REVIEW é Poking a Dead Frog

Poking a Dead Frog

REVIEW Poking a Dead Frog

A fascinating laugh out loud funny look at the mysterious art of comedy as told by legendary humorists from Amy Poehler to Mel Brooks What makes people laugh How do you know if a joke will “click” with the audience And how do you get a job as a comedy writer anyway In Poking a Dead Frog top humor writer There is some very good advice for comedy writers in this book most notably that one has to do the followingGo to Harvard Every comedy writer it seems went to Harvard If you haven't yet gone to Harvard go to the Harvard bookstore buy a sweatshirt and then tell people you went to Harvard Nobody will ask uestionsStick with writing but do it because you love it not because you're going to make a ton or even a few pounds of moneyWork on the Harvard LampoonSleep with someone who works on the Harvard LampoonBe very analytical of what other people think is funny Also learn LatinNever submit unsolicited material to anyone especially agents They use unsolicited material as kindling in the massive fireplaces they installed in their mansions which they bought with their agent moneyTweet your next book in 140 characters This apparently worksThe Golden Age of writing is over or it's not Depends on who you askOverall this is a good book with some decent advice and a good title with a picture of a frog on the cover Most of the sales will be to biology students who enjoy frogs as much as writers do

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S like Adam McKay Step Brothers Talladega Nights Michael Schur The Office Parks and Recreation and Glen Charles Cheers Taxi many of whom have never before been interviewed at this length or at all offer insight into their influences and creative processes their self doubt and breakthroughs and how they mana Loved this book 'Make yourself laugh' and 'you have to love it' are repeated over and over by these writers Inspiring and a must for comedy nerds

Mike Sacks à 1 REVIEW

Ged to succeed in the mysterious unpredictable business of comedy Packed with behind the scenes stories from a typical day in the writers’ room at the Onion to why a sketch does or doesn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live Poking a Dead Frog is a must read for comedy buffs writers and pop culture junkies Even if you aren't an aspiring comedy writer you just might enjoy Poking a Dead Frog There's a lot of material here and you may not click with every interview but at over 400 pages there's plenty here for any comedy fan The interviews are in three different formats a traditional uestion and answer Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge and pure hard core advice The interviews are longer and give the subject opportunity to reminisce and expound The other two formats are short only a page or two about the comedy business how to get a literary agent don't bother writing jokes for the Oscars show and so on Much of the advice is no surprise keep at it and rewrite rewrite rewriteI have no career aspirations so I was able to enjoy this book for the laughs In fact if you don't read anything else in the book read the interview with Peg Lynch I had not heard of Peg she is over 90 years old and got her start doing interviews on the radio before World War II She transitioned to comedy almost by chance and then to TV without much difficulty That's all uite impressive but what had me in stitches was her extravagant name dropping Her first interview was with the baseball player who retired before his time Gary Cooper played him in the movie Lou Gehrig She goes on to offhandedly mention Knute Rockne James Thurber John Cheever and on and on It's hystericalAmy Poehler Glen Charles Mel Brooks Roz Chast and a couple dozen do interviews as well and they're all entertaining Bob Elliott's interview is also great


10 thoughts on “Poking a Dead Frog

  1. says:

    There is some very good advice for comedy writers in this book most notably that one has to do the followingGo to Harvard Every comedy writer it seems went to Harvard If you haven't yet gone to Harvard go to the Harvard bookstore buy a sweatshirt and then tell people you went to Harvard Nobody will ask uestionsStick with writing but do it because you love it not because you're going to make a ton or even a few pounds of moneyWork on the Harvard LampoonSleep with someone who works on the Harvard LampoonBe very analytical of what other people think is funny Also learn LatinNever submit unsolicited material to anyone especially agents They use unsolicited material as kindling in the massive fireplaces they installed in their mansions which they bought with their agent moneyTweet your next book in 140 characters This apparently worksThe Golden Age of writing is over or it's not Depends on who you askOverall this is a good book with some decent advice and a good title with a picture of a frog on the cover Most of the sales will be to biology students who enjoy frogs as much as writers do


  2. says:

    Arrrgh I have a lot of frustration about this one and I'm conflicted about how to ratereview it On the one hand it has some extremely valuable insights from some very accomplished writers; the actual verbatim packet of sketches that got someone hired on a late night show Paul Feig's Bible from 'Freaks and Geeks' and real industry knowledge and tips Also opens up the minds of a lot of cool people that not even extreme comedy nerds would know about Peg Lynch for exampleBUT Like 'And Here's the Kicker' the little instances of misogyny really pissed me off James Downey who was head writer at SNL for ages makes a 'joke' about women having had their senses of humour removed at birth in THE FIRST CHAPTER That massively turned me off Then when some dude I don't know who they all blend into one after a while talked about how Andy Kaufman made a girl strip for him in his office again 'as a joke' he said he'd probably think it was funny if it had happened to someone else because it was funny in theory Nah broIt probably didn't help that I read this book in the week that the Harvey Weinstein shitstorm happened and the #metoo stuff was going around social media so I was inundated with stories of male repugnance all roundAlso as always NOT ENUFF LAYDEEZ Amy Poehler is cited as an interviewee on both the front and back covers but her contribution amounts to one page of a 467 page book Peg Lynch and Carol Kolb were great interview subjects and I liked the little bits from Megan Amram as well butit's not enough There are TONNES of amazing female writers and performers out there Samantha Irby Jessica Williams Megan Ganz Samantha Bee and Kate McKinnon just to name some of the American ones He could even scrape the barrel with the over exposed Lena Dunham who rightfully derided as she is has created some amazing comedy over the last few yearsUrgh I don't know man I learned a lot from this book but it also made me pretty angry It's whatever Read it if you really want to get into comedy writing and need some tips Avoid it if you just can't take any Dude Dumbness


  3. says:

    The wonderful thing about birthday gifts is you end up reading books you never would have picked up on your own so I am extremely grateful my friend who knew that I loved both comedy and writing guessed that I might enjoy a book of interviews with and advice from comedy writers Though the title Poking a Dead Frog refers to a uote implying that attempting to dissect humor is an unwise endeavor I found this book fascinating and inspiringMike Sacks presents the words of dozens of comedy writers here many of whom I had never heard of even though I knew their work and some whose work I didn't know either Some offer Pure Hard Core Advice which read as short personal essays focused on one or two bits of advice for aspiring comedy writers Few of these are revolutionary write a lot network well write what you know etc but they're nice reads because of how they're tied to the writer's personal experience And it's a testament to the writers that even when the same advice gets brought up multiple times throughout the book it serves to reinforce in new ways rather than becoming annoyingly repetitive A interesting segment is Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge which as the name implies takes a deeper dive into something like writing for award shows or finding an agent They offer really cool behind the scenes tidbits like excerpts from the Freaks and Geeks series bible or an actual submission packet for Late Night with Conan O'Brien with commentaryAnd there are the interviews My God I did not realize how much interviewing was a real skill until I encountered a man with real skills at interviews Mike Sacks does extensive research on his subjects and asks them uestions they've never been asked He gets the most incredible stories and anecdotes out of them As I said I'd never heard of some of these people or their work but I loved reading interviews with them and now I want to seek out their work Hell I wish the whole book had just been extensive interviews with every single person some of the Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge pieces are shorter focused interviews Poking a Dead Frog is full of inside comedy knowledge and at times I was surprised to learn about comedy classics or comedy history that was presented as obvious absolute fact that everyone in the comedy world was familiar with like the fact that people love Cabin Boy and Chris Elliott? But I enjoyed that peek into the perspective especially hearing from so many comedy writers I admired like Mike Schur and Mel Brooks and Amy Poehler and Kay Cannon If you enjoy consuming or writing comedy this book is a must read


  4. says:

    Eh A lot of gossip and very little writerly advice I became bored halfway through


  5. says:

    Whilst comedy is something that we all enjoy and if you don't I'm afraid we'll never be Bosom Buddies Golden Girls maybe remember how missionary Dorothy was?? this book is really all about the background of the industry and what it takes to break into itLong story short it sucks You have to beg grovel sell your soul and your body here's lookin at you Chris Farley one word Chippendales It warrants some merit for the insider stories but basically it comes down to write write write then write some then bust your arse with anything from stand up to improv to dancing on tabletops well honestly you're welcome to do that regardless if you want to go into comedy I wholeheartedly encourage itOverall it's a bit of a sad and boring read bc really the vast majority of comediennes don't make it Pretty much my life story right there until you see my re make of that Chippendales sketch


  6. says:

    Loved this book 'Make yourself laugh' and 'you have to love it' are repeated over and over by these writers Inspiring and a must for comedy nerds


  7. says:

    Want to write humor? Read this book


  8. says:

    An excellent book for aspiring comedy writers as well as fans of classic comedy TV and movies This book has great in depth interviews with some of the greatest comedy writers of all times such as Mel Brooks It also contains interviews with writers that uite frankly I've never heard of but their showsmovies are legendary including writers for Monty Python SNL Cheers Seinfeld David Letterman etc It also includes valuable career advice from today's popular stand up comedianscomedy writers such as Anthony Jeselnik and Amy Poehler Bottom line If you are an aspiring comedy writer or just a big fan of comedy TVmovies this book is a must have


  9. says:

    Even if you aren't an aspiring comedy writer you just might enjoy Poking a Dead Frog There's a lot of material here and you may not click with every interview but at over 400 pages there's plenty here for any comedy fan The interviews are in three different formats a traditional uestion and answer Ultraspecific Comedy Knowledge and pure hard core advice The interviews are longer and give the subject opportunity to reminisce and expound The other two formats are short only a page or two about the comedy business how to get a literary agent don't bother writing jokes for the Oscars show and so on Much of the advice is no surprise keep at it and rewrite rewrite rewriteI have no career aspirations so I was able to enjoy this book for the laughs In fact if you don't read anything else in the book read the interview with Peg Lynch I had not heard of Peg she is over 90 years old and got her start doing interviews on the radio before World War II She transitioned to comedy almost by chance and then to TV without much difficulty That's all uite impressive but what had me in stitches was her extravagant name dropping Her first interview was with the baseball player who retired before his time? Gary Cooper played him in the movie Lou Gehrig? She goes on to offhandedly mention Knute Rockne James Thurber John Cheever and on and on It's hystericalAmy Poehler Glen Charles Mel Brooks Roz Chast and a couple dozen do interviews as well and they're all entertaining Bob Elliott's interview is also great


  10. says:

    The title of this book refers to the old uotation about how analyzing humour is like dissecting a frog in that the frog dies and nobody laughs Unfortunately the book lives up to that premise in that is neither funny nor very insightful about comedy The chapters include interviews with various writers and performers most of which are not that interesting on their own The chapters labelled pure hardcore advice are mislabelled The ones categorized as ultra specific comedic knowledge are no insightful and the interviews with people associated with various shows and websites are mostly pretty dull The grim insight of this book is that even people who have done great work in comedy dazzling us with their material sometimes come across as no interesting when discussing their craft than say pro athletes who have great skill but are mostly not compelling interviews