Today I interview the author of the very popular new book How I Became a Famous Novelist, which has been tickling readers and general book insiders alike greatly. Before that he was a writer for "Late Night with David Letterman" and "American Dad!" and before that the president of the Harvard Lampoon, so you know the guy knows funny.
You penned various types of fake writing for your book (Pete's book, the fake New York Times bestseller list, etc). Which were the most fun?
The fake New York Times list was very fun. The writing on the bestseller list is so weird and wonderful, with such arch precision. Here is a true life example from this week: "A family of deranged evangelicals is somehow involved in a conspiracy that has left Bob Lee Swagger's daughter in a coma." Who wrote that?
The book is about a guy who writes a book to impress his ex. Now that you've gone through the process a few times, do you find that a published book is suitably impressive?
I don't know how impressive it is. If someone told me they wrote a book, my first reaction would be suspicion.
Book writing is hard, I've learned. Which part of getting How I Became A Famous Novelist to publication was the most difficult?
Sitting down in a chair and starting to write is the hardest part. The next hardest part is resisting the constant pull to go on the internet.
Is there any word on your book becoming a movie? If so what type of casting do you see for it?
I'd like for that to happen, just because I'd like to see it.
How does an issue of the Harvard Lampoon get put together? Those of us who did not attend Harvard know of the Lampoon as a finishing school for some of our finest comedy writers but have not even vague clues of what life is like at the publication.
Mostly we would sit around, engaging in secret rituals or watching TV. From time to time someone would get up the initiative to decide to put an actual magazine out, but this was rare.
What's the last besteller book you read? Did you enjoy it?
I read Elegance of the Hedgehog, and I did enjoy it. It's about quiet people who like to read, which might partially explain its success.
What were some of the biggest fights over jokes you got into in late night writing rooms?
I don't recall too much fighting, as I was trying to avoid getting fired. More seething. The most violent fights were about where to eat lunch.
What do you think are currently the tiredest joke topics on late night?
I haven't been watching too much late night TV lately, but from what I've seen, it's getting a little odder and more inventive. They seem to be doing some interesting stuff on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
What would you consider to be a film version of your book (IE one that sends up the film industry).
The Player is probably tops in this genre.
Did writing about writing free you up or did it ever trip you up?
It was sticky, because writing is a boring, sedentary activity, so I tried to find ways to keep it lively and active. But writing anything requires a semi-delusional mind, so that can be hearty comedy feed.
With the Ridiculous Race, which came first, the book or the trip? Would the trip have happened without the book attached to it and if so do you think that would have affected your enjoyment of it?
The idea of a race around the world came first. The book was just a means of paying for it. But knowing that we'd have to turn in a book about it forced us to have more adventures than we might have otherwise. I'd be lying in bed in Mongolia, say, utterly exhausted, but instead of sleeping I'd think, "welp, I can't write about napping all day, so I better go meet some nomads."
What are you working on now?
I am a writer on "30 Rock."
How does it feel to be the 245th person interviewed for Zulkey.com?
I've read (and enjoyed) a bunch of your other interviews, so I have no excuse for not preparing a snappy answer to this question.