Comedians think often about how their identity relates to the world around them. They spent much of their time reflecting on who they are, where they come from, what they've done, and what they've seen. Usually these reflections are form-fitted and presented to us as comedy for entertainment, and it's through this process that we may come to know more about the comedian and the world we live in.
Imagine if you gave comedians free-range to tell us about themselves and what they think about their world without having to mold it to fit a comic form. Mike Sacks has been doing that for us since 2009 when he published And Here's the Kicker. Sacks, who is also a member of the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, gave us a peek into the minds of great comedy writers like David Sedaris, Paul Feig, Harold Ramis, and Bob Odenkirk. He's returned again with Poking a Dead Frog to give us yet more insights from the likes of Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, George Saunders, Marc Maron, Bill Hader, Patton Oswalt, and more.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sacks about his new book and some of the messages he picked up while putting it together.
For starters, your title is a reference to the E.B. White quote "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." I've read the interviews you had with Marc Maron, George Saunders, and Bruce Vilanch, and I have to say: I think your examinations do exactly the opposite. If anything they invigorated the "frog." What was your goal going into each of these interviews?
My main goal is to not bore the reader. I hated school and the last thing I want to do is get too academic. There are a lot of academic books about The Simpsons, Monty Python, and comedy in general. There’s just no reason for me to want to read a book like that, let alone write one. So with these interviews it was my goal to make them entertaining and helpful to anyone who wants to get into comedy or improve their standing in the comedy world. And for anyone who might not be into comedy but who might just be interested in pop culture. There’s really no grander purpose. READ MORE