really marketable. Someone’s doing an ultra-low-budget version with Dean Cain.” Which was fine, I guess – I’m just not sure why they were having me read scripts that were already getting made.

You’ve written for several late-night shows including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Pete Holmes Show. What draws you to the variety format? It’s a hard question to answer because I’ve kind of stopped doing variety. But now that I’ve spent a little time on the narrative side of TV, I can tell you that I definitely miss the immediacy of doing a show that will air THAT NIGHT. There’s an episode of Always Sunny (which is another industry term that means It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) I wrote in March that won’t air until February 2016, which is kind of crazy. Another fun thing about variety is that all that matters is the jokes, and whether or not they make people laugh. Like my answer to this question, for example, would never be on a variety show. And I think that’s a good thing.

Jimmy Fallon seems like he would be the world’s best boss, am I right? He’s probably the funniest person I’ve ever been around.

You wrote for Season 11 of Always Sunny, which is arguably as funny as it gets, and I'm having a really hard time not asking you to intricately describe Glenn Howerton's face up close. What is the hiring process like on such an established project? Was it an easy adjustment? I met with Glenn a while back, and then a year later met with all three guys. I think that time I had just come off another job and was probably more confident, which always helps in those situations. I’ve had meetings where I just crumbled and it’s truly awful – plus I did not get those jobs. It wasn’t the easiest thing going into a room of fourteen people I didn’t really know, many of whom have been with the show for years, but comedy writers are generally kind and welcoming in my experience, and this room was no exception. As long as you’re hardworking and a little self-aware, you can generally fit in wherever.

What is it like writing for a show where the creators are also the stars? How heavily are Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day involved in the day-to-day creative/writing process? They’re very involved and constantly coming up with great story turns and jokes. A lot of the funniest lines in the show are things they just came up with riffing in the room. And then most of the other funny lines are things that I wrote. That’s not true.

The show is known for its offbeat, outlandish style of comedy and has been described as "Seinfeld on crack". Are there any topics that are off limits? The one thing I don’t think they would do is an episode about Jerry Seinfeld smoking crack, but that’s mainly for legal reasons. Otherwise I think they’re open to literally anything that’s smart/funny enough to justify how offensive it might be.

The show is approaching its 12th season making it the longest running live-action comedy in cable history. Is there any concern about keeping it fresh, or is this an opportunity for the writers to take even more risks? No, it’s the first thing. It’s a constant challenge because they pack a lot of big ideas and situations into each episode. That said, the season shooting right now is getting out of Paddy’s Pub way more than usual, and I think that speaks to the “opportunity to take more risks” part. But, and I can’t stress this enough: it’s mostly the first thing.

You currently write for The Comedians which airs Thursday nights at 10pm on FX. How did you land the project? Honestly, I kind of begged for it. The showrunner, Ben Wexler, read a sample I wrote and brought me in to screen the pilot, and I was dying watching it. I couldn’t keep cool in the interview, just kept saying how much I wanted the job, which, FYI, is a TERRIBLE negotiating technique. But I think we had similar thoughts about the show and its potential, so he brought me back to meet with Billy Crystal, Larry Charles, Josh Gad and Matt Nix. I know, right? Matt Nix! I barely remember that meeting but I think I made Billy laugh once or twice and considered that a huge success.

Billy Crystal is co-creator and stars alongside Josh Gad in a story about an established comedian aversely joining forces with an up-and-coming comedian on a late-night variety show. What is it like working with the pair? As someone that grew up watching Billy’s stuff, and then saw Josh Gad come up in the last few years, I find the two of them together really compelling and cool. And they’re both amazing improvisers who bring so much to whatever you write for them.

Tell me about the writing process for the show. All the writers gather in a writers room for weeks discussing general ideas and specific bits that would be fun to do. You’re generally serving the vision of the showrunner (Ben Wexler) and the show’s creators, which in this case included Billy. He was in the room a lot, which was at first very fun and scary, and then later, just scary fun.

Do you prepare differently to write for each character? I wouldn’t say I prepare, but after I write a scene I’ll definitely go back and go, “Would this character do/say these things? Would they say it differently than that?”

Are there real life scenarios that Billy and Josh ask to be included in the scripts? For sure, yeah. In an episode I wrote, “Billy’s Birthday,” Billy tells a really touching story about what his parents used to do with him on his birthday. There are things like that where I can take a shot, but I completely understand that nothing I write will feel as powerful to Billy as what really happened in his life, particularly because he’s playing Billy Crystal, not just some dude.

What makes the show unique to other projects you’ve worked on? Writing for people who are using their real names and to a degree their personas is definitely a trickier thing, but a challenge I really enjoyed. Also just sitting in a room and joking around with Billy Crystal.

Can we talk about Stephnie Weir for a minute? How am I just now finding out about this woman? It’s honestly ridiculous. I saw her do an improv show once (“Quartet”) that was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen live. I was like, “She’s gonna be huge!” And someone said, “She is, she’s on MadTV and a successful writer.” But some insanely talented people just slip through the pop culture cracks for a while, I guess.

She brings the most hilarious, oblivious-yet-likeable energy to the show. Do you find joy in writing for characters who are completely unaware of themselves? I really do. One thing I spent about a year on was this movie I directed about a delusional stand-up comedian (played by Stephen Schneider) who comes to Hollywood with the specific goal of “being a huge star.” And it was heavily based on the worst fears we had about what we seemed like to people, trying to “make it” in comedy. Like, what if we’re actually completely unfunny and untalented, and just tragically unaware of that? It’s a funny concept but in the saddest way possible.

How is writing for a first season different than writing for a second? I assume it’s very different for every show, but in general, how is a team of writers assembled to develop a pilot episode? Aside from the show creators, writers are brought in only after the pilot has already been shot and then picked up to series. But writing for a first season is definitely a unique challenge because you’re trying to really develop these new characters, and expand the world they live in.

How much does a writer’s room change from the beginning of a series to the end? How often is the original team still around at the end? As far as I can tell, some people will stay on and move up the ladder, some will move on to their own pilots or other projects they’re interested in, and then occasionally people won’t be asked back. It’s totally dependent on the show and that particular group of writers. But one thing I think is a constant is that as a show gets more seasons, the snacks get better.

What do you do in the event of extreme writer’s block? Do you have a secret process for overcoming? You just kind of have to write something. Sometimes a bad line is like two words away from being great, or it’ll spark a really good reaction from another character. The nice thing about writing as a job for someone else is that you can’t really be too precious about writer’s block. You have to do the work or you’re in serious trouble.

Who’s your favorite writer? Charlie Kaufman.

What inspires you? Honestly, potentially anything in life that’s not “being on my phone.” Traveling always does it in some way. The speech Charlie Kaufman gave to BAFTA was really moving to me. The show Extreme Weight Loss. Also just seeing smart and different stuff succeed with even a medium-sized audience. A show like Mad Men becoming this cultural phenomenon where they got to do seven seasons. The last few movies I saw were Mad Max, Ex Machina, and While We’re Young. You can get really cynical about what comes out of the entertainment industry, so it’s shocking and invigorating that each of those films were made and released.

Have you ever considered taking a different career path? Yes, but only like three or four times a day. I think I would be an incredible travel agent, or whatever you call a person who works at a juice bar. A juiceologist?

Based on your tweets, I’m under the impression you’re watching this season of The Bachelorette. I mean, come on.

Were you pulling for Britt or Kaitlyn? It’s tough because even though the whole world should clearly be #TeamKaitlyn I thought it was extremely mean that they did that to both girls. And the reality is that if you met Britt and just connected with her, who’s to say Kaitlyn is “better” just because she’s more self-aware and better on TV. I think I could fall in love with Britt. The important thing is that I watch every episode of this show no matter what.

Do you think the onscreen bromance between JJ and Clint is real? I’m answering this before the whole thing “blows up,” so I will reserve judgment until then. My instinct is that those types of hyped-up conflicts on the show never go anywhere and distract from the truly amazing stuff that happens. All that aside, I think both of those guys are pieces of dog shit.

To close out the interview, I’d like you to write your bio if you were to be cast as the next Bachelor. Tell me about your life, your interests, why you’re looking for love and whether or not you’re “here for the right reasons”. Eric Ledgin is in love with his wife, but if it’s totally cool with all parties (including the wife), he would love to have a three-month long trip around the world on helicopters where a bunch of mostly stunted women vie for his time and affection as he jumps off cliffs into the ocean. Eric loves all kinds of activities for the first few months of dating, and after that it will be mostly reality TV and dinners on the couch. He will make some of those dinners but not clean up after a lot of them.


I stared at her Twitter page for like a hundred hours before deciding whether I should reach out to Jessi Klein. It seems like she's every writer's favorite writer, and I felt very undeserving of her time and energy (I'm writing this post from my laundry room). Jessi is currently head writer for Inside Amy Schumer with a very impressive past life working for Saturday Night Live and Kroll Show, among many others.

I guess it's no surprise she ended up agreeing to do the interview because hi, here we are, but I wanted to make it known that she's incredibly busy, is growing a baby in her body and probably has a lot of celebs to hang out with when she's not planning a nursery or writing perfect sketches like this one. Jessi, I'm thankful for your generosity (and probably sympathy), and I hope this project didn't put too much of a cramp in your sexy life.

I should mention there was some miscommunication about the selfie, so I decided to make it simple and just do what I do best -- draw a picture of her. It's basically spot on, so I'm sorry for leaving nothing to the imagination.

Jessi, I’m excited to get to know you better. You have a very warm and approachable presence on-stage, and I feel like it’s really going to translate here. I really fucking hope so.

The reason I reached out to you so eagerly a few weeks ago was because I witnessed an event on Twitter that I thought was really moving. Several of your peers started a campaign to nominate you for the next host of The Daily Show before they announced Trevor Noah. Did you feel as special as I felt for you? Haha I think the word “several” may be a slight exaggeration here. Mike Birbiglia, who is a delight, floated it out there and I think between forty and eighty people retweeted it. I can’t believe Comedy Central ignored this overwhelming outcry from the public. Still, it’s possible that was more people than Trevor Noah had.

I’m sure Trevor Noah is lovely as well, but when I saw the outpouring of acknowledgment I just immediately wanted to know your soul. My soul is incredible.

I knew it. You started your career working in development at Comedy Central, and it only makes sense that you found your way into standup while working there. Did you always want to pursue standup, or was it a product of being around it so much? I had always wanted to try standup but was too terrified. When I started working at Comedy Central, I saw enough good standup that it really inspired me, and enough bad standup that I thought, “well, maybe if I tried it I would at least be not THAT bad.”

Tell me about your worst standup experience. I was booked by a very nice Orthodox Jewish man to perform at what he said was a monthly “salon type” gathering at a gallery, and he was going to pay me, which was a big deal at the time because I never got paid to do standup then. Then the morning of the show he said there was a snafu and they’d lost their gallery space so were just going to do it at his and his wife’s apartment, but there’d still be “a lot of people.” I showed up and it was just him, his wife, and five neighbors. I walked in and said, “Um, I don’t think I can do this?” and he said it would be fine if I just talked about my life and answered their questions. It was completely bizarre. Did I mention I was getting maybe about two hundred dollars for this? Sadly, I’d probably still do it.

Season 3 of Inside Amy Schumer premiered its third season on April 21st. Tell me about the writing process. I’m really proud of what a genuinely collaborative process we’ve created for this show. Basically once a week or so the writers all come in and pitch. It’s always been important to me that the pitch process feels loose and open. Everyone’s encouraged to throw out ideas, even if they’re a little half baked, because even the thinnest half-idea  from one person may spur an amazing idea in someone else. After everyone pitches, Amy, Dan Powell (the other executive producer) and I go through the ideas and decide what to have people write up for later in the week. Once we get first drafts, we give notes to the writer who does another pass. After that, if the sketch is working, the draft goes to the table for punch up, which tends to be pretty fun.

You’re head writer for the show. Describe yourself as a boss in three words or less. JK Simmons from Whiplash.

So inspiring. And so bald. What do you look for when you’re hiring a team of writers for a show like this? On a group level, we want people with different voices and diverse comedic points of view. It helps when you have a team of people who are all coming at the subject matter from a different perspective because it means everyone isn’t writing the same thing. On an individual basis, we want smart funny people who can write in Amy’s comedic voice and who are nice to be around. We’ve had a really great group every season. It’s fun to show up in the morning when you know you’re gonna see lovely people who may occasionally bring snacks.

My favorite moment from the show so far is when Amy and her boyfriend go to a couples’ counselor who turns out to be Chrissy Teigen. How did this concept develop? Ha, I wrote that sketch. I think Chrissy had maybe reached out to Amy that she was a fan of the show, or they were friendly on Twitter or something like that, so Amy wanted us to think about something for her. I’ve been to couples therapy and I just started thinking about what a nightmare it would be to be working on problems with your boyfriend with her in the room.

Is Chrissy Teigen funny in person? She is. She was great and totally game. What’s funny too is that she was really nervous at first, in a good way. You forget, when people are that beautiful, that they have insecurities too. I think for her working with Amy, she was nervous being in a room full of professional comedians - which makes total sense. But I was just staring at her waist and thinking it was the exact same circumference as the smallest part of my calf. I took a picture with her at the end of the shoot which was a really stupid thing to do. Don’t be in a picture with Chrissy Teigen. You will not look good in that picture.

She's a real life raven-haired Barbie doll angel if we're being honest about it. Tell me about your experience writing for Saturday Night Live. I grew up worshipping Saturday Night Live and it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to go into comedy . I was honored to be offered the job and I probably learned more there than I’ve learned from any other gig. That said, the process by which that show is made wasn’t really a fit for the way I enjoy working.

Some of the hosts you worked with include the massively talented Tina Fey, hilarious-and-knowing-he’s-hilarious, Alec Baldwin, and the lovable Betty White. How do you keep your composure around such icons? I tend to hide behind a tree.

Who is your favorite current cast member? I think there are so many insanely brilliant people on that show right now but I have a soft spot for Aidy Bryant and Vanessa Bayer.

When I die I'd like to come back as Aidy Bryant as Adele. Your sweet spot seems to be sketch comedy. Would you ever consider writing for a sitcom, or do you prefer the more segmented, short-form style of writing? It’s so funny that you ask that, because years ago I wouldn’t have said that my strength was writing sketch. In terms of my own viewing habits I’m a sucker for really quiet, quirky emotional comedies and dramedies. I just binge watched Togetherness on HBO which I thought was amazing, and then Transparent was one of my favorite things ever. I’ve seen Friday Night Lights, the entire series, twice. So I think of my instincts as leaning in the direction of that kind of material. It almost feels like an accident that I’ve ended up writing on so many sketch shows. I think my experience as a standup was helpful. But I’m proud that I’ve gotten better and better at it over the years. Part of the reason I love writing on Inside Amy Schumer so much is that the sketch we do is, by design, a little different in form than a lot of other TV sketch. We tend to write sketches that are paced more like dramatic scenes – it’s really important to Amy that everything we do is grounded in reality, so it feels more like you’re watching a slice of life.

You do so much in terms of performing and writing and being respected by everyone in the industry and basically just being a goddess of comedy. What would you like to accomplish that you haven’t already? If you could know how out of alignment this question is with my own sense of low self esteem your head would explode. As a baseline, I always feel so lucky just to be making a living by being creative all day and getting to work with funny people. If I allow myself to dream like someone who doesn’t have a boatload of insecurity – I guess I would love to create my own show one day. I’ve sold a bunch of pilots over the years but it’s such a mountain climb. I’m working on another one now.

You’re a self-proclaimed geek, but I have trouble with the term since it’s become so trendy lately. Prove to me that you’re a true nerd and not just being ironic about it. I’m not like a comic book sci-fi nerd. I just go deep into my own weird interests. I’ve read every Black Stallion book. I follow a lot of dog-based instagram feeds.

What do you want people to know about you that they don’t already? I’m really good at drawing animals. I can draw any animal. It’s a useless skill but at parties people are occasionally impressed.

It’s about to get real, Jessi. You spend so much of your time being funny, I wanted to end the interview with a series of though-provoking questions I’d like you to answer from your heart. Really dig in. Holy shit.

Who are you really? I’m someone who wishes I was Sofia Coppola.

What’s your biggest fear? I can’t choose one. My fears are like my children. They’re all my favorite.

Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? Literally everything.

When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? Well I’m having a kid soon, so pretty much just that in it’s entirety?

Have you made someone smile today? I took a newborn care class today with three other couples and I think I pretty much killed.

Does it matter what others think of you? Oh fucking shit, yes.

What is your life calling? Doing this interview.

And breathe. Hopefully you feel liberated. I feel terrible.



There is nothing I appreciate more than a decent human being. Even more than that, there is nothing I appreciate more than a decent human being who shares my fresh perspective on life (my perspective is that you should try to hug the bear before running from it, and I don't want to debate it further). I'm here to say I've found someone on this floating ball of land and water who has my exact same passions (show tunes, smiling, YouTube videos of sleeping koalas probably) AND is just generally positive and pleasant to be around. 

I'm talking about comedy writer, Rachel Axler, who can be found reminiscing about her experiences writing for shows like How I Met Your Mother, Parks & Recreation, The Daily Show and New Girl (there are more, but she likes things listed in even numbers, so I'm keeping the list to four). She just spent some time writing for Mozart in the Jungle and wrote for Wet Hot American Summer right before that. This week she starts Season 7 of Adult Swim's Children's HospitalIf I somehow didn't list a show you live and breathe for, you can follow her on Twitter at @rachelaxler or check out her Instagram account, @thingface, for pictures of objects that look like faces. No need to sell you on this.

Speaking of faces, here's ten of hers:

Rachel, I think you’re really funny. Lauren, I don’t want to rush things, but I’m pretty sure we should have babies together.

Can we name it Idina Menzel? Such an under-utilized name and very easy to pronounce. Anyway, I also think you’re incredibly nice, and the brief conversations I’ve had with you have been delightful. What’s it like being so cheerful? I spend my nights googling rare diseases and unsolved crimes against females.

We have that in common! Among, like, 37 other things. Before the interview, I asked you to send me a few facts about yourself that people might not know, and the results were chilling. We are the exact same person, I think? My 23andMe results said “you are Lauren Colantoni.”

ALWAYS trust an at-home DNA test to reveal your true identity. Tell me about your love of comedy writing and where you got your start. My first writing job was The Daily Show, because I am the luckiest person on the planet. But I’ve loved reading and writing funny stuff for my entire life. When I was about 13, my friend Deborah and I wrote and recorded radio plays together, and every line I wrote was Woody-Allen-derivative non-sequitur humor. Then in college, I wrote a play and tried to be Christopher Durang. I learned by copying the joke structures I loved, and built from there.

Do you have a mentor or peer who has helped guide you through the peaks and valleys in the industry? First, oh my god, you are the BEST for using the right “peaks” there. Seriously. Not really, because I think we all forge our own paths, but Jim Shepard was the first teacher to tell me “you are a writer,” and JR Havlan was the person who pulled me aside and said, “yeah, you should be doing this for a living,” and then in 2005 gave me the amazing gift of an email saying: we’re hiring at The Daily Show. Can you write a packet by next Friday?

Your resume is chock full of esteemed comedy series for which you’ve written, including Parks & Rec, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, The Daily Show, Childrens Hospital, and the list goes on. I can tell you right now, I might have trouble keeping this interview brief. The list doesn’t go on thaaaat far beyond those, but thank you. I’ll keep my “that”s to fewer than 5 a’s.

Which came first, writing or producing? So, actually, it’s all one thing, and that thing is writing. “Producer” becomes part of your title as you move up the TV-writing ladder. It goes: staff writer, story editor, executive story editor, co-producer, producer, supervising producer, co-executive producer, executive producer, king, master of television, red dwarf, co-god, god, and then you circle back to staff writer but with the ability to fly.

I could never aspire past co-god; I need the other god to help me decide which sandals look better with my holy robes. It’s time to dig up the memories, Rach. You wrote for the final season of How I Met Your Mother. What was it like being a part of a show that had such a massive, loyal audience? Thrilling, genuinely. I’d been a fan for years, and was so honored to get to be part of it before it ended.

Do you refer to your HIMYM team as your “fam”? Do you still hang out? I do, and that means they’re your fam, too!

Because we're the same! For real, I do still get together with HIMYM people now and then. Of course! You spend that much time with a group of humans, you wind up making some real friends. And that was a particularly great, smart, cool group of humans.

Tell me something unexpected about the cast. For three seasons, Josh Radnor played Lily. Cobie Smulders is the President of Ecuador. Neil Patrick Harris is actually a stack of pancakes.

I love pancakes and could spend the entire interview discussing the topic. But I'm a professional, you know? The series finale was a highly anticipated moment. How was the finale approached? Did the writers truly know how they were going to end it from the beginning, or were there kinks that needed to be carefully worked out as the process unfolded? As far as I know, Carter Bays & Craig Thomas, who created the show, had that ending in mind by the end of season two, which is when they filmed the actors who played the kids saying those lines…. EIGHT YEARS before they turned the camera around and filmed the other half of the scene. How’s that for thinking ahead? 

I think there were times when they were unsure if the show would have another season, so there were contingency plans, but ultimately they were able to create the finale that they had dreamt up years before.

Was there ever any doubt on production’s end about how the final episode would be received by fans? I think there’s still doubt about that.

How do writers navigate their differences around what direction a story line should take? Well, the showrunners -- often but not always the creators of a show -- tend to have final say about story direction, in the room. But it’s actually the writers’ job to pitch numerous possible directions for character arcs, stories, scenes, dialogue, jokes…. It’s the reason to have varied voices in a room: different brains and backgrounds mean different writers will think in different directions, which means a more interesting show. Ultimately, you want a unified voice, but varied stories and structures.

Damn -- I’m re-reading this and thinking I should’ve just said “rap battle.”

I think it’s easy for fans to forget why they loved the show to begin with, despite an ending that might not have been what they expected. Let’s break out the nostalgia. Do you have a favorite moment from the series? Season One, when Ted made it rain.

Parks & Rec is another massively successful show that recently aired its final episode. I’m still feeling the aftershock of the emotional goodbye. What should fans know about the show that might give them some comfort in its absence? It’s going to be rebooted on Zlarpvox in 2023.

I have to admit, I had never seen Newsreaders until this week, but I’m so glad I did. Tell me about the writing process and how these absurd news segments come together. I’ve done two roundtables, pre-season, for them -- where people sit around for a few hours and lob segment ideas, jokes, etc, at each other. After that, each season, my friend and former co-worker from The Daily Show, Jim Margolis, has contacted me and given me a segment to write. It’s unique in that there’s no writers’ room (at least, that I’m a part of) -- it’s done freelance, and they put them all together and shoot ‘em. Little jokes or segments that I’ve written (like an Andy Rooney-esque rant for Ray Wise) have aired sorta piecemeal, in separate episodes.

What’s been your most gratifying experience in your career? This interview.

How sad! But I'll take it. What are you most proud of? That I get to do what I absolutely friggin’ love, for a living.

Have you ever been disappointed by a writing or producing experience? Huh. I actually stared at this question for a few minutes, and couldn’t come up with anything. So I guess not! Man. I feel even luckier now.

What do you want people to know about writing for TV that they might assume to be the opposite? I don’t know about opposite, but I know (from conversations with my dad, a lot) that there are common misconceptions -- like, for instance, that writers each write for a certain character on a show. We all write entire scripts, so we all write for everyone.

Or that we spend all day sitting on piles of money, eating sushi and burning other piles of money. We’re only on the money piles for like half the day.

What’s your favorite show on TV right now? Fave on TV: Inside Amy Schumer. Fave off TV: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I like shows with titles that are a word and then a female first name and then a last name that begins with s-c-h.

(Really, I love shows that are female-protagonist-ed and bitingly pointed and brilliantly funny. That underpin their hilariousness with heart, but also something dark and real. And the writing on those two shows is just so incredibly smart.)

I watched the entire season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in less than two days, and I can't tell if that's a brag or a realization that I need to prioritize my time more effectively. Let’s acknowledge the fact that you’re human and you have passions outside of work. Whaaaaaat? Noooooo.

What do you like to do in your free time? Karaoke. Eating. Visiting puppy and kitten adoptions and petting the heck out of some animals.

Let’s close out the interview with a little game of “Would You Rather”.

Would you rather…

Have no memory or no cell phone? No cell phone memory.

Never be able to smile or always be smiling? “ABS. A-always. B-be. S-smiling.” -Mamet, Glengarry Glen Wheeeeeeee!

Live in the Full House house or the Father of the Bride house? Steve Martin 4eva.

End up on a remote island for the rest of your life with Kris Kardashian or Bruce Jenner? ...or what? I choose the other thing, maybe.

Be the richest person on the planet or immortal? Immortal, no contest.

Okay, your turn! Would you rather…

Hear good news or bad news first? We're all going to die eventually.

Wear heels to breakfast or go barefoot to a formal event? Heels to breakfast. I don't trust people who don't wear shoes. They're there to protect your feet! Why do you hate your feet so much?

Hear just one song for the rest of your life, or eat just one food for the rest of your life? For me, music is a better form of therapy than food. Plus, I'm totally cool with a fluffy stack of Neil Patrick Harrises for every meal.

Be reincarnated as a computer or a tree? Definitely a computer. I'd be loaded with knowledge and could eventually take over the world probably. As long as I don't come back as my own computer because I'd be spilled on and dropped a lot.

Ask these questions or answer ‘em? I live for asking questions. I failed the SAT because I answered the multiple choice questions with "but what happens after you die?"


Let's just get straight to the issue. The real real you're all here: to meet Molly McAleer. If you're unfamiliar with her work, check out THE ENTIRE INTERNET for a bottomless experience of all things Molls. Seriously, just cook a nice, low-cal lunch, make yourself comfortable and google her.

A blogger since she was very young, Molls co-founded HelloGiggles with Zooey Deschanel and Sophia Rossi in 2011. The site offers a positive online environment for women (and men! but mainly women) to get their latest news in pop culture, fashion, humor, work and love. Most importantly, readers can write their own content and get published on the site as contributors, creating a true community of talented young people who motivate and inspire each other every day.

Not only is she co-founder, but she's written a captivating and hilarious portfolio of articles you can find here. If you've ever had trouble articulating a random thought or observation, I promise Molls has probably done it for you in the most perfect way. (Take these for a spin: "The Only Times When Screaming Is Acceptable" and "20 Things I Vaguely Fear (With No Explanation)"). Be on the lookout for her ebook, too!

She's also currently sporting the latest Spring fashion hair trend (it's all about pastels, y'all) and wins my heart for being bolder and more Type B than I could ever be, even in my own dreams.

Molls. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve spent the past 24 hours down a very real internet rabbit-hole absorbing all things Molly McAleer, and I fear I’ll never return to the physical world. There’s just so much to know about you, and I want to know EVERYTHING. I guess there’s not much I’d be willing to share that isn’t already online. I’m from Lexington, Massachusetts. I was raised by a single mom who cleaned houses and ran a catering business to make sure we lived in a town that had great schools. I went to Boston College, joined a sketch group, moved to LA, worked a lot, didn’t work a lot, struggled, figured things out, struggled some more, made some money, lost some money, found true love, a great dog and a best friend. That’s basically it.

Let’s start with the most recent turn of events in your life. You attended the Bieber Roast which airs on March 30th on Comedy Central. Do you realize my envy right now? Nothing would give me more pleasure than witnessing such an event. Tell me about the experience. The best word to describe the entire evening is “surreal.” We were sitting right up front and it was so bizarre to be that close to Bieber and Martha Stewart and Shaq. Pete Davidson and Natasha Leggero’s turns at the podium were definitely the highlights of the night.

You mentioned you grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. What was your childhood like? Are you close with your family? I’m an only child who had a single mom. I spent a lot of time alone but I really liked it that way. I read a ton and was very into AOL Chatrooms. I had an unusally close relationship with my mother’s mother. I talk a lot about my relationship with my father (or lack thereof) in my upcoming ebook, “The Alcoholic Bitch Who Ruined Your Life”.

You’ve been blogging since you were 11 years old which blows my mind. There have to be links to your old sites that are still living out there that we can dig up. Any you can share with us? Never ever ever ever. I am so embarrassed to be alive.

You have a very natural talent for articulating your thoughts. What’s on your mind today? I’m home visiting my mom and my step dad, so food is on my mind. I’ve been pretty spiritually exhausted since finishing the ebook, it was a very emotional thing for me to write, and I just needed to come home and sit on my mom’s couch and let her feed me chicken dinners.

Your episode of Drunk History on Comedy Central fascinates me. It’s a video series that films highly intoxicated people (you) explaining true historical events. What was the experience like? It was the absolute best experience of my life.

Your boyfriend, actor/writer Derek Waters, is co-creator of the series, and you met during the filming of your episode. You’ve been together ever since. How did you two re-connect after your consequent hangover the next day? I remember waking up the day after filming and having to go to work and all I could think about was him. It took me by surprise because we’d met briefly a couple times prior to filming and I had no idea I was going to develop feelings for him so very quickly. I kinda just sat around for the entire week after we filmed hoping that he’d text me or call me and ask me out and he did five days later.

Probably even more incredible is your behind-the-scenes video “Molly McAleer Loves Mustard” which is an outtake from your Drunk History shoot where you’re unintelligibly explaining to Derek your intense passion for the condiment. I have to know: do you eat mustard by itself straight out of the jar? Not like I would with peanut butter, but I have been known to stick my finger in a jar of dijon and lick it, yeah.

You can literally SEE how charmed Derek was by you in that video, and he didn’t even know you that well yet. Does the video hold sentimental value now that you two are together? It’s the coolest thing ever. The first time we really hung out is captured on video. Like, who gets that lucky?

There is so much content out there that you’ve created, produced, starred in and written for. Are there any projects you’re still in love with that you’ve started and never completed? I wish I had the great fortune of having a failed pilot or something, but no. I have a few scripts I’ve written that I would love to rework and have made some day, but I’m not too precious about any one idea.

You co-founded HelloGiggles with Zooey Deschanel and Shopia Rossi, which is a website that cultivates positive and relatable content for women. It’s such a healthy place for young girls to consume media on the internet, and it also offers a platform for young female writers to have a voice. What does its impact mean to you? I wish that I had a site like HelloGiggles to turn to when I first started out. Offering a platform to people who are new to writing but passionate about it is something I’m really proud of. It gives writers/performers a chance to be seen alongside professionals and hopefully our contributors feel less alone or like they’re out there building from the ground up with no direction.

You wrote an article for HelloGiggles defending the acronym “LOL” which is a topic on which I firmly disagree with you. But I wanted you to know I respect your opinion, and the beauty of this world is that we can co-exist despite our different perspectives. Do you still feel strongly about the matter? I just think that anyone who cares about language “rules” has a stick up their ass, no offense. The beauty of communication is that it’s an ever evolving thing and it always has been. I still love “LOL”, yeah. It gets the point across, it’s polite, it’s less manic than “hahahahhahahaha.”

You used to be story editor for 2 Broke Girls on CBS. How is writing for television different from your past experiences? Do you find it to be easier or more difficult? Writing for TV is wildly different than sitting alone in your room blogging. In fact, it’s the complete opposite side of the spectrum. In my experience, TV was very collaborative and there are a lot of rules in terms of story and joke format that are not to be broken. Writing on 2 Broke Girls was a great experience for me because it taught me a type of structure and discipline I hadn’t previously been exposed to.

Your podcast, Plz Advise, is so amazing. First you start out with a stimulating 90s hip-hop track as an intro (really gets me going), then you give life advice to people who call into the show. How did you come up with the concept? First of all, total props to my producer Kristina Lopez who finds all of our intro remixes on SoundCloud. The Plz Advise pod is a spin-off of an advice column I used to write for ThisRecording. I don’t know, I really like to tell people what to do. I’m bossy. I love drama. I love feeling like I’ve helped someone or made them feel less alone. I like laughing with my guests and getting to hear different perspectives. It just seemed like an obvious move for me to start an advice pod.

You seem to be very genuine with your advice. Are you the go-to person when your friends need some motivational guidance? I definitely have played that role for a lot of people. I know that my friends have always considered me a mixture of a cheerleader and a realist. I kind of laugh when I listen to the podcast sometimes because I *do* take it so seriously. I mean, it’s a comedy advice podcast and I’m genuinely trying to tend to someone’s feelings. I’m kind of a softie and I might take myself a little bit too seriously sometimes.

Your career has really taken off over the past few years, and you’ve achieved success on so many different levels. What are your aspirations for the future? Really? I basically can’t pay my rent and I’m afraid my car is going to be repossessed so shout out to all the other people who have “made it” and are barely surviving. My aspirations for the future are to protect my heart and stay true to the reasons why I left my family and friends and moved to LA. I just want to make things that I’m proud of because I know that that’s the only way that meaningful success will remain.

What would you say to a young writer who is considering giving up on the industry? I’d tell them that they should give up because obviously it’s not their passion. This life is a sacrifice. If you’re not down for it, then get out and find a vocation.

What currently inspires you? Howard Stern, strangers on the Street, documentaries about passionate people.

I just googled "strangers on the street" thinking it was a TV show I somehow overlooked, but you literally mean people you've never met who are out and about in the world. You should follow @humansofny on Instagram, I think you would find their posts to be very moving. Who would play Molly McAleer in a biopic titled Molls You Gotta Do Is Laugh? Giovanni Ribisi. I’m a huge fan.

I am deeply, deeply obsessed with dogs. Let’s be real about it, I like dogs more than I like people (sorry, people). Tell me about your pup, Wagandstuff. Where did you come up with the name? Do you let him sleep in your bed? Wagandstuff’s name was a fluke. It just kind of came out one morning (maybe the second week of owning him--for two weeks I just called him “boo boo”) and I thought, “Yeah, that sounds right.” He used to sleep in bed with me but it became a problem when he started to think the bed belonged to him. He’d like, attack me if I moved my arms or legs, which I appreciate because I too am a very temperamental sleeper. He now sleeps in a crate, but I think that’s probably better for him psychologically. At least that’s what I tell myself.

You spend a lot of time giving advice to people you barely know, so to close out the interview, I’d love to return the favor. Hit me with a challenge you’re looking for guidance on, and I’ll offer you my best counsel. What’s the proper amount of attention to pay to your dog? I am afraid that I pay both too much and too little attention to my dog all the time.

Okay, first of all, I am obviously not qualified to answer this because I struggle with the same problem, but I'm going to give it my all because I care about your well-being. I would first advise to stop letting your dog lick your mouth. I know that has nothing to do with the issue of time spent, but I can't have it. And enough with the "dogs mouths are cleaner than people's mouths" argument. That is simply not true if we're willing to let go and be logical about it. I think, though, you have to consider the time you spend AWAY from your dog in order to gauge how much attention to pay while you're with him. Let's be mathematical for the sake of giving a true answer and say for every three hours you're away, Wags should get an hour of your attention. Does that seem reasonable? There's also the KIND of attention you're giving him. If you have human people over, and you're spending the most quality time with your dog, there's a glitch in the system that probably needs to be addressed. But if it's just you and Wags watching an episode of Vandy P Rules on the couch, I'd say give that little guy your whole heart, always. Footnote: My dog hates attention, so I think the real question for me is "how much attention should my dog be giving ME?" And the answer is "calm down, Lauren, you're being really needy".



Last week I received an assailment of frustrated texts, phone calls and emails after taking a week off from posting to the blog (I had actually planned to write a very uplifting piece about how caffeine is quietly killing us all, but I caved and became a coffee drinker instead.) Alas, I am deeply sorry for any anguish this short hiatus has caused my beautiful community of readers, as I sincerely had no idea this project meant anything to anyone except me, my dog and my easily distracted toddler (who, surprisingly, has a LOT of notes). I promise I'll be better. For us.

In the event that I have yet to repair the holes in our relationship, today I'm here to bribe you back into my life with a serious treat. For some totally insane reason, an Emmy-award-winning writer agreed to participate in this sham of a website and give me an incredibly meaningful interview. His name is Frank Lesser, he wrote for our beloved show The Colbert Report, and I worry he thinks he did this for charity. (Frank, thank you for being so kind to me. For future reference, I spill chips and salsa in my bed very regularly and am not to be treated as a respectable human.)

You can catch up with Frank at for more about his book of essays about how monsters have feelings too, access to comedy videos he wrote and produced, along with a long list of short stories he's written for The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and McSweeney's. If you're anything like me, you'll find Frank's work to be warm and relatable with a level of truthiness that will make even the most crestfallen monster light up with joy.

Columbus native, Frank Lesser, at home in New York. The tiki mug and the girlfriend-lurking-in-the-shadows are also from Columbus.

Frank Lesser! I must tell you, when I emailed you to pitch the interview I made a typo in your email address and accidentally emailed the wrong person. I might have to interview a man named Frank Lesker next week. This might be awkward, but I've registered all email variations of my name, so I saw your request but chose to ignore it (classic Frank Lesker). On a semi-related topic, when people finally stop reading white male authors, my backup plan is to write under the pseudonym Fran Klesser.

My first question is very important, so please be honest. What part of Ohio are you from? Columbus.  Technically a small suburb that you'd only know about if you were-- oh my God!-- FROM COLUMBUS!  (I read ahead.)

It's true, I'm from Columbus too! Next time we’re home we should visit the museum that preserves the former smallest book in the world. We could also try to make time for the Hot Dog Bun Museum if we’re feeling wild. Oh man, I'm ashamed to say I'm unfamiliar with those museums.  I should have paid more attention when I went to the Columbus Museum Museum.  I do know that Columbus used to have a Wendy's fast-food museum, housed in the very first Wendy's, but a few years ago they tore the whole thing down! Really, based on all the food chains headquartered in Columbus (aside from Wendy's, there's Bob Evans and White Castle), the city should have built a museum to Type II Diabetes.

And it did hurt my Columbus pride that they tore down the original Wendy’s. I’m also upset that Columbus failed to save the Kahiki, this crazy 40-foot-tall tiki-themed restaurant that was torn down and is now a Walgreen's. On the plus side, that's where my dad now picks up his meds.

We need to have a VERY serious conversation about the Kahiki. It's my all-time favorite restaurant. The volcano? The gift shop? The rain forest? Pretty sure the reason they're not there anymore is because I'M not there anymore. Do your parents still live in Columbus? Is your childhood room intact? My dad still lives there, and my childhood bedroom is intact in the sense that I did not lose my virginity in it.

I'm dying to know more about your childhood, but let's shift gears before we wedge too far into our Ohio roots. You attended Brown University where you wrote for and edited the humor magazine, The Brown Jug. Did you always intend to become a comedy writer? Not exactly. Very early on, I wanted to be an artist. That sounds so pretentious, so let me change that: I wanted to get paid to draw and paint.  (I should point out that the painting in the selfie is not my work-- it's by a great illustrator Chris Buzzeli.)  I also liked writing, though, and my middle school teacher Mrs. Meckley forced me to join our school's writing team.  (You can probably guess that I was not a very athletic child.) Later I’d write these weird little stories, and people would read them and go, “Hey, this is pretty funny,” and so I decided to focus on the humor. Or maybe I was peer-pressured into it.  I find it amusing that my conservative, responsible backup plan to “be an artist” was “be a writer.”

How did you end up writing for The Colbert Report? I never know whether to credit it more to my TALENT or GENIUS. Kidding. My friend Alex Cooley got hired as the writer's assistant, and I got mugged, beaten up, and semi-dumped by my girlfriend in the space of about two weeks. So I told all of this to Alex shortly after she mentioned that the show (which had been on for two weeks at that point) was looking to hire additional writers, and I asked if I could submit a packet.  I don't think she thought I'd get hired; she probably figured writing the packet would be a good way to distract me from worrying about what the hell I was doing with my life.

Walk us through a day-in-the-life of a Colbert writer. Were you there every day? Was it stressful? Was there a kitchen where people would commiserate about their upcoming deadlines? Who was your best friend? Did you have staff meetings like the rest of the American workforce? These memories are lost to the mists of time.  Besides, I'm saving all the juicy details for my memoirs (to be titled either “The Lesser is Too Evil” or “No, Let ME Be Frank With You LOLOLOOLkdjaflkjsdlfkj.”)  Sorry, it’s just that while we were on the show, they didn’t like us to reveal too many of the “magic tricks,” and I think that’s still a bit ingrained in me.

How were ideas pitched and selected? Well, semi-ignoring what I just wrote above: We'd pitch to the head writer, who'd then cull the “joke herd” and have us re-pitch in front of Stephen, and he'd ultimately decide what ideas to pursue (plus he and the head writers would have their own ideas and topics).  Having to re-pitch was never my favorite part, which is odd, considering how jokes are always funnier the second time you hear them…

How involved was Stephen Colbert in the process? Stephen Colbert was incredibly involved.  But even though the show is over, I still want to preserve its mystery-- am I talking about Stephen Colbert the character or Stephen Colbert the real person???  WHAT IS REALITY???????

What a seamless segue into my next question! There’s an ambiguous line between Real Stephen Colbert and Character Stephen Colbert. Was it difficult to write in a way that kept the two personas separate? I'd rather not speak for him.  (BUT WHICH HIM????)  For me, the show was always starring “Stephen Colbert the Person as Stephen Colbert the Character.” Little bits of the real Stephen would peek through from time to time, and the “character” was just him wearing his own face as a mask (whoooaaaaaa). And even with other shows, it's not like you're watching The Real David Letterman-- you're watching TV’s David Letterman. The only time writing for “The Character” was difficult was when you'd really want to weigh in on something, and you'd have to stop and figure out how to say it through Stephen's reverse worldview.

Did you have a passion for politics before writing for Colbert? I had made some political videos beforehand, some of them with my friend Jason Woliner, who went on to much bigger things (Human Giant, Eagleheart; if there’s a legitimately funny comedy show out there, he’s probably directed at least one episode of it.)  I do think it’s hard to keep doing political comedy year after year; politicians have term limits, and so do political satirists.

Who's your favorite political figure to write about? I liked making jokes about the Fox News folks, but maybe that was low-hanging fruit, since they were basically walking joke set-ups. Nowadays, I’m not as focused on politics. The problem with writing about topical subjects when you're not on a show is that you send a piece somewhere, and by the time they reject it it’s no longer topical and you can’t send it anywhere else.

Do you have a favorite sketch/segment from the show that you wrote? Oh, man, it all blends together so much, and the process was so incredibly collaborative. I’d like to point out that I never wrote any of the bits I actually appeared in (I played Stephen's roommate, Stephen's beard, a conquistador, an Ottoman Turk, a Colombian drug-lord posing as an intern, and Stephen’s Black Friend's White Friend-- oh wait, I did co-write that one).  As for things I wrote... I’m not sure, but I always wondered if it was a bit gauche to claim credit for bits.  Again, everything was so collaborative. The only thing I’ll claim right now is the original idea for “Charlene (I’m Right Behind You Now),” which was a stalker-y pop song Stephen “recorded” in the 80s.  The idea was mine, and so was the chorus, but Eric Drysdale wrote the much funnier verses. (I’m only claiming this one only because when Jack White came on the show and produced a cover of the song, the LP accidentally credited someone else.) Okay, wait, two more things that at the very least wouldn’t have happened without me: Stephen claiming Kareem Abdul Jabbar ripped off his documentary “Hiphopketball: A Jazzebration,” which turned into a bit of a multi-year runner; and Jeff Goldblum’s first appearance on the show to speak on behalf of flies after Obama killed one during an interview. You know, the hard-hitting political stuff.

What was the most fulfilling part about writing for the show? Getting asked to do interviews like this?  Really, I think it was knowing that my writing and jokes were actually having an audience; and not just the TV audience, but Stephen Colbert and the other writers in the room. It was pretty great to get Colbert to laugh (but the flip side of that was when you pitched a joke and he didn't laugh, and then you'd be like, “Aw, man, Stephen Colbert doesn’t think I’m funny”).  And not to get too political here, but it was also somewhat fulfilling to feel like I was “doing my part,” or “trying to make the world a better place”; regardless of any real world impact of our show, I felt we were at least entertaining the people who were making a real world impact.

What's it been like moving on from that experience? Well, it coincided with some family stuff, but that won't make for a very funny interview (unless you like VERY DARK HUMOR). It's been a bit tougher trying to write without a daily schedule and the pressure of deadlines, and it was also great to have a bunch of incredibly funny people to bounce ideas off of.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is also coming to a close this year. Are you as broken up about it as the rest of the world? I sort of had a feeling it would end on the sooner side of things, but I was still shocked when he actually announced it.  I'm sure whoever takes over will be great, and John Oliver is doing a great job carrying on the tradition of satirical comedy, but we're entering a bit of an uncharted era, so I weep for the future.

With Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert both becoming free agents this year, do you think there’s a chance for another collaboration, or is the timing just a coincidence? I'm holding out hope that Jon Stewart revives his old MTV talk show and interviews Colbert about a new season of Strangers With Candy (one of my favorite shows of all time).

I just bought your book, Sad Monsters: Growling on the Outside, Crying on the Inside, on Amazon. It's a delightfully clever look at the disadvantages of being scary. How did you come up with the concept? I looked inside myself, Lauren. And what I saw terrified me. Eh, I don't know; after a few years on Colbert, I decided to write some humor pieces, which was something I always enjoyed doing.  And for whatever reason, the first three pieces were monster-themed, so I figured I should write a collection. Actually—and this was only apparent more recently, after some reflection—I think it was inspired a bit by growing up with a somewhat crazy and angry father.  I wanted to write the book to show that monsters, just like Darth Vader—just like all fathers-- are human. Really, I just felt that there was some humor to be had in the idea of a crying mummy using its bandages as tissues (which wasn’t even a joke that ended up in the book).  The German translation may have actually had a better title-- it was “Even Monsters Are Scared of the Dark.”

Were you afraid of monsters as a kid? Yes. Show me a kid who isn't scared of monsters, and I'll show you a kid who is hiding cat skeletons beneath the floorboards. Honestly, I was always fascinated by the macabre; as a little kid I loved going to the Kahiki for birthday parties (see my earlier nostalgic comment), and I always desperately wanted to order the zombie drink because it came in a skull-shaped mug.  I recently bought one on EBay (see the selfie THAT YOU FORCED ME TO TAKE)

Don't worry, Frank, I won't tell the people how excited you were about the selfie. Have you always wanted to be a literary writer? Yes. Wait, are you saying that you consider me to be a literary writer???  Thanks!

Did you have anything to do with Stephen Colbert's books? I worked on “I Am America, And So Can You!” and “America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't,” along with all the other writers.  It was a lot of fun, but due to the different time frame, you’d think your jokes all made it in—until a few weeks before the final deadline, when suddenly everything changed.

You’ve written and produced several short films as well. My favorite is Bloody Murray, the story of a little girl wanting to see what happens when she says “Bloody Mary” into the mirror three times. It turns out Bloody Mary is on vacation, and her temp, Bloody Murray, is there in her place. Can we expect to see more in the future? For a while, I was trying to make at least one short film a year. Having said that... Bloody Murray was the last short film I made, and that was back at the end of 2011.  I've got a few ideas, but I've actually been spending most of my time and energy on longer projects (screenplays, comedy pilots). The annoying thing about that is you spend all this time on stuff that no one will necessarily see, and you start to feel like you're not accomplishing anything!

I beg to differ! You’ve written an impressive list of short stories for some of the most esteemed outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s and  My personal favorite is called "Password Check" which you wrote for NYT.  Do you have a favorite unpublished story you can share with us? That’s a great question, and I’ll try not to insult any publications with my answer…  I wrote a piece that I still love called “Lincoln’s Little Helper,” which is based on the true story of how an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell wrote the clean-shaven Abe Lincoln and suggested he grow a beard.  So, my piece imagined the entire letter she wrote, where she also suggests he wear his hair in pigtails and pick a unicorn as his running mate. I also wrote a piece titled “A Passive-Aggressive Letter to the Mouse in My Apartment,” which the New Yorker rejected about six or so years ago. Earlier this year, they ran someone else’s piece titled “An Open Letter to the Cockroach in My Apartment.” It’s obviously a case of parallel thought, but it’s a good illustration of how subjective taste in humor can be.

I have to bring up Twitter because it’s become this surprisingly valuable community for comedy writers to showcase their talent in a way that’s easily accessible and digestible.  How do you feel about it? The Twitter-friendly, sub-140-character answer: “It’s great! Please RT.”  The real answer is that I somewhat begrudgingly force myself to write a joke a day on it.  I was talking to another comedy writer, and I realized that I like to write comedy, but I don’t like writing jokes; or, to be clearer, I like writing jokes in service of a story or a character, but I’m not really into one-liners. I wouldn’t say that on Twitter, though, because it would probably start a shame war (it’s like a flame war, only the outraged internet folks are all trying to say “For shame!” louder than the next person). Really, though, Twitter’s a great tool for aspiring comedy writers—it’s a great way to network, a great way to get your work (or at least jokes) out there, and a great way to meet other funny people.

Do you enjoy social media in general?  Are you okay with the fact that I quickly skimmed (very thoroughly examined) your Facebook page for a few seconds (hours and hours) before writing this? I think I’m stuck in the internet circa 2009 or so. That’s the last time I felt I understood what it’s deal was. Maybe I just don’t get outraged enough, or maybe I’m getting old, but I find it a bit exhausting. I’m as much of a narcissist as anyone else, but I’m a lazy narcissist.

I recently had a baby, so I really related to your tweet, “Pregnant women get really freaked out when I touch their stomachs, just because I use my tongue.” Totally unrelated question: Have you ever been arrested? Glad you liked that one.  I don’t have kids myself, but I consider my jokes to be my children, and I'm very proud of them all, even the dumb ones. No, I have not been arrested, but when I was in high school I did have a police officer show up at my house at 6 in the morning on a Sunday to ask if I’d been involved in a traffic accident that resulted in a stolen 25 MPH sign. There’s more of a story there, but I’m saving it for my memoirs (“Frank You for Not Joking”).

In 2013, The Colbert Report won an Emmy for “Outstanding Variety Series” ending The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's 10-year winning streak. Stephen Colbert accepted the Emmy on the team's behalf, so to close out the interview, I thought I would give you a moment to write an acceptance speech of your own.

(Approaches podium)

Wow, look at all these people!


(Awkwardly walks offstage as the music plays me off.  (It was a really long fart.))


Shelby Fero is 21 years old. She was born in 1993. She is the same age as Ariana Grande and the least offensive Jonas brother. She has 113K followers on Twitter, most of whom include celebrities, screenwriters and industry giants, and she's shaping up to be one of the most talked about up-and-coming comedians of her generation. 

To put this into perspective, when I was 21 years old, I didn't know what a debit card was and ate microwavable mac 'n' cheese for breakfast. I also thought the sun was, like, 30 miles from Earth.

To add to Shelby's digital resume, she just wrote for a show called Other Space, created by Bridesmaids producer, Paul Feig, which premieres on Yahoo this spring. Not to be pigeon-holed to web-only series, she also writes for television, currently working for my former employer, Adult Swim, on a show called TV Sucks which was created by Brad Neely and will "hopefully premiere at some point".

I'm a massive fan. A good portion of my writing is inspired by her self-deprecating, observational voice. I love her, she makes me feel normal, and I'll never let go, Jack. I strongly encourage all of you to visit Shelby in her beautiful home on the internet (99% sure that's where she actually lives). You can find her on YouTube at Shelby Fero Is a Bummer, on Twitter at @ShelbyFero and on Tumblr at

She would also like you to know she's just generally around.

Listen, I have a lot of questions for you. I just feel like you have all the answers, and I want to capitalize on that as much as possible. You are in for an unpleasant surprise re: having all the answers!

I'm gonna be honest with you, Shelb - can I call you that? The “y” takes up a lot of space on my website. Could have lied and said cause we're chill pals who get nicknames, but yeah, whatever, economy of space is a fine reason too.

I'm gonna be honest with you, Shelb. I've been a fan of yours since 2012 when you tweeted, “I have a cold if anyone wants to hear a solid Adam Levine impression”. I felt an immediate kinship. Why do women love him so much? Wow, what kind of weird, borderline nonsensical, shade was I throwing at Adam Levine when I was a freshman in college who mostly slept on a pile of clothes as high as my actual bed? Or do I think I sing well when I have a cold and is my barometer for "well" Adam Levine? This is really gonna put me in my head for the rest of this.

In preparation for this interview, I've eaten multiple rounds of sandwiches and watched approximately every Shelby Fero video on the internet. My favorite is, of course, the one of you trying to drink water after five hours at the dentist. What kind of sandwiches?? I've been doing avocado, vegan kimchi and garlic powder on wheat a lot lately. And I'm getting back into tuna melts, I think. I'm nervous to say this, especially not having hung out with you long enough to make clear how little I like me as a person, but I fucking love that video. Watching numb people try to drink liquids is as interesting and engaging to me as people brushing their teeth (which is to say very.)

That’s it, that’s all I wanted to say. THIS FEELS LIKE A BAD WAY TO END AN INTERVIEW.

FINE. Your immense success at such a young age fascinates me. You were a senior in high school when you skyrocketed to Twitter fame. I'm not saying high school students aren't capable of such accomplishment, but most aren't even able to make their own lunch. My dad packed my lunches every day before school so you're half right.

You began writing for and building your Twitter empire during the same time. What sparked your interest in comedy? I'm equally nervous the answer will make people roll their eyes at me or push me down and kick dirt in my face; newspaper comic strips were my gateway into comedy, starting when I was maybe six or seven. I probably have every Dilbert, Farside, and Calvin&Hobbes comic books seared into my memory. Cannery Row and that one Edgar Allen Poe short story about the midget jester who has to get drunk to entertain the kind despite knowing the alcohol will kill him (or something like that?) were pretty funny as well. Honestly though, have you gone back and read or watched some old kids' books or shows? Dr. Seuss, Richard Scary, Roald Dahl, Sesame Street, Babar, Frog and Toad -- those were bangers. Dante's Inferno is funny as Hell.

Were you a good student? Yes and no. Until 7th grade I was the annoyingly over-enthusiastic learner who did all their homework and got straight A's. After 7th grade, I was the annoyingly over-enthusiastic learner who never did homework and got by on test scores.

I think you're the next generation's powerful woman in comedy. You'll be running the show very soon. What’s your game plan for edging out Tina Fey? This question kind of sucks 'cause I'm not edging anyone out -- but me calling that out is sort of lame and not very productive on my part -- so I'd say smear campaign directed at people who need glasses which eventually backfires when the public learns I'm farsighted.

You have a collection of celebrity Twitter followers. Who's your favorite? The general concept of empathy.

Walk me through a day in the life of a highly-regarded Twitter personality. If I'm working I wake up at 6am, walk or swim, go to work, watch a show or movie, go to bed by 10:30pm. If I'm not working, each day is a macabre sham and brutal mockery of a meaningful existence. Sometimes, on the weekend, I'll go to spin class!

I feel panicked for you for having to be "always on" on Twitter. Do you feel a sense of obligation to keep up with it as much as you do? Honestly, I try to keep myself toned down most of the time. Once, when I was maybe 11 or 12, my eldest sister soberly turned to me and said "you don't always have to be on." Another time, both my older sisters decided they would genuinely hold up little signs that said "not funny" any time I made a joke they found, you know, not funny. I think by that point they realized I was going to be annoying no matter what, so they might as well take an active hand in shaping their entertainment.

Do you ever scroll back through your feed and delete tweets you don't like anymore? Sometimes, usually within the same day if I find it too critical, or petty in some way, or think my dad might try to text me to talk about it.

At least your dad texts. Mine calls a desktop computer "InstaBook". Can you give us our very own Shelbyism right here, right now? I believe anger is a useless emotion and waste of energy and I will fucking fight any nerd that says otherwise.

Tell me about your involvement with Key & Peele. I just watched the Substitute Teacher episode and was laughing so hard I had to take an Ibuprofen. I can't take credit for any enjoyment people get out of that sketch. That's all those two guys. Someone over there decided to ask me to be in it and I showed up and I got to be a part of a video that still gets me recognized out in LA by German tourists.

Is there a show or project you’d like to be a part of? Literally any of them. I'd take four weeks working anywhere almost anytime. Movies, TV, music videos, animation, marine biology, after school tutoring, CERN -- I'd love to have the luxury of working at Starbucks for a week to see what it's like (the luxury being I could then get to quit whenever I wanted). I can get into anything for awhile. I'm sort of everything wrong with this generation.

I can feel my Gen X readers leaving in droves. Who inspires you? MY GRANDMA (WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS CUZ I'M BEING SINCERE AS FUCK)

Hi, Grandma! She's totally reading this! Favorite thing you've ever written? I tried to get one character's "thing" to be he fart and burps simultaneously when scared but I was rightfully shot down.

You're gaining exposure in front of the camera as well. Do you prefer acting over writing? Sometimes! It's hard. I have a lot of respect for actors and will never be great at it, but I love it enough to try for a lot longer than I deserve.

You also partake in stand-up and improv. Do live shows make you nervous? I think I would faint and die if someone told me I had to say jokes out loud in a small room with barely any windows. Stand-up scares the Hell out of me. Improv does too, but in the best way possible.

Let’s move to a more informal line of questioning. In an ideal world, who would you want to be best friends with? This can be anyone, except Adam Levine. The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.

You’re a sleepwalker. I am too! Tell me about a favorite sleeping-walking adventure. I woke up outside my hotel room, trying to get back into it without a key, on a sports trip in eighth or ninth grade. It was 3am, and I had to go to the front desk to ask for a new key. The woman didn't even bat an eye which still makes me uncomfortable today. Like, thank you for the help, but also, should you be more concerned about the situation?

This is about to get real, but my biggest fear is sleepwalking out a hotel window or into a small, dangerous space like the inside of a cement truck. Is there anything else you want to tell me? I’m here for you. I'm very flattered you asked me to do this and am trying to get these questions done as quickly as possible before I decide I don't deserve it and go back to watching Justice League cartoons and YouTube videos about WWI.

Let's end by switching roles. Hit me with your best interview questions. 

Where did you grow up? A beautiful little suburb outside of Columbus, Ohio. It's like the movie Pleasantville, but Tobey Maguire doesn't live there.

Do you have any siblings? Were your parents in the picture? Did you like them? Did they like you? My parents are are wonderful and are celebrating their 40th anniversary this September. They are very much in the picture. I text my mom 376 times a day -- very clingy. I have an older brother named Will who used to trap me inside storage units and trip me as I came sprinting down the stairs on Christmas morning. Somehow he's my parents' favorite.

Would it affect you more if you thought someone didn't like you or if someone thought you don't like them? I'VE WRITTEN SIX DIFFERENT ANSWERS THIS QUESTION IS BREAKING ME

Do you have a dog or a baby? I have a dog AND a baby! They both bite.

If so, can we all hang out? Yes! But how do you feel about throw up?

If not, do you just like wanna hang out? That would probably be less of a disaster. Or would it? I'm genuinely not sure.

Stay tuned for Lauren & Shelby the Squeakuel where Shelb and I eat sandwiches and sleepwalk around LA.


I know this isn't the forum to bring it up, but I ate an entire block of brie in two nights time, and it's caused me a very dissatisfying comfort level. I feel bad that you know this dark truth, but at least I feel free from the private disgrace I've been living in. I should also come clean that it was the size of brie you bring to a party with no less than 20 people, not the smaller kind you share with just one other person.

Now that we're loose as a goose, I'm going to ease everyone out of their weekend bliss and into the reality that we're all basically prisoners to our jobs by introducing you to another professionally fortunate soul. Another gentleman who gets to write words that make people laugh AND get paid for it. 

His name is David, and I'm afraid of him. He's written for monster successes like New Girl, United States of Tara and Mad Men (if you've ever heard of those). Oh, and he also used to write for some smaller show I can't remember the name of, but I think it's called Saturday Night Live or something dumb like that. Not only is he immensely talented, but he's insanely smart, he's a very strong writer from both a technical and a creative standpoint, and he's probably going to read this. A combination that makes me very nervous. I didn't even give this post a title because I'm afraid he'll hate it. Anyway, I'm nauseous, enjoy!

(To prove my point, he sent me this incredibly threatening selfie. I can't tell which one is him, but I think he's the guy on the right.)

Let’s start by acknowledging the fact that you have intimidating hair, and I can’t decide if you look friendly or not. I’ve never been accused of being intimidating. I wear glasses. I’m short. Three days ago a middle-aged man in hospital scrubs threatened to kick my ass in a convenience store because I didn’t get out of his way fast enough as he was rushing through an aisle. Then he walked back to his car and I saw that he had a disabled placard on this rearview mirror. So, he wasn’t intimidated.

You feel insulted, but also kind of empowered now, right? It’s hard to feel insulted about my hair. I don’t know what I would have if I didn’t have my hair. I don’t know if it’s hard and fast science, but it is said a man can gauge his eventual baldness by looking at his maternal grandfather. Mine was totally bald. My dad’s father, also totally bald. But I’m at the age right now that if I was going to be totally bald, I would be totally bald. My brother also has a full head of hair. We’re defying genetics. We are marvels of modern science. I am beating the odds every day.

Your resume is impressive and makes my job incredibly easy. You’ve written for enormously successful shows like SNL, New Girl and Mad Men.  How did you get your start in the industry? I moved to Los Angeles and had a series of jobs where I made coffee, answered phones and read scripts. In between those jobs, I tried to write as much as possible and then tried to get people to read my stuff. Also, through someone I worked with, I got the opportunity to submit jokes to Weekend Update. I got a few jokes on the air and they hired me and that was my first writing job. Also, my dad is Steven Spielberg and he said I could have any job I want.

I’m kidding.         

A few weeks ago I watched James Franco’s documentary, Saturday Night, where he filmed the behind-the-scenes creation of an episode of SNL.  Have you seen it? No. Should I?      

You should. It's the least offensive thing James Franco has ever done, in my opinion. How do these writers and cast members not spiral into hysterics week over week? I don’t know how the cast doesn't spiral into hysterics on the air, but when I worked there, which was a while ago at this point, there were so many amazingly funny people around and everyone laughed all the time and that was what made it fun.

What is the biggest challenge aside from the strict deadlines and no sleep? This has apparently changed since I worked there, but there was always a ton of food around, so the challenge was not to gain hundreds of pounds and die from an overwhelming amount of McNuggets.

Let’s shift gears. New Girl is one of my favorite shows of this decade. What is it like being in that writers room? It was a huge writers room with a lot of great people. It’s like being at a dinner party with, like, 17 of your friends all day. But also like having to go back to the same weird dinner party every single day. Sometimes you just wanted to have dinner at home.

Do you write for a specific character? No, it doesn't really work like that. A writer on that show, and every show I've ever worked on, writes for every character.

Nick Miller is a free loader and a scrooge. Maybe you can help me understand why I love him so much?Let’s unpack this. Does he remind you of your father?

I think my dad showers more than Nick Miller does, but otherwise, they're basically the same person. How much impact do the actors have on making adjustments to the script? It’s different on every show, but both the actors and writers hope the script is pretty solid before the cameras are rolling and no one has to adjust a script. Ideally, it’s a collaborative process and you are writing to the actor’s strengths and they are excited about the script and game to make it work.

Mad Men is a bit of a departure from your comedy roots. How did you find your way to the drama department? I like that you said “drama department” like I was trying out for the school play.  

Thank you for pointing that out, David. I felt the same way after I wrote it, but it was too late to fix it, and I will never forgive myself. Let me re-phrase so we can all sleep comfortably tonight. How did you make the shift from comedy to drama? I've always written things for myself that exist in a tone somewhere in between comedy and drama. That’s where I’m most comfortable, real emotion mixed with comedy. I don’t consider writing for drama much of a departure from what I was doing on my own. The biggest difference between writing television drama vs. comedy is that the scripts are twice as long. The Mad Men writers room in particular has plenty of people who began in comedy so it felt a very natural place to work.

It’s a common philosophy that it’s easier to write for drama than for comedy. Would you say that’s true? Is that a common philosophy? I never found either of those things particularly easy.

Is there a particular show on TV right now that you would like to work on? There are shows I’m watching right now that I love: Broad City, Fargo, Better Call Saul, Louie, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, The Americans, Transparent, Orange is the New Black, Man Seeking Woman...Hopefully my next TV job will be on my own show in which case I’ll be content just enjoying those shows as a fan.

Your first novel, Firecracker, was released last year. Tell me about the book. How did you come up with the concept? Firecracker is a funny young adult novel about Astrid Krieger, a 17-year-old girl from a very wealthy and powerful family who is kicked out of her boarding school and forced to attend the local public school in her hometown. It’s also about her trying, with mixed success, to be a better person. The character came to me almost fully formed one evening when her name jumped into my brain. The concept was a means to see the world through her very specific point of view. I’m very proud of the book and everyone should buy it. Everyone. Absolutely everyone.

My favorite blog post of yours is your interview with Astrid Krieger, whom the book is written about. She seems unimpressed. Astrid is unimpressed by most things. In her home, she describes a portrait of her extended family where she is rolling her eyes, which she finds particularly amusing because it’s not a photograph, it’s a painting. I was excited to write a character who isn’t weighed down by normal insecurities. She doesn’t give much weight to the opinions of others so she moves through the world completely validated and pleased with herself. Most people find her unpleasant and, but that’s a lot of what makes her such a pleasure to write.

There are plenty of screen writers who aspire to write books, but they find it difficult to organize their thoughts long enough to get something significant down on paper. How is your process different for writing in this capacity? Well, I guess I’m not that different because I also find it very difficult to organize my thoughts long enough to get something significant down on paper. Writing a book was very hard and took forever. I’m not even sure how I managed to finish the thing. So my process was different because I somehow finished, but every second was a struggle. I always weighed writing against taking naps. Writing won like half the time.

The book has 4.6 out of 5 stars in the customer reviews section. What would you like to say to the 8% of people who rated it as less than perfect? My wife doesn't let me read reviews, because I have a very thin skin, so for all I know the negative reviews are about how the packaging got torn in shipment or they thought they were ordering actual firecrackers but got my book instead and barely anything happened when they lit it on fire.

To close out the interview, would you mind writing an exclusive VERY short story? Okay. I’m currently staring at my dogs, so I’ll write a fictional story about my dog, Jones.

Jones, a 40 pound dog, worked for 23 years at Stasher Manufacturing, a mid-sized company specializing in farm equipment. He eventually rose to level of VP of Quality Assurance, but in the wake of a poor profit year, he was forced to take an early retirement by Mr. Stasher’s nephew, who had a lot of new ideas about the company.

They threw Jones a retirement party on a Thursday afternoon and Mr. Statcher gave a speech and presented Jones with a gold watch, which he felt was fitting because Jones was part golden retriever.

Jones got up to speak and instead of fake gratitude, he felt the weight of all the indignities he felt over his two plus decades at the company and his voice rose in rage. “Don’t you think a watch is an impractical gift for me because I use all four legs to walk and can’t use a watch the way people do?” he asked. “And the hors d’ouevers table? There’s cheese and I do love cheese, but there are also grapes. Grapes are basically poison to dogs!”

Jones imagined that he would make people think about how they treated him and how he worked so hard and got few rewards and then got discarded like he didn’t matter. He expected applause. He hoped for tears. He longed for his dignity back. Instead, almost no one in the room even listened to him because they were all like, “Holy shit! A talking dog!” Those fuckers. 


Last week, the internet was thrown for a loop when the Twitter account for cancelled ABC comedy series, Happy Endings, tweeted a cryptic link taking fans to a mysterious clock counting down to "a new day". WHAT! I saw the link while I was minding my own business, eating a family size bowl of fruit snacks and watching the end of You've Got Mail (this happens a lot). I had immediate heart attacks and hurriedly logged into Twitter to scroll through the endless speculation about whether the show will be coming back. And I knew, in that moment, that I needed to get to the bottom of it. For the people! But mainly for myself.

So I reached out to Prentice Penny, writer and producer for the show. He agreed to do the interview with very short notice, so it goes without saying I'm forever a fan. Now, let me make one thing very clear, friends: Prentice Penny is cooler than all of us. For three inarguable reasons. I will list them now.

1. He's written AND produced for some of the most popular shows on television over the past ten years, including Scrubs, Happy Endings and Girlfriends.

2. He currently writes for Golden Globe-winning, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Sundays at 8:30 on FOX), and gets to witness Andre Braugher's deadpan, in person, whenever he wants.

3. He knows the Happy Endings secret and will. not. break.

To really drive home the point, he sent me the below selfie, and when I asked if he wanted to add a caption, he said, "No. I'm ok."


First thing's first, Prentice. The countdown clock.
No response(laughs)
I'm going to ask you once. Is Happy Endings coming back?
I’m going to again say, no response. (laughs)

We're really making a breakthrough here, I think. The cult following behind the show is chock full of famously loyal fans. What is it like writing for an audience who is so rabidly devoted? It’s a lot of fun.  When we wrote the first season, we had no idea what people were going to like, but we knew we had something special.  At least something we all thought was funny in the writer’s room. But at the time we had no time slot at all - so we were like “that was fun, but oh well". Then when the show started to build an audience, and people got so into the show, it was nice. However, we always wanted to make sure we didn’t just start getting high on our own supply.

The show ran for three seasons despite its fans' efforts to keep it alive. We're talking Facebook groups, Twitter pages, fan sites, viral videos, picket lines, you name it; All dedicated to saving the show. What was it like experiencing that from your perspective?
It was tough knowing that on the inside it’s like a losing battle, no matter what the fans said.  I do believe Happy Endings was a victim of shows that started to get ratings in the “1’s”, but if Happy Endings was on now, I think it would be on the air.  Especially in the wake of shows like Mindy Project where the overall rating may be low, but they are number one in the demo and speak right to their audience. That’s the definition of success. It was also tough being on ABC where most of the shows were family shows, and we were the lone young-people show. It was a hard fit.
Much like the show Friends, there's no getting rid of one specific character because they all bring something unique to the table. Who's your favorite?
They all were fun to write for, honestly. Those six actors were all great in their own way.  I legit had no favorite.  Although, certain pairings would be fun.  Like Damon [Wayans Jr.]/[Adam] Pally or Zack [Knighton]/Elisha [Cuthbert] or Eliza [Coupe/Casey [Wilson].  But you could put anyone together, and it’d be gold.

I will forever harbor feelings for Brad Williams, played by Damon Wayans, Jr. Please let him know.
I in no way condone stalking, but ok.
You're currently working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, another massively successful show currently airing Sundays at 8:30 on FOX. Why wouldn't it be on at 9:00? Brooklyn Nine-Nine at nine. Seems like low-hanging fruit. 
What makes writing for Brooklyn Nine-Nine different than other shows you’ve worked on?
That there are so many diverse cast members.  There's three women, two of whom who are Latina. Two African American men. Two actors over 55. On Happy Endings or Scrubs or Girlfriends, all of the characters were usually the same age or same background, which is great too because it makes the jokes all relatable. But it's also nice writing for so many characters who are so different.
It's a common practice that comedy shows incorporate a certain level of ad-lib for authentic effect. How much do the actors stick to the script on Brooklyn Nine-Nine
We always get the scripted version. Always. But once that's done we do takes where Andy [Samberg] and other cast members will improv. I think people think that because it's quick and flowing, it has to be improv. The writers work very hard to make it seem that way. And usually, improv works better once a structure is in place to start with. You can't improv story. You can improv jokes. And the structure allows there to be a different telling of the joke or a new joke idea. But to say it all comes out of thin air would be 100% not true.

What’s it like being in the writers’ room with Andy Samberg?
Andy isn't in the writer's room, but he always pitches funny stuff on set, and he loves to riff on jokes back and forth. Mostly, you pitch stuff back and forth, and he'll take it and make it a million times better. 
Do you have a favorite episode or show moment?
Honestly, it's like saying which one of your kids you like more. And if my kids are reading this - it's Benjamin. But I don't. I love seeing Chelsea [Peretti] dance. I like the two Halloween episodes a lot because it's Jake [Peralta] and [Captain Ray] Holt squaring off. I also like the emotional episodes, so "The Bet" where we learn Jake likes Amy when he takes her out on a date was nice. That's when the show felt it had hit a sweet spot.
It would be delinquent of me not to bring up Scrubs. You wrote several episodes for season nine. What was your favorite part about working on the show?
The other writers. I met so many talented people - a lot I ended up working with on Happy Endings. Plus, a Scrubs spec is what got me my first job on Girlfriends, so I was pumped to write on a show I was a fan of. Plus, I got to work with Donald Faison and Dave Franco. What's better!
Not only do you write, but you also produce and direct. Which role brings you the most fulfillment?
 I haven’t directed in a long time, but I love to write. I hate being on set. I’d say producing is fun because you get to have input but other people more brilliant than you make those things happen.  
How did you get your start as a screenwriter?
I got in as a writer’s trainee on a a great show called Girlfriends that was written by Mara Brock Akil (Being Mary Jane, The Game)  As an African-American writer, she was big on making sure she opened more doors for people, and she did. I learned so much from her. Not just in terms of being a professional writer, but how to be a professional. How to treat a writing staff, etc.. How to run a show. She’s brilliant.
What shows currently inspire you?
Louie, House of Cards, Broad City 
What do you do on days you wake up and don't feel motivated to write?
 I write anyway. It’s a muscle you gotta exercise. Even if the writing doesn’t really flow that day - it’s okay.  Most of what you write the first go around is bad anyway. I usually find I did at least “one" thing good if I just get up and do it.
Blink twice if Happy Endings is coming back.
*Writer is unable to blink.

You're like a very tightly sealed Tupperware that won't open even when hurling it to the ground. I respect that. Let's end with a game. Write the first word that comes to mind when you see the following names:
Adam Pally - Hilarious
Casey Wilson - Free
Damon Wayans Jr. - Star
Elisha Cuthbert - Surprising
Zachary Knighton - Prepared
Eliza Coupe - Focused
Andy Samberg - Creative
Terry Crews - Generous
Joe Lo Truglio - Flat-out funny
Chelsea Peretti - Quick
Melissa Fumero - Open
Andre Braugher Genius
Stephanie Beatriz - Layered



This project was a wrinkle in my brain just two weeks ago. I scribbled the idea into the notes section of my iPhone at 3am after being jolted awake by another Homeland-related stress dreamThe note said: "Gibve writers the attentjion they deservf." I was very tired.

But it's true, screenwriters are often eclipsed by what goes on in front of the camera and not given equal recognition with the masses. So here I am, forcing them out of their dark, candy-wrapper-riddled safety caves and bringing them into the forefront.

Instead of dipping my toe into the water slowly, I made a reckless decision to hurl my entire body into the abyss at once and reach out to Jiffy Wild, one of my favorite cast members from the recently wrapped late-night talk show, Chelsea Lately. Not only did he agree to talk to a small potato like me, but he is one of the kindest people currently living on this planet. We exchanged several emails, and within a week I had my first feature. Note: his email responses are like tiny hugs.

You can currently find Jiffy on tour with fellow former Chelsea Lately cast member, Josh Wolf, in a musical comedy show fittingly titled The Wild Wolf Band. The duo will be heading back to television to star in Josh's new late-night show produced by former boss-lady, Chelsea Handler, and will air on CMT in June. Follow @JiffyWild on Twitter and visit for tour dates near you.

Oh, and since selfies will be the death of the human race, I forced him to send me one. Enjoy.

Josh [Wolf] and I usually take a day to wander around whatever city we're in. This is from Kansas City (not that you can tell from the lovely brick wall), but seeing new places is one of the best parts about doing this job.

Let's just make it clear to everyone that you and I are perfect strangers, and you were kind enough to agree to pilot this project for me. You're very trusting. 
We're strangers, but we're not perfect.

Speak for yourself, I'm flawless. Please state your name for the jury.
Jeff Wild, but some people call me "Jiffy".

Where did the nickname come from? I'm sure I could Google it, but that's not responsible journalism.
I actually don't think Google has the answer, so I'll give you one. At the beginning of Chelsea Lately, Chelsea [Handler] just started calling me "Jiffy", and it stuck. Pretty awesome story, right? Nicknames are usually the worst, but if the person who's paying you gives you one, then you just take it. 

It could always be worse. My mom gave me the nickname "Lucy" when I was very little. A few years ago I found out it was short for "Lucifer". Let's start small. Where are you from?
Originally Tucson, Arizona, but I've been living in Los Angeles for about 15 years.
What were you like in high school?
I was a good soccer player. I was nice to people. I played guitar. I had an amazing girlfriend that I was crazy about. I had offers to play soccer in college, but I hated it by the time I graduated. I just wanted to make stupid movies, play guitar, move to Los Angeles, and then write songs about how much I missed my girlfriend that I left back in Arizona. We eventually got back together, and then got married. Jiffy for the win.

Now that we're best friends, tell me what motivated you to become a comedy writer.
I don't think I was ever motivated by one thing. I think if you're a comedy writer, it's something inside of you whether you're actually doing it or not. Does that makes sense? Like, some comedians are innately better at it, and some work harder at it. But at the core, if you're a writer, then you've always been one and always will be. Even if writing comedy isn't what you do for a living, it'll eventually find you, and you'll just do it. That makes no sense. Next question.

It makes perfect sense, and you're one of the few lucky people who found a way to make it happen professionally. You're most well known for your work on E!'s late night talk show, Chelsea Lately, and semi-scripted comedy show, After Lately. Tell me about how you landed the job.
When I started working on Chelsea Lately, I was the art department guy. I was making props and building sets, but I got to know Chelsea [Handler] pretty well from being on set every day. And she would invite me out to drinks and to parties, and I think I made her laugh. She liked me, so she started putting me on the show, both in sketches and on the round table. I was totally out of place on the round table. You know, I was sitting next to professional and amazing comedians, and they were like "Who the fuck is this guy?" Eventually they moved me to the Writer's Assistant position, and then to Writer and Producer. It was a long, strange journey that I'm totally grateful for.

Was it intimidating getting started in the industry?
Yes, but I think the excitement drowns out any intimidation that would make you want to stop.

You write and perform. Which do you prefer?
I love performing right now. Touring and doing stand-up has been a lot of fun, but I think long-term I'd prefer to be a writer. One who's at home every night with his family.

After Lately fascinates me on so many levels. It's a mockumentary loosely based on what goes on behind the scenes of Chelsea Lately. How scripted is it?
I'd say 80% of the storylines were based on real things that happened. The stories morphed as they got ready for television, but at the core it was all reality. And some of my favorite real moments and stories never even made it to air.

You're portrayed as the quiet, reasonable one. Is that true off-camera?
Totally. Ha. I don't know, most of time I'm quiet and reasonable, but I've blown my lid from time to time.

You and Chelsea shared a bathtub scene. Tell me about that.
That was...strange. We shot the same day as my son's third birthday party. So I went from hosting 20 toddlers and parents, and then ran right over to Chelsea's house. We shot that in her actual bath tub. And they made me wear this tiny nude cod piece thing that covered nothing. It was pretty embarrassing. She got to wear a one piece. 

I won't reveal my sources, but I've heard Chelsea is a wonderful and generous person despite her efforts to portray herself as the salty, couldn't-care-less type. What's your perspective?
You have good sources! She is by far and away the most generous person I have ever met. Like, overly so. To a fault. Sometimes she makes you dizzy with gratitude. She's kind of the opposite of most Hollywood types; A lot of celebrities seem to be super nice on-camera but are assholes in real life. She comes across as kind of bitchy on-air, but is the nicest person when the cameras are off.

Anything else we should know about Chelsea? This is a safe zone, she's definitely not reading a blog.
What you see is what you get with Chelsea.

Chelsea Lately aired its final episode in August of last year. Was it difficult to move on after such a long, successful run?
Difficult? No. Kind of sad? Sure. I don't know. It felt like graduating from high school again. I made all these awesome friends, and we all swore to "see each other all the time" and remain close, but that's just not the reality of life. So, it made me sad knowing that I'd be missing a lot of great and talented people, but I was, and still am, insanely excited to start this new chapter. I took my son to see the new Night at the Museum movie, and I know it's a dumb movie to quote, but there's a scene where Ben Stiller is kind of worried and sad and says, "I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow...", and Robin Williams says, "Isn't that exciting!?". That speaks to me right now.

You're currently touring and doing comedy shows with Josh Wolf, another former writer and cast member on Chelsea. There's music involved. How did this concept come to life?
A few years ago, Josh and Chris Franjola really encouraged me to start doing stand up. I had never really considered it, but it kind of made sense at the time. Stand up kind of found me. I started featuring for Josh on his tour dates, and I brought my guitar because it felt safer. I was in bands my whole life, so performing for people with my guitar was more comfortable for me at first. And eventually, Josh started inviting me on stage during his sets, and we'd write and play stupid songs...and the audience loved it.

Who's the better singer?
Probably Josh. 

Stand up can be a tough gig. What keeps you from losing momentum?
I lose momentum all the time. Every weekend of shows I go from "I hate this, I suck, I'm done." to "That was the best set ever! I love this!". I'm taking it show by show right now.

Any strange experiences while on the road with Josh?
Every weekend something strange happens. Usually involving a weird fan, and Josh and I looking at each other like "what the f---".

Do your wives ever become jealous of your beautiful bromance?
I think they like us on the road together. We're both family guys and not really partiers. We just write a lot when we're on the road. And sleep a lot. That's what my wife is most jealous of; My quiet, dark hotel rooms.

Speaking of you and your wife, you are parents to two adorable kids. Are they funny?
I think they're hilarious. I'm sure every parent says that about their kids, but a lot of my act right now is based off conversations I have with my kids. Like, out of the blue, my son asked me, "How do girls pee?" like he'd been thinking about it for a while. And he genuinely wanted to know the answer. I mean, kids are just so weird and naive, they're bound to say funny shit.

My son is about to celebrate his first birthday. Any parenting advice you can give me?
It gets better.

Let's end with a series of questions a five year old would ask:

What's your favorite noise? My kids screaming "DAD!" when I walk in the door.
Who's your best friend? My wife, Ali.
Are you mad at me? Fuming.
Which super hero is the stupidest? Batman is super rich, he should really just relax and enjoy his money.
How many dogs do you have? One bat-shit crazy mutt.
Do you like food? Only when I'm hungry.