Mike Schur on Comedy
David Mamet once said: “Doing a movie or play is like running a marathon. Doing a television show is like running until you die.”
If you’re a NFL quarterback, you watch a lot of games on film, and if you’re a comedy writer you have to watch a lot of game film — you have to watch comedy, read comedy, write about comedy. You have to treat it as seriously as if you’re a law student studying for the bar exam.
Someone said the best ending for a story is at once inevitable and surprising. That it was the only way it could’ve happened, and yet the audience didn’t see it coming. I’d like every episode and every season to end that way.
Staffs should ideally be like the X-Men — lots of different, weird mutants with specific voices and talents. If everyone on your staff is an improv performer from Chicago, or a sci-fi nerd from an Ivy League school, or a stand-up, you’ll only get the specific kind of joke that group provides.
Complacency is a classic mistake. Some people get to a certain point and go, “Okay, I’ve figured it out!” Writing isn’t a thing you figure out — ever. My favorite things I’ve ever written, I hate. That might sound like a weird thing to say. But anything I’ve ever written that I felt was really great, I inevitably will look at it two years later and think, “Oh God, this is so amateurish and terrible.” But that’s a good thing. If you ever feel like you’ve solved anything in writing, you’re just setting yourself up for a huge fall — and you’re wrong. Because it’s not math or science; it’s a weird, nebulous, hard-to-define thing.
— Mike Schur, from Poking a Dead Frog