Even if you think you don’t know Chris Gethard, you probably do. You might listen to his podcast, Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People. Maybe you’re familiar with his standup and saw Career Suicide on Broadway or HBO. You may have watched his obscure late-night talk show The Chris Gethard Show, whether on public access or cable TV. Or maybe, you just recognize him from random bit parts on shows like The Office, Parks and Rec, and Broad City.
However you came across Chris’s comedy, chances are you saw him and thought, Wait a minute. This guy is super weird. And I love it. He has quite a few fan bases, and they’re all different; fans of The Chris Gethard Show don’t necessarily listen to Beautiful/Anonymous, and vice-versa. But for the first time, they’re all coming together in his latest project: Lose Well, a collection of essays about how embracing his failures made him into the success he is today. It’s funny, heartfelt, and full of advice that every creative person needs to hear.
I spoke with Chris about Lose Well, the importance of diverse writers’ rooms, knowing when to walk away from creative projects, and the “bonkers magoo” nine-episode podcast he made that you never listened to but totally should. If you’ve been a fan for years, you’ll enjoy getting to know a different side of Chris through the book. And if you’re brand new, welcome. If you like what you see, there’s plenty of work in his archives that you’re gonna love. You might even get a “Lose Well” tattoo.
HelloGiggles: Lose Well was born out of fans asking, “How can I create something special from scratch like you did?” And in the book, you argue that what they’re really asking is, “Can I? Should I?”
Chris Gethard: The whole reason I felt comfortable writing the book was because I’ve walked a pretty nontraditional path in terms of all the stuff that’s happened for me. I think people looked at me from time to time and said, “Well, that dude didn’t do anything that resembles a normal route to success, and yet he’s done a bunch of stuff.” And then when they looked into it and saw that I got into TV off of public access, and that I consciously walked away from stuff that’s a little bit more in the routine of what it takes to be a comedian—it’s made people comfortable reaching out to me. It happens all the time, online and in person, too. I’ll go to shows in different parts of the country and people will be like, “I really want to do X, Y, and Z. How’d you pull it off?” So I wanted to write this book as an effort to say, “Here’s everything I have [taps head] up here. Every thought I have regarding that. It’s all in one place now. I hope that none of it comes off as snake oil or trying to get in on any sort of new age-y guru-ism. Anything that feels philosophical is something that’s backed up by an experience I had. It’s stuff that worked for me in a very real way, and maybe it’ll work for you, too.
It’s funny. The primary motivator for me writing a book was, three or four years ago, this girl I graduated high school with asked me to get dinner in the city. She still lived in Jersey, and I hadn’t heard from her in years. We weren’t even that close in high school, but I always thought she was super cool. So we went out and we got food and she was like, “You know, you were the funny guy, and I was the funny girl. I always wanted to do comedy, too, and you went and did it. How’d you do it?” There were many drafts of the book where the first chapter recounted that story and the last chapter was written specifically to her. The bottom line was that when we were much younger, still teenagers, she ran into some situations that were real-life, and I didn’t have those things happen. That conversation, I felt like, “Man, it’s not fair. It’s not fair that people have to deal with real life or circumstances that are out of their control. And then they never feel like they get a chance to go for it.” A lot of the book was spurred on by this high school classmate of mine, because I thought, “She’s really cool and really funny. If she wants to go for it, I don’t see why all the other external bullshit reasons need to stop her.”
HG: As someone who is familiar with a lot of different parts of your work, Lose Well feels very different from the stories you’ve told in the past.
CG: That’s good to hear, because you do want to grow as an artist. And also, I don’t want to be the depression guy forever. There was a really conscious choice made. The initial discussion of me writing a book was a version of Career Suicide in book form. And I was like, “I just can’t do that.” I had this other gut instinct on what to write about. So I’m happy to hear it’s diversified the opinion of what I can produce.
HG: Was that the rudest, most backhanded compliment ever?
CG: No! It’s a very valid thing, and I’m glad to hear it. I’m very nervous about putting it out there, because it is very different. It has a very different tone from anything else I’ve put out there. But I’m also writing a book about how you just have to say fuck it and go for it sometimes. Put your money where your mouth is and publish the thing.
HG: You’ve had a tattoo that says “Lose Well” for years. When did you start really living the “Lose Well” mantra?
CG: I first said the phrase “lose well” on the The Chris Gethard Show. We had a cast member who got a job out west, and she was moving. She gave this exit speech where she was saying goodbye to the fans, and said she felt like a loser. And I was like, “Well, that’s what we are around here. Let’s face facts. It’s a public access TV show. We’re the losers. The cool kids are on other types of TV shows. But I don’t want to apologize for being a loser anymore. At the end of the day, we’re really good at it. We might be losers, but we lose well.” The fans of the show really rallied around that. There are a lot of people out there who have tattoos of it on their body. I know of at least like, 20 of those now.
It’s something that seemed to strike a chord with people who feel a little underestimated and people who feel like outsiders. That was me for most of my career and most of my life. Even though I’ve had some recent successes, it’s still deep in my guts as what motivates me. Everybody who was finding my work, especially in that era, was coming to it because they were probably a little bit of a misfit as well. It became a real rallying point for all of those feelings. People roll their eyes at the fact that we even want to chase our dreams. Screw ‘em, let’s go make it happen.
HG: You’re big on walking away from stuff. You reach a point with projects where you’re like, “I’m done with it.”
CG: Yeah. “Let’s get outta here.”
HG: That also sounds like a backhanded compliment. I worded that wrong.
CG: No, it’s good. I like it.
HG: The Chris Gethard Show served a huge purpose for both you and the fans, but then I think you reached a point where you didn’t need it anymore.
CG: Yeah. So why do it? The only reason I can think of to keep fighting for it would be to keep making money. I’m not trying to sound like Johnny Punk Rock, but that’s just not enough of a reason for me. I feel like I can go find money elsewhere, hopefully. I’d rather not do it than do it in a way that doesn’t feel right. Same thing with Career Suicide. I can’t tell you how many people offered me money to come give motivational speeches. I turned it down—a significant chunk of change—because I felt like everything I had to say about that topic I put in the special, and I didn’t want to exploit it for further gain. I didn’t want to make it a brand. It would be disrespectful to anybody who’s actually dealt with it. I didn’t feel like it would do as much good as it would be about making money.
I do really believe in walking away from stuff. One of the things I really believe is that you’ve got to empower yourself. As an artist, as a human. I approach it from the perspective of an artist, because I am one, but it applies to everyone. Especially young people right now. One of the greatest sources of power that you have control over is calling someone else’s bluff. Getting up and walking away from the table is a great way to explain to someone, “This negotiation will not happen on your terms.” It’s maybe detrimental to my overall career momentum, but it seems to me like it’s important to say, “I have some semblance of control.” If that means this thing isn’t gonna happen, or it’s going to cease happening, I’d rather demonstrate control and have that scenario play out my way than feel pushed around or backed into a corner to do it someone else’s way.
HG: Ellie Kemper’s new book, My Squirrel Days, touches on a lot of similar themes as Lose Well. She has a chapter about deciding to walk away from her college field hockey team. She was sad to say goodbye, but walking away led her to finding improv comedy.
CG: You know I saw her do improv in college at Princeton. I was in the Rutgers improv troupe, and we all heard that the Princeton improv group was doing a show. We went, and I won’t lie, we were like, the grungy state school kids. We were like, “Let’s drive down the road and see these Princeton kids. I’m sure we’re funnier than them.” And then Ellie was so incredibly funny and so incredibly charming that on the way back, every straight guy improviser was like, “I have a crush on the redhead girl.” Every single one of us was like, “She was so amazing. We’re bad. We’re bad people, bad comedians.” She’s the best. She is truly a great human being.
I’m glad to hear the messages are similar, because that means if you want to read my book and get the message from someone who’s marginally successful, you can do that. Or, if it will click more from someone who’s incredibly successful, you can read her book. Or read both. Compare and contrast.
HG: I didn’t realize that Big Lake, your failed Comedy Central sitcom, is what led to you starting over. Not just starting over, but starting from the bottom, and saying, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it my way.”
CG: It really messed me up. That was the most important part. I can’t tell you…the New York comedy scene had been rooting for me really, really hard. A lot of people were wondering why I couldn’t catch a break. And then I did, and it was this explosion of enthusiasm. The New York Times wrote about me. It was all eyes on me for a whole summer. And when it fell apart, it was not easy. To get there and realize, “Oh wait, this is not gonna go great, I wish maybe all this hype would slow down”—how can you slow it down? It’s out of control.
It was tough. But the most liberating thing was when it failed, I was certainly not thrilled, and my ego was bruised, but it didn’t kill me like I thought it would. It made me realize that I really needed to wonder why I had wanted that job in the first place. It became a real moment in my life when I stepped back and re-examined my priorities, thought about who I was and what I believed in and how I was raised, and also the type of art that I liked. I realized a sitcom does not fit the definition of the type of stuff I enjoyed growing up. The only reason I wanted that job was for the ego boost. Because other friends of mine were getting jobs like that, and I didn’t want to feel less than them when compared to them. It was a really eye-opening moment where I was like, “I don’t watch sitcoms. It’s so petty and arrogant to want to be on one, so I’m not gonna sit around and cry about it. But if that’s the case, I better make sure that the next thing I do is something I believe in.”
I remember thinking, very cutely, “If I ever get slammed in reviews this hard again, it needs to be for something that I actually love.” Because why would I ever want to take it on the chin this publicly, this hard, ever again? For a thing that’s not even a thing that I love? I don’t regret doing it, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. But it totally made me realize, “Man, even if it means I have to do something smaller that no one hears about, I can’t get creamed again unless I really stand by it.”
HG: One of my favorite things you write in Lose Well is, “We live in a culture where there appear to be two options: win or lose.” I’ve never really thought about it that way.
CG: I think there is a lot of truth to it. As you plunge more and more into trying things out in life, you realize there are real shades of gray. The idea of success can also evolve, and you have to be okay with that. If anybody gets anything out of this book, I really hope that’s one of the core messages: Even if you totally strike out and fall on your face, you’re gonna be closer to where you’re supposed to be than you would have been if you just sat around being nervous, strategizing, and never acting.
Success is not a black and white issue. A lot of people wind up really, really stressed out and under a lot of mental duress because they’re holding themselves to these weird standards that I think are probably rooted back to like, 1950s Americana, post-World War II, we-win-at-everything stuff. That’s not how the world works anymore. You’re allowed to change your ideas of what success looks like. You’re allowed to figure out how you co-exist with failure and still hold your head up high. This whole “go out and conquer your dreams” thing is something that everybody has a right to do, but in a far more realistic way than we present it in the fantasy world.
HG: You also tend to go whole hog on stuff. You write, “Go all in or get out of the way.” Do you think that’s still worth it even if it backfires sometimes?
CG: Yes! I can think of a lot of examples where I’ve tried stuff and it hasn’t gone anywhere, and I’m like, “Well, that was a big waste of time.” But at the very least, hopefully I can take away experiences within the course of doing that that teach me how to not waste so much time anyway. But I do think very firmly that if you’re sitting around wondering, the answer is yes. You should go do it. That is always the answer. The worst thing that happens is you fall on your face and everybody laughs at you. And that sucks, but it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be.
HG: And then people forget about it a few days later and move on to the next thing.
CG: Yeah. People forget about it. And then also, you’ll get that odd handful of people that comes up every once in a while and is like, “I actually really appreciated that.” And then you go, “Oh, we have to link up. What’s your number? Because we have to be friends.” Invariably, those are the other weirdos who are like, “You should listen to my Bandcamp.” And then you go listen to it, and you’re like, “This is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. I get why these people like my stuff. I like their stuff.” Just in the act of trying, you almost send up this signal flare where other people who are like-minded can come find you. That’s a very valuable thing. I feel like I’m coming off as a real rambling weirdo right now.
HG: Not at all. I’m over here giving you bad compliments.
CG: No. I’m very appreciative of it. Do you have to transcribe this yourself?
HG: Yeah. I do it myself because I don’t trust transcription services. I’m a control freak.
CG: Well, god bless you, because you’re gonna have to deal with all my nervous stammering.
HG: I have to listen to the sound of my own voice, which is the worst thing. I always listen back to interviews and I’m like, “You’re talking WAY too much. Stop talking and let them respond.” I’m doing it right now.
CG: I can’t tell you how sincerely I hope you leave all of this exchange in, as we talk about embracing your own confidence and not apologizing, and it’s just you and I apologizing to each other.
HG: I will. A big thing you touch on is how if you chase a dream, you’re probably not going to get it. I love the brutal honesty of that.
CG: There’s a lot of truth to the fact that you’re probably not going to achieve your goals. But I don’t think we often enough say that that’s okay. Just because you can’t get there doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. I’d like to think that everything in my book is something where I’ve walked the walk as much as I’ve talked the talk. And I’d like to think that it doesn’t come off as snake oil so much as stuff that, over 18 years, I’ve run into these situations and it’s made me think this way. One of the things that I so firmly believe to the core of my being is that you will never regret going for it. You will regret sitting around, hemming and hawing, wasting all this time. The worst that happens is you fail. The thing they don’t tell us about that—the thing they leave out of all the warnings—is that it’s not that scary to fail. It stings, and then you develop scar tissue, and it stings a little less next time.
There’s a part of me that sometimes gets too much of a chip on my shoulder, and I don’t want to be paranoid or a conspiracy theorist, but there’s a lot of reasons people make us feel like failure is bad. A lot of it is very restrictive. I think that your boss who thinks you don’t have what it takes to take on a project probably just wants you to stay in your own lane and stay in your cubicle and not rock the boat. I bet there are a lot of people whose parents doubt them, and I don’t know the circumstance of everyone, but I bet a lot of those parents are people who didn’t chase their own dreams. There’s a lot of situations where it’s like, “Quiet down, you’re meant to be seen, not heard. Do your job and shut up about it.” That’s very, very reductive and restrictive. Young people are extremely underestimated all the time because they’re regarded as dreamers. And I’m like, why do people my age and older make fun of millennials for being dreamers? Why is that something that we scoff at? Thank god they’re dreaming, because my generation—and especially the generations older than me—are literally destroying the Earth. I hope they’re dreamers, and I hope they’re idealists, and I hope they’re ready to go out there and try things and fail at things and be realistic about it.
Since I’m talking to HelloGiggles here, who’s more underestimated than young women right now? Who’s more underestimated in modern times than a 21-year-old woman? That, to me, is the exact type of person that’s full of a lot of potential that has a lot of people in their life going, “Oh, really? Halfway through the sentence I’m gonna roll my eyes when you tell me what you want.” I think that’s shifting and I think that’s changing, and thank god for it.
HG: Since you brought it up, you have a well-documented history of respecting and elevating women because it’s the right thing to do. The writers’ room on The Chris Gethard Show was very diverse, both in terms of gender and race.
CG: I’m really proud that you noticed that. I don’t want to sit here and pat myself on the back too hard, because at the end of the day, all I did was try to be realistic about trying to do the right thing. When we started The Chris Gethard Show, obviously when it was on public access, it was just me and my doofy friends—four white dudes. It was 2011 and there weren’t as many conversations then about writers’ rooms and diversity. Also, I don’t think anybody gave a shit about this weirdo public access show. They were the only four people willing to spend time on it and lose money doing it.
But when it became a professional opportunity, our writers’ room would constantly be pillaged by bigger shows. Our people would always get hired away. There was one stretch where we lost two female writers at the same time. We were taking writing packets and we prioritized the packets from female writers. J.D. [Amato], who was my showrunner—we’re two white guys—when we were reading them, I said to him, “We have to prioritize making sure our writers’ room stays balanced. We need to do that in good faith, but also respect the fact that if the funniest packets do not balance it out, that’s a discussion to be had.” He very astutely said to me, “At the end of the day, one thing that people forget is, if there are two packets that are equally funny, and one gives you a voice that you don’t already have, why would you not go with that one?” It’s logic. It makes your room better, to me. I already have a bunch of people who probably grew up having very similar experiences to me. What does it get me to have everybody else be a white dude?
You hear about some writers’ rooms that are literally still, in 2018, all male. Or one woman, where you have to wonder if it’s tokenism or not. I don’t think it’s rocket science, and I don’t think it’s somehow betrayal of comedy, to say that your writers’ room needs to be as funny as possible, but it should also be able to attack things from many angles as possible. Or else, who’s it really about? Who’s it really for? My experience when I was hosting a TV show was, “How do we rally a community and make them feel comfortable?” Our show would never get held up against the big boys, and you’d read some of these articles that were saying, “All these writers’ rooms are all white men.” I’m like, “Well, I just hired Jo Firestone and Juilo Torres and Ana Fabrega and Nicole Drespel and Will Miles. We’re trying to do things the right way.” It’s fine with me if nobody notices. But a lot of people have said to me, “Your show gets smaller numbers, but a lot of shows would kill to have a community as passionate as yours.” That community is not passionate just because of me. That community is passionate because a lot of people feel like they’re, in some small way, included in it. We did our best. We tried to do things the right way. This whole thing that comedians have that’s like, “It’s all about who’s the funniest.” It’s like, yeah, sure it is. But if you really think you can’t find one funny person who’s a different ethnicity or gender than you, that’s totally on you. It’s a boys’ club. Let’s not pretend it’s not.
One of my favorite experiences was when we hired a writer named Robby Hoffman. Robby’s incredible. We got over 800 submissions that year. I personally read every single one. Because I was like, “I know for a fact I’ve written packets that no one read. I’m reading every single one.” That was in a stretch where the room was more heavily male balanced, and people and been hired away. We get to this packet, and it was brilliant. I was like, “Oh my god, this is the best out of 800 packets. This is my favorite one. Why is it some dude named Robby Hoffman?” And then I look up Robby Hoffman, and I’m like, “Oh my god, wait. Robby’s a Canadian Hasidic queer person. Thank god this was the best packet.”
HG: You mentioned the word “community,” which is a big theme of your entire body of work. Did growing up without an artistic community or collaborators push you even harder to find one?
CG: That’s a great question. For years, it made me extraordinarily self-conscious. I grew up in northern New Jersey in a pretty working class neighborhood. It just wasn’t a thing to be an artist. Kids in my neighborhood used to make fun of the kids whose dads worked in New York City, because that felt like, “Oh, you think you’re better than us?” The idea of being an artist wasn’t a thing, and I was extraordinarily self-conscious about it for a very long time. I almost avoided it. I felt very apologetic, like I was somehow betraying my roots by being an artist. It took me a long time to realize that all the values I learned as someone of my background actually served me well in terms of being an artist. I think I have an incredible work ethic, because everyone I grew up around was hustling hard to pay their mortgages. It made me avoid wanting to be an artist for a long time. And then when I finally did become an artist, and embraced it, it served me really well. As far as finding that community, a lot of the people who I click with closest share a little bit of a similar thing. A lot of the people who I find and who I lean on are also self-conscious artists who need some other people to link up and make a network.
HG: A big part of it too is that calling yourself an artist can be a huge roadblock.
CG: You feel like a big fake, and you feel like you haven’t earned it. But at a certain point, you will have. I look back and realize I was probably calling myself a comedian a little early in the game. I wasn’t making much money through comedy. But at a certain point, you have to stop overthinking it. You have to stop dancing around it. You have to decide that’s what you are, and either go make it happen or crash and burn. Those are the two options after a certain point: make it happen or crash and burn. And then you’ll get over it, and you won’t be worried about if you’re an artist, because you’ll go, “I tried my hardest and it wasn’t meant to be.” It’ll feel a lot better than hemming and hawing and wondering.
HG: Do you ever get motivated by revenge?
CG: Always. 1000% of the time. You don’t have to look too deep under the surface of my work to realize that revenge is a high priority for me. Part of why I was so okay with ending The Chris Gethard Show is because I was like, “Everyone who doubted this has had to eat their words.” Every network that took a meeting with us so they could feel hip when they had no intention of ever buying the show, every agent at my old agency who told me it was a fruitless mission when they refused to help do it—I think I got my revenge on all of them. A lot of my future plans revolve around revenge as well. It’s when I’m at my best.
HG: What do you do on days when you don’t feel creative? Especially on days when you don’t have a choice, because you have to be creative?
CG: There are two options. One is sometimes necessary, as a self-protective safety mechanism. The other is the one that I would suggest you strive toward. First, sometimes, you gotta just get up, slog through it, and make it happen, even though it feels like you’re running through quicksand to do it. There are times where I’ve gone to do standup gigs where it’s like, “I just took a four-and-a-half-hour train ride”—this one happened recently, and it wound up being a very good show. So if anybody from the university in question is reading this, I enjoyed the show. I took a four-and-a-half-hour train ride to go do a show that wasn’t really advertised. It was in a 900-seat room and there were maybe 120 people there. I couldn’t find the venue, so I just wandered around in circles in the cold. When I got there, it just wasn’t ideal, you know? My TV show had just been canceled six weeks prior, and I’m in a room that’s one-ninth full. It doesn’t feel good. But I know my act, I know my hour of comedy, I understand it’s funny, and I gotta go up there, and I gotta get the job done. Take joy and take pride in being a worker. One thing especially for creative people is you get to do this. Sometimes we get to a point of consistency and we forget—there’d be a point where I would have killed to perform for 100 people. I don’t care how big the room is. This is a privilege; I get to do this. This is not about me and my ego. It’s about these people.
One thing that I’m learning more and more that’s solidifying is being open and honest about those feelings goes a long way as well. I learned that with The Chris Gethard Show. There were some nights—especially back in the public access days, before [my wife] Hallie and I got together—there were some stretches where I was really suffering. Some of the things I talked about in Career Suicide focused on three or four months in 2012. I was going on TV every Wednesday. People were watching it on the internet all over the world. It was not always easy. I learned then that sometimes I could fake it, but then sometimes, I could take a chance and just say, “I’m really depressed today, and I don’t know if it’s a good idea to do this.” I’d say that on the air, and take a big chance, and it would work out. I’ll never forget, one of those situations wound up being one of our greatest episodes. This one that everybody points to where I was having a series of panic attacks all week. So our episode was just going to be about how I was nervous all the time.
HG: “I’m Nervous All the Time.” I know what episode you’re talking about.
CG: That was very real. That episode was very genuine. We had another idea, and I was like, “I’m not going to be able to pull it off if I feel this bad. We have to make this one about how bad I feel. Let’s just own it.” And it actually became something that a lot of people point to and are like, “That is why that show was a special thing.” Looping back around, being honest and open goes a long way. Even for me, 18 years in, it is an extremely hard thing to go on a stage in front of a room of people and say, “I don’t know if I have it today.” But it has served me well at times. Nine times out of 10, honesty is the answer.
HG: It’s like the Tig Notaro “Hello, I Have Cancer” set.
CG: Brilliant. Game-changing. All Maria Bamford’s stuff? Game-changing. Really, really amazing. I just re-listened to that Tig set, and it is something else.
HG: The episodes of The Chris Gethard Show where you were open and honest were some of the best ones.
CG: It was one of the things I found I didn’t have as much of an opportunity to do on cable that I was really starting to regret. There wasn’t much of a way to fit it in. That was the exact type of situation that made me realize, “Maybe it’s time.”
HG: What’s joke or a bit or a character that hasn’t necessarily been an audience favorite, but that you’ll stand by and think is funny forever and ever?
CG: I did a podcast called In Your Dreams. It was sort of an offshoot of Beautiful/Anonymous that Casper mattresses sponsored. They wanted it to be like Beautiful/Anonymous, but people talk about dreams. And I was like, “I feel like that’s a little bit of a trope.” Right? Telling other people about your dreams is like, a conversational no-no. It’s a known thing. I was like, “I don’t think we’ll get away with that. What if I bring in my friend Gary Richardson and we do a sort of Andy Kaufman take on it?” Gary is now a writer at SNL. Gary’s a killer. He’s so funny. We did a thing where Gary was a dream analyst. And if you listen to those episodes, it really unravels in a way where I would go so far as to say that the In Your Dreams podcast is something that totally flew under the radar.
A lot of the Beautiful/Anonymous fans didn’t realize it was a joke. The Gethard Show fans, I think, thought it was going to be more like Beautiful/Anonymous, which is a little too slow for them. So it kind of missed the fan base catching on, but I stand by it. It’s probably one of the straight-up funniest things I’ve ever been a part of. It flew really under the radar. Maybe now that Gary’s on SNL, people will revisit it and realize it’s funny. I’m starting to notice a little traction where it’ll come up. Every once in a while, you’ll see someone mention it on Reddit or something. It’s insane that this was corporate-sponsored, because it’s bonkers magoo. I stand by that one.
HG: I like to ask people for the best career advice they’ve ever received, but you shared yours in Lose Well. It’s two things that your therapist told you.
CG: “Give yourself no other option” is a huge one for me. What’s the other one you’re thinking of?
HG: “Some days you just don’t have it.”
CG: Yeah. That is another good one. “Give yourself no other option” was the life changing one for me. I was in a place where I thought I had what it takes, and I did not understand why it wasn’t happening for me. And she was like, “Because you’re not going all in. Go all in.” She said, “Do not accept money for anything except comedy.” And I was like, “I will starve and not have my rent money.” And she was like, “And then you can quit.” That was harsh, but it was true.
“Some days you just don’t have it” is really great process-driven advice for creative people. If you’ve got writer’s block, sometimes you gotta just stand up and walk away. Because if it ain’t happening, it ain’t happening. You don’t want to learn to hate your computer. You don’t want to hate your workstation. I’m sure you have that as a writer.
CG: It’s a nightmare.
HG: What’s your favorite book that you’ve read lately? Or you can say music, because you’re a big music guy.
CG: If we’re talkin’ music, I just saw David Byrne from Talking Heads in concert, and that was eye-opening. That was like, a real artist in action. He made me feel like everything I’ve ever done has been a worthless, half-assed attempt at art. It was really great. It was awesome. I really missed the boat on them for most of my life, but I started getting into Talking Heads in 2018. I’ve decided now is the time for me to revisit the ‘80s and late ‘70s. That was a really eye-opening show.
Lose Well is now available wherever books are sold.