Mike Sacks, one of O.G.-iest internet friends, has published a followup to And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft, his useful, entertaining insiders'-look at comedy writing. His new book, Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers, came out this week and features interviews with entertainers like Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, Adam McKay, George Saunders, Bill Hader, Patton Oswalt and reveals behind-the-scenes looks at the comedic life, like an average day in the writers' room at The Onion to why a sketch does or doesn't make it onto Saturday Night Live.Â Hey, if it's good enough for blurbers like Will Ferrell, Bob Odenkirk and Jack Handey, it's good enough for you.
Since I've interviewed and worked with Mike a half-dozen times, we decided to switch things up--here, he's interviewed not by me but by one of the writers in the book. Emmy Award winner Adam Resnick has written for Get A Life, Late Night With David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and The Larry Sanders Show and most recently is the author of Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation (which was also praised by Bob Odenkirk! Amongst other very highly qualified fancy readers.)
Your first collection of interviews with humor writers, And Here's the Kicker, was widely lauded by both fans of comedy and the comedy community itself when it was published in 2009. Why not walk away a winner?
I've never walked away a winner in my life and I don't intend to start now. Actually, that very thought did occur to me. Why fuck up a good thing? The main reason for writing this new volume was to interview a lot of great writers I didn't get a chance to talk with for the first book, including yourself. But there was definitely a moment after I signed the contract in 2013 when I thought, What in the hell have I gotten myself into?
This one nearly killed me. Not sure why, but the process was much more difficult than it was for the first book. Then again, that might be due to me being high on Ayahuasca the entire time, which reminds me: why are you shimmering? Â
Honestly, I think this second book even tops the original. My only gripe is--and this goes for both volumes--nobody seems to want to talk about how competitive it is at SNL.
Yeah, that does seem to be the case. There are a few people in the comedy world that people are afraid to talk about, and Lorne Michaels is one of them. The most honest person that I've spoken to about SNL was Bob Odenkirk, who makes no bones about not having enjoyed his stay at the show. If you read between the lines with the interviews, however, there does seem to be a sense that working at SNL was not the dream job many writers always thought it would be.
Â Then again, are there really any dream jobs out there? Besides putting together the Special Criterion DVD Edition of Mac & Me?
Were you always fascinated by comedy? Were you one of those kids who ran out to buy the new Steve Martin album and then imitated the skits in school? Cause I hated kids like that.
No, actually. And I'm still not like that. I love what I love, but I'm not one of those who has to watch something just because it's a comedy. In fact, most comedy really annoys me. I find it desperate and yearning. It's very hard to pull off, but when it does hit with me, I become obsessed. That would go for the work you did on Late Night with David Letterman, Cabin Boy, and Get a Life. Also, the 1980s sitcom Small Wonder, which I've read that you were responsible for. And this would also hold true for my cat, Pumpkin, whom I find hilarious. Yes, I just used "whom" to describe a cat. Anyway, Pumpkin is funny because he's very fat and he's a bit on the Autism spectrum. He frequently falls off my bed while licking his nuts. Actually, I just described me.
Do you thinkÂ GhostbustersÂ would've been considered a classic if Bill Murray hadn't been in it? Or were the slime jokes enough?
Slimes jokes were more than enough. Hated that movie, actually. Saw it opening day and was puzzled by the hysterical laughter. Ghostbusters II was brilliant, though. Especially when the four went to the moon. Or am I thinking of Schindler's List? No, I'm thinking of Yentl.
I noticed Woody Allen isn't in the book. Do you consider him off-limits because of all that shit that went down?
No. I consider him off-limits because he never wants to do an interview and whenever he does participate in an interview, it's usually pretty dull. Great names don't make for great interviews. Remember that the next time you send me interview questions.
Do you remember the period when a lot of comedy writers wore bowling shoes? It was around the time they started saying things like "comedy equals pain." What can we infer from this?
I once went bowling and wore the rental shoes without socks. This was in Rockville, Maryland. Thinking back on it now, it kind of gives me the gibbly-wibblies. What was the question? Ah, yes. Bowling shoes were indeed big in the comedy world for a few years. You know what's next? Ping-Pong shoes. And slot-machine gloves.
Can you imagine a world without laughter? Ultimately, wouldn't it just be more quiet and peaceful?
It would be lovely. It would be similar to a world without sex, of which I've been a citizen for many years. Plenty of peace, plenty of quiet, and plenty of time to work on my hobby of dressing up old Cabbage Patch dolls as Fox news anchors.
So what's next?
My memoir on air. And then a very lengthy biography on the guy who invented the cheese-in-the-crust pizza. After that, I'll see where life takes me.