Remember back in school when "class clowns" were frowned down upon?
Teachers would warn you, (if you were one of them), that you were headed for a life of trouble and limited career options? Well, it turns out...not always. Not for everyone.
Meet Jonathan Savitt. A comedy writer and entrepreneur who seems to be "laughing his way to the bank" these days. Read on to discover more about his unconventional path, and how you can infuse your writing with more humor. This piece has been a while in the making, so without further ado...
Q. Can you tell us a little about who you are and your writing background?
Absolutely. I’m a recent graduate so I feel I’m at the perfect age where I’m young enough to be doing what makes me happy without a stigma attached, but old enough where I can legally drink. So, yeah, life is good. Beyond that, I think my writing background really is who I am. It’s really what I focus most of my time into because it’s my passion - It makes me happy. I actually didn’t develop an interest for writing until I was about twenty, so a couple years ago in college.
It started from short one-liners on Twitter, once people started to positively respond and I started to gain a following I thought, “Hmm, maybe I can do more with this.” From there, it was pretty discouraging. I faced a lot of rejection because I didn’t have a portfolio or really any notable experience. I really had to reflect on how I was unique and how I was going to provide value for audiences. Once I started to further understand my tone and style I was ale to get my first piece published in“College Humor.” From there I did more consistent writing for some other larger publications and started to get paid for my work – that was a cool concept, getting paid for having fun, essentially – but money has never been a motivator for my writing.
My first big “break” I like to say was last year when I was brought on as a writer for MTV News in New York (where I currently contribute). Many more people were reading my articles and I was able to show my personality more. From there opportunities like Thought Catalog, Huffington Post, and some other projects presented themselves – it’s almost like a snowball effect.
Q. In this day and age of "political correctness" and protocol, how do you maintain that delicate balance of making people laugh without offending anyone? Or is it even a consideration in your comedic approach?
Yeah, I think it’s definitely in my mind. With the prominence of social media these days, you really have to expect that there will be comments about whatever or whoever you are writing about. I assume anything I write is permanent. I mean, look at what happened to Trevor Noah with his Twitter account when he was named Jon Stewart’s replacement.
That being said, I think a delicate balance, as you put it, is the perfect mindset. A big part of my humor is touching on societal issues and current events, so it’s important to me to talk about, what I believe, is the truth and bring these concepts to light for others – to make them aware of all that is going on, though not intentionally in an offensive way. Instead, in a way that initially makes them laugh, and then think and reflect. I’m not the type of writer or comic that is going to go out of my way to offend people, that’s not my style (though I definitely have). However, on the other hand I think being blind to situations that are so present in our lives is just as bad, so the answer isn't to just avoid certain topics. It’s all about balance.
Q. What advice would you give to other writers who would like to infuse humor in their blogs or other creative projects?
I am a huge advocate of humor. I think it’s just such a humanizing aspect in so many ways and can go a long way in creating a connection with your audience. But my advice would be don’t force it. I think the more important lesson is play to your strengths. If you’re funny then humor can go a long way, but there are also a ton of other writers out there who do things that I could never do and who have a style that wouldn't work for me. When I write I try to transfer my personality onto paper. Almost like I’m having a conversation rather than giving a lecture.
I try to be real – I think that’s the takeaway.
Q. If you had to compare your life to a popular sitcom or TV character, what or who would it be?
I love this question. It’s tough. This question is the most stressful part of my week. I watch a lot of Netflix. I might be a Ted Mosby type from “How I Met Your Mother?” Ya know, I tend to take risks and put myself in uncomfortable situations. Sometimes this results in some awkwardness, but I love that. I never like to be too comfortable. I’m also single, so there’s that (wink wink). I was a big fan of“How I Met Your Mother,” for a while (until I wasn’t) and I just view Ted as a nice, down-to-earth, funny guy who isn’t afraid to take risks even if they result in failure. OK, I have a little Barney Stinson in my personality, too.
Q. How would you complete the following sentence: Success is------?
Controlled discomfort. For sure. Looking back, almost every moment in my life that I have been proud of has stemmed from feeling some sort of discomfort – though in a way that makes me grow as a person. And these times spent out of my comfort zone have led to happiness, which is the ultimate goal, right? Now, what happiness means to various people, that’s a completely different story. Happiness can be measured by money, or profession, one’s family, or how many Oreos you can eat in one sitting (17). I’m not here to argue your definition of success or happiness, however, I do believe that taking a trip outside your comfort zone often results in both.