October 25, 2008

John On Jon: On Writing The Daily Show

How the hell did The Onion AV Club manage to score an interview with John Hodgman??

AVC: What is the process like on The Daily Show? How do ideas get developed and refined into a bit?

JH: I can only speak to my own experience, which is not unique but specific to the contributors, such as me and Larry Wilmore and Kristen Schaal. We're not there every day. We come in twice a month and do our bits. The most common iteration is they provide me a topic and I'll think about that topic for awhile and write up a first draft a couple days before. Then I'll come in and work with David Javerbaum, the former Onion writer and now executive producer of the show, as well as Jon and some of the other executive producers of the show, to refine the idea. It will often change dramatically and we'll often all write it from scratch together, basically to fit Jon's vision of what he wants to do with the piece. And then we'll go down and rehearse it that day, and then more often than not we'll all get together in a room right after rehearsal, about an hour or two before the show, and rewrite it again, along with the rest of the show. Jon takes a very active role in shaping every word. We project the script on a wall and he goes through it line by line, makes adjustments, and makes every script sing as a result. It's really kind of an astonishing process to watch. But for someone who had been primarily used to sitting in his underwear, working on a 2000-word magazine article for a month before anyone else ever read it, that seat-of-pants writing is very nerve-wracking. Very exciting, but I did want to vomit quite a bit.

Oh.

Interviews | John Hodgman [avclub]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: October 25, 2008.

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