How Simon Rich became the world’s most ambitious comedy writer
Ais the youngest writer ever hired at Saturday Night Live, Simon Rich realized his biggest dreams ridiculously early in life. Everything that followed, including a switch to Pixar writing Upside down, directing his own shows at FX and TBS, and turning his New Yorker “Sell Out” story in the movie An American pickle starring two Seth Rogens, has exceeded his wildest imagination.
And for him, that’s really saying something.
In this week’s episode of The Last Laughing podcast, Rich reads a clip from his latest short story collection New teeth and reflects on his incredibly prolific career as the game’s most ambitious comedy writer. Plus, hear stories about what it was like to write an episode of The simpsons, the rejected skit he presented to LeBron James on his very first SNL episode, and addressing Willy Wonka’s origin story in the upcoming prequel with TimothÃ©e Chalamet.
When Rich, who is the son of columnist Frank Rich, started writing his unique brand of high-profile humorous fiction in college and in his twenties, most of his stories revolved around dating. Now that he’s married and has two young children, he spends a lot of time imagining what the adult world must be like through the eyes of his children.
âI always end up writing about whatever I’m going through emotionally,â he tells me. âSo it would make sense for my stories to be consumed by parenthood. Because obviously that’s where I feel right now and what I want to focus on as a writer. “
It has been roughly 14 years since Rich joined the editorial staff of SNL straight out of college, an experience he now says was “definitely scary” but also “exciting.” Once there, he said, âIt’s really meritocratic. I never thought, ‘Oh, I’m so young, you’re not going to listen to me.’ Because the way it works is that the skits are presented to people and they have no idea who wrote them, and then they are chosen or not based on audience reaction. He says he’s never worried about the “politics” of whether Lorne Michaels loves him “because Lorne doesn’t know who you are when you’re a freshman writer he worries about things a lot. more important “.
TO SNL, he was constantly throwing up ideas far too elaborate to work within the confines of a live TV show. He remembers going to the then chief writer, Seth Meyers, and saying, âHere’s a bunch of premises. Which of these do you think has the best chance of being shown on TV? Meyers would respond, “Well, certainly not those eight, but maybe that ninth.”
It still goes back to SNL whenever her former writing partner, John Mulaney, hosts the show. âIt’s the best,â he says. âEveryone is so tired. they did SNL for months and you just come in fresh.
Rich slowly figured out how to reduce his comedic outlook over the course of his four years at SNL, but by the time he got the opportunity to create his own scripted series based on his writingâMan seeking woman then Miracle workers– he decided to go bankrupt. âI basically forgot everything I had learned and was like, let’s go, who cares? Fuck! “He said.” I’m drawn to big swings. I always feel like it’s more fun having a spaceship on the ground or having a conversation with an animal or setting on fire. something.
“I basically forgot everything I had learned and was like, let’s go, who cares? Whore !“
But if the characters he writes have one thing in common, it is their fundamental lack of knowledge of the world around them. âFrom Homer Simpson to WALL-E, I love characters who are extremely uninformed, naive, confused,â says Rich. “These are the characters I’m trying to write about.”
“So in New teeth, an illiterate pirate begins the story, âhe continues. âAnd then it’s a laser disc machine that is gradually becoming aware of its obsolescence. There’s a baby sleuth, there’s a half-ape, half-man mutant superhero trying to figure out what to do now that there are no more aliens to kill and crush. There are all of these characters who are really trying to make sense of a world the reader is already familiar with. And weirdly what happens I find is that when you write from a naive point of view you can sometimes be more emotionally raw than when the characters are super witty and intelligent.
Then Rich adapts his pandemic-inspired story “Tips for Everyday Parents” into a film starring Ryan Reynolds and working behind the scenes of TimothÃ©e Chalamet Wonka prequel. Both a âlifelong Roald Dahl fanâ and a Jew, he tells me he has managed to overcome the infamous anti-Semitism of his favorite author.
âIt is always a difficult day in the life of a Jewish reader,â he says. âBut yeah, I mean I’m able to ignore it. I always think to myself, ‘Hey he would have liked me although.’ We would have had a few drinks and he would have said, ‘You know what, Jew? Are you doing well. You are one of the good ones.
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