This excerpt is from a 1984 interview with Jay Leno by Judd Apatow (~17 years old at the time), from his interview collection Sick in the Head:
Judd: Is most of your humor worked out on the stage? Some people work it out on paper, and they think about it—
Jay: Oh no, I don’t have anything on paper. I’ve never written anything down. I suppose I should. Everybody says, Oh, you should make notes. I seem to remember the funnier stuff and forget the stuff that isn’t that funny. Once in a while I forget a funny one, but no, I don’t write anything down.
I finished reading Jon Acuff’s book Soundtracks and Greg McKeown’s book Effortless in the past couple weeks. (Audiobooks while working out make “reading” effortless—I’ve been trying to write about them to try and cement the ideas in my head a bit.)
A lesson in both books: There’s more than one way to do things. Whatever it is you’re doing, it’s worth taking time asking if there’s an easier approach with the same results.
Jay Leno says he didn’t write things down. This contrasts with that striking visual from Jerry Before Seinfeld where his old writing on yellow legal pad sheets is laid out on the street.
Both had remarkably successful careers. Both have people who love them and hate them. Both had iconic TV shows that came to memorable ends.
They had very different approaches.
Building a career in comedy isn’t easy, notes or not. It’s a matter of choosing which hard parts you’ll keep and which might be easier.
You can use this question: What if things were “light and easy”? From Jon Acuff’s Soundtracks:
Imagine if the hardest thing you have to do at your job was light and easy. Instead of dreading the year-end report you prepare for the leadership team, what if it felt light and easy? What if the budget you had to present at the sales conference was light and easy? What if standing on the scale was light and easy? What if the parent-teacher meeting for your high schooler was light and easy? Take anything challenging in your life and think what would happen if you retired the frustration you have about it and instead replaced it with a soundtrack that said “light and easy.”
Podcasting is light and easy for me. Writing on my blog is light and easy.
Writing essays on Twitter has sometimes felt dark and difficult. So I’m going to try writing posts on my blog where it feels light and easy, then re-posting on Twitter.
Starting with this one.