Where Do Ideas Come From?

by Site Author

Hedberg's Writing

Mitch Hedberg was a comedian known for one liners. Here are a few of his best.

  • “My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.”
  • “I would imagine that if you could understand Morse code, a tap dancer would drive you crazy.”
  • “Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.”
  • “The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall.”
  • “I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.”

How did he come up with those? Usually, comedians are very secretive about their process. But we know something about how Hedberg produced jokes. Hedberg died in 2005, and his widow has since openly discussed the way that he worked. In the interview, below, she describes how Hedberg wrote jokes.

Hedberg was clearly a compulsive writer. For each of the one liners above, he filled hundreds of pages. He even tried free writing, forcing himself to write even when he had no idea what to write. You can see some of his notebook pages on the website that his wife still maintains. One sample is above.

Where do ideas come from? How can we find more? Hedberg provides at least one clue. Writing can help.

Consider, for instance, the web app 750words.com. The app encourages users to write “morning pages.” Every morning, a user is encouraged to write 750 words. The app tracks your progress, and e-mails you when a day passes without 750 words.

Hedberg spent years trying to come up with one-line jokes. He found that constantly writing was the only way to do so. Perhaps we should all write more often.