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Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers Paperback – June 24, 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 89 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers
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  • And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers--The New Unexpurgated Version!
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  • Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy
Total price: $41.60
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.”
Flavorwire
 
“A greater look into the craft and business of comedy writing than you can find anywhere else….A comedy nerd bible.”
Splitsider

“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.”
Slate
 
“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.”
Paste
 
“Unusually insightful…Sacks teases deep wisdom from comedy titans.”
Departures
 
“[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.”
ShelfAwareness
 
“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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 24, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143123785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143123781
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding book that becomes a reference for repeated reading. An immense variety comedy writers share what they believe to be the basis of their humor and of humor in general. Along the way, most cite works of popular and classical literature, earlier movies, and prior telephone shows. These in turn become a source of books that I want to read and videos that I want to view. Some prior reviewers have given this book lower ratings, because they did not find it "funny." They miss the point. Philosophy of humor and not actual jokes is the purpose of this superb work.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If comedy is linguistic magic, then Poking a Dead Frog is a wonderful peeling back of the curtain. What makes funny funny? Do some people just have the knack? Or, as Monty Python’s Terry Jones says, how do you combine three ideas to produce not a fourth idea but a star?

There are as many answers as there are interviews in this book. I was interested to find comparisons between the writers, such as: be extremely personal, and bust your ass. Not only will comedy writers love this book, the advice contained within applies to writers of all stripes. A joke is, after all, a super compressed story. And several of the interviewees have a literary slant, my favorites being George Saunders, Bruce Jay Friedman and Mike Schur. You can tell these lucky unfortunates are both intellectual and neurotic. Therein lies the beauty.

Mike Sacks has clearly put in his research. His interviews read like something out of the Paris Review, only about comedy. I know from Brad Listi's podcast that Mike has at least a twenty hour talk with the comedians, which allows the conversations to delve deeply into craft, hard work, luck and inspiration. Sacks is interested in comedy’s history as well. The talks with older writers are gold. It’s fun to trace the comic lineage from The Lonely Guy’s Book of Life to Seinfeld to The Office.

One thread that has changed since Sacks’ last book is the widespread use of the Internet as a means to launch a comedy career. The democracy is exciting, but one thing is for sure, being funny is hard work.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's always good to know about the ropes of the legendary screen writers who made some of the most iconic TV series. We all enjoy the final results and later try to figure out how the hell they came up with all these ideas, and instead you get lots of hints about the enviroment they grew up, influences and styles of working by themselves and within a team.

I believe it has a great value as a historic reference and, above all, it's a sensitive homage to all those people cracking their heads out in front of the white paper to create some of the best comedy of the recent years.

Julian.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Reading through this impressive collection of interviews with top humor writers (Alan Spencer, Amy Poehler, George Saunders, Mel Brooks, etc.), it becomes clear that Mike Sacks is an accomplished humor writer himself. That's the beauty of this book. Since Sacks so thoroughly understands the profession he's exploring, we readers are given an awesomely in-depth look into this unique world. Poking A Dead Frog covers everything from spectacular flops to career highlights and how-to's. It's a fascinating read for anyone who's ever wondered how to write jokes for the Academy Awards, and everyone else too.
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