job; I met someone; I watched too much Discovery Channel; I crossed a land
bridge from Asia sometime between 60,000 and 50,000 BCE.
make it in the New York comedy scene. Back around the turn of the millennium,
for instance, I was shortlisted for a staff-writing position on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Once, I
even auditioned to host a cable network reality series (guess how the screen
beating. I’d also just finished my MFA in fiction and thought I might enjoy getting
rejected by literary agencies for a change. Plus, my fiancé was stating an internship
in Palmer, Alaska (of all places) and I really didn’t feel like getting married
Forester and headed north, to the future. Not that the Mat-Su Valley was particularly
futuristic. I mean, the first rental properties we saw didn’t have heat,
running water or electricity.
had utilities but no street address—just “behind the barn near mile 1.5.” Also
included: a spare room for a home office with a breathtaking view of Matanuska
Peak. Back in Brooklyn, by contrast, my workspace doubled as a clothes closet;
my desk looked out on an airshaft.
looking for gainful employment. I set off to write my first novel. Well, you
know what they say: the road to hell is paved with plans to write your first novel.
Ten years later, I’m still re-working the opening sentence.
statewide budget cuts, all linings are now silver laminate). While my fiction
career has sputtered since moving to Alaska, in the meantime I’ve written hundreds
of thousands of words of comedy. Maybe a million. Maybe more. And some them
were even funny.
primary avocation—not only is comedy more fun to write; absent the emotional,
psychological and dramatic elements of fiction, it can be a whole lot easier.
the Juneau Empire, which, after seven
years, remains my favorite regular gig.
stuck it out in New York. These were often tricky assignments, for discerning
clients, on tight deadlines. That’s why no one else wanted them.
writer—you can’t decline any opportunities and you can’t fail, or you risk
never working again. And that means having to get a real job. Shudder.
publishing house asked me to step in and write a page-a-day calendar, at least
two jokes per page, counting down to the 2012 apocalypse predicted (spoiler
alert: this apocalypse didn’t happen). A writer for Conan O’Brien pitched the idea
when Conan went off the air. Except Conan went back on the air—after the
publisher not only greenlit the project, but featured it prominently in advance
marketing materials. The editor called me in early November; she needed the
manuscript right after New Year’s. Oh, and my wife just gave birth to our
words that needed to sound as if they sprang forth from the MacBook of a Conan
and almost got divorced, but I finished. Of course, I had to pull out every
trick I knew, from suggested iPod playlists—e.g. “Closing Time” by
Semisonic, “Pop Goes the World” by Men
Without Hats—to fake ice cream flavors—e.g. “Fudgement Day,” “Almondgeddon,” “Four
Horse-mint of the Achocolatechypse.”
more free copies next time, it’s this: while fiction writing is an art, comedy
writing is a craft. It’s the literary equivalent of basket weaving. Once you
learn proper technique—and then refine it through endless practice—you can
crank out as many jokes as you like, about almost anything. Even the
coherent anecdotes as I can cram into three hours await those who attend my aptly
named 49 Writers Workshop, “Everything I Can Teach You About Comedy Writing in
3 Hours.” (Registration here.)
GEOFF KIRSCH is a Juneau-based writer and humorist. His work has appeared in/on Comedy Central, Huffington Post, the WGN America cable TV network and the Alaska Dispatch, among others. He is also the author of Run For Your Life! Doomsday 2012! published by Workman. “Slack Tide,” his long-running regular column in the Juneau Empire won a 2015 Alaska Press Club award for humor. But enough about him — let’s talk about you…