Luke Cunningham is back in town to help Carl Boccuti, Chip Chantry and Johnny Goodtimes ring in the new year TONIGHT for A Motown New Year’s Eve at La Stanza (2001 W. Oregon Avenue). After that, he’s off to his new job writing for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where he’ll be hanging out with The Roots, writing his ass off, and—fortunately for Philadelphia comedy—living in closer proximity to his sketch group Bird Text, which means we can expect a lot from them in 2013. Luke chatted with WitOut a bit about what’s gotten him to this point in his career, and what advice he has for comedy writers coming up in Philly.
WitOut: What was the process like for getting hired on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?
Luke Cunningham: The process is long but simple. You submit by invitation. The producers reached out to my agent and asked if they had any writers who would like to submit. My agent asked if I’d like to do it again—this was the third time I had submitted for Fallon—and I was put into the packet pool. For the next four days, I had to submit my ten best jokes every day by 5PM EST, 2PM for me because I was living in LA. The previous times I had submitted, I only participated in the initial four days. This time, I submitted for a total of twelve consecutive show days. It was like The Hunger Games but for jokes. People were getting eliminated while I got to stay. After twelve days, they flew me in for an interview. I flew in Sunday, interviewed Monday and was back out on a flight that night.
The interview was cool because I was in a room with Jimmy and the producers. When I said, “I’m from Philadelphia,” that got a round of applause. They love hiring people from Philadelphia because The Roots love having people from our hometown on the staff. Though after my interview, I was convinced I did not get the job. I had spent most of the time in the room listening to A.D. Miles and Jimmy riff on the Lakers.
I’ve gotten to the “In the room…” interview a few times. At that point, they want to make sure you’re not crazy, unwashed, violent, etc. Tina Fey described it as “Hire who you want to see in a hallway at 3AM.” Luckily, I am at my peak in hallways at 3AM.