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

Mike Sacks. Penguin, $18 trade paper (454p) ISBN 978-0-14-312378-1
In this excellent book, Sacks follows up on his Conversations with 21 Humor Writers and once again displays his ability to get fascinating and honest interviews from comic luminaries such as long-time Saturday Night Live writer James Downey (“Most of the people who have been in the cast of SNL did their best work on SNL”); “Anchorman” director Adam McKay (“The biggest mistake is that people go into comedy solely for the money. It’s just a dead end—always”); and the legendary Mel Brooks (“Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve started with characters. I learn what they want, what they need”). But interspersed with 15 full-length interviews are insights from 30 more comedy writers in two shorter categories: “Pure, Hard-Core Advice” (Patton Oswalt: “When you’re writing something, and it makes you laugh, don’t judge that”) and “Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge” (Conan writer Todd Levin on “Writing a Submission Packet for Late Night TV”). While Sacks writes that he is no “humor expert,” his book more than proves his contention that “we are now living in a comedic Golden Age.” (July)
Reviewed on: 06/30/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014
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