I first became familiar with today's interviewee as a guest on the podcast "Jordan, Jesse, Go!" He's a comedian who's also the author of the book Making Friends with Black People. Most recently you can see his work as a writer on the new NBC show "Perfect Couples" on Thursday nights.
Can you tell us a joke or scene you wrote in an upcoming episode of "Perfect Couples" that we can keep an eye out for and then go, "Ah, Nick wrote that!"?
If the show lasts long enough for them to air the episode titled "Perfect Exes," I'll be making my network television debut in a scene at the very end of the show which I also wrote. You know you've arrived in Hollywood when you show up on set and your trailer has this on it.
What's been the most difficult part of writing a network sitcom thus far?
Trying to come up with ideas and jokes that haven't been done already. Several times a week, we'd get excited about something only to have one of the writers say, "They kinda did the same thing on Curb," or "That was a bit on The Simpsons."
What are some TV shows that you love primarily for the writing?
I thought the first season of "Archer" had some truly inspired stuff. "30 Rock"'s pace and density is always impressive. The marriage between "Coach" and Mrs. Taylor on "Friday Night Lights" is an incredibly well-written relationship. And the writers behind MTV's mockumentary series, "Jersey Shore," are certified geniuses.
You write jokes, write for TV, keep a blog and wrote a book: which style of writing comes most naturally to you?
To say that writing good prose is easy, but it's inherently less structured than writing for the stage or the screen. There's something incredibly liberating about knowing that the only impediment to your writing is basic grammar and sentence structure.
Typically when do you write material for your standup? Do you set writing time or is it just when they come to you?
I tried for years to force myself to sit down and write jokes. Maybe some people can do that, but I can't. Whenever I do that, most of what I generate just feels like bad monologue jokes. I just try to jot down things that strike me as funny, and that I feel might have legs beyond just a simple set-up and punchline. Sometimes, I'll take a bit that I've gotten laughs out of and try to flesh it out by trying to write a bunch of tags for it.
You're going to be a father soon. Do you see yourself performing many jokes about having a family?
If I'm not telling jokes about my child, I will have failed as a father and as a comedian.
What's the status of your book's transition to TV?
The last option expired, and I got the job on staff of "Perfect Couples," so it was on the back-burner for a while. I recently finished a page one re-write of the pilot that I'm pretty excited about. Hopefully, we can trick some unsuspecting TV exec into getting excited about it too.
Are you planning on writing another book in the future? What would the subject matter be?
I've kicked around several ideas for book #2 over the years. Recently I've settled on an idea related to my impending fatherhood, and I'm hard at work putting off writing it.
Who's currently #6 on your list of top white girls?
Right now I'd say it's a toss-up between these two:
Connie Britton- Tami Taylor on "Friday Night Lights". Best casting ever. Watching her say "y'all" and sip white wine brings a tingle to the loins of all red-blooded American men.
Gail Griffin-Mother of NBA star, Blake Griffin. Every NBA fan should make a pilgrimage to her home and bow down before the womb that brought this slam-dunking wunderkind into our lives.
Do you have any good stories from your days at NBC News? (I only ask because my time at Dateline got me a good anecdote about meeting Geraldo Rivera.)
I got cursed out by Tom Brokaw. Because of a delay at the airport, he got stuck hosting Nightly News from D.C., and he was without his personal production assistant. He wanted his scripts done in an entirely different format from Brian Williams, and the PA was having a hell of a time figuring it all out. I got asked to go upstairs and help run scripts, and walked right into a shit storm. After the show, Brokaw walked around the flat and said, "Gather round boys and girls. We're going to have a little lesson in broadcast journalism." (For the full effect you have to say that out loud. If you don't do Brokaw, just get drunk and put four or five marbles in your mouth.) He ripped me and the other 2 PAs a new asshole for about 10 minutes straight. On that day, I resolved to call him a jackass on network television before I die. I've been able to do it in print, but I'm still waiting for my opportunity to do it on camera.
What's the last comedy show you attended strictly as an audience member?
A friend of mine roped me into seeing an all-woman show at The Improv several years ago. I got up and went to the bar several times. I can't sit through an entire stand-up how as an audience member. I like going to shows and hanging out in the back; bullshitting with other comics and stuff. But having to sit down at a table and order drinks through a waitress and sit and pay attention even if I think the comic sucks...I just can't do it.
Do comedians still benefit from having Myspace presences, that you know of, or are they more there just in case one or two people still happen to be there?
I'm not sure. I would imagine that most people just use their personal blogs to serve the same function that MySpace did/does. The sight really broke new ground in terms of giving performers a quick and easy web presence. It's a shame their design never rose above the level of something created by an autistic speed-freak. I recently closed my MySpace account, and even that process was buggy, and annoying.
What's the last thing that's made you laugh out loud?
Last night, I listened to an old episode of Marc Maron's podcast, WTF, with Louis CK. Louis told the story of how, when he was still a struggling young comic, he bought a BMW by charging it to his American Express card. Then, we he got locked out of his apartment, he checked into the Ritz and stayed there for a couple of nights.
How does it feel to be the 271st person interviewed for Zulkey.com?
Lugubrious. I have no idea what that word means. I just love the way it sounds.