Writing Jokes with Jennie Sutton (Late Show with David Letterman)
A lot of people have been able to contribute to late night by stubbing their foot in the door.
[@unclejennie on Twitter]
What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Jennie Sutton. I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey.
Montclair is a pretty typical suburban New Jersey town, temperate climate, wrap-around-porches, three Starbucks. There is that creepy old Victorian house down the road, with the old woman. Don’t go there at night. She’ll steal your youth.
What did your parents do for a living?
My mom was a dance teacher for most of her life now she’s a guidance counselor. My dad was a drummer now he’s a salesman for P.C. Richards.
Where did you first perform comedy?
In front of my parents while they were trying to watch TV. So, my living room.
What was the first bit you tried onstage?
“It’s weird, I only see white people wearing those “life is good” t-shirts.”
Talk about getting jokes on The Late Show with David Letterman. What’s the best way to get your jokes on a late night show?
I worked there for about two years before writing for the monologue. I talked to the head writer about what I wanted to do. He saw I was doing stand-up and gave a haunted-town girl a chance. I still can’t believe it. It was such an education to let go of my ego and write in someone else’s voice especially David Letterman’s; extremely humbling, incredibly rewarding. There’s a lot of different ways to do it but a lot of people have been able to contribute to late night by stubbing their foot in the door. Get an internship, PA, do your job well and sometimes really nice people notice your hard work and tell them what you like to do!
When and where do you write?
Whenever I can but I do like writing in the mornings and before I go to bed at night. Lately I’ve been writing on my roof. I also write in hotel lobbies, makes me feel like a sophisticated prostitute.
What do you like or dislike about the New York City comedy scene?
I love how shitty it is! There’s not really anything I dislike about it. I love New York and I love comedians. I get to watch them perform and hang out with them all the time which is pretty great.
Are female comedians disadvantaged?
Whenever I get my period I have to chill in my hut for like six days so I miss a lot of mics. I don’t think we’re disadvantaged, per se. Many of the best comedians are women. It’s about perceptions. People can be threatened by women in power and comedy is power. I’ve definitely felt otherized at times. I’ve felt like a token at times. But the people who actually care about comedy know funny is funny.
Talk about writing jokes on the Internet (Twitter, specifically). Why do some jokes work and others don’t?
The jokes that I don’t think about or dwell on are the ones that get retweets and favorites. The jokes that I stew about don’t get any attention. If I care about a joke personally it usually resonates with someone else. It’s great to be able to connect with people in that way.
What are you working on now? What’s on the horizon?
I’m doing as much stand up as I can, trying to get better. I’m writing a lot of different things. I’m creating a web series. Doing fun things with my sketch group, Dollar Pizza (http://www.dollarpizzacomedy.com). Aging. Very excited to age.
What’s the dumbest superhero name you can think of?
Mailman. Saving the USPS.
Who is the funniest person you know?
Why are jokes funny?
Because they were fat in middle school.