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5 Things You Can Learn From The Colbert Report’s Head Writer

March 21, 2014

On a recent episode of the Writer’s Bloc podcast, host (and Daily Show writer) J. R. Havlan interviews Colbert Report head writer Opus Moreschi about how his career has evolved and how he approaches writing for Colbert.

You can listen to the full episode here, or read up on some of the highlights below.

1. Sometimes Writing Jobs Start Out As Receptionist Jobs

At about the 11-minute mark, Moreschi explains how he got his start as a comedy writer. He compares job interviews to first dates, and goes on to note that the first real job he landed wasn’t as a writer – it was as a receptionist on the The Late Show With Craig Kilborn.

But that job wound up leading to bigger opportunities – he found himself getting incorporated into sketches on the show and befriending one of the show’s writers, who then asked Moreschi to join him as a writer on The Tom Green Show.

Interestingly, Moreschi’s story of hanging around in the right place – even if it meant needing to be a receptionist – was very reminiscent of Adam Carolla’s recent riff about the importance of being “the guy they know.”

2. Do Whatever You Can Do

At about the 20-minute mark, Moreschi answers the question he gets asked most often – “How do you do it?” He says that he is asked all the time by wannabe comedy writers how they can have a career like his and that his answer is always the same – “Do whatever you can do.”

He explains that a comedy career isn’t like becoming a doctor where you study pre-med, go to medical school and follow a clear path. Because there is no clear path to it, he suggests that you have to be willing to work hard and try everything you can to put yourself into a position where you can get opportunities.

3. Keep Trying

At about the 24-minute mark, Moreschi talks about how he first landed his job writing for The Colbert Report. People tend to assume that successful comedy writers succeed easily, but that’s certainly not the case.

In this case, Moreschi read a press release initially announcing the launch of The Colbert Report and wrote a writing packet to submit for the show immediately – without even really having any idea of what the show would actually be! He just guessed based on what he had read in the press release.

His submission wound up getting rejected, but he didn’t give up on it. He kept submitting and wound up getting hired eventually – only after he had been rejected five times.

4. It’s Tough To Criticize A Character

At about the 29-minute mark, Moreschi talks about why he thinks The Colbert Report gets so little criticism (relatively speaking) despite the political nature of the show’s content. He explains that the show is “hard to criticize because of the character,” and says that he thinks sometimes it’s tough for people to sort through what the character means, but then also take into account what the writers really mean.

He points out that it’s much harder to deconstruct and criticize a character than it is a person who is essentially being themselves on air – the difference between Colbert and Jon Stewart, who gets much more criticism from people who disagree with his political views.

5. The Real Difference Between The Comedy Of The Daily Show And The Colbert Report

At about the 40-minute mark, Moreschi offers a great description of the difference in the way The Daily Show and Colbert Report approach comedy. He says that The Daily Show is at its best when it’s a reflection of what’s going on in the world, while Colbert is at its best when it puts itself in the middle of what’s going on and embodies it.

Two very different approaches, both done pretty damn well.

Did you find this podcast summary helpful? You can read more of them here.

Have you listened to a podcast episode lately that has helpful information for comedians? If you’d like to write up a summary of it to share on this site, please email me.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nicky Shane June 6, 2014 at 10:11 am

I love this interview/article because I do a character Nicky ‘The Buzzard’ Shane and when I tell people, that have not seen me perform, “I get away with murder as The Buzzard” they cross their eyes not knowing how to grasp the other reality door I have open to me. Then once they see me on stage the laughter-light goes on but it’s a light in the fog of how it works. Sometimes I tell them to look up the word “Verisimilitude” for more insights.


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