Episode #153 — Comedy Writer John Vorhaus
The dog days of summer are upon us and we’re feeling it. Thanks to National Geographic, we’ve learned that the phrase comes from the ancient Greeks and Romans referring to the positioning in the sky of Sirius, the Dog Star — and not from the period of time when Heidi’s dog, Captain, officially takes his schooner out on Lake Michigan for a pleasure sail. We should have guessed it would be those ancient Greeks and Romans. They’re always trying to take credit for everything. Central heating, lighthouses, aqueducts… we get it. But it doesn’t solve the mystery of where Captain goes every year from approximately July 3rd to August 11th. Maybe he just needs some alone time.
Just as the dog days malaise (band name copyright pending) threatened to consume us, Blob-style, we had an energizing and motivating talk with this week’s guest. Comedy writer John Vorhaus got to us right in the nick of time. Though we’re not really doing John justice to call him just a comedy writer. He’s a singer/songwriter, sitcom writer, oversaw the Russian version of “Married: With Children,” teaches, is a visual artist, and writes how-to books. And that’s just the beginning of what John is up to!
You might think we’d be nervous about coming up with an extraordinarily clever blog entry for a comedy writer, but we learned a lot from our conversation with John. One of his wisdom nuggets was that we should focus on the experience instead of fearing bad outcomes. If our expectation is to have an experience, we can enjoy the process more. Sure, John might have been referring to stand-up comedy, specifically, but we like to think that notion is applicable to all sorts of situations. So if we have an interview that completely bombs, it was still a success because it was an experience. And if this blog entry is so bad that our podcast slips to dead last in the ratings out of 10 trillion, it’s still not an indication of a massive failure. Then again, we’ve been acting on John’s philosophy for two and a half years without even realizing it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t include so many references to “Circus of the Stars.”
John is an excellent teacher — something that came through clearly as he spoke with us. It’s only natural that he’s the author of numerous how-to books, including “The Comic Toolbox” and the soon-to-be-released “Little Book of Stand-Up.” We’re kind of obsessed about what makes a person want to put themselves out there and do stand-up comedy in the first place, so we peppered John with questions about it. He also talked about how comedians can approach materials when they’re worried about saying the wrong thing or being cancelled — particularly when it’s their bread and butter to say something provocative or poke fun at a situation. But if you want to know how the conversation progresses to the idea of Lenny Bruce at a corporate retreat, you’ll have to listen to the episode.
Ultimately, John gave us a lot to think about, particularly about having to be self-aware to do comedy, and about how growth makes comedy writing even better. If you’re wondering if you have the chops to be a comedy writer, stand-up comedian, visual artist, commercial welder, fairy house designer, or chocolatier, John has the tools to help you realize your potential. If, after you listen to the episode, you want more inspiration and practical advice, check out his website or look for his how-to books at your local bookstore or online mega site. He’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, if you prefer your information in smaller chunks. We’re off to practice not caring what people think of our creative endeavors. We need something to do because Captain won’t let us on his schooner ever since Luke got seasick all over his boat shoes. Deviled eggs and the high seas don’t mix.