Don’t listen to anything Bill Murray tells you – Ghostbusters 3 is happening! Or, uh, happened. I should know, because I spent my summer working on it. Fed up with waiting for Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd to get the band back together, I decided to assemble my own ghost bustin’ team, and here’s the fruits of our labor – Ghostbusters 3, live on YouTube this morning – written and directed by me, produced by Caitlin Brodnick, and featuring some of the funniest talent in all of New York City. Enjoy internet, happy Friday.
Tag Archives: Comedy
My friend Will Nunziata and his super-talented comedy partner, Jerry Miller, started writing a comedy sketch play 2 years called Dystopia Gardens. In 2010, Dystopia has been one of the most popular shows running at The Peoples Improv Theater – selling out almost every performance, and guaranteeing its audience a hilarious take on what lies ahead for us in the future. With only a few weeks left before the show closes in May, I highly recommend you go see it. Highly.
So, consider this post me coming up for air after being submerged in a sea of writing and rewriting. Some days, you feel like you’re riding a tall wave – just you and what God gave you. Other days, it feels like straight-up waterboarding, and Dick Cheney is holding the bucket.
In the last week, I’ve plowed through work on an original pilot script and I’m still working on my Sunny script. During those same days, I’ve found myself inside my apartment for hours staring at a computer; rarely leaving except for the gym, grocery shopping, and maybe – just maybe – the occasional night off. This kind of cabin fever does something to your head. You find yourself going one-on-one with your talent and your ego. Your talent is always assuring you to press ahead; don’t be too hard on yourself if it isn’t perfect. Your ego is screaming at you “STOP. NOW. It’ll never be as good on paper as it is in your head.” Suddenly, you begin to wonder how long it’ll be before you start collecting your own piss in jars. Though (now that I think about it), I wouldn’t mind a stained glass window in my place.
I’m beginning to see that sometimes, the creative process is not easy. I mean: it’s easy in the respect that an idea comes to you, you think through it, and then you write it out. For a few hours, you feel brilliant. However, the hard part comes after: you need discipline to sit back down again and let yourself change a few things around. Worst of all, you need to let go of some great stuff that isn’t meant to work, and allow yourself to replace them with some new ideas that kind of fit, but they sound nowhere near as good as your first ideas. The big hope is that time, massive rewrites, and maybe a reading or two will ultimately take you to a newer, better idea that’ll knock you on your ass and make you say “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before!”
And that, kids, is supposed to be how perfect comedy scripts are written.
All of this writing has taken a toll on my performance life. In fact, I’ve recently decided to take a break from improv until I get these scripts done. On any free nights I have, I’m trying to go out to open mikes and work on written solo material I have (known in some cultures as “stand-up comedy”). And of course, there’s still The Matt Fried Hour. It has occurred to me in the last week that perhaps part of the reason why I stuck by improv for so long – and found excuses to not go after other comedic pursuits – was simply because I knew the work involved would be big. There is something way easier about showing up somewhere, making shit up, and then a little later getting all the praise and a girl’s phone number. Since I decided to pursue writing these scripts, there have been many things I’ve done that my ego demands I avoid. Because it moves me away from a place of total security and artistic self-assurance. But, truth be told, I’m learning that when I do hear that voice in my head, it means I need to move toward what it wants me to avoid. Even if it means staying up until 3:00 a.m. trying to figure out how to make a joke about Samuel Beckett funny. If I don’t, then I wonder, “If not now, then when?”
This is some of the stuff that I’ve been listening to heavily while I churn out the funny.
1. “Lazy Eye” by The Silversun Pickups
2. “In A Big Country” by Big Country
3. “Rockway Beach” by The Ramones
4. “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone
5. “La Maree Haute” by Lhasa de Sela
6. “The Beast And Dragon, Adored” by Spoon
7. The entire Wild Style soundtrack
8. “Sing Me Spanish Techno” by The New Pornographers
9. “Can You Tell” by Ra Ra Riot
10. “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone
11. “Red House” (Live at Woodstock) by Jimi Hendrix
12. “Timorous Me” by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
1. If I can’t tell if it’s funny, but sounds funny, there’s a 98% chance someone else will find it funny.
2. Writing is not the hardest thing in the world. SITTING DOWN to write way harder.
3. Good ideas are like girlfriends: you’re excited when you two first meet; over time you find out that not everything is perfect; if it’s not meant to work out, you can always look it up again one night at 3:00 in the morning.
5. Don’t worry; Chaplin didn’t even know what he was doing until he was 36.
6. If you’re spending all day writing comedy, watch a drama at night, or go to an art gallery. It helps balance you out.
7. It is possible to take a joke and beat a dead horse. Especially when you’re trying to be some intellectual schmuck who writes a scene where Jackie Gleason is beating a dead horse.
8. If you’re tired and still trying to write, you’re not helping yourself. Very few people can write anything decent while exhausted. That is, unless you are Chaplin.
9. If you’re too tired from writing to get laid, you’re working too much.
10. Tell a story. Don’t worry about the jokes. Figure out the story you’re trying to tell, and then lose sleep over the comedy.
So: with our country’s roaring job market right now, I’ve been thinking for a while about what my next move is going to be as a writer. The freelance market is up and down. A couple of strong 9 to 5 leads got filled. Suddenly, it hit me:
I’m going to get my shit together and try to land a comedy writing gig.
What exactly does this entail? Nothing really different than what I’ve already been juggling (dozens of script projects, comedy shows, laughable paychecks), but now I’m not second-guessing myself anymore (meaning I’m willing to deal with the laughable paycheck for right now). The more I’ve been thinking about it, I want to get into TV and film. I want to write my foot into someone’s door. It worked for Tina Fey.
Does this choice include a move to L.A.? Not right now, but I hope at some point in the not-so-distant future.
A few studios out West are going to be taking applications at the end of June for writing fellowships in 2010. This would lead to work in L.A. and getting some professional experience writing for TV. Also, I’m working on a comedy screenplay I started in one of writing classes at The PIT. Not to also mention, a few spec scripts and a video sketch. I’d like to finish all of these, and I apparently have nothing but time on my hands at the moment. Therefore, I’ve decided to take a break from the job hunt and work to get all of these scripts done under deadline. I honestly feel that, if I don’t do it now, I’ll have nothing to show for it but regret.
If nothing comes of any of these endeavors, I’ll be fine. I’ve learned by now how to deal with professional setbacks. What matters to me – RIGHT NOW – is finishing what I started and getting my work into the hands of someone.
So, here it goes internet – Day One of the rest of my life… I hope.
Peter Bjorn and John is playing on my Last.fm (special thanks to Jacob Brown). I’m thinking about what I want to do with myself tomorrow (which is actually this morning, since I’m writing this very late at night). I really need a day off to rest, but I need to keep job hunting. My bills never really seem to stop coming. My exhaustion doesn’t really want to leave. I have six weeks off. Six weeks to take a break from my show. Six weeks to try and relax. Six weeks to find more time for myself as the weather is getting warmer outside.
And yet still, all I can think about is some giant wagging finger. “Matt Fried, you are a lazy son of a bitch.”
For the last year, I’ve been writing on daily basis. Not a day goes by without me writing, or thinking of an idea for writing something. I recently read a Rolling Stone article on Lil Wayne, who takes the same approach to making music. Not a day goes by that he’s not in the studio, recording an average of five tracks a day. That calculates – roughly – to 150 songs a month; 1,825 songs a year. He’s quoted as saying that without recording, his whole day can turn to shit. With me and writing, it’s the same story. I can always walk away from acting or improv whenever I want. But if you told me “Matt, don’t ever write again.”, I’d probably have a nervous breakdown by next Tuesday.
I’m trying to do a lot of things in this life. Chief among them is getting paid to write. Specifically, I want people to pay me money for writing funny things. But I realize that statement must seem a bit ironic, considering that this particular blog entry is very Nick Hornsby. Which isn’t to say that Nick Hornsby isn’t a talent writer – I love High Fidelity. I’m just trying to use Nick Hornsby as an example of being a midtwentysomething man-child, stuck in a professional holding pattern. Not unlike the way Chekov decided to mock the modern intellectual in The Seagull. You see, it’s this play about this whiny rich kid who’s pissed off because his cougar of a mom won’t pay attention to him. So, to impress the girl he loves, he shoots a seagull, and gives it to her as a symbol of his dead talent as a playwright. Chekhov was a very cheeky fellow. I actually rewrote said “gift scene” just last night at 4 a.m. It goes something like this:
Matt: “Here, I brought you something.”
Anne Hathway: “Oh! Is it that dress I was looking at on Fifth Avenue?”
Matt: “It’s a dead seagull.”
Anne Hathway: “Oh.”
Matt: “It’s dead. Like my talent. I love you.”
Anne Hathaway: “…”
Not nearly as effective, but still very poetic.
Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes – I want to be a comedy writer. But I’m tired. I really want to just rest tomorrow. But there’s this gnawing sense of guilt in me that won’t allow it. It’s a familiar guilt that I’ve known for a long time. It’s the guilt that expects the world of me. It tells me “One day, you will be The Greatest.” On long days, it pushes me a little further. Because it knows what I want. But then, the rest of my body gives out. I can feel my brain become uninterested, and my will as limp as an overcooked spaghetti noodle. I think, if it were a year ago, I would’ve identified this feeling as procrastination. Now though, my better instincts recognize it as exhaustion. The difference being that procrastination is motivated by fear. Exhaustion is motivated by… well, being exhausted. Yet still, I can hear those voices. “Matt Fried, you’re a bum.” “Matt Fried, you’re worthless.” “Matt Fried, it’s no wonder you’re nowhere near famous yet.”
But here’s the trick, folks. You have to ignore it. As hard as it is, I will let myself be tired. I will let myself relax. Because you’ll always have those days where things get crazy. Those are the days you have to step back, remember everything, and trust your gut. Otherwise, you are the next Treplev – sitting on the F train, sipping espresso, handing out dead pigeons from a trash bag to every pretty girl you see. And all you seem to care about is how unfair life is, and how you do so much and earn so little.
I’ve got six weeks. One day isn’t going to matter. Besides, I know too many other good writers. God help if someone ever says “Hey Matt Fried, I wrote a play about you.”