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Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers [Kindle Edition]

Mike Sacks
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description


Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, Adam McKay, George Saunders, Bill Hader, Patton Oswalt, and many more take us deep inside the mysterious world of comedy in this fascinating, laugh-out-loud-funny book. Packed with behind-the-scenes stories—from a day in the writers’ room at The Onion to why a sketch does or doesn’t make it onto Saturday Night Live to how the BBC nearly erased the entire first season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus—Poking a Dead Frog is a must-read for comedy buffs, writers and pop culture junkies alike.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


“A series of rich, intimate conversations about the ins and outs of turning funny ideas into real-world art….[Sacks] dives deep with everyone from Saturday Night Live lifer James Downey to Cheers creator Glen Charles to Mel Brooks, and every interview is refreshingly candid. Sacks asks the right questions…to inspire lively conversations….As a sort of expert witness to comedy’s history, he’s reverent, though his subjects are also clearly chosen because they understand the absurdity of their own vocation. He pokes and prods just enough to reveal some guts, and most of the time they’re just as fascinating as what’s on the surface.”
A.V. Club, The Onion
“A fascinating look into the ways stand-up comedians, directors, and even short stories authors write funny….An absolute must.”
“A greater look into the craft and business of comedy writing than you can find anywhere else….A comedy nerd bible.”

“Filled with intelligent conversations… Even if you're not interested in a comedy writing career, at least you'll get great suggestions for your Netflix queue.”
NPR, 2014’s “Great Reads”
“[A] pleasingly thick work, born to be well thumbed.”
Los Angeles Times
“[Mike Sacks’] conversations with humorists poke at some fundamental concepts of comedy without chloroforming any frogs. More revealingly, the book examines what kind of person comes to make a living putting funny words on paper.”
Wall Street Journal
“Short chapters offering ‘Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge’…should be of particular interest to anyone thinking about pursuing a career in comedy. The longer interviews should be of interest to pretty much anybody.”
The New York Times Book Review
“The true usefulness of Poking a Dead Frog to an aspiring comedy writer is in its clear-eyed picture of the gritty inner workings of the comedy industry….Reading about how a joke goes from the mind of a writer to an episode of Community is like watching a magician reveal his secrets: Sure, it dispels some of the magic, but it inspires new reverence for the real skill that went into producing the effect.”
“An effort to understand what elicits the guffaw [and] an investigation of the comedic mind and how it works…. Poking a Dead Frog also surprises as a how-to-get-in-the-business kind of book, a thread that holds valid entertainment value….Amid these [stories of] wild successes, we get insights into what is funny, why it is funny, and just how hard it is to write the perfect joke….If you have members of your family who dream of being a comedy writer, give them this book.”
“Unusually insightful…Sacks teases deep wisdom from comedy titans.”
“[These] intimate discussions of comedy in all its forms are engaging, and Sacks's obvious passion is contagious. Whether writers themselves or just fans of funny, humor-loving readers will relish Poking a Dead Frog.”
“Fascinating interviews with some comedic heavy hitters…full of great moments that are funny, thought provoking, and poignant. If a casual humor enthusiast can appreciate the work this much, the book is going to be snapped up by comedy writers and aficionados.”
Library Journal, starred review
“[An] excellent book…[Sacks] once again displays his ability to get fascinating and honest interviews from comic luminaries.”
Publishers Weekly
“If you’re a fan of funny — and who isn’t? — you’re sure to find something of interest in Sacks’ follow-up to And Here’s the Kicker.” 
New York Post
“No one generates more interesting, revealing, entertaining interviews than Mike Sacks. His love and knowledge of comedy are apparent, and, as a result, the fascinating and sometimes tight-lipped comedy greats open up to him in ways they rarely do. Poking a Dead Frog is a classic.” 
Bob Odenkirk, co-creator of Mr. Show and former writer, Saturday Night Live
“This book is what I really look forward to in a book about humor: rich with words and humor, and funny stories with words. Thank you for your time.”
Will Ferrell
“These interviews go to dark depths and offer useful, applicable insight into how excellent comedy is written. If you read it, you're going to be better at writing comedy and may even wind up in a position where you can take jobs away from the younger interviewees. I specify the younger interview subjects because some of the older ones will die soon.”
Rob Delaney
“I wish I'd had a book like this when I was trying to break in. Also, a book on personal hygiene.”
Jack Handey, author of Deep Thoughts and The Stench of Honolulu
“There are few better interviewers than Mike Sacks. Poking a Dead Frog is a must-read for any comedy nerd or fan of pop culture history.”
Dana Brown, Vanity Fair

About the Author

Mike Sacks is the author of three previous books including And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft. Currently on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he has also written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Esquire, GQMcSweeney’s, Vice, and Salon.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4629 KB
  • Print Length: 481 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0143123785
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 24, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,157 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacks has the pulse of the comedy world! June 24, 2014
i really enjoyed Mike Sacks' Poking a Dead Frog. He not only interviewed some of the top comedy writers, but it's the questions. He knows exactly what to ask, he has put great thought into every interview, and he gets very thorough and real answers. I was very impressed with how he got all these writers to open up. This is an absolute 'must read' for all people interested in comedy (fans, writers, writers-to-be). Kudos Mr. Sacks!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Mike Sacks does it again with his follow up to And Here's The Kicker. By does it again, I mean he gives the reader hours of pure entertainment while injecting a thorough dose of educational gold to students of comedy. I'm not going to list all the great comedy writers and entertainers he talks to here, but suffice to say between this and his last book he's covered about every great comedy mind out there, and those he missed I'm sure he reached out to. Their loss. To be a part of this book is to be a part of shaping future generations of comedic minds, and a legacy of laughter. Packed full of both humorous anecdotes and solid information about the process, this book is a no-brainer for those seeking an entertaining and informative glimpse into the complex world of comedy writing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for anyone who has ever laughed June 24, 2014
Thank you, Mike Sacks, for the best books about comedy writing, hands down. This collection of interviews is both a hilarious, engaging read and an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the business of comedy. An accomplished comedy writer himself, Sacks knows his topic inside and out, which means he can dig deep and ask unexpected, compelling questions -- his subjects, too, are incredibly forthcoming, honest, and of course, funny. The result is the smartest, most insightful book about the biz I've ever read (not including Sacks's earlier volume of interviews, "And Here's the Kicker..." also a must-read).

Whether you are a professional jokesmith or the watercooler smart aleck, you will love this book. Get it. I'm serious. It's great.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating! June 24, 2014
Somehow Mike Sacks manages to extract much more than just the usual facts and reminiscences from the top comedy writers he interviews for his new book. While we learn all the fascinating behind-the-scenes details of some of our favorite comedy shows and movies, he crafts an underlying sense that this profession is no joke. One might assume it’s all fun and laughs along the way, but the truth is more complex. Poking a Dead Frog is a fun, addicting read that often hints at the disappointments and psychological turmoil that go into the serious business of writing comedy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Buy for Comedy Fans June 24, 2014
By steve
Mike Sacks' previous book, And Here's The Kicker, developed a big reputation in comedy circles for its smart, in-depth interviews with writers. For the follow-up, Sacks has expanded the scope, giving us more of what made Kicker great and assembling an incredible roll call of interviewees. I can't imagine any comedy fan, from casual fans to hardcore nerds, not wanting to devour this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book has EVERYTHING. June 24, 2014
I've been a fan of Mike Sacks for years, and have always loved his fiction. But this book is a beast. Seriously, I can't remember ever seeing so many formidable names within just a few paper inches of each other. I absolutely love this book and will be gifting it anyone I know who is looking to break into the business or is just a fan of good comedy. Buy Poking a Dead Frog if you...there's really no "if" to be had here. Just buy this book. You'll be happy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mike Sacks is America's # 1 comedy curator, bringing out the wisdom and technique of some of the best comedy geniuses you've heard of -- and even more spectacularly, the ones you don't know but have been foundational in the comedy of this decade and century. The book is also packed with "ultra-specific" comedy nuggets for those looking to make it in the field. Belongs on every comedy lover's shelf, AND makes a great gift for comedy fans you know.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for comedy and non-comedy nerds! June 24, 2014
I loved Mike's last book and think this one is even better. It's not just that he speaks to such a wide and inspiring smorgasboard of comedy writers, it's what he gets out of them. Mike is clearly a fan but it's his extensive research and unbridled passion for his subject that brings this book - and all his books - to the next level. Can't recommend enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book. Tons of knowledge, words and funnies.
Published 13 days ago by Garrett Musar
4.0 out of 5 stars HA! HA! HA! writers of comedy
Very specific about comedy writers, mostly TV, some radio and movies. Excellent for anyone curious about becoming known in show business... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Merle L. Holman
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth missing dinner with the President!
LOTS of really good interviews with some amazing people. Comedic writers from across the board. It's not necessarily a funny book, but it does get you in the mood to start writing,... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Dante Nava
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 1 month ago by Alan Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic look inside the minds of your comedic heroes
Great read--though it may be discouraging for aspiring comedy writers, still inspirational for determined and dedicated ones; and fascinating peek behind the scenes for laymen. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sandra L. Andina
5.0 out of 5 stars The Marc Maron / Edward R. Murrow of Comedy Writing Interviewers
I love this book!!!! Gets to the meat of why people write, how, and their feelings about it in a humorous and insightful manner. Plus....super entertaining.
Published 2 months ago by michelle3657
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and light
Really entertaining book for someone who is looking for a light read. The insight that you get from the comedy careers of some of very famous comedians is very very interesting.
Published 2 months ago by samy
5.0 out of 5 stars STAND UP STAND UP
If you love comedy, whether as an audience member or as someone who would like to perform and write, this is the book for you. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Suzanne
5.0 out of 5 stars beware
You will be led to pursue the consumption of an infinite amount of material throughout the perusing of this book.
Published 3 months ago by Nathanael Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and informative!
If you have even the slightest interest in comedy, no matter the medium, you will find something to love in this book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Merrill Kaye Arens
Search Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Mike Sacks was born in Virginia and raised in Maryland. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans.

He has written for Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, The New Yorker, Time, McSweeney's, Radar, MAD, New York Observer, Premiere, Believer, Vice, Maxim, Women's Health, and Salon. He has worked at The Washington Post, and is currently on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair.

His first book, And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers About Their Craft, was released in Summer 2009. Some of those interviewed include: George Meyer, Harold Ramis, Al Jaffee, Buck Henry, Bob Odenkirk, Stephen Merchant, David Sedaris, Jack Handey, Robert Smigel, and Daniel Clowes.

Sacks co-wrote Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk, with the Pleasure Syndicate, a comedy-writing group consisting of Scott Jacobson (Daily Show), Todd Levin (Tonight Show), Jason Roeder (Onion), and Ted Travelstead (Esquire). The book is scheduled for release August 28, 2010.

In addition, Sacks has sold a collection of his published humor pieces to Tin House Books, to be released in February 2011. The book, Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason, will contain pieces from The New Yorker, Esquire, Time, Vanity Fair, McSweeney's, and other publications.

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