Comedy Queens: 5 Television Writers To Pay Attention To
When I was 14, I decided that I wanted to become a comedy writer. This was mostly because my dad was a self-proclaimed comedic genius and encouraged SNL binge sessions over homework (parenting at its finest). He also dressed like an 18-year-old gang member and was often found acting like one, but that’s beside the point.
When I was growing up, I would cry of laughter at Michael Scott on The Office and Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec. Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, and Zach Galifianakis have forced me to pee in public settings on multiple occasions (no shame). Yes, I’ve embarrassed myself countless times, but I don’t care. I fucking love these people.
And here I am today: a successful comedy writer working on Hollywood’s most brilliant shows, spending my weekends brainstorming episode ideas with Mindy Kaling and getting drunk with Amy Schumer.
Just kidding. This is my unfulfilled dream and I just openly admitted its failure on Medium. This has quickly become much, much sadder than it was ever intended to. Please forgive me.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I want to celebrate the female comedy writers who have inspired me to stretch far beyond my childhood career dreams. These women have shaped me in many years over the years, but more than anything, they’ve taught me how to be a boss lady. Thank you, Queens, for teaching me everything I know.
Mindy Kaling’s TV characters get a bad rap for having a voice that’s perpetually high on helium and constantly whining about how hungry she is. But once you get to know the real Mindy, you realize that she’s actually brilliant.
In both of her books, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me?, she covers everything from Hollywood culture, to writer’s room chaos, to mid 30’s dating to hard work. Read both of her books immediately, then watch all nine seasons of The Office, then all four seasons of The Mindy Project, then start over again. You won’t regret it.
“I’m the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than wisely keep my expectations at bay and hope they are exceeded. This quality has made me a needy and theatrical friend, but has given me a spectacularly dramatic emotional life.”
Although Amy has only been “big” for the past two years or so, she‘s been writing comedy for over 10 years. Most famous for her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, and her recent movie, Trainwreck, Amy has changed the game for modern feminism and has inspired many to look at women’s issues through comedy. She’s also stolen hours (days?) of my life by forcing me to watch addictive reruns of her stand-up, and has dominated many conversations in public settings because I literally cannot stop talking about her.
“It’s work having a vagina. Guys don’t think that its work but it is. You think it shows up like that to the event? It doesn’t. Every night it’s like getting it ready for its first Quinceanera, believe me.”
Although Jane is incredibly well-known, I still don’t think she gets enough credit. Most famous for her hilariously cynical character on Glee, Sue Sylvester, Jane began her comedy career in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, and has since gone on to act in Glee, Talladega Nights, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Role Models, The Three Stooges, and many more TV shows and movies.
My favorite work by her, however, is her book, Happy Accidents, which covers the ever present topics of drug and alcohol abuse, gay identity and success within the American acting community.
“I’m reasonably confident you will be adding revenge to the long list of things you’re no good at, right next to being married, running a high school glee club, and finding a hair style that doesn’t make you look like a lesbian. Love ya like a sister.”
Oh Chelsea, my first comedic love. This is the woman who inspired me to start writing comedy in the first place (and do a lot of other things that we don’t need to discuss here).
In her books, Chelsea Handler has essentially talked about everything from Hollywood, to bad boyfriends, to drinking, to midgets, to work, to family. She isn’t afraid to say anything and is probably the most fearless woman I’ve ever known. (I don’t actually know her, but I feel like I know her. I secretly hope that she lies in bed at night thinking of me too.) Chelsea, you’ll never stop being my first role model. Mom, please forgive me.
“At some point during almost every romantic comedy, the female lead suddenly trips and falls, stumbling helplessly over something ridiculous like a leaf, and then some Matthew McConaughey type either whips around the corner just in the nick of time to save her or is clumsily pulled down along with her. That event predictably leads to the magical moment of their first kiss. Please. I fall ALL the time. You know who comes and gets me? The bouncer.”
I don’t care what anyone says: Lena is one of the most brilliant, brave, progressive and hilarious voices in our generation. Her show, Girls, and book, Not That Kind of Girl, have both uncovered the raw truth about Millennial women, body image, career insecurity, mental health and relationships. I can honestly say that Lena Dunham has made me a better thinker, writer, feminist and human. Please, Lena, never stop.