It’s Practically Improv

While reading this week’s material, I came to realize how difficult it must be to write for a late night show. I’m baffled by the amount of content they have to create daily. It may not be as good as the writing from top recorded comedy shows, but it’s certainly not crap (more on that later), and there are a few really good bits that come out of it as well. I have a new found appreciation for these writers, reminiscent of my appreciation for the performers on Whose Line is it Anyway. These writers are practically doing improv, minus the performance aspect. There’s not enough time to go through a whole brainstorming and revision writing process. They have to be quick and almost machine like.

My favorite quote from the reading “Monologue Jokes” exemplifies the challenges faced by comedy writers. “A former comedy writer for Johnny Carson said this about writing a topical monologue. ‘Doing this every day is like taking a [dump] when you don’t have to.’”

Even considering the fact that these writers have very little time to come up with content, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the topical jokes can often feel formulaic. The unpredictability of current events and the constant innovative stupidity produced by people in the media is what keeps the jokes fresh and brings surprise to punchlines. With this in mind, will it ever be possible for late night shows to be unable to come up with seemingly fresh jokes every day?


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