Writing makes you feel better and more alive

Nice summary of some of Anne Lamott’s advice on writing – much of it applies to standup too.

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.


I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway.


My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.

But I also tell [my students] that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out. Writing this way is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.


If you give freely, there will always be more. … It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company. This is what the writer has to offer.


Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

Beautifully said.


Metrics vs. chemistry

A piece on Amazon Video’s new original show: ‘Alpha House.’ Apparently, Amazon's first original web production "was born from a mountain of site data, user input, and focus grouping." Entertainment Weekly review of it says, “I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t coming together. In the end, what kept it from being the next Veep came down to comedic timing and cast chemistry." Oh, you mean building a show based on data, crowdsourcing, and focus groups didn't lead to a lot of chemistry? Shocking that.


The audience can sense if you really care

Screenwriter Brian Koppelman suggestion: Write what fascinates you.

When the story is important to you. When it fascinates you. That passion is tangible. The reader senses it. And, without even knowing why, gives you the benefit of the doubt. You still have to tell the story well, of course, and that still takes an enormous amount of effort and concentration. But: The huge collateral benefit of telling stories that genuinely fascinate you is this: forcing yourself to sit down and actually do the work is much, much easier than when you are merely writing something because you think it is marketable, can sell, is in a genre that’s currently in demand.

I like that read on an audience's ability to, conciously or not, suss out whether or not you really care about something. If they sense you're genuinely fascinated by something, they're gonna want to know why.



Bloomberg and Citibikes

Saw a Citibike rider almost get hit today. Bloomberg's love for that program cracks me up. His attitude: "Let's put a bunch of clueless tourists, who can't even handle being pedestrians without blocking the entire sidewalk, and put 'em on bikes – even though they never ride – and make 'em navigate one of the most dangerous, chaotic, trafficked urban areas in the entire world and no, they won't have helmets or know where the hell they're going but it'll be good for the city!"

"What if they want to drink a 32 oz. soda after the ride?"

"No way, that'd be DANGEROUS!"


John Mulaney's advice for handling a big crowd: "Louder and faster"

John Mulaney interview:

Time Out New York: You were one of Dave Chappelle’s openers at the massive Oddball festival this summer. How does your delivery change for that large a crowd?

John Mulaney: As a rule, with 18,000 people, I’d say: louder and faster. I remembered [Mike] Birbiglia gave me a piece of advice when I was first emceeing that he had been given when he was first emceeing. He did his set, walked off, and the headliner just went, “Louder and faster.”

Related: Birbigs on how to take something personal and make it relatable


A guy with a memory problem walks into a restaurant...

A '77 short written by and starring Steve Martin as "The Absent-Minded Waiter." (via MF)

Reminds me of Mr. Short-Term Memory: "The Blind Date" from SNL (written by Conan O'Brien in '88) except one has a waiter with no memory and the other is a restaurant diner with no memory.


HOT SOUP: From Aziz Ansari (last week) to Ted Alexandro (11/5)

HOT SOUP is steaming lately. Packed houses and we've had some great comics drop in the past few weeks: Aziz Ansari (photo), Judah Friedlander, Todd Barry, Nick Griffin, Gary Gulman, etc.

Great lineup again on Tuesday (11/5). It's at Irish Exit at 8pm.

Ted Alexandro (Letterman, Comedy Central)
Sean Patton (Comedy Central)
Louis Katz (Comedy Central)
Anthony P. DeVito (JFL)
Randy Liedtke (Bone Zone)
...also: Matt Ruby, Gary Vider, and more!

Full show details at Facebook invite.
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Wes Anderson on why reviews don't matter

Director Wes Anderson on why he doesn't put any time into studying how people respond to his movies (from 24 Things I Learned While Writing My Book About Wes Anderson by Matt Zoller Seitz).

4. He doesn't find reviews terribly useful, whether they're positive or negative.
"There's one thing you can absolutely, 100 percent rely on," he told me, when we discussed reviews, "which is that if you show five different people the same thing, they're all going to have a different complaint or compliment. Each is going to have a different response, and you'd better know what you're gonna do, otherwise you're going to get confused... [H]ow much good can come from putting any time into studying how people are responding to your movies? The best case scenario is that it makes you feel flattered for a certain period of time, which doesn't really buy you much, in life: and inevitably, it's not going to just be the best-case scenario, so learn to spare yourself that experience, I'd say."

You better know what you're gonna do or else you'll get confused. Interesting to think about that in terms of standup since our "reviews" come instantly, in the form of audience response. What if you did sets where you just ignored people's responses and did only what you want to do? Or maybe that's just a luxury filmmakers get that comedians don't.

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