Best Use of Short, Funny Writing Samples
February 27, 2012 11:07 AM   Subscribe

What's the best venue for short humor pieces to further my writing career?

I'm a sometimes-working comedy writer in LA. And while most of my efforts are focused on directly-marketable writing samples like pilots and spec screenplays, I also enjoy writing short, humorous pieces like one would find in McSweeney's, The New Yorker, or in books like Woody Allen's "Getting Even" or Mike Nelson's "Mind Over Matters", etc. My question is: If I were to start collecting those, what would be the best use of them? Should I hoard them and seek publication? Submit them to various outlets? Showcase them on a website?

I'm not necessarily looking for the most directly-lucrative venue, but the one that will best assist me in raising my profile so I can secure other work, most likely in TV and film.

posted by Doctor Suarez to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How short? A bunch of people have gotten book and development deals off of particularly funny Twitter postings.
posted by xingcat at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2012

You could be getting paid to write, so why spend any time waiting around writing for free? I'd go with the various outlets approach. Just my take as a non-writer.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2012

Good question: I'd say college humor magazine-length. I used to write and edit the magazine back in school. However, based on the information I get here, that could be flexible.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2012

@oceanjesse alas, a big part of finding work in this town is writing for free and having your work judged (hopefully favorably) post-facto.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:34 AM on February 27, 2012

Have you taken a look at recently? It may strike you as a silly and somewhat juvenile suggestion, given the examples you listed. But if you want to raise your profile with the funny, Cracked has become a real internet juggernaut over the last year or so.

Better still, they are in a phase of actively recruiting new writers. When you visit their site, there is a bright yellow "Write For Us" tab placed prominently at the top right of every page.

My understanding (as a professional writer, but not one in that genre, but with friends who follow this sort of thing) is that collections of humorous essays generally follow fame, rather than kick-start it. You almost never see a collection of humorous essays written by someone who isn't already a brand name. (Many of whom, like Tom Bodett and Dave Barry, became famous as regular newspaper columnists.)

The exception to this rule is collections with a strong gimmick or hook. The Zombie Survival Guide, and that guy who wrote bizarre complaint letters to companies and then published their responses.

I would put "books by internet famous authors" in this category. My sense is that they get published not because they have a strong audience (although that certainly helps). But because they have a gimmick that is unique, funny, and easily marketable (Sh*t My Dad Says, Stuff White People Like, etc.)

posted by ErikaB at 11:54 AM on February 27, 2012

@ErikaB I regularly read Cracked's list articles. Unfortunately, what I'm hoping to write (and have written quite a bit in the past) are not specifically that format.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 12:17 PM on February 27, 2012

Whenever the linked article from this just-posted FPP becomes available, it might offer some useful advice along the lines you're looking for.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2012

I think writing a webseries beats writing short prose, because TV writers write dialogue. Do you have any actor friends who would be willing to lend their talents and help themselves as well as you? Or maybe you know some artists who'd like to animate some short pieces?
posted by Ideefixe at 1:05 PM on February 27, 2012

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