Writing for Comedy Television

Recently, I read two autobiographies of very successful comedy writers: Tina Fey’s “Bossy Pants” and Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me”? Underneath the entertaining tone and jokes, I found that both these books had interesting insider views on the industry of comedy writing. In this post, I’ve listed a few helpful ideas.

1)      Comedy Writers Know how to Act and make Time to Hone their Skill.

Tina Fey majored in drama. She worked long hours at a boring office job to afford improve classes. Though Kaling had a job as a babysitter, she and her roommate wrote a one hour skit in which they directed and performed. Because these two comedy writers knew how to deliver lines, they knew how to craft them. The beauty of being able to act and compose your own work is that you don’t need anyone else’s permission. You can write a skit that you can hope someone with power will supply the vision for, or you can do the imagining on you own and wait for no one.

2)      Comedy Writers Start Small

Fey traveled in a comedic group for years until she networked with the producer of Saturday Night Live. Kaling committed her time  and effort to her one act play until she met the producer of The Office. These comedic writers climbed the corporate ladder. Because they never stopped learning and practicing their craft, they were able to demonstrate their ability and love of their art.

3)      Comedy Writers are Resilient and take Risks

Fey agonized over writing the pilot of 30 Rock and was unable to get Baldwin to sign up as the lead until the last minute. Kailing tried to be a writer for other shows that fell apart before the pilot aired. Ultimately, 30 Rock became one of TV’s most unusual sitcoms, though was reluctant to change in order to appear more mainstream, a choice that caused the series to miss out on certain awards and audiences. Kailing was hesitant to do a remake of a successful British show worried how to pull it off

These autobiograhies really helped me discern ways to break into difficult industires, such as writing for televison. I’ll post other options such as this one in the weeks ahead.


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