Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers

Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers

Mike Sacks

Language: English

Pages: 480

ISBN: 0143123785

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, Adam McKay, George Saunders, Bill Hader, Patton Oswalt, and many more take us deep inside the mysterious world of comedy in this fascinating, laugh-out-loud-funny book. Packed with behind-the-scenes stories—from a day in the writers’ room at The Onion to why a sketch does or doesn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live to how the BBC nearly erased the entire first season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus—Poking a Dead Frog is a must-read for comedy buffs, writers and pop culture junkies alike.

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they don’t, it doesn’t work. Silence is death. I don’t think I have that same neediness because I’m not moving a hundred miles an hour. If I’m telling a story that I know is going to get funny, I have to just trust that people are going to hang with the straight part of the narrative. I’m at an advantage. Being onstage in front of an audience creates a different level of expectations. You want to see the audience smile. You can’t help that. So that type of comedy is going to have to be

amazing. I still remember the books: Monster Rally, Addams and Evil, Black Maria, Drawn and Quartered. What was it about Addams’s cartoons that appealed to a nine-year-old? For one thing, I “got” them. I couldn’t relate to some of the other New Yorker cartoons, like the ones in which grown-ups said witty things to each other at a cocktail party. That just didn’t make any sense to me; I had no idea what a cocktail party was, really. But with Addams, I understood the jokes. It was sick

a big, entertaining half hour. It takes awhile to learn about the characters and enjoy their funny traits. In the Cheers pilot, for example, Cliff is basically an extra. It wasn’t until a few episodes later that they moved him to the other end of the bar and sat him next to Norm, forming the most famous 275-episode tableau in TV history. It frustrates me sometimes, because shows get picked up based on their pilots, which is directly analogous to judging a book by its first ten pages. And then

line of Protestant Irish who ended up in the South, in Birmingham, Alabama. When they came over from Ireland, Alabama was a pretty prosperous place. My father was born there, and then lived for awhile in Louisville. You weren’t raised in the South. How did your family eventually end up north? My father’s mother, my grandmother, was very smart. She was also a very difficult woman who lived to be one hundred. She was evacuated out of Atlanta ahead of Sherman’s army when she was a child, and I

enough money to provide for my family in the way they deserved, and 2) having a job that required me to spend basically my whole day doing things that I didn’t want to do and were simultaneously hard and boring but that were, at that time, the only antidote to (1). So I suppose that’s a fundamentally adult conundrum: no place to run, because the trap you’re in is made of love. Love plus material paucity. Your characters tend to be bizarrely optimistic. In your short story “Bounty,” one of the

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