由host来演出的。Jimmy Kimmel脱口秀同样有一个职业写手团队，其Co-head Writer为
What It's Like to Write For a Late Night Talk Show
Comedy is an industry. For every performer on stage, there are hundreds of
people working behind-the-scenes. These creative and business jobs, which
exist in all disciplines and levels of comedy, collectively make up the
comedy scene. In this column, we're looking a comedy jobs that are less
visible than that of a performer, and talking to the people who do those
jobs about what they do, how they got there, and how that job has affected
their perspective on comedy.
The past year has brought a crop of new late night talk shows to television,
and that means more opportunities for late night writers. One of the most
sought after comedy writing jobs in the industry, there’s no set route to
becoming a late night writer. Many develop their voices in standup, sketch,
and acting, while others hone their skills in online videos. The Daily Show
’s Elliot Kalan began as an intern at the show, serving as a production
assistant before applying for his writing job, while Jimmy Kimmel Live head
writer Molly McNearney began as an assistant to the show's executive
The practical path to becoming a comedy writer is much the same as most
writing jobs. "The best piece of advice I have, and it's the simplest, is
just to write," McNearney told Splitsider. "I think a lot of people say they
want to be a writer, but you actually look at their day, and they're not
writing." Being deeply involved the comedy scene, or already working for a
show, are the best ways to find out about job openings, and from there, the
next step is writing a packet of jokes that are appropriate for that
particular show. Nikki and Sara Live co-host Sara Schaefer's tips on looking
for a late night job and actually applying for the gig provide great
insight into the application process.
For a creative job, working on a late night show is fairly structured. But
each show, whether weekly or daily, requires it own specific organization
and routine. On TBS’s Conan, for instance, the show’s writers are divided
into separate teams of monologue and sketch writers. “Our day is a series
of deadlines for turning in what we term "batches" of jokes (because we're
Keebler Elves) and meetings with our team and Conan to winnow down the joke-
herd,” said Rob Kutner, a monologue writer at the show. On the sketch side,
the ideas can be so last minute that "by 11 o'clock, there's a few ideas,"
said writer/director Scott Gairdner. "Writers are dispatched to work on some
of those ideas, and hopefully you have some version of it somehow
miraculously together by 1:30, when the rehearsal starts."
It’s a very different style at ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. “Every writer is
responsible for writing monologue jokes,” McNearney said, adding that, “
most nights, each writer usually has an assignment for a celebrity guest
coming on the show who wants to do a comedy bit [...] I would say Jimmy
Kimmel Live is known in the industry for putting together really smart,
funny pieces for their guests.” That show also employs four Clip
Researchers, who’s sole job is to watch TV and pull clips.
Over at Comedy Central, The Daily Show writers are responsible for
monitoring their relevant television channels. “When you’re not working on
a particular assignment, you’re watching the news and looking on the
internet for stories to pitch, or angles to pitch on stories on larger news
stories,” said Kalan. “So we all know that there is a government shut down
happening right now, so you wouldn’t write a pitch that was like, ‘Hey,
we should write about the government shut down!’ But if you came up of an
angle for it, you would pitch it.” And each show’s focus determines the
basic research; at MTV’s pop culture heavy Nikki and Sara Live, says writer
Emmy Blotnick, “we meet in the morning to talk about whatever things Miley
Cyrus has dry humped, and then we usually break off and start putting
scripts together for different parts of the show.”
And writing for a regular television show is not quite as free-wheeling as
many imagine. “Working here as a writer is not everybody sitting in one
room and tossing out crazy ideas at each other,” Kalan said. “I think
there’s this feeling that comedy writing works the same way that it did
during The Show of Shows, where they where just sitting in a room acting out
characters and making stuff up.” Gairdner agreed. “I think a lot of
people would be surprised at how much it is less sitting in a room and
joking and figuring out ideas and more sending out emails, telling people
how big the green screen needs to be and that kind of thing.” The biggest
misconception, according to The Daily show’s Zhubin Parang, is “probably
the 30 Rock-suggested idea that we're all schlumpy early-20 slackers who pee
in jars. Most of us are married, and we're generally all social, put-
together people. I've got a plant on my desk and everything.”
Inevitably, working long hours on comedy will change a writer’s perspective
on the genre. “I'm a tougher comedy audience – some might say ‘a dick’,
” said Kutner. “You see and hear so many types and just so MUCH funny all
day long, it takes something just way more insane to really tickle me. And
because of the factory-like nature of what we do, I've usually had my fill
of comedy by days' end.”
But churning out material at such a rate invariably improves its quality in
the long run. “The more you write, especially the more you write comedy,
the less it becomes like this mysterious process that you’re trying to
capture,” Kalan said. “After years of doing it professionally, instead of
staring at it and hoping for some inspiration, it becomes much more of a
systematic process than, ‘Oh well. I guess I’ll sit here until the back of
my brain thinks of something and tells me what it is.’”
“The big thing I've learned is the importance of hard jokes,” said Parang.
“I think in improv and sketch comedy, especially the kind done around New
York, there's a tendency to be intellectual and absurd, which plays well
with the hard-core comedy audiences here (including me), but TV moves way
too fast for that. You need to hit jokes hard and often, and not just trust
that a general comedic concept will be enough to power a segment.”
“I got my start making videos on YouTube,” said Gairdner, who works
primarily on video sketches for Conan. “My speed was approximately one
three-minute video every two months, because I would agonize over every
choice. But now, having made a lot of things for YouTube and a lot of things
for Conan, I've started to get a better perspective on what are the
important fights to fight and what things to let go.”
Although late night talk shows are are amongst the oldest, and in many ways,
most stable formats on television, they have have also had to adapt swiftly
to the new media landscape. For one thing, late night shows no longer exist
exclusively in their time slots. "12:30 late night is not a 12:30 show
anymore,” former Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writer Anthony Jeselnik told
Splitsider last year. “It’s a 24-hour show now, because everything is
online the next day.” And shows now must contend with more competition on
television and the Internet. “I'm envious of people who got to work on
these shows 20 years ago, when there were a quarter as many of these shows,
and there weren't all of these websites too, because you're just constantly
competing against other shows and them getting to the idea first,” said
Gairdner. “Topicality and the shelf life of parody targets is getting
slimmer and slimmer because there a thousand of these shows, all waiting to
jump on something and parody it.”
For many writers, that breakneck schedule is both the best and worst part of
the gig. "It is a real grind, but every day is a new day," said McNearney.
"Your successes are short lived, but then so are your failures. So you can
have a great bit on the show and you can really enjoy it for about an hour
and then you have to start thinking about tomorrow's show. But if you didn't
do that well, that's also short lived and you have the next day to prove
"Every job is a job and it stops being magical after a moment," said Kalan.
"And you have to remind yourself like, no, this is really amazing. Things
that seem magical or impossible to you become mundane reality. You lose
perspective and you get lost in the non-amazing parts of things and you
forget how amazing comedy is or how lucky anyone who gets to do it is."
Elise Czajkowski is an Associate Editor at Splitsider. She promises to start
Photo via Getty.
4Talking to Molly McNearney, the Co-Head Writer of Jimmy Kimmel Live
One of the most hot button issues in comedy right now is the lack of women
writing for late night. Molly McNearney is the only woman who currently
writes for Jimmy Kimmel Live, but she is also the co-head writer. Molly
chatted with me about how she got her start in comedy, her favorite bits
that she’s contributed to the show and what it’s like being a woman behind
the scenes. She also revealed what a day backstage at Jimmy Kimmel Live
looks like and inspired me to declare that my new dream job is to be a “
How did you first become interested in comedy and what led you to want to
write for late night?
As a kid I loved watching Johnny Carson. In fact, I remember his last show.
It was on May 22, 1992, and I went to my friend Katie Pine's house and
watched it. It was the same night of my eighth grade graduation and I went
home as quickly as possible afterwards to watch his last show. And I loved
it and I remember crying my eyes out. I was sad that he was gone, but I had
no idea that show was written. I honestly thought this was just a very funny
person coming out and talking, and that wasn't a team of people behind him
writing it for him. Then I went on to Second City in Chicago after college
and I loved it. I loved performing and writing sketches.
I guess the first time I thought I wanted to write was actually in the
fourth grade. I won an essay contest for my terrible haunted house story.
Mrs. Cooper, my fourth grade teacher, told me I was a really good writer. So
then I just believed that and I've been doing it ever since. And who knows
if I am, but Mrs. Cooper thinks I am. So, it really just took someone
telling me I was good at it, and I kept doing it.
Then when I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago I was working in advertising
sales. In college, I really wanted to go into broadcast journalism and then
I didn't want to do that anymore. And so, I started working here at the show
about eight years ago as the assistant to the executive producer and I didn
't really even know then what I wanted to do here. I really just took that
experience to watch everybody else do their jobs and try to figure out which
one I liked. As I worked here more and more I knew I wanted to be in the
writing department. I produced for a while and then I became a writers'
assistant about six or seven years ago. I would pitch ideas as a writer’s
assistant and I really got to watch and learn from the guys here and really
got to understand how they write jokes and how they crafted their scripts.
It was an incredible experience for me to watch them. And then I got
promoted from writer’s assistant to writer and then I was a writer for
about two years and then I got promoted to Co-Head Writer with another co-
worker of mine, Gary Greenberg. Gary and I are the two Head Writers of the
show and we've been Head Writers for a little over three years now. And I
What's a normal day at Jimmy Kimmel Live like for you?
Well, I wake up around 7:30 or 8:00 am every day and then I immediately open
up my laptop. The first thing I do — it's kind of sad — I reach over,
grab my phone, look at it, and see if I missed any emails. Then I open up my
laptop and I go to websites to find out what the big news stories are of
the day. I go to Huffington Post, CNN, I'm embarrassed to say I go to Perez
Hilton, and then I start looking at topics. We have a writer's assistant who
emails all of the writers around 9:00 am with links to the big stories that
day. And so I start looking at those news stories and coming up with angles
. Some days are a lot easier than others. You know, when Lindsay Lohan's
going back to jail or Tiger Woods has screwed another Hooters waitress or
Hermain Cain has opened his mouth, it makes it a lot easier. Other days are
tough. You know, if it's just war in the news or, you know, no one's getting
drunk and driving their Mercedes into other celebrities.
All of our pitches are due by 11:00 am and then Jimmy reads through all of
those pitches and he determines what he likes and what he wants to use on
the show. Around 12:00 pm we have an outline for our monologue. If one of
your bits is in the show, you go back to your desk and you script it. Then
you work with a director and a producer and casting and then you shoot it.
And on top of that, every writer is responsible for writing monologue jokes.
Those are usually due around 2:00pm every day and then after that, we have
a team of guys here — there are four of them, and their official title is "
Clip Researcher" — and their whole responsibility is to watch TV. They each
sit in front of the TV all day and they're responsible for different shows.
They pull clips and then Jimmy picks the clips he likes. Then we sit in the
writers' room. We watch the clips and we write jokes for the clips. And
then after that, we're still working on that night's show.
We shoot the whole show at 7:00 pm, so sometimes you're editing a bit in
the edit bay at ten to 7:00 pm, and you're racing to Jimmy's office getting
approval, and then it goes on the air at 7:00 pm. The show's over at 8:00 pm
and then we start all over again.
Most nights, each writer usually has an assignment for a celebrity guest
coming on the show who wants to do a comedy bit. This week, for example, we
shot a bit with Ben Stiller. We did one with Ellen DeGeneres. So, then each
night we are usually writing bit ideas for celebrities. I would say Jimmy
Kimmel Live is known in the industry for putting together really smart,
funny pieces for their guests. So we've had a lot of success, which is great
. It also has added a lot more work because most guests who come onto the
show would like to do comedy in some way, which is a great opportunity for
us, and we've had a lot of great viral videos out there with our guests. So,
yeah, that's kind of the full day.
It's nice because it's intense. It is a real grind, but every day is a new
day. You know, your successes are short lived, but then so are your failures
. So you can have a great bit on the show and you can really enjoy it for
about an hour and then you have to start thinking about tomorrow's show. But
if you didn't do that well, that's also short lived and you have the next
day to prove yourself.
What are some of your favorite bits that you wrote or contributed to?
I did the Josh Groban sings Kanye West tweets, which I really liked. He was
a great sport. I like when you're surprised that someone has such a great
sense of humor. I mean, my mom loves Josh Groban's music and I also love his
music, but now I'm even more appreciative of his comedy and his sense of
humor. I also shot a little bit with Lady Gaga this year. It was called Gaga
Goo Goo, where it's a Lady Gaga-inspired clothing line for babies. And she
was a great sport. I really loved being part of Handsome Men's Club that we
shot last year. That was a big undertaking and I think we did a really good
job with it. I think we had like twelve guys in that and it was over the
course of twelve different days shooting it. No one was in the same room. A
couple of them were, but we shot most of those guys individually.
Going back to the Josh Groban sketch — you were the primary contributor to
that. How did you come up with something like that? Do you remember the
Well, we heard from Josh Groban's rep that he wanted to do a comedy bit with
us. So we all pitched a bunch of ideas, and Jimmy picked five ideas to go
to Josh. One of them was mine and then Josh picked that. So then I went
through Kanye West's twitter page and picked his most ridiculous tweets.
Then I sat with Josh and our director, Andy. We gave him the tweets and then
he would sit at his piano and just bust out these great songs using Kanye's
tweets. And then I put the ad around it. I worked with graphics and I
worked with our director to package it to look like an infomercial.
It was announced this past week that Jimmy is going to host the White House
Correspondents' Dinner this year. Are you going to be working on the staff
for that this year?
Yes. I believe I will be writing jokes for that. We have not discussed it
yet internally who will be responsible, but his whole staff will be helping
him. We're all very excited. It's an incredible opportunity for him and for
the writers to take stabs at some of these politicians.
You mentioned earlier that you started out in advertising and then as an
assistant at Jimmy Kimmel. What advice do you have for people who want to
break into the world of late night writing? What do you look at when you
The best piece of advice I have, and it's the simplest, is just to write. I
think a lot of people say they want to be a writer, but you actually look at
their day, and they're not writing. If you want to be a late night writer,
my advice would be to watch the late night shows religiously. Understand the
voices of the shows. For example, if you want to be writer for Jimmy Kimmel
Live, you should watch Jimmy Kimmel Live regularly and understand his voice
. Every host has a very different voice, different sensibility, different
tone. You need to prove that you can write in that host's voice. A lot of
people can write jokes, but some of them are not appropriate. You know, Leno
's jokes are not going to be the same as Kimmel's jokes or Colbert's jokes.
Then, put together a joke packet. Make it topical. Don't give us your best
Monica Lewinsky jokes. Give us topical jokes. Watch the news. Understand pop
culture and find your angles on those things. I think Twitter is an
incredible tool for joke writers. If I were to be hiring a writer, one of
the first things I would do is to go and see if they have a Twitter page
because I think it's the easiest way to see if someone can write a joke. You
know, you have 140 characters. It's easy to read. It's easy to see if
someone understands how to craft a joke.
A typical late night packet contains a couple of pages of monologue jokes
and a couple of pages of bit ideas. You know, for example, that Josh Groban/
Kanye West thing, that would be a good pitch. Bit ideas — some of them
include the host being in them, some of them include celebrities being
involved, some of them are more evergreen bit ideas you can put into a
monologue. You know, live ideas, game ideas. Just watch the shows and see
what they do.
Do you think there's any more pressure on you because you are one of the
only women who works on your staff? Is it difficult internally or is it more
difficult because of the outside pressure?
I think being the only woman writing at this show, I have both an advantage
and a disadvantage. I think women naturally come in with a disadvantage
because I do think there are some “old school” ways of thinking that women
are not as funny. I think funny people are funny regardless of their gender
. I think a really talented, funny woman will instantly prove she's funny
and that will dismiss that old way of thinking. And it is our responsibility
[as funny women] to do that. Sometimes I believe I'm at an advantage
because as the only woman I think I can have angles on things or a different
sensibility or way of looking at things that is to the benefit of the show.
I mean, for me, as one of the head writers, when we last hired we got about
200 submission packets and less than 30 were from women. So, it's not that
we're not hiring women, it's that not as many women are submitting for the
jobs. And I would love to hire a woman, but first I would just like to hire
someone really talented and funny. If they're a woman, that's great. But I
think that today it's almost like a non-topic because women have obviously
proven they're funny and anyone would suggest otherwise is an idiot.
When you started at Jimmy Kimmel Live, moving up the ranks from writer’s
assistant to writer, did you ever encounter any attitudes about your own
funniness as a woman? Is that an issue for you personally?
No. I really didn't. I never encountered that. People here are much more
critical of people who aren't funny. They're not critical of you based on
your gender. The only pressure that I've ever felt is on a day when I'm off
or when my jokes suck or my bit bombed, but it has never had anything to do
with my gender. The only thing I've ever felt in regards to my gender is
just a sense of sometimes a bit of loneliness when you're the only woman in
the room. I hope that that changes, but no one here has ever treated me in a
different way because I'm a woman.
Going forward, do you want to stay a late night writer or do you want to
perform more? Or perhaps move on to producing?
I love, love my job, but I will not have this job forever. I'd love to write
a feature. I would love to write on sitcoms. I think it's important to kind
of change things up. I don't like when people consider late night as a
stepping stone. I don't think that it is. There are a lot of great film and
sitcom writers who could not write for late night and vice versa. I think
when people call it a "stepping stone" it's kind of undermining it and I
think it's a very specific craft and people who do it are really good at it.
I would like to try other things. I'd like to write something that's longer
than five minutes. I have a lot of ideas. I keep notebooks all over of
things I'd eventually like to write. It's very hard for me to try to write
those things because I'm working twelve hours a day and when I get home, I
really don't want to write anymore. I want to watch TV or read, so it can be
challenging to get to that next step.
What would be your favorite thing about working at Jimmy Kimmel Live?
I love that every day is a blank page here. That every day you start over.
And there's such an energy in kind of looking at what's going on in the
world that day and finding the comedy in it. It's exciting to have that kind
of responsibility: to look at the things everyone is looking at, read the
stories that people are reading, to find out what's going to make people
laugh. And I really love writing scripted things with celebrities. I love
writing short sketches for them. And I love the people here. We have such a
great staff. I mean, sometimes we want to kill each other. There's a lot of
stress sometimes and we're piled up on top of each other, but in the end we
all really love each other.
Meghan O'Keefe is a writer and comedian who lives in Queens.
So if you kill all the people in China and Japan (who own roughly the same
amount give or take a couple of billion) then that still leaves around 70%
to pay off which is owed to Americans.
Why don't they ask the kids are they willing to kill their parents and
grandparents? That would be comedy gold.
【在 i***l 的大作中提到】
: 如果这次中国人不 硬气来，看来以后就是别人案板上的鱼肉了。
【在 f********4 的大作中提到】
杀无辜。鸟叔说要杀美国人，是pay back their crimes.
【在 f********4 的大作中提到】
【在 m*****5 的大作中提到】