What It Takes To Be A Pro?

Inspiration hit me the other day. And it made me act. And it made my life better. And I have to say, I needed it.

It doesn’t have to be life-changing. It can just be…”Ahhh.” And then whatever swamp you might be stuck in that day, gets a little more shallow.

Some people say: it comes from pain and adversity and you work through it to create art.

Ok. That’s bullshit but whatever. It works also. But it doesn’t have to always be the case.

Sometimes inspiration comes from something deep inside, something you don’t understand – maybe an event from the past, or an observation you forgot about but grows and grows every day until it becomes so big it obscures everything you see.

I look at people’s art and when it’s good I see their intensity. I see their love for it. I see the slit wrist and the blood that brought their new creation into the world.

I say “blood” not in a bad way but simply: living creatures (and art and innovation and the future) need blood to live.

This is a long way of saying: my inspiration today is total BS. But I still love it.

I was listening to the comedian Anthony Jeselnik on Marc Maron’s podcast.

Some people like Jeselnik, some people don’t. Some people have no idea who he is.


What inspired me was this one statement. First the background: Jeselnik was a writer for Jimmy Fallon’s late late show.

Maron asked him what did you do for the show?

Jeselnik, it should be mentioned, is one of the best classic one-line comedians out there.

If you know comedy you will recognize who he said were his main influences (Steven Wright – who helps write Louis CK’s show, and Mitch Hedberg).

If you don’t follow comedy, ignore the above, so I can keep stealing from the above two guys.

Jeselnik said he wanted to be a novelist at first. He loved writing. Loved the written language. And so on. But didn’t have the patience.

So, he switched to comedy, and started writing for Fallon’s show.

He said, and I’m going to emphasize it as the most important thing I’m writing:

He said, “I wrote 70 jokes a day for Fallon”.

70 jokes! Marc Maron said. I can’t believe it.

Hardly any of them were used, Jeselnik said, but I had to write 70 jokes a day.

And that’s how he got his 10,000 hours.

Mark Maron asked him, what would you do?

We’d just look at the headlines each day and try to come up with punchlines to the headlines for Fallon’s monologue.

Mark decided to test him, “Ok, let’s look at some headlines. Here’s one: Google launches brand new online payment system.”

And without missing a beat, Jeselnik paused and said, “…otherwise known as identity theft.”


So I was telling this to Stephen Dubner, who i do a podcast with. And he said, “well, let’s see how good you are.”

So he pulled up some headlines.

“Here’s one,” he said, “Trump says he once got a ‘small loan’ from his father for one million dollars.” GO!

And….I couldn’t come up with anything. The pressure was on.

That’s the difference between being funny and being a professional.

So later that day I spent a bit more time and I made my list of ten ideas, ten punchlines to that headline.

I’m not going to write them here (yet, maybe in comments).

But give it a try, take that headline and tell me 10 punchlines. The KEY THING IS: they can all be bad. ALL OF THEM. The key is doing. If you don’t DO, then you DON’T.

If you don’t DO, then you do DON’T.

Not good or bad. That only unveils itself over time. Kindness, love, comedy, work, knowledge, intelligence, life, all are parts of your soul you get to know over time.


Tell me your punchlines. And it just rings in my head now, “70 jokes a day”.

Sometimes my life is pretty miserable. Things happen. Life cycles and when it cycles down the only thing to do is wait and appreciate the tiny scraps you can find in the life around you.

Yesterday it was that tiny scrap that brightened my day. And me seeing you. And me talking to you. And you making me laugh.


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