Luke Giordano is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles, California. He used to live and perform comedy in Philadelphia, until a job as a writer on Two and a Half Men sent him west. He now works as a writer for the Nickelodeon show Marvin Marvin. He will be returning to Philly next weekend, where he will teach a workshop at Philly Improv Theater on Becoming a Television Comedy Staff Writer. We caught up with Luke to ask him some questions about the workshop, and his return to Philadelphia.
WITOUT: I’ve heard you’re mostly returning to Philadelphia so you can go to the Ruby Chinese Buffet, is this true?
LUKE GIORDANO: I am indeed excited to go Ruby Chinese Buffet, as are we all. But is it for the food or for the good times we shared there? I’m also excited for getting a Wawa hoagie. Even though there are better hoagies all around town, none will make me feel nostalgic for good old Philly like Wawa will. Plus, I’ve been trying to work out and eat decently for a while now, so it’ll be nice to have a weekend where I can eat like I hate myself again.
WO: Is the workshop going to focus more on the process of writing or the process of selling yourself as a writer?
LG: Originally, it was going to be more about the things you need to do to get a job that aren’t writing a script, but since I’ve been reading several scripts from Philly comedy people, I’ve noticed that a lot of the same problems come up. Structure is the biggest problem I’ve seen people have with writing a TV script. If you don’t know how to structure an episode of television properly, nobody who matters is going to read it. The workshop is really about arming yourself. Through a great script, through what you know, what you do to get noticed, how get an agent, what to expect in meetings, what people are looking for, and everything else. I don’t think you can teach someone how to be a good writer, but you can teach someone how to write more effectively. This workshop and seminar is really telling you everything I know about writing for television.
WO: Which of these have you found more difficult? Why?
LG: Writing is the fun part. It’s the part that makes everything worth it. To go in everyday and your job being that you get pitch jokes all day and laugh? It’s so amazing that it’s actually immoral. And on top of that, I get to make a comfortable living? It’s the best job in the world and it’s worth every ounce of struggle that you put into it. It’s worth going through all the shit and the disappointment and the rejection and the astronomical odds against you. If I didn’t get my first job when I was twenty-five, I would have gone another twenty years trying to get it. It’s a choice, really. Do you value comfort and stability or do you want to take a risk and do what you really want to do? Even though you probably won’t get it?
WO: You’ve done stand-up, improv, and sketch – how have each of these prepared you in different ways for your Hollywood writing jobs?
LG: I think all those skills go to the same place. It’s all a skill set you should develop anyway, and the more you develop that stuff, the stronger you’ll be. When you go into a meeting with a network executive, for example, you’re selling yourself — so they want a bit of a performance. You got in the room because they liked your script, so what the meeting is about is finding out if they like you and if you’re somebody they want to continue to work with. They want a little song and dance, but just as long as it doesn’t seem like you’re doing a song and dance. They can smell your desperation if it comes off that way, but the conquering of fear that comes with performing live comedy will help you to talk to these people and be funny and be yourself. The same goes for pitching jokes in the writers room. You have to sell the joke like you would on stage. You have to be behind this idea you’re putting forth to expect anyone to accept it. Performing comedy and telling jokes in front of an audience is only going to make you better at pitching a joke to a room of peers. On top of that, stand-up and sketch are only going to make your writing stronger because you’re learning how to construct jokes more effectively and efficiently. You’re writing to get a laugh and I think when you write specifically for the purpose of getting laughter, you learn to drop all the meandering bullshit. And improv is going to teach you how to think on your feet, but I think improv is all jokes, too. They’re just a little more disguised and between multiple people.
WO: How did your years as a Philadelphia comic prepare you for life as an LA writer/comedian?
LG: Most importantly, it taught me how to fail, how to deal with failure, and how to move through failure and learn from it. Failing is the single most important part of the creative process. It matures you, it makes you stronger. You can learn from your mistake, fix where you went wrong, learn your limitations, find out what’s funny and what isn’t. And when a point comes when you’re not afraid of failure (I’m in no way anywhere near this), I think you find freedom. I got fired from Two and a Half Men six weeks after I got the job. I didn’t know if I would ever work in writing again. And it was absolutely humiliating. People get fired from writing jobs for the most minuscule of reasons. Sometimes it doesn’t really have anything to do with them. They fire you because they can and because that’s the game you’re in. As I’ve learned since, every single writer in the business will get fired at some point. It’s about what you do after you get fired.
WO: We all know that LA is home to a lot of professional comedians, but how does the amateur LA comedy scene stack up to the Philadelphia comedy scene?
LG: Mostly it’s way bigger. There are a lot more people, a lot more shows, a lot more places to get up. I think you have to fully commit yourself to get noticed, even by other open micers. I haven’t gotten up as much as I would like to, so I still feel like I’m on the outside a bit. I certainly don’t think the comedians here are better qualitatively on average than they are in Philadelphia. But there is always the possibility that you’re doing a show and Patton Oswalt might walk in to do a set. It’s weird. I feel like people feel like there’s more at stake, because people come here to work and make it. So you do get a lot of people who just do stand-up to get famous or get a sitcom, in addition to the people who are actually doing it to be comedians. It’s a little strange to me. I don’t think I’ve deciphered it yet.
WO: What else are you looking forward to doing on your return trip to Philadelphia?
LG: Well, I sure am excited to perform a half hour of stand-up comedy at Philly Improv Theater! Mostly just eating awful food, seeing all my Friendship Buddies, singing karaoke, and hopefully running into people who I feel have wronged me.
You can sign up for Luke’s workshop on Becoming a Television Comedy Writer online at Philly Improv Theater. His show with Aaron Hertzog will be Saturday, October 6th at 7PM at PHIT.