Writing Jokes with Morgan Evans (MTV, The Onion)

If you surround yourself with smart, hilarious, people, you’ll end up with a great product.

What was the first bit or joke you performed on stage?

The first “joke” I remember writing and putting on it’s feet was: “I’m always thinking about sex or death. If I’m not thinking about sex, I’m thinking about death. If I’m not thinking about death, I’m thinking about sex. If I’m not thinking of either it’s because I’m hanging myself and jerking off at the same time.” Ehhhhh. It did OK.

Where did you grow up?

I am originally from Mesa, Arizona.

What’s interesting (or uninteresting) about Mesa?

I always say Arizona is like Los Angeles with even less of a culture, but I guess now that I look back on it, that’s unfair to say. Arizona was great because it had this INSANE music scene in Phoenix so I was able to get tons of stage time very young. I would perform in joke bands and do comedy bits at punk and noise shows pretty much non-stop since I was 12. Without places in Phoenix like The Trunkspace, Four White Walls, The Phix, etc. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to keep attempting comedy.

What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?

My dad is an insurance agent and my mom was a stay at home mom. Before that she was a flight attendant. She’s also the greatest cook of all time.

In episode two of “The Untitled Webseries” Morgan goes to a baby shower.

You write and direct a ton of content with MTV. It seems like they allow you to create freely. How did that relationship begin?

I was working at The Onion for about three years while I was in college, which was a very lucky experience. I was hired as an intern originally and then moved my way up and became a Segment Producer on the IFC show. They ended up moving the company to Chicago and I wasn’t going to go with them- so I quit and went off and created my own web series that did alright; it got nominated for a WGA award and screened at some festivals in New York. Through that, I think a few people at MTV saw it and decided to meet with me. I pitched them a show called “Teachers’ Lounge”, which they bought, and then we ended up making stuff together for about three years.

Morgan directed this episode of Broad City. Written by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned about directing?

Don’t be afraid to take advice from other people. Don’t let your ego get in the way. If you surround yourself with smart, hilarious, people, you’ll end up with a great product if you know what to say yes to. If the grip has the funniest idea you’ve heard all day, why not shoot it?

What do you like or dislike about the comedy scene in New York City?

I love New York’s comedy scene. Mostly because people are working their asses off and constantly putting stuff on stage, shooting, etc. What I don’t like about it is that it seems to have been co-opted by the Buzzfeed/HuffPo mentality of listicle, click bait, “Hey that’s topical let’s shoot it”, viral video, bullshit. It makes me upset and I think it’s a waste of time.

What’s the dumbest superhero name you can think of?

Truck Daniels, Attorney at Law

Who is the funniest person you know?

My best friend since childhood, Tim Mahoney, is hands down the funniest guy I have ever met and probably ever will meet. He will do bits that last seven hours and completely fry your brain. He’s like Andy Kaufman and Letterman rolled into Daniel Day Lewis.

Who is the funniest person you don’t know?

I think Jack Handey is very funny. I think Albert Brooks is very funny. I think Charles Grodin is severely underrated.

Why are jokes funny?

“According to Marx, repetition is comic when it falls short–that is, when instead of leading to metamorphosis and the production of something new, it forms a kind of involution, the opposite of an authentic creation.” — Deleuze

Or, you know, poop.

Morgan writed the comedie. He’s produced, directed and written for MTV, IFC, The Onion and VH1 Check out his blog about jokes: http://comedyisntfunny.tumblr.com/

For more on humor, follow @jokewriting on Twitter

Interview by Zuri Irvin (@withzuri)