Tag Archives: comedy

What Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele) Learned from Doing Stand-Up Comedy.

“One of the breakthrough moments [of doing stand-up comedy] for me was realizing that…you can take all the classes you want and learn and practice and get all the advice from other people, but it’s really like learning an instrument that has never existed until you were born. No one can tell you how to play that instrument.”

— Jordan Peele, “Key and Peele,” in Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow

I think this is true of life, generally — about habits, and happiness, and many other things. We have to learn ourselves.

Story: Do What You Love, and Then Your Friends Hire You.

This week’s video story:  Do what you love, and then your friends hire you.


Perhaps I didn’t quite complete my thought on the video. When you do what you love, even in a non-job context, you make friends with other people who share your interests;  as they move forward in the world, they help you move forward. (Of course, it’s not always easy to cultivate your passions.)

In a related observation, my sister the sage once told me, “People succeed in groups.” Agree, disagree?

Have you found this to be true?

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What I Learned About Myself from Steve Martin.

Last week, I read Steve Martin’s memoir of his time learning and doing stand-up comedy, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life. I loved it.

It’s a terrific example of one of my favorite kinds of books: someone coming into his or her vocation. I love reading about why people become interested in particular subjects or skills, and how they master them.

Just in the last year, I’ve read several outstanding books of this type, such as E. O. Wilson’s Naturalist, Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One, Rosanne Cash’s Composed, Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and Eugene Delacroix’s Journal.

Do you have any suggestions? I just can’t get enough of this kind of thing. Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn’t matter if I’m interested in the underlying subject. I’m not much interested in music, for example, but I loved reading about the experiences of these musicians. And I’m definitely not much interested in ants.

Odd sidenote: you never know when you’re going to get an insight into yourself and your own experience. Steve Martin made a passing observation which very helpful to me. He writes:

“I never experienced the sensation [of knocking knees] again, but I wonder if I would have preferred it to the chilly pre-show anxiety that I sometimes felt later in my performing career. This mild but persistent adrenal rush beginning days before important performances kept the pounds off and, I swear, kept colds away.”

I’m no Steve Martin, of course, and I never feel the chill for days, but I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in myself. I’m always, always cold, but about an hour before I give a talk that has me feeling nervous, I can actually feel my body temperature drop, in the space of a single minute. It’s as if someone has turned down my thermostat. I now bring a shawl with me, so I can wrap up beforehand. For some reason, it’s helpful to realize that other people experience this, as well.

Reading Steve Martin’s memoir reminded me of one of my favorite quotations, from G. K. Chesterton: “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” Although Steve Martin’s comedy looks wild and crazy, it’s the product of a tremendous amount of serious thought, rehearsal, and experiment.

“Doing Things That Scare Me Can Make Me Both Happy and Unhappy, and the Line is Often Surprising.”

Happiness interview: Janine DiTullio.

Last week, I went to the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. On the flight down, although I usually never talk to my rowmate, I eventually struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me.

It turned out she was a TV comedy writer who was headed down to SXSW to introduce Chirpbug, a technology that connects performers and fans over the internet. She helped found this company in her free time, along with writing for the heavy-metal cartoon Metalocalypse on Adult Swim. (She didn’t mention it, but I found out later that she’s written for Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, and Jimmy Fallon, and been nominated for multiple Emmy awards.)

But here’s the crazy thing. We were talking away, and suddenly I remembered a panel about comedy-writing that I’d attended at the New York Public Library. “You know what,” I said to her, “I may have seen you speak about eight years ago.”


“If that was you, I’ve been quoting you ever since. Do you remember saying this? A guy in the audience asked, ‘How do you get a job as a comedy writer?’ And you, or whomever it was, said, ‘You do what you love, and then your friends hire you.’ Meaning, if you spend your time doing what you love with people who love it, too, eventually it turns into work opportunities.”

“Oh, yes, I said that,” said Janine.

I was floored by this! I’d been quoting her for years, and here she was! And it was such good advice. I thought about it a lot with my resolution to Do what you do.

“This is just like that scene in When Harry Met Sally!” I said. “When the character Marie quotes Jess’s magazine piece, ‘Restaurants are to people in the eighties what theater was to people in the sixties,’ and Jess says, ‘I wrote that.'” What a crazy small world.

So naturally I asked her to do an interview about happiness.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Janine: Gambling.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Happiness does not equal complacency.

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Drinking soda + not exercising.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a particular book that has stayed with you?
No. But I might start reminding myself to “Be Gretchen.”

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity? (mine is reading children’s books).
I take a bath every day at 5pm.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
People seem to do a lot for their future happiness at the expense of their current happiness.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so,why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
I had a very unhappy period a few years ago precipitated by a break-up. I took some prozac and moved back home to help my Mom battle lung cancer.

Watching someone appreciate every drop of life and having the opportunity to help a parent deeply fortified my happiness even while adding sadness. Oh, and the prozac worked wonders, too.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?

Luckily, my Dad brought us up to put happiness before almost everything, except maybe birth control. So, I had a head start at it, but it still takes work. I try to avoid things that make me feel a loss of personal freedom.

I find bad jobs can do that fast. I’d rather take financial risks than have a “stable job” any day. Of course, that might not be the case if it weren’t for the birth control.

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
Doing things that scare me can make me both happy and unhappy and the line is often surprising.

* Also at SXSWi, I also met Nathan Thornburgh of DadWagon. I spent a lot of time checking out the site — “trying to make sense of the sometimes baffling, often excruciating, occasionally amusing world of fatherhood.”

* Join the happiness discussion on the Facebook Page. Lots of interesting conversation there. And follow me on Twitter as @gretchenrubin.

Newsflash! “Kristin Davis Set to Star in NBC’s “Happiness” Project.” Yay!

From The Hollywood Reporter:


Sex and the City star Kristin Davis is set to star in a new NBC project that would mark her return to series television.

NBC has picked up Davis’ The Happiness Project, based on the best-selling memoir by Gretchen Rubin about a woman’s quest to become a happier person.

The single-camera, half-hour project will be produced by Universal Media Studios and Mosaic.

Kristin Newman (Chuck, How I Met Your Mother) is in negotiations to write the pilot and executive produce. Jimmy Miller and Dave Fleming will also executive produce.

Rubin was once a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She embarked on a year-long quest to make herself happier, trying out scientific studies and pop culture wisdom. She documented her experiments on her blog.

The project was packaged by UTA.

Yes, it’s true — Kristin Davis! NBC! Kristin Newman! Yay! I am very happy. More info to come.