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And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,773 Ratings  ·  146 Reviews
DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT Every great joke has a punch line, and every great humor writer has an arsenal of experiences, anecdotes, and obsessions that were the inspiration for that humor. In fact, those who make a career out of entertaining strangers with words are a notoriously intelligent and quirky lot. And boy, do they have some stories. In this entertaining and insp ...more
ebook, 350 pages
Published June 10th 2009 by Writers Digest Books
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Amy
Sep 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers of all sorts
Recommended to Amy by: Jim
Major quibble: There are only two women interviewed in this profile of 21 humor writers. Granted, they're pretty stellar humorists (Merrill Markoe and Allison Silverman), and maybe Tina Fey, Elaine May, Sarah Silverman, Amy Sedaris, etc. were too busy being awesome to sit down for an hours-long interview with Mike Sacks. But still.

That said, this is still a fascinating compilation of writers from across the humor spectrum -- standup comics, sitcom writers, screenwriters, columnists, cartoonists
...more
Rebecca
Surprisingly interesting book. I would not have read it had it not been suggested for our book club. The whole idea of reading interviews about comedy writers did not seem appealing in the least. My initial thoughts, "Why would I want to have David Sedaris tell me about how he writes when I could be experiencing his actual work?"

I reluctantly cracked the pages and found myself oddly interested in the interviews of the various comedy writers. As I read, I found a few themes emerging, pulling eac
...more
Emily
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I feel as if this book was written especially for me, as someone who dreams about comedy writing the way some people dream about being a professional athlete. It also nails the exact breed of comedy, specific writers and works--and sometime the very jokes--that I love most.

It contains:
* Interviews with Bob Odenkirk, Mitch Hurwitz, Paul Feig, Harold Ramis, Roz Chast, Lemony Snicket, Dave Barry, Dan Clowes, Stephen Merchant, Al Jaffee, etc.;
* Insights into the Marx Brothers, Sleeper/Annie Hall, A
...more
Joy H.
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read July 2010
I'd forgotten I had read this book until I came across the following words I had copied from p.282:
===================================
[From an interview with Dick Cavett]:
"Many simply don't have an ear for jokes just like they don't have an ear for music. They're comedically tone-deaf."
===================================
This was interesting to me since I had already taken notes on something similar which Julia Louis-Dreyfus had said while being interviewed at the Actor's Studio (TV
...more
Lee
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worth a look for Harold Ramis, Dan Mazer (Borat), Todd Hanson (The Onion), George Meyer (Simpsons), and Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall). Skimmed a few about the good old days writing for Carson etc. Seems to includes more career recap than instruction/insight but an enjoyable (if not particularly entertaining) pre-sleep read when too tired for some dense/fancy translation.
Sarah
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extremely useful book of interviews with humor writers, though some interviews are much better than others. One of my favorites is with The Onion head writer Todd Hanson – here's a snippet:

"I'm not a cognitive scientist. But what I understand about humor is that it's a form of a startle reaction. I certainly know that in my life humor has been all about sorrow and horror. Mark Twain said, 'The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow.' He also said, 'There is no humor in h
...more
Katie Johnston
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Despite the fact that this book is a series of interviews, and I can barely get through the word "interview" without yawning, this has become my favorite non-fiction book. Anyone with an interest in comedy writing can get something from this.

I was initially put off by the fact that I only recognized a few of the names on the front of the book. But I discovered that I was familiar with almost every single interviewee - just maybe not by name. I mean, if you told me about an amazing interview with
...more
Nicholas Karpuk
Oct 02, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: surrendered
I got through about a third of these interviews over the course of years. As someone who thinks a lot about comedy, I felt like something could be learned here. The thing is, around the time this book came out a lot of comedic podcasts started creeping into my iPod. The main thing I learned?

Comedians are boring people.

Some of my favorite comedians give the most uninspired interviews, and they all seem more than eager to be asked "serious" questions about their craft, even though I didn't really
...more
Aaron
Jul 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book like this is pretty much going to only be as strong as its interview subjects. While there wasn't any particular subject that I could claim shouldn't be interviewed, it would have been nice if the book had a more variety in interviewees. Basically, it's all 90s and early 2000s altcomedy folks, which is a niche I like, but I think presenting that as the peak of comedy writing is a bit annoying. One of the nice things, though, is that Sacks mentions that he asked many people who turned him ...more
Alex
Feb 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is ridiculously full of useful nuggets of info.

Marshall Brickman on Annie Hall:
After watching [the rough cut], we thought, "Where's the relationship?" When people come to me with ideas, sometimes they say, "I want to do a story about a war," or "I want to do a story about a hospital." And I'll always say, "Tell me the story in terms of a relationship." So with Annie Hall, we knew what was missing. It didn't focus on a relationship.

And Harold Ramis:

I always tell students to identify th
...more
Kaitlyn Dennis
Loved this book! I'm not an aspiring humorist, but this collection of interviews was fascinating nonetheless. In most of these interviews, I found myself connecting the humor I enjoyed in tv shows/magazines/books/movies to actual people. Thinking about it now, I find it strange that I wasn't curious about the background and influences of these writers before. That said, there were a few interviews that I didn't fully get into, though i think that says more about what sort of things I find funny ...more
Ahmed Helmy Al Zohairy
One of my favorite books on "comedy writing", it gives helpful insights from humor writers that we only think of them as great talents who get everything right from the first time, but it was also helpful to learn directly from their experiences and work flow, also to know that self doubt will be your friend forever, even if you're a humor writer with an academy award, but as most of them said, be real and honest, write about your own experiences and write for yourself everyday, will make your s ...more
Jill
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The length of time it took me to finish this book is not indicative of how much I enjoyed it. The interviews with the various comedians/comics/humorists were absolutely fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the range of people who were interviewed - the last chapter is an interview with an expert on the laugh track! If you're into comedy and want to hear some insights on the career and the artform, you could do a lot worse than reading this book. I'm looking forward to starting Mike Sack's next bo ...more
Joel Neff
Mar 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to write comedy.
This series of interviews should be a must read for anyone who wants to write, comedy or otherwise. The interviewees run the gamut from television legends, to comic book artists, to essayists, with insights and anecdotes from all.

Highly recommended.
Nathan Rabin
Jul 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books about the creative process I've ever read. Highly recommended to anyone interested in working in comedy or understanding the comic mind.
Joe Neidhard
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comedy
The interviews in this are indispensable. Sack's work in this and Poking a Dead Frog are treasure and he himself is great, kind interview himself.
Jeremiah
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Excellent read. Almost shaved an extra star off because "bonus" interviews were repeated from his other book.
Jesse Roth
just a bunch of dudes....mostly white dudes.
Tristan Williams
Great read for anyone really interested in comedy writing. Sacks does his homework. That said, most of the book is people telling you to do your homework.
Berenice
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you’ve never written a kicker, you’ve definitely laughed at one.

In comedy, a kicker is an extra one-liner thrown in after the punchline to get a laugh on top of a laugh. In his book, journalist Mike Sacks has made a solid hit out of chronicling 21 writers at the top of their field. (Or at the bottom of their glass, which is definitely half-full… of hot air.)

An entertaining read, And Here’s the Kicker confirms what you might assume:
• if you’re good at writing it, comedy pays well,
• many c
...more
Quinn Lavender
In my alternate reality, I'm not a 9-5 desk jockey working for 'The Man." I'm a comedy writer / comedy performer. This book, perhaps a titch too long, provides a great mixture of behind-the-scenes history of some of the greatest comedy careers, shows, and movies, but it also sprinkles in some advice for those who still dream of writing a comedy gem for the next hottest TV show. I will just keep on dreaming, and one day maybe it will be so because I took the time to read an interview with Jack Ha ...more
Kirsti
Did you know that Sid Caesar once PUNCHED A HORSE IN THE NOSE? I had no idea.

Enthralling interviews with humor writers from many generations--some who are quite young and one who was in his nineties. It's a pleasure to read because Sacks is a skilled interviewer who is very knowledgeable about the topic.

"It's easy to write for someone who's already established a persona. . . . It's the hardest thing to develop a persona. That's why movies and plays about fictional comedians are almost never trul
...more
Tommy
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for anyone who fancies themselves a comedy writer, or is just intrigued by the notion and process of creating comedy. Mike Sacks interviews such luminaries as Buck Henry, Stephen Merchant, Harold Ramis, Merrill Markoe, Marshall Brickman, George Meyer, David Sedaris, Robert Smigel, Dick Cavett, Dave Barry, Jack Handy, and Larry Gelbart.

If some of those names don't ring a bell, trust me, you likely know their work. These are men and women who have written Carson, Letterman, The
...more
Scott
Feb 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book I put on my list of fun things to read, as a break from heavier, darker fare. It was surprisingly meaty and serious, but in a good way. Mike Sacks, the interviewer, does a respectable job: unlike many interviewers (especially ones confronted with professional comedians), he doesn't try to be funny, or upstage his subjects, and he lets the writers drive the conversation. I just wish he had included more women (I really missed Tina Fey, who would have been a perfect subject for thi ...more
Robin
Aug 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sacks, the author, suggests this book will probably be read only by a) comedy nerds, and b) aspiring comedy writers. In my time I've been a bit of both. It's great to identify the source of certain comedy bits and great writing from the authors who rarely get their due -- who wrote the best or the ruminatively incisive bits on SNL over the years, what it's like to be a young man writing a sitcom about senior-aged Golden Girls. What it's like to be a woman in comedy -- those stories are few and f ...more
Clay Cassells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book from start to finish. Mike Sacks' interview collection will undoubtedly appeal to those looking for helpful advice on selling their own comedy writing, but it's also a treasure trove for anyone who grew up with late-night comedy within the past 40 to 50 years. The interview subjects in this collection are true heavyweights of comedy, from institutions (Buck Henry, Dick Cavett) to contributors across the history of late-night mainstays like SNL (Jack Handey, Robert Sm ...more
Jinny Chung
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: love-love-love
Don't read this hoping that the interviewees will give you advice on breaking into the industry. Read this because THESE PEOPLE ARE BRILLIANT.

Personal favorites are the interviews with:
-Stephen Merchant
-Bob Odenkirk
-George Meyer
-Jack Handey
-Harold Ramis
-David Sedaris
-Mitch Hurwitz
-Rob Smigel
-Paul Feig

Give it up for comedy writing, folks. Bet you couldn't do it.

As for my favorite excerpt, I'll lift a blurb from Stephen Merchant's interview.

"That was the thing we wanted to carry from The Office: t
...more
Joyce
Thoroughly enjoyed this collection of interviews with comedy legends and highly recommend it if you're into comedy writers, writing, concepts, et. al. Summary: Sacks, currently on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, interviews 21 top print, TV, and film humor writers as they discuss the comedy-writing process, their influences, and their experiences in the industry. Those interviewed include veterans like Buck Henry (Get Smart, The Graduate) and Dick Cavett (The Tonight Show, The Dick Cavett Sho ...more
Wes Locher
Apr 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mike Sacks's And Here's the Kicker, was a wonderful read. I had trouble putting it down and I was late for work several times because of it.

I purchased this mainly for the interviews with Sedaris, Barry, and Handey, as they were the humorists closest to my personal style but all the comedians and writers interviewed provided great insight and knowledge into the craft. As has been said in several reviews of this wonderful book, you may not recognize all of the names that emblazon the cover, howe
...more
Matt
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most surprising thing about this book is how many amazing writers this guy got to talk to him... it's like a who's who of humor writers. The interviews themselves were fairly interesting, but they weren't particularly useful as a humor writer in the internet age... as someone who doesn't spend any time in the show business world, I'm not likely to ever get into humor writing via stand-up or television. These are later steps: there wasn't much in here for the internet-inclined.

Which is fine.
...more
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