Cassandra Alcide, Author at GOLD Comedy

How to get a job in comedy writing and production

“Comedy” means a lot of things. While many of you want to PERFORM comedy, many of you just want to be IN comedy, or NEAR comedy—as a writer, producer, manager or agent, club owner…so many options! We’re here to help you figure out how to get there…with people who ARE there. This week we chat with: longtime (and hilarious) Netflix TV writer and producer Nancy Cohen.

What’s your job/job title?

Co-Executive Producer (which is just a fancy title for “writer who’s been doing it a while”).

Did you always want to do this job?

I worked in TV production in my twenties, while dabbling in writing. I just didn’t have the confidence to pursue it seriously. I’m glad I waited because I collected many stories…just by living.

What do you love most about your job?

Writing a scene in, let’s say, a bakery. And then a couple months later a crew is hammering away, building a bakery. It’s insane. Also, writing has kept me happy and sane during the pandemic. There’s nothing like escaping the real world to go into your own made-up world.

What is most challenging about your job?

Knowing when to keep my mouth shut and when to open it! That took me YEARS. People who are writers’ assistants learn this firsthand because they work in the room. But I began my career working on set so I had no clue how the room worked. 

It’s also important to not take things personally. People tell me I have a thick skin, which also took years. In my twenties, I was the first to run to the office bathroom for a quick cry.

Since I’m working remotely now, my pitches are via Zoom. At first it was challenging, but now I just put my pitch document up under the computer’s camera and read it as if it’s a teleprompter. It’s a great comfort to have the words right there.

Are there challenges in your job related to your being outside the straight-white-dude norm?

The challenges: those dudes stick together and have each others’ backs. I think women have to work harder to prove that we’re good at our jobs. But now, more women are getting staffed on shows because guess what: they NEED us. Now I feel like it’s a bonus to be female. We knew this all along but finally, they’ve figured it out! Embrace your POV.

What skills are the most important to have for it?

Having a unique voice and perspective and finding the funny in all situations.

Can those skills be developed in other jobs? 

We write as a team so being able to collaborate is key. If you can get a job as a writers’ assistant or P.A., you’ll learn how the TV machine works, which will be very helpful.

What is the most important thing a teen or young job-seeker can do if they want YOUR JOB? 

Get any job on a TV show. Do the grunt work and keep writing every day, even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs in a journal. Because when you’re older, you’ll go back to those journals for material! See movies, watch TV shows, read books, figure out how YOU want to express yourself then go for it. And then go for it again and again and again. The more you write, the better you’ll get. Also, remember that everyone’s first drafts suck; writing is rewriting.

Want more comedy inspo? Of course you do! Check out more mini Q+As.


After stage managing and fetching people things for years in New York, Nancy Cohen moved to Los Angeles to be a television writer. She has written on numerous shows, including The King of Queens, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Gravity Falls, Fuller House and all four seasons of Alexa & Katie. She’s currently writing a pilot for ABC Studios and pitching two others to various streamers. Nancy lives in Hollywood with her husband, Brian Frazer, also a writer, and dog Hubbell, not a writer. In her spare time she tap dances.

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Read Cassandra’s bio.

How to get a job as a (TV) writer and comedian

Alison Leiby is a comedian (Bridgetown Comedy Festival) and writer on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Prior to writing for your fave comedy, she contributed to The President Show, The Opposition, and Triumph. Alison will be performing at Ladies who Laugh comedy fundraiser Tuesday, July 30. Get tickets here. Follow her!

Photo via: Alexandra Genova


What’s your job/job title?

Writer and Comedian

Did you always want to do this job?

Once I learned being a writer was actually a job, I knew one day I would do it. Before I knew it was a job I think I wanted to be like, a fashion designer/dolphin trainer hybrid.

What do you love most about your job?

I get to watch TV when I’m home and call it “research.”

What skills are the most important to have for it?

Creativity, flexibility, ability to live off of snacks for most of the year.

Are they skills that can be developed in other jobs?

Depends on the snack situation, but overall yes.

What is most challenging about your job?

Getting writer’s block when you’re in the office and not being able to go to Nordstrom Rack and browse for an hour to get through it, which is my cure when I’m working at home.

What, if any, are the particular challenges in your job related to your being outside the straight-white-dude norm? BONUS: How do you manage or overcome them?

It’s nice to realize that every year I notice those challenges less and less. I don’t know if that’s the world changing for the better, but I hope it is. There will always be jobs or shows or situations where straight-white-dudes will say they don’t “get” the jokes you’re making or they don’t think that reality shows or makeup tutorials or romance novels are worth making comedy about. You just have to know that they are extremely wrong about that and keep making the kind of comedy and writing the kind of things you think are funny. And if those things are “female” in nature or whatever, all the better. Oh, I also make a point of mentioning when my sick days are for my period cramps because it’s time everyone acknowledges what a nightmare that is (and very valid illness!).

What is the most important thing a teen or young job-seeker can do if they want YOUR JOB?

If you want to write, specifically comedy, it’s a skill like any other, so the more you do it, the better you become. Try and write something every day, even if you think it’s not good, it’s making you good. Also read, watch, and engage with as much of the world as you can. The more you know about the world, the more interesting things you’ll have to say about it in your work for the rest of your life. Also, don’t wait for someone to give you permission to write, just start writing (or performing, same rules apply)


Alison Leiby is a comedian (Bridgetown Comedy Festival) and writer on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Prior to writing for your fave comedy, she contributed to The President Show, The Opposition, and Triumph. Alison will be performing at Ladies who Laugh comedy fundraiser Tuesday, July 30. Get tickets here. Follow her!

Read Cassandra’s bio here.

Mini Q+A with Iris Bahr

Iris Bahr is a critically acclaimed writer, actor, director, producer and novelist. Having starred on numerous television shows (for full credits see imdb.com) , she is best known for her recurring role as Svetlana (which she wrote and directed for Mark Cuban’s Hdnet) and her recurring role on Curb your Enthusiasm, where she plays the Orthodox Jewish Girl that gets stuck on a ski-lift with Larry David. Her critically acclaimed solo show, “DAI (enough)”, in which she plays 11 different characters in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters, had an extended hit run Off-Broadway and won the prestigious Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Performance, as well as 2 Drama Desk and UK Stage Award nominations for Best Performance and Sound Design. She has performed DAI around the world, including at the United Nations for over 100 ambassadors and delegates. Her first solo show, “Planet America”, received an LA Weekly nomination for Outstanding Solo Show and is currently in development as a feature film. Her critically acclaimed third solo show, I LOST YOU THERE, just completed a run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. Follow her!
 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Tears.

Describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

Overnight gig in Connecticut, I was at a hotel where a massive Narcotics Anonymous convention was going on, which involved lots of edgy folks leaving every few minutes to smoke cigarettes.
 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Don’t date another comic.
 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”? 

It involves either walking away or Karav Maga.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Daddy issues.
 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Keep creating.
 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Give up.
 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Classy.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

It has definitely helped finding some light when dealing with profound loss and grief.
 

What single word always cracks you up?

ointment.


Iris Bahr is a critically acclaimed writer, actor, director, producer and novelist. Having starred on numerous television shows (for full credits see imdb.com) , she is best known for her recurring role as Svetlana (which she wrote and directed for Mark Cuban’s Hdnet) and her recurring role on Curb your Enthusiasm, where she plays the Orthodox Jewish Girl that gets stuck on a ski-lift with Larry David. Her critically acclaimed solo show, “DAI (enough)”, in which she plays 11 different characters in a Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters, had an extended hit run Off-Broadway and won the prestigious Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Performance, as well as 2 Drama Desk and UK Stage Award nominations for Best Performance and Sound Design. She has performed DAI around the world, including at the United Nations for over 100 ambassadors and delegates. Her first solo show, “Planet America”, received an LA Weekly nomination for Outstanding Solo Show and is currently in development as a feature film. Her critically acclaimed third solo show, I LOST YOU THERE, just completed a run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. Follow her!

Read Cassandra’s bio.

10 funny over 45: Female comedians making good TV great

I’ve been performing comedy, doing storytelling, and writing since 2007. Back then, I couldn’t find anyone else in what felt like a 100-mile radius who did what I wanted to do.

This was, at first, a huge challenge. It was like I knew what funny was — I could point it out of a lineup — but somehow, with no Gold Comedy to guide me, I couldn’t quite get there. So what did I do?

I turned to my most reliable, oldest, available friend: Television. This was my visual learning library. I could study women comedians crushing it every week to help my own work get better. Ten years later, I still do, and I notice that I gravitate towards shows with female comedians over 45. I chose eight who make up a master class in a variety of comedic styles to serve as virtual mentors to comedians at any stage in their careers.

Here they are, in no particular order — because each is amazing and hilarious in her own way.

1. Jessica Walter

Where to find her currently: Arrested Development (Netflix), Archer (Netflix)
Walter knows how to make hideously self-obsessed characters oddly irresistible. How? Through humor, of course. As matriarch Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development, she created magic with nothing but an arched eyebrow. And as the voice of the animated Malory Archer — a role she got because her agent heard they were looking for a “Jessica Walter type” — she doesn’t even have the benefit of a visible eyebrow; she just uses layers of tone, attitude, and perfect timing to create characters that are unlovable, yet unforgettable.

2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Where to find her currently: VEEP (HBO)
While its truth universally acknowledged that Louis-Dreyfus became a comedy superstar on Seinfeld (NBC) and impressed everyone with her follow-up, The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), it wasn’t until she unleashed the foul-mouthed Selina Meyer that she embodied her true goddess status. Like Walter, Louis-Dreyfus knows how to add a dash of charm to a cauldron of awfulness and end up with funny. Her mastery of delivery and throwing her entire body into the moment means that even (or especially) the most hideous behavior — Selina abusing her staff, neglecting her daughter, even being annoyed at her own miscarriage — results only in greater and greater hilarity. She embodies “commitment to your bit.” It’s no wonder she won six consecutive Emmys for her work in this show (she has won ten in total).

3. Allison Janney

Where to find her currently: Mom (CBS)
Six feet tall and deadpan AF, Janney sidesteps punchlines and pratfalls; her greatest laughs emerge from her most straight-woman scenes. To learn from her humor, watch her utterly earnest execution: She never winks, never stands outside her character, never lets on that she’s playing a part. In fact, she’s often the window for the viewer. In broad comedies, she plays it pretty straight; As Tonya Harding’s abusive mom in a deftly over-the-top biopic, she brings an incandescent calm to — is this a theme? — the world’s most hideous stage mom, which is why the role brought her a Golden Globe nod.

4. Donna Lynne Champlin

Where to find her currently: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)
Rachel Bloom is the big story of this show — she took her “one-woman-sketch-comedy” schtick from YouTube to TV’s favorite dark-musical-sitcom (okay, TV’s only dark-musical-sitcom), but I’d like to make a case for Donna Lynn Champlin as Paula Proctor. Champlin brings the funniness to a show that is often dealing with non-traditional comedic themes, like mental health issues, alcoholism, and codependency. Champlin finds the beats inside some pretty gallows humor — pushing her friend Rebecca to continue obsessing over her ex while ignoring her own deteriorating home life out of fear that Rebecca will no longer need her if she stops pursuing the ex. Champlin provides the opportunity to look nonjudgmentally at complex issues that are allowed to come from someplace real, even if that is a sad place.

5. Catherine O’Hara

Where to find her currently: Schitt’s Creek (Pop, Netflix)
Younger audiences may be finding Catherine O’Hara for the first time in her film work, but you should be looking her up on Schitt’s Creek as Moira Rose. A former minor TV star who married into fantastic wealth, Moira finds herself falling on hard times. She is spoiled snob who is out of touch with what she calls “real people”. Audiences should hate Moira, yet O’Hara makes her endearing and funny. How? By building a full world for Moira through details and character logic. Even when logic is absurd (and it is), like saying her town should pay for after-school care because manicurists can put on the wrong colour and make you late, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. O’Hara has built context for Moira. From her wall of wigs to her inability to do simple tasks like cooking or “fixing a wobbly chair,” there is a life for this woman that extends beyond the 30-minute runtime. O’Hara shows that building context builds character.

6. Dale Soules

Where to find her currently: Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Supporting actress can sometimes feel overshadowed by their leading counterparts. Some would argue that means the supporting cast get to play the better roles, like Dale Soules as Frieda Berlin in OITNB. Frieda is a quiet, deadly presence, one of the “golden girls” backing up Kate Mulgrew’s Red; on the rare occasions that she speaks, she reveals truly terrifying breadth of knowledge about … truly terrifying things. Soules, like O’Hara, roots her character in a distinct perspective that carries her throughout the series. When Frieda explains “murder math” — would you rather dig one six-foot hole or six one-foot holes? — she does so plainly. Soules centers her humor in blunt delivery, without needing exaggeration or physical addition (though the neck tattoo is a vivid touch). It is a simple question, right? Soule’s humor is subtle. Like Allison Janney, her delivery is deadpan and understated.

7. Tracee Ellis Ross

Where to find her currently: Black-ish (ABC)

On Black-ish, Ross plays a mother of five with a demanding career as an anaesthesiologist handling social and cultural challenges like the election, racism, and LGBTQ issues. That massive framework sits inside the 30-minute, single-camera structure. Being on a traditional primetime television comedy means Ross has to be quick, with tight delivery and intention. There is not room for asides or extemporaneous additions. Like when her character, Rainbow, finds out her son is a Republican, she has to convey a lot of comedy and emotion in the hot-second reaction shot. Ross generates confusion, surprise, sadness, and shock in that hot second by using all available tools — body language, gestures, expressions, and voice. It’s no wonder she’s running up the trophies!

8. The Ladies of Lady Dynamite (Netflix)

Where to find them currently: Lady Dynamite (Netflix) (duh)
Lady Dynamite is a show filled with amazing female comedians. Before playing Dagmar on the hit series, Bridgett Everett toured with comedy festivals around the globe and performed a regular cabaret show at Joe’s Pub in NYC. On Lady Dynamite, she brings her big personality to the role of Dagmar, one of Maria Bamford’s terrible best friends. Meanwhile, Mary Kay Place gets to be the world’s most earnest straight person as Maria’s mother Marilyn, bringing a nicer version of her Big Love character into a completely zany environment and making her entirely believable by just reacting honestly. And Mo Collins manages to out-testosterone Ari Gold as Maria’s agent. This show is a gold mine of funny ladies over 40.

BONUS ROUND: Here are a list of a few women in the next handful of years that will be eligible for the list! Sutton Foster (Younger), D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place), Kimberly Herbert Gregory (Vice Principals), Kathryn Hahn (Transparent, I Love Dick), and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black). Watch them now so you can see it all happen.

Have any to add to the list? Let us know!



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Mini Q+A with Ladies Who Ranch

Ladies Who Ranch’s monthly show at Vital Joint features brand-new material from six female comedians who are veterans of the The Annoyance Theater in Brooklyn: Kelly Cooper (Ground Floor), Caitlin Dullea (Ground Floor), Rachel Kaly (Montreal Sketchfest), Maya Sharma (Annoyance) , Caroline Yost (Annoyance) and Sophie Zucker (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), along with material from a rotating special guest. This show carries on the beloved Annoyance-style comedy with a kickass cast of up-and-coming female comedians. It includes sketches, standup, and multi-media performances. LWR is women doing it for themselves, together! We urge you to ranch with us. More info here.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Caroline: I like to slowly walk out into the audience, wrap my arms around my aggressor, and hang on tight for at least 15 minutes because maybe it’s like a hug or maybe it’s like I caught them.

Describe your worst gig.

Kelly: When I was doing my set, the host of the show was having a conversation with their cohost directly in front of the stage that was as audible as the mic.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Maya: If you think women aren’t funny then 1. You are not paying attention to the comedy world at all (women are objectively slaying) so your opinion is unfounded, and 2. You’re a limited person and I’m tempted to play Ke$ha’s “Praying” in your direction. Sorry.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Caitlin: Never making friends with any women, because you just can’t trust them.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Sophie: Find people you want to make stuff with, and grow out your bangs.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Sophie: Take the Producer’s Assistant job.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”? 

Maya: I feel the same way about it as I do the term “making love/love making”: I don’t like it but then again I do say it sometimes. No hard lines drawn in the sand, “comedienne” is fine.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

Rachel: My sense of humor is the only thing I can consistently rely on to get through tragedy.

Single word that always cracks you up?

Caitlin: Poverty.

What advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots? 

Kelly: Hosting a show is a great way to network, but overall if you’re a friendly person who performs good material you can’t go wrong.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

Sophie: There was no one person that inspired me to become a comedian, but taking classes at Second City helped me realize I could become a comedian. Second City not only helped me hone my craft, but also laid out a path towards doing comedy professionally, and having those loose instructions made starting the process much easier.

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”? 

Caroline: Very, VERY sexy.


Ladies Who Ranch’s monthly show at Vital Joint features brand-new material from six female comedians who are veterans of the The Annoyance Theater in Brooklyn: Kelly Cooper (Ground Floor), Caitlin Dullea (Ground Floor), Rachel Kaly (Montreal Sketchfest), Maya Sharma (Annoyance) , Caroline Yost (Annoyance) and Sophie Zucker (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), along with material from a rotating special guest. This show carries on the beloved Annoyance-style comedy with a kickass cast of up-and-coming female comedians. It includes sketches, standup, and multi-media performances. LWR is women doing it for themselves, together! We urge you to ranch with us.  More info here.


Read Cassandra’s bio here.

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