Writing it Down

by Site Author

donut-receipt

Many consider Mitch Hedberg to be one of the greatest comedians of all time. Sadly, Hedberg died in 2005, before his comedy really went mainstream. But to this day, Hedberg’s fans quote his jokes. The image above is a receipt from a donut shop in Chicago quoting one of his bits. His other jokes also make frequent public appearances.

An interviewer once asked Hedberg if he had any advice for aspiring comics. Hedberg could have responded with some grand abstraction, something about truth and reason and absurdity. Instead, he went straight for the nuts and bolts. He suggested that aspiring comics be diligent in writing things down.

My advice is always make sure that you write down thoughts that are funny. You want to make sure that you hang on to all the funny things you think of. It’s as simple as that. Write down anything funny that comes into your head. Don’t be lazy.

Indeed, Hedberg wrote constantly.

Hedberge’s advice—to write down ideas as they arrive—is advice that’s echoed by many others. The writer John Dunne, for instance, was a diligent note taker. “He always carried cards on which to make notes, three-by-six-inch cards printed with his name that could be slipped into an inside pocket.”

One night, he uncharacteristically forgot his cards. Dunne’s wife, Joan Didion, found this ominous.

Why had he forgotten to bring note cards to dinner that night? Had he not warned me when I forgot my own notebook that the ability to make a note when something came to mind was the difference between being able to write and not being able to write?

Days later, Dunne passed away. But that night, since Dunne had forgotten his cards, he asked Didion to copy down a passage for him.

At dinner he had thought of something he wanted to remember but when he looked in his pockets he found no cards. I need you to write something down, he said… This was the note he dictated: “Coaches used to go out after a game and say ‘you played great.’ Now they go out with state police, as if this were a war and they the military. The militarization of sports.”