Talking to Teddy Wayne About His New Comic Novel and the Difference Between Fiction and Humor Writing

Teddy Wayne is the author of the new comic literary novel The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, out today, featuring the titular 11-year-old pop star as he makes his way across America on his “Valentine Days” tour. The book has received stellar advance reviews from a host of outlets, including Michiko Kakutani at the New York Times, who says it’s “sad-funny, sometimes cutting…more than a scabrous sendup of American celebrity culture.” Wayne’s debut, Kapitoil, won a 2011 Whiting Writers’ Award; Jonathan Franzen wrote in The Daily Beast that the novel’s main character, Karim Issar, was a type “that we’re all familiar with but that no other writer, as far as I know, has invented such a funny and compelling voice and story for.”

Wayne regularly writes humor for The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and elsewhere, and he has the distinction of being the most frequent contributor of all time to McSweeney’s, where he writes the column “Teddy Wayne’s Unpopular Proverbs” (which is, as he pointed out to me, one of the site’s consistently least-popular features).

(Full disclosure: Teddy and I are friends and occasional writing partners. Did that influence my decision to interview him for Splitsider about this new book? Yes, without a doubt, but the book is great, and I recommend it highly.)

Recently, over wine spritzers and Rice Chex mix, in the back of a public library, I discussed writing humor, and humorous fiction with Wayne: READ MORE


Talking to National Lampoon Co-Founder Henry Beard About Humor Writing, the Lampoon and More

Henry Beard, one of the co-founders of The National Lampoon, is a prolific man. Over the course of forty years, Beard has written more than 35 humor books, including Zen for Cats, The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (co-written with Christopher Cerf), and Latin for All Occasions. What’s especially interesting is that Beard remains one of the few comedy writers to only devote themselves entirely to print, with little or no interest in writing for other mediums, be it television or films.

Beard’s first parody book, Bored of the Rings, was published in 1969, when Beard (and co-writer Doug Kenney) had just graduated Harvard. The book remains in print to this day, having become something of a classic to any college stoner with a propensity for naming their pets after Middle-Earth creatures.

Beard has been described as, among other things, “enigmatic,” “reclusive,” and “odd.” He’s also been called a “genius” and “brilliant,” two descriptions difficult to argue with when taking a look at the high quality of his output over the last four decades. Beard is not known for giving many interviews, eschewing the chance to talk about himself or his years at the National Lampoon. Thankfully, he’s made an exception for this interview. READ MORE


An Extended Interview with Former Colbert Report Head Writer Allison Silverman

In And Here's the Kicker, Mike Sacks talked to some of the biggest names in comedy writing, including Dick Cavett, David Sedaris and Robert Smigel. Here is the complete and uncut version of his interview with former Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Daily Show and Colbert Report writer/producer Allison Silverman, with loads of new answers not found in the book.

It’s difficult to know just how seriously Allison Silverman takes herself, or her place, in the hierarchy of comedy-writing. Having spent time penning jokes for some of the best minds in satire — Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien — she’d be justified in some self-aggrandizement.

“Over the course of the week [at Late Night with Conan O’Brien],” she once said, “[my desk] becomes a dumping ground for scripts, daily schedules, weekly schedules, cast lists, revised cast lists, and beat sheets. A beat sheet lists the comedy bits approved by our head writer. A beat sheet is how the wardrobe department finds out that we need a giant Hasidic ant costume by two P.M.” For Silverman, comedy is just another way to pay the bills, albeit a means of employment that occasionally involves dressing up actors as Semitic insects. READ MORE