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?
TV Writer/Producer at Netflix.
Did you always want to do this job?
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, there’s lots of laughing every day.
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. I worked 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 good cry.
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.