In this third and final part of our interview with the Tales Designed to Thrizzle author, we discuss comedy writing, the appeal of Webcomics, and Twitter, Twitter, Twitter.
There’s a different sort of humor you would have to employ to work on a 200-300 page graphic novel—something more sustainable.
Well, yeah. I mean, one of the things I’ve learned is that there’s a kind of math you can do, so that if you put in this kind of detail, it will be comedic and already half of your work has been done for you. Graham Linehan said something similar for sitcoms with the IT Crowd, where he sees three big laugh moments and builds a whole script around them. It’s kind of like building a house, I guess. If you know that such and such a detail is going to be there, then with the rest of it, you have a little more freedom to conceptualize.
In the same sense, it seems easy to get stuck with a joke character or plotline that’s hard to escape from.
Well, sure. You see that happen to people a lot, hampered by their own success. You if you really don’t want to do the thing and be known for it for the rest of your life, don’t do it.
Basing a longer work on, say, a clever pun, you could easily be trapping yourself in the first couple of pages.
Oh sure, but the way you’re working on something, it usually sends back signals. If you find something that you’re working on unbearable, it’s usually a signal that you shouldn’t be doing it.
It sounds like you’ve got a very set schedule for work, but, in terms of the jokes and characters and storylines you develop, does inspiration strike throughout the day?
Yeah, more or less. There are two kinds of working on a joke. One is not really working, so much as having an idea pop into your head or something comes fully formed. And that’s great, but you can’t depend on that. And then there’s another kind that involves building the joke—sensing a vantage point and then starting to construct it. but of course the point of humor is that you always want it to look easy. You don’t want it to look like you spent two hours on your 140 character line—not that I’ve ever done that [laughs].
We’ve all done that. Are you carrying around notepads with you and writing down jokes as they pop into your head?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Right now, after I get off the phone with you, I have to think of what swears I would use, if I was a British tramp millionaire. That’s the latest question I’ve thrown out on Twitter, so I know people are already coming up with some good ones.
Is the Twitter output feeding into your comic work, or are these two totally separate pursuits?
It’s very rewarding in a lot of ways. Artistically it’s kind of like performance with interaction. And I’m really enjoying it on several levels.
Making comics is a very lengthy process and the feedback is nowhere near as instantaneous as tweeting something and getting five million @ replies.
Yeah, it’s amazing, and there’s so many witty and smart people on Twitter. It really keeps you on your toes. When I started doing comics, it was for a zine in Williamsburg. I knew a lot of people in other departments, so I’d do comics and they’d respond to them right away. It’s a little feeling of interactiveness that’s part of what drew me to comics. And of course that was done very quickly. It’s been years since I’ve gotten an immediate response to what I’m doing. So Twitter fills like a return to that.
Are you interested in doing more art online? That’s another opportunity for instant feedback.
Oh, absolutely. I think that’s where everything’s heading.
Is there something holding you back from that? Do you prefer having your stuff in print?
Oh no. It’s money. It’s all money. I have so much work to do that it’s hard to find the space for things that are purely conceptual at this point. Right now I have some illustrations to do and 34 pages of comics to do in the next few months—20 of which will never be printed, I think. So time is a big thing.
Twenty pages that won’t be printed?
Yeah, it’s these Lemony Snicket things.
But the money still comes in.
Yeah, that’s why I’m doing it [laughs].