I imagine you've listened to (or intend to listen to) the WTF episode last Thursday with Chris Rock. There were quite a few interesting things that happened in that interview, but one item in particular stood out to me. Around 30 minutes into the episode, Chris Rock is talking about Eddie Murphy's writing process, and Rock says that people pitched in tags, but didn't have writers. There's debate in the scene sometimes about whether it's okay to incorporate tags from other comics, so it's nice to see two high profile, highly regarded comics weighing in on the issue saying it's a friendly, benign thing. Maybe their opinions could make less established comics more comfortable with it.
Here's a rough transcript of the relevant portion. Starts around 29:50 into the episode.
Maron: Was he [Eddie Murphy] writing all his own material?
Rock: He was writing all his own material, yeah.
Maron: And did he have people around, throwing shit in?
Rock: People, you know, for tags.
Rock: But that's what friends are for, for tags.
Maron: That's right.
Rock: It's only when they're not your friends that they go "Oh, I should get a writing credit for that tag."
Maron: Yeah. Right, right.
Rock: That's what comics do. It's like, "Hey, that thing you did--"
Maron: I said something to you once, and I don't know if you remember it.
Rock: Didn't you give me a tag, like, in the Comedy Store parking lot one night?
Maron: Oh, maybe I did, yeah I think I did. Yeah. I can't remember what it was, though.
Rock: I can't remember what it was, but I remember talking to you in the parking lot of the Comedy Store.
Maron: Yep, yep, I can't remember what that was. It was, uh,
Rock: About a particular joke.
Maron: Yep, yep, you were working on something.
Rock: That's what we do.
Maron: Of course, of course.
Rock: It's like you got something, "Hey, did you ever think of this?"
Maron: Did you ever think of that angle?
Maron: Yeah. Right, yeah, you gotta fill your head with something.
Re: "Oh, I should get a writing credit for that tag." Weird, I'd never expect someone to give me credit for a tag suggestion. Maybe that sort of kvetching is what happens when you get to a Rock-y level of fame.
I think this convo is also about the difference between tags and premises. If it's an idea for a premise, you hold on to it because it's your seed to grow. If it's a tag idea for someone else's premise, let 'em have it. What are you going to do with it anyway?
Plus, tags are often the easy part. Another comic once told me, "Premises are everything." I don't know if I'd go that far, but it does feel like coming up with an original, truthful, and surprising premise is the biggest challenge comics face.