Updated: Oct 14, 2019
Do you dream of success in the world of comedy, whether as a writer, comedian, producer, or late night television host? Do you think you might have the talent, but need some direction or motivation to get you there? Do these leading questions seem a little clickbait-y and overwrought for the sake of hooking you as the reader? I'm going to assume yes and tell you that the Funny Business ongoing panel for female comedians is a valuable resource, based on the inspiring and informative event held at the Friar's Club this past week.
Not to discourage male comedians ( who I swear, there were some in attendance, and I believe they are actually the ones who are most complex and woke to the burgeoning female comedy scene ), but the emphasis of the panel is on women making it in the generally male-dominated comedy field, usually with an eye on the whole business management side of things.
The panel is produced and moderated by the gregarious Felicia Madison, who is not only laugh-out-loud funny as a stand up comedian, but has proved to be quite savvy on the business end of the comedy scene. Hosted at the Friar's Club in Manhattan, famous for their roasts and upper-crust clientele, each Funny Business panel features a Q&A style conversation amongst some seriously funny women who give the long and short of how to succeed, with this past week's event focusing on writing for late night television.
Any doubts I had regarding the legitimacy of the panel were immediately swept away by the vast talent and achievements of the panelists themselves:
Kim Powers-executive producer of Tru TV
Kat Radley – staff writer on the daily show with Trevor Noah
Abby Finer- Talent Manager
Ariel Dumas- Writer on the late show with Stephen Colbert
Jordan Temple- Stand up comedian, writer for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Elise Terrell- Supervising Producer at the Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Karen Chee- writer late night with Seth Myers
As Felicia Madison posed the series of questions, I was mesmerized by the succinct and savvy replies of each woman (and one man, thank you Jordan Temple!), and found myself hastily jotting down notes and ideas for myself as well as this article. I wish that I could include a transcript of the entire motivating event, but a few highlights include:
Where and how do I get a job (In the Late Night Comedy Scene)?:
If you are doing it for the sheer love of it, and devoting every spare second that you can to this craft, being in the community and continually generating great work, a job can often find you. Access to this platform is growing, via the internet etc, and it is important to find your specific skill and hone it, in order to stand out from the rest.
What can I do (comedy-wise) that will lead into writing for late night tv?
Put yourself onto multiple fronts: social media, stand-up, anything involving your local comedy scene. Be consistent and have a defined voice. Find your story, and have a distinct way of telling it.
Is there anything I shouldn't do?
Don't be racist (ok seems obvious but you never know).
Don't wait until you're “perfect,” that is, get your work out there even if you feel it isn't 100% ready.
Don't be hard to work with- being fun or likable can be the difference between being hired or passed over for that gig).
What is a good process for generating material when writing for comedy/television?
Practice writing in someone else's voice (can you sound like Stephen Colbert when you make a joke?)
Binge watching a show that you are interested in writing for, and even transcribing the dialogue.
Read the news, know what's going on in order to be topical, find stories happening that you care about.
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite: don't be afraid to revisit and edit that material in order to get to the essence.
How to pitch an idea
Do whatever you can (internet videos, Twitter, etc) to get your idea on it's feet.
Go to available workshops and programs, they can truly pave your way.
You can't control luck but you can control persistence.
Don't give up—it takes on average nine years of trying to get anywhere. You don't want to look back in nine years saying, “what if I hadn't given up?”
Enjoy the work, but build a discipline.
Get used to rejection and criticism, and let go of being afraid.
Honestly there was so much more information and advice in this panel, that would be far too much to include here. It was extremely heartening, hearing from these amazing women (and man), and the energy was truly uplifting. A warm thank you to Felicia Madison for her work here, and may these panels continue on forever, or at least until women are equally represented in the comedy world!
By: Janessa Kowal