A Comedy Writer’s Guide to Breaking Into the Industry
Posted on: Jan 09, 2024
Comedy writing is one of the most coveted forms of writing. Landing a job in a comedy writer’s room is a dream come true —it’s a place where you can earn a living by being a witty goofball, which beats most other jobs hands down (with all due respect to educators).
However, the burgeoning popularity of comedy writing has made it fiercely competitive. Chances are you know at least five people who aspire to be comedy writers — all named Dave, sporting black-rimmed glasses and flannel shirts (let’s not forget the Brians and the second Daves of the world).
The great news? There are numerous tips, tricks and paths to become a successful television comedy writer. Here are a few to kick-start your journey to becoming the most skilled jester in any writer’s room.
Write Your Own Material
If there’s one mantra to live by, it’s write your own material. It’s simple but fundamental advice. Nothing will set you apart more than crafting original content.
Many of the comedy writing opportunities I’ve landed began with projects that were for no specific network or company. For instance, I co-wrote a web series called 2040, which gained traction and led to the creation of Alternatino, an online web series for Comedy Central that later became a traditional TV show —and my first writer’s room experience.
In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever to showcase your work to a vast audience. Whether it’s writing a short, starting a humorous YouTube channel, penning articles on platforms like Substack or Twitter, producing a pilot proof of concept or consistently posting witty content on Instagram or TikTok, the internet can be your springboard.
Don’t Forget the Fun Factor
An often overlooked aspect in career advice is the importance of having fun with your creations. The more you create from a place of joy and passion rather than for mere gain, the quicker you’ll resonate with audiences. A fantastic way to amplify enjoyment is to collaborate with friends or fellow comedians, writers and actors who you find hilarious and are a joy to work with.
Obsess Over the Show You Want To Write For
There’s a peculiar kind of magic that seems to occur when you become fixated on a show you’d love to join. It’s as if the universe conspires to help you when you’re all in. Many writers have landed roles on their favorite shows by immersing themselves completely. That means watching every episode, writing spec scripts and networking with the show’s writers and showrunners.
In my early twenties, I became fixated on The Onion. I devoured every issue, purchased all their books and dissected every piece to learn how to be Onion-funny. That dedication paid off when I met Onion writer Joe Garden at an event, leading to an opportunity to submit headlines to the publication.
Get in a Room Any Way You Can
A traditional pathway into a writer’s room is to start as a writer’s assistant. It might not sound glamorous, but connections in Hollywood are invaluable. Hard work, a friendly demeanor and time will almost guarantee your ascent to staff writer and beyond.
My friend Laura Moran, who writes and produces for Harley Quinn and The Neighborhood, advises getting into a room as soon as possible. If you’re a writer, that’s where you need to be.
In conclusion, breaking into comedy boils down to creating content, enjoying the process, infiltrating a writer’s room and practicing what I like to call “positive stalking.” You’ve got this!
Brendan Fitzgibbons is a comedy writer and actor living in Pasadena. He’s written for Comedy Central, The Onion, NBC, HuffPost, and Bravo. As an actor, he’s appeared on Comedy Central, MTV, Full Frontal w/Samantha Bee. His podcast, “Spiritual As**e,” was named a ‘Top Indie Podcast’ by Stitcher.
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