Jerry Seinfeld — A Comedy Legend’s Systems, Routines, and Methods for Success | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Jerry Seinfeld — A Comedy Legend’s Systems, Routines, and Methods for Success | The Tim Ferriss Show".
Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.
Well hello boys and girls lemurs and squirrels this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss show this episode was just a blast and part of me still doesn't believe that it happened. Of course my job is to interview and deconstruct world-class performers of all different types of all different stripes from all different fields and my guest for this episode is none other than the icon Jerry Seinfeld. So who is Jerry Seinfeld? Entertainment icon Jerry Seinfeld's comedy career took off after his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1981. Eight years later he teamed up with fellow comedian Larry David to create what was to become the most successful comedy series in the history of television. Seinfeld, a lot of you have heard of it. The show ran on NBC for nine seasons winning numerous Emmy Golden Globe and People's Choice Awards and was named the greatest television show of all time in 2009 by TV Guide. And in 2012 was identified as the best sitcom ever in a 60 minutes Vanity Fair poll. Seinfeld made his Netflix debut with the original stand-up special Jerry before Seinfeld along with his Emmy-nominated and critically claimed web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which has garnered more than 100 million views and which The New York Times describes as impressively complex and artful and variety calls a game changer. His latest stand-up special, 23 Hours to Kill, was released by Netflix earlier this year. He is also the author of Is This Anything? Or Is This Anything? It's a question with a question mark at the end, which is a brand new book and features his best work across five decades in comedy. It is a collection of his notes, his journaling and certainly his process. You can find him on Twitter @JerrySeinfeld, Instagram @JerrySeinfeld, Facebook @JerrySeinfeld. And if you have interest in creative process, gamifying life, mastering the mind, comedy, habits and systems of someone who can operate at the top of their field for decades, this conversation touches all of those things. Please enjoy a wide-ranging conversation with none other than Jerry Seinfeld. This episode is brought to you by Aura, O-U-R-A. It is the only wearable that I wear on a daily basis. Aura is the company behind the smart ring that delivers personalized sleep and health insights to help you optimize just about everything. And I've tried every device out there that you can imagine. This one really makes the cut. I've been using it religiously for at least six months now. And I was introduced to it by Dr. Peter Itia, who's also vetted just about everything. With advanced sensors, Aura packs state-of-the-art heart rate, heart rate variability, HRV, super important to me, temperature activity and sleep monitoring technology into a convenient non-invasive ring. It's tiny. It weighs less than six grams and focuses on three key insights, sleep, readiness and activity. So I can use it to help focus my attention on the type, volume, intensity of exercise that I should do in a given day. I use it to determine how certain types of alcohol at different times of the day affect my sleep, which they do. And I can see all of that in graph form trended over time. There are tons of actionable insights that have come from using this ring for me. They have a number of incredible people on their team, Dr. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, and also author of Why We Sleep, the mega hit is Aura's chief science advisor as just one example. The Aura Ring is one of the most accurate wearables available because it measures your vitals directly from your finger. So it's not deducing that or making a best guesstimate based on a bunch of other things and trying to triangulate. Compared to a medical grade electrocardiogram, the Aura Ring is 99.9% accurate for resting heart rate and 98.4% accurate for heart rate variability. And I work with HRV doctors and they recommend that I use the Aura Ring. So try it yourself. It is super cool and super practical, very actionable. The Aura Ring comes in two styles and three colors, silver, black and matte black. I use matte black. For $299, you can give or get the gift of health by visiting auraring.com. That's O-U-R-A-R-I-N-G.com. Again, that's auraring.com. This episode is brought to you by Rockform. That's without a C-R-O-K-F-O-R-M. Rockform is the active lifestyle, iPhone and Galaxy protective case company. I've been using their stuff for a few months now and good God, they can survive anything. First off, Rockform protection is beyond great. You can find thousands of five star reviews and customer testimonials, which the team at Rockform calls survival stories that include things like a drop from the upper deck of a baseball stadium. And a 75 foot cell phone tower fall. It's kind of unbelievable, but these cases make your phone virtually indestructible. Each case is built also around an integrated magnet that is completely safe for your phone. The magnets are incredibly strong and allow you to instantly attach your device to any magnetic surface, toolboxes, file cabinets, refrigerators, golf carts. You name it. I use it in the gym to check my form all out of the time. You can just slap it on just about anything. Rockform pioneered magnetic technology in the mobile accessory space in 2011, and I've never seen anything quite like these magnets. I will use mine on my Peloton bike so I can watch listener take calls during workouts. It fits my iPhone 11 Pro Max perfectly and allows me to keep my hands free for all sorts of stuff. All their cases also come with a built-in twist lock system that can be used with any of Rockform's optional mounts for bike, motorcycle, car and much more. These machined aluminum mounts are built to last and are compatible with every Rockform case. So if you get a new phone or whatever, you just need a new case and it will still attach to all of the mounts. Rockform also has a portable golf speaker. This is Bluetooth that instantly mounts to a golf cart with mind-blowingly strong magnets. Like I mentioned, I don't really golf, but I will use this Bluetooth speaker to listen to music in the kitchen. I'll slap it on the refrigerator. I will use it in the gym and hang it from a carabiner, which is included with the speaker and so on and so forth. So upgrade to a Rockform case today because you have better things to hold on to. You can use your hands for other stuff. And like I mentioned, these things make your phone bulletproof. And as a special offer for Tim Ferris show listeners, that's you guys, get 25% off. That is a good discount. 25% off at rockform.com. That's R-O-K-F-O-R-M.com. When you use promo code TIM, that's 25% off at R-O-K-F-O-R-M.com. When you use promo code TIM, one more time, rockform.com. Promo code TIM. Optimal minimal. Get this altitude like in one flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I also do a personal question? Now what is sitting in front of me? What is my duty? I'm a cybernetic organism. Living this show on Metal Intracellular. Me too. Ferris show. Jerry, welcome to the show.
Larry David'S Career And Writing Process
Childhood and The Last Laugh by Phil Berger (07:35)
Thanks Tim. Great to be here. I really appreciate you making the time. And I thought we would start with the beginning of "Is this anything?" And in the, suppose you could call it the introduction of the preface, another book pops up, which is "The Last Laugh" by Phil Berger. And I would love to just know how that book entered your life. How did I find that? I really don't know. But I still haven't. I have the copy that I bought wherever I found it. I mean I was in high school and I did the absolute minimum you could do to survive. In high school I never read anything outside of high school except magazines, car magazines, comic books, and Esquire. I don't know. In those years, you know, early, early 70s, Esquire was really full of character and about encouraging male boldness and inventiveness in lifestyle. And just life in general, you know, they were very sophisticated. And it was everything I wanted to be. I wanted to be urban and I wanted to be smart and smarter than I was. And I wanted to have like this cool adventurous life. And they were very encouraging to that. I don't think there's anything like that around today. That was essential. And the same with that book, "The Last Laugh", it was just like, whatever made men in centuries past become explorers, you know, I don't know how they became that. I guess I remember reading about explorers' clubs like in 17th, 18th century London, you know. I have two sons and a daughter. And that's the thing I really wanted. If I could pass along, the two things I would want to pass along would be ethics and boldness. And boldness in life. But that doesn't answer your question of where I got the book. I don't know where I got it. Well, that's okay though. The Genesis story is secondary. It's really the context that you're providing. And just as a quick side note, a friend of mine, Kel Fussman, used to write the "What I've Learned" interview series in Esquire. Yeah, I remember that. Back when it had, and maybe still doesn't sum up all that character that you're describing, that boldness. Was it inside the last laugh that grabbed you so much? Yeah, so if I look back at my whole life starting, you know, about like second or third grade, it was all this inexorable march towards this pursuit of the comedy arts. And there was nothing else about comedy. Albert Brooks did an article in Esquire called "School for Comedians." And it was a parody. And I had no idea it was a parody. He grew up in LA, and he was making fun of what comedians might need to learn to be comedians. And it was an early '70s Esquire article. And I had no idea it was a parody. I mean, I just said, "Oh, there's a school." I just wanted to learn about this world. And the last laugh really took you deeply into the world. And it is a completely, hermetically sealed world that is frankly unrelated to the rest of the entertainment industry. And it's really unrelated to almost all other creative arts. It is a very sealed ecosystem, the world of comedy, particularly stand-up comedy. And I was desperately thirsty for any scrap of data about it. Now, you have much like an Olympic athlete of sorts with training logs and workouts, and so on.
On writing (11:41)
You have 45 years of hacking away as it's put in the books description on yellow notepads. And you've preserved all of this. And I'd love to speak, or to hear you speak more accurately, a bit about your writing process. And the preparation that I did for this, I read in the New York Times, and I'm just going to read this short bit. You can fact correct this if need be. But here's how it reads. I still have a writing session every day. It's another thing that organizes your mind. The coffee goes here, the pad goes here, the notes go here. My writing technique is just, you can't do anything else. You don't have to write, but you can't do anything else. I would love to hear you elaborate on that, because it actually sounds very similar to what the fiction writer Neil Gaiman has his first book writing as well. But what does that look like for you? And what do your writing sessions tend to look like if we look back over the last, I don't know, ten years, because I'm sure it's changed over time. No, it hasn't changed. It hasn't changed as the coffee, which I didn't know about coffee in my younger years. I think I discovered coffee after I had kids, and I didn't have time to have long meals with my friends anymore, but we could meet for coffee. And then I realized, boy, this coffee really gets you talking. And I thought, maybe I'll do a show where you just talk with coffee. And that's kind of where that came from, that I mean, it's a car show. But my writing sessions used to be very arduous, very painful, pushing against the wind in soft, muddy ground, with like a wheelbarrow full of bricks. And I had to do it because there's just, as I mentioned in the book, you either learn to do that or you will die in the ecosystem. And I learned that really fast and really young. And that saved my life and made my career that I grasped the essential principle of survival in comedy really young. And that principle is you learn to be a writer. It's really the profession of writing. That's what stand up comedy is. However you do it, anybody, you can do it any way you want. But if you don't learn to do it in some form, you will not survive. When you sit down, is it an empty page? Is it bits and pieces that you've noted through the week as observations that you then flesh out? What is actually in front of you when you start? What's in front of me is usually about 15 or 20 pages of stuff that's in various states of development. And then there's a smaller book of just really, really random things like when you're on a cell phone call and the call drops and then you reconnect with the person, they'll go, I don't know what happened there. As if anyone is expecting them to know anything about the incredibly complex technology of a cell phone, they offer this little, I don't know if it's an excuse or an apology, they go, I don't know what happened there. So anyway, so I don't know, so that's an example of something in that my little, little tiny notebook that I don't know what to do with that, but it's just so stupid to me and funny. So that to me is like, it's like an archery target 50 yards away. And then I take out my bow and my arrow and I go, let me see if I can hit that. Let me see if I can create something that I could say to a room full of humans in an nightclub that will make them see what I see in that. There's something stupid and funny about that to me. That's the very, very beginning. So then I'll write something about it. If I'm lucky, it'll be a half a page or a page on a yellow legal pad and I'll write that. And then in the session the next day, if I get around to it, I will see it again and I will see what I have and what I like and I don't like. And as any writer can tell you, it's 95% rewrite. So I have two phases. There is the free play, creative phase, and then there is the polish and construction phase of, and I love to spend inordinate, I mean, it's not wasteful to me because that's just what I like to do, amounts of time, refining and perfecting every single word of it until it has this pleasing flow to my ear. And then it becomes something that I can't wait to say. And then we go from there to the stage with it. And then from the stage, the audience will then, I imagine, you know, it's a very scientific thing to me. Okay, here's my experiment, and you run the experiment, and then the audience just dumps a bunch of data on you. Of this is good, this is okay, this is very good, this is terrible. And that goes into my brain from performing it on stage. And then it's back through the rewrite process, and then new ideas will come. You know, it's just millions of different kinds of development. It's just that, so you're just trying to get your, you're just going to that place of creating, fixing, jettisoning. It's extremely occupying, it's never boring, it's the frustration I'm so used to at this point, I don't even notice it. And it's just work time, it's just work time, which, and that's my, I like the way athletes talk about, I got to get my work in. Did you get your work in? I like that phrase. One of the reasons I was looking forward to doing this show with you is I know that it's something you are very interested in. The craft. The, yeah, the systemization of the brain and creative endeavor or, you know, I really think when I'm working, it's very much like when you're watching a picture working on stage than that we're going. So that's different. So basically it's on stage and off stage, it's the desk and then the stage and then back to the desk and then back to the stage. And that's endless.
The real wellspring of ideas (18:42)
The process and the repeatable process, the experimentation like you phrased it is extremely interesting to me. And if we took or take that cell phone example, the dropping of reception, that's an observation. It seems to me that you are a real connoisseur of questions, whether those questions are being used as part of a bit or possibly as prompts. And you mentioned the coffee in part leading to comedians and cars in a Harvard Business Review interview. You also mentioned that it's important to know what you don't like. A big part of innovation is saying, you know what I'm really sick of? Question mark, right? And for you, that was talk shows with the music players, somebody walks out to desks, she stands with the hosts, sits down. Yeah. And what am I really sick of being a departure point for innovation? I would love to hear about any questions, if there are questions that you use as prompts to help elicit observation or materials for yourself. No, no. That's that part is somewhat having a very cranky nature and being a sensitive kind of, I don't know if it's perception, perception, but you're just provoked by a lot of things. You know, and that if you're lucky enough to have that, the next thing you must do is nurture and protect it and never lose it. And the enemy of it is success. Success is the enemy of irritability and crankiness because now you have money and you can remove the difficulties from your life. And that's not good. How do you contend with that? Because you've had certainly, I would imagine, I've had to do things to offset in that case the creature comforts and so on that come along with the amount of success that you've had. Yes. The thing I did that really solved almost all of that issue is I got married. Okay. Please elaborate. You'll never run out with you get married and if you have kids, then you've got a gold mine. You mentioned just a few minutes ago about wordsmithing until you get everything pleasing to the ear and really obsessing over the pros.
Steering Seinfeld for nine seasons (21:05)
I've read that one of your explanations for the success of all of your television was that quote, "The show was successful because I micromanaged it. Every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting." And then later on, if you're efficient, you're doing it the wrong way. There are a lot of questions I could ask about this, but I suppose one is if you are for such a period of time, I understand the logic of it, but for such a long period of time, obsessing over the details like that. Did you not find yourself at risk of burnout or just hitting a point of overwhelm or did that not happen to you? We're talking about the series now or just... Yeah, we're talking about the series. The series is a... If you want to look at the comedy arts, it's the only thing that interests me creatively, I think, or the only thing I'm any good at. But if you look at the different comedy arts, if you know if I were to break it down, let's just say it's like basics of stand-up comedy, a television series, or a movie. I would analogize those to different vessels on the water. So a TV series is like a pretty big boat that you can run with a couple of people. A movie is a yacht. There are so many people. It's a beautiful thing. There's a lot of money involved. Everybody wants it. Everybody thinks it's the ultimate way to go across the water. And stand-up for me is a surfboard. It's just you. You paddle out and you try and catch the energy and you're all on your own. And you can do it and go home and nobody but you really even knows what happened. I think the more people you add to the vessel, the faster you're going to struggle to maintain its progress through the water. For sure, the TV series got to a point, we did it nine years, and the way I was doing it, that was as far as it could go, before it was really going to stop cutting through the water in that beautiful way that it was doing. That's why I pulled out of it before I had to, before anyone wanted me to, because I didn't want to be on a boat that was starting to struggle. I didn't want to have that experience, and even more than that, I didn't want the audience to have that experience. I wanted to complete this gift to them in a way that they would always go, "Oh, I was given a lovely thing one time in the 90s." And it was just lovely. I wanted them to have it like that. No excuses, no if only no, it did go on a bit maybe longer than it should have. I just wanted them to have this lovely gift. That's why I stopped the TV series. I could also describe the TV series to you as a weather event that has an energy that gathers and becomes cyclonic, but every storm blows itself out. And that storm was about to run out of energy. And so was I. It's the same thing, because I was at the center of the storm, and I could feel the slowing of the cyclonic curve, the funnel.
On stepping away from massive success (24:51)
Is that something that you had a role model for? Is that something you simply perceived? Because it's very rare for someone to step out like Rocky Marciano. Usually they go a bit too far, they get slapped around a bit, or they end up signing, you know, baseball mitts at Caesar's Palace or whatever it is. Did you have any model for that? It was something you decided entirely on your own. The closest I had, and I would never compare myself in any way, shape or form, was the Beatles. The time frame of the Beatles was nine years. They broke up for different reasons. We had no discord on my show, like they struggled with. But the portion size of the Beatles just felt so right to me. And I thought, and they were together about nine years, and we were together about nine years. And there was something about adding that other digit to go to 10. You know, like if people said, "How long did you do that series for?" And if I said 10 years, I could just hear people go, "Wow, 10 years, it's just the portion size just felt too big to me."
Irritability as inspiration (26:01)
You mentioned, I guess, irritation as a wellspring of sort of cabeetic material. Is it irritation or is it sensitivity in the connotation of a very sensitive scale where you're just perceiving more? Is it a dissatisfaction or an irritability, or is there... I think your five senses have been made a little too good, and it's not quite comfortable. I have a friend, actually two friends. It's really weird, and they're married. This is a really weird story. And they both suffered from this breakdown in their hearing. There's a bone in the hearing canal that I guess it's like a little wishbone or something. You know, there's all these little fine bones in there. Yeah, this stir up all these tiny bones. Yeah, so both of them, the husband and the wife, first the wife, and then the husband like six months later. It's a very rare condition. So anyway, they both had to get this very delicate surgery on their inner ear, and they replaced that bone with a piece of titanium that's made to do the same thing. And it's actually this fantastic cure for this problem. And so they both have these titanium ears now, and when they first got it, their hearing was like too good, and it was a little uncomfortable for them. And I think now they've adjusted to it fine, but it reminded me of how I feel like my senses are. My eyes and my ears and my skin, and I just feel everything just a little more than I think I would even like to. Right. And so that's, yeah, I think that's just kind of a genetic thing, but I don't know another comedian that isn't the same, and just has this hair trigger reaction. To anything that irritates them. And a lot of it is visual, I think. I think I mentioned that in my introduction that I think jokes come from a kind of intense visual acuity. You did. Yeah, so I think that's part of where it comes from.
Harmony and the cast of Seinfeld (28:23)
If we imagine, we meaning lay audience, imagines comics in our minds eyes, you have these sort of hypersensitive cat-like creatures who might be very difficult to put into any type of group. Yes. But yet you mentioned a lack of discord on the show, which I'm not a Hollywood wonk, but I have a little bit of mileage, and that seems to be not altogether common. To what would you attribute that lack of discord? I don't like discord. And I don't like it, and I am fearless in rooting it out and solving it. And if anyone's having a problem, I'm going to walk right up to them and go, "Is there a problem? Let's talk about this." Because I cannot stand the kind of turmoil. That approach to conflict resolution is very proactive. It's not like you're being passive aggressive. It's not like you're conflict-avoidant. Is that something you got from your parents? Is that something that you just came out of the womb having, that direct addressing of discord or problems? I don't know where I got that. I feel like if you break the human struggle down to one word, it's confront. And so I kind of approach everything that way. And just the act of the confront is like, what do people always say? Like, meaning you have a problem all that nonsense. I did read some pop psychology books. I was very much a searcher in my younger years. Yoga and Zen and a little Scientology, Transcendental Meditation, Buddhism. I read a lot of stuff looking, I don't know what I was looking for. I was looking for a working philosophy, I think, is what I was looking for in life to apply. And I kind of formed my own little, I don't know if religion is the right word, but I've definitely created my own belief or operating system. I think operating system would be the best term for what I've created because it's very pragmatic. It's not faith-based in any way. But that's one of my biggest principles is confront. Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors and we'll be right back to the show. This episode is brought to you by Wealth Front. Did you know if you missed 10 of the best performing days after the 2008 crisis, you would have missed out on 50% - 5-0% of your returns. Don't miss out on the best days in the market. They invested in a long-term automated investment portfolio. Wealth Front pioneered the automated investing movement, sometimes referred to as Robo-Advisor, and they currently oversee $20 billion of assets for their clients. Wealth Front can help you diversify your portfolio, minimize fees, and lower your taxes. It takes about three minutes to sign up, and then Wealth Front will build you a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your risk appetite and manage it for you at an incredibly low cost. Wealth Front's software constantly monitors your portfolio day in and day out, so you don't have to. They look for opportunities to rebalance and tax loss harvests to lower the amount of taxes you pay on your investment gains. Their newest service is called Autopilot, and it can monitor any checking account for excess cash to move into savings or an investment account. They've really thought of a ton. They've checked a lot of boxes. Smart investing should not feel like a roller coaster ride. Let the professionals do the work for you. Go to wealthfront.com/tim and open a Wealth Front investment account today, and you'll get your first $5,000 managed for free for life. That's wealthfront.com/tim. Wealth Front will automate your investments for the long term, and you can get started today at wealthfront.com/tim. Are there any other examples that you could give from your operating system?
The importance of systems (32:17)
Any other guiding rules or principles? Or anything that's stuck from that seeking period? Well, my guiding rule is systemize. What's the problem? The problem is, like my daughter. My daughter is very creative. She's extremely bright. She's got an incredible head on her shoulders. And I see myself in her at that age. She's way further advanced than I was at that age. But she doesn't know. I say to her, she has a creative gift. When you have a creative gift, it's like someone just gave you a horse. Now, you have to learn how to ride it. You've got to learn how to ride this horse. I've seen people that are born by the dozens and dozens. I've seen people that were given black stallions. And if you have a black stallion from that movie, and you're born, and they just put you on it. And that's what happens. They just put you on it. And you either learn to ride this thing or it's going to kill you. Then we have many, many examples of that. So she's trying to write this thing. She's struggling. I can't write. I keep putting it off. So I explained to her my basic system, which you already talked about at the top of the show, which is if you're going to write, make yourself a writing session. What's the writing session? I'm going to work on this problem. Well, how long are you going to work on it? Don't just sit down with an open-ended. I'm going to work on this problem. That's a ridiculous torture to put on a human being's head. It's like you're going to hire a trainer to get in shape, and he comes over and you go, "How long is the session?" And he goes, "It's open-ended. Forget it. I'm not doing it." It's over right there. You've got to control what your brain can take. So if you're going to exercise, God bless you, and that's the best thing in the world you can do, but you've got to know when's it going to end? When's it work out over? It's going to be an hour. Okay. Or you can't take that. Let's do 30 minutes. Okay, great. Now we're getting somewhere. I can do 30. I'm trying to teach my son who knows how to do trans-endental meditation. How to do it. I assume you know about that. I do. Yeah, I practice this morning. I can't do it 15 minutes. I go, "Okay, let's do 10. Let's do 10. Let's come up with something you can do." That's where you start, everything. That's how you start to build a system. So my daughter, so I said to her, "You have to have an end time to your writing session. If you're going to sit down at a desk with a problem and do nothing else, you've got to get a reward for that." And the reward is the alarm goes off and you're done. You get up and walk away and go have some cookies and milk. You're done. If you have the guts and the balls to sit down and write, you need a reward at the other end of that session, which is stop now pencils down. So that's the beginning of a system that to me will help almost anybody learn to write, which is something I kind of wanted to teach in a way. Because I find it, I think it's so simple. I think exercise is pretty simple too. But people don't, they don't come up with good, simple little systems. They just try and do it. And that's to me, that's you're going to fail. The simple doesn't mean easy. No, no, not easy. It's so important. The incentives, right, having a reward, having a defined format, how long did your daughter end up choosing for her writing duration? Or how long have you chosen? I told her, just do an hour. That's a lot. She says, I'm going to write all day. No, you're not. Nobody writes all day. Shakespeare can't write all day. It's torture. Yeah. If you taught a class on writing, what other lessons might you have or resources or anything, exercises?
If he taught a class on writing (36:23)
Because I'm imagining that your daughter could sit down. She says, "I'm going to have an hour." And then you ask her how her writing session went. She said, "Well, I didn't have any idea what to write." So you'd have, I don't know what age the students would be in your course. But what else would be a component of your class on writing? Well, have you teach them to learn to accept your mediocrity? You know, no one's really that great. You know, who's great? The people that just put tremendous amount of hours into it. It's a game of tonnage. You know, how many years are you going to work per week, per month, per year? You might even want to chart that. Or with your exercise, if you want to get in shape. I couldn't get in shape. I was like a, I was a jogger, you know, like in the 70s. And I would run three miles a day. And then I got older and I got married late and I had young kids. And I really had to get in shape. And I picked up this book by Bill Phillips called "Body for Life." "Body for Life, yeah." And it's really, really, so it's such a system for a primitive, you know, brain. I do it to this day. I think it's a work of genius, this book. And it really got me in shape because he broke it down to, "Here's what we're going to do in minute one. Here's what you're going to do in minute five, minute twelve. And this is going to end in the 45 minutes or whatever it is. And every minute, I know exactly what I'm doing. And that, like, turned the key for me. And all of a sudden, I was getting in shape. I never had to ask, "What am I doing now? Or what are we doing next?" It was very, it's like you've got to treat your brain like a dog you just got. You've got to... It's so stupid. The brain, the mind is infinite in wisdom. The brain is a stupid little dog that is easily trained. You've got to use the mind with the brain. The brain is so easy to master. You just have to confine it. You confine it. Yeah. And it's done through repetition and systemization. So let's talk about feedback in the experimental loop that you mentioned earlier, which was desk stage, desk stage, desk stage.
On feedback (38:43)
One form of feedback would be audience feedback. And I'm curious what other forms of feedback you have. No, there is no other feedback. That means anything. Okay, got it. Well, I'll tell you, here's a little fine point of writing technique that I'll pass along to your writers out there. Never talk to anyone about what you wrote that day, that day. You have to wait 24 hours to ever say anything to anyone about what you did. Because you never want to take away that wonderful, happy feeling that you did that very difficult thing that you tried to do, that you accomplished it. You wrote. You sat down and wrote. So if you say anything, it's like the same reason I've ever heard the thing, like you never tell people the name you're going to give the baby. Sure. Until it's born because they're going to react. And the reaction is going to have a color. And if you've decided that that's going to be the baby's name, you don't want to know what anybody else thinks. So I will always wait 24 hours before I say anything to anyone about what I wrote. So you want to preserve that good feeling. Because if you, let's say you write something and you love it. And then later on that day, you're talking to someone and you thought, "Hey, what do you think of this idea? Blah, blah, blah." And they don't love it. Now that day feels like, "Ugh, I guess, you know, that that was a wasted effort." Right. So you always want to reward yourself. The key to writing, between a good writer, is to treat yourself like a baby, very extremely nurturing and loving. And then switch over to Lugasit in "Offers are in a Gentleman." And just be a harsh prick, ballbusting son of a bitch about that is just not good enough. That's got to come out. Or it's got to be redone or thrown away. So flipping back and forth between those two brain quadrants is the key to writing. When you're writing, you want to treat your brain like a toddler. It's just all nurturing and loving and supportiveness. And then when you look at it the next day, you want to be just a hard ass. And you switch back and forth. When you would come off stage and feel like you had really nailed the set, you just killed. Would you ask for feedback from other comics who you might respect, who are there, would you do something to celebrate instead? Well, you just got feedback. You don't need to ask the professionals. That's the paradise of stand-up comedy. You don't have to ask anyone anything. Stand-up comics receive a score on what they're doing more often and more critically than any other human on stage. You don't have to ask another human on earth. Even a pitcher, he's not on the mound for an hour and twenty minutes straight. Having his pitches judged by the umpire. And by the way, some of those calls are opinions of the umpire that may or may not be true. Every opinion the audience gives you is 100% accurate. Right. How they feel is fact. What's that advantage?
On self-rewards (42:29)
When you did well, much like after checking the box of doing an hour-long writing session, would you reward yourself? Or was that not part of the process for you? I've rewarded myself constantly. I mean, but there's no greater reward than that state of mind that you're in. When that set is working, if you can extricate yourself from your self, which is the goal in all, sports and performance arts, if you get out of your mind and are able to just function, you know, your sense technique that you have, there is no greater reward. But, you know, if you want to have ice cream sundae, go ahead. It's going to pale in comparison. Yeah. Did you have a long-term plan? Let's just, if we go back to the early days, did you have any type of long-term career plan for yourself, or was it really the ball in front of you and executing on that one next step, and then the career emerged from that approach or something else? Are you asking me if I had a backup plan if stand-up didn't work out? Is that what you're doing? No, I'm asking you if you had a long-term career plan within the world of comedy. I didn't even know if you could make a living as a stand-up comedian unless you were George Carlin. So I didn't know anything about it. And the truth was there really wasn't a world, like an infrastructure that latter can exist today. We didn't know if there was any jobs out there, even if we were able to learn how to do it. We had no idea what we were doing. It was completely blind leap of faith out of the plane with the parachute hoping there wasn't laundry in there. What is the feeling? You mentioned it. I would love, as someone who is hypersensitive, for you to describe that feeling that would make an ice cream sundae superfluous, that feeling of getting that feedback. What is it in the body? What is it or in the mind? However you want to answer that. What does it feel like to you? I sometimes will describe it as math and music, which is kind of the same thing. Music is so mathematical. As is stand-up, is extremely mathematical. So, you know, I mean, I certainly don't have to tell you what, that you're just looking for a state of mind. You're trying to maneuver yourself into a state of mind that you know is your highest function level. But there are many levels below that are good enough to get the job done so that you can call yourself a professional. So, that's all there is, you know, is it's musical. It's very rhythmic and musical. It is for me. I'm looking for to get myself in a rhythm and then to get the audience in a rhythm, very much like a conductor, I think, would feel. You know, a conductor has a piece of music. I have a piece of music in front of me. And now I have to get the symphony to be doing it the way we know it can be. And then the audience comes along and supports that. And it's this absurd struggle. And I really think being a conductor or a surfer is the best analogy because the forces that you're attempting to corral are so much greater than you. The wave has so much more strength than you have. All you can hope to do is navigate within it. That's the goal, to just get to that very brief, very transitory perception of mastery. It seems in this moment that I am completely mastering this audience. But it's only a moment. It's only a moment. I couldn't stay up there very long. Even an hour is not a long time. Totally. You know, it's not a long time. And it takes years and years and years of work and study and practice to be able to do that. To do the hour. The hour is really the standard in my business. A lot of people can do 20. Some can do 35. A lot of really good guys at 45. An hour, an hour, 15. I think, again, I'll go to my favorite, which is baseball for an hour. It's baseball for analogies. It's the complete game. Can you finish the game? And that's the hour, 10 hour, 20. That's nine innings of mastery. Yeah, you need to have not just a lot of material, but a lot of practice and tonnage as you put it. To perform at a high level for that period of time and manage their energy and yours. It has to ebb and flow. And that's just to piggyback on the analogy. It used very much similar sports and had a lot of athletes on the show. Even some surfing legends like Laird Hamilton, they'll say they should call surfing paddling. Because that's what you're actually doing most of the time. What you get to show at the end of the day is the cover shot surfing the big wave, but that's really the output of a lot of tonnage.
Other routines (47:49)
And I know you've been quoted as thinking of yourself more as a sportsman than an artist. For a lot of athletes, routine is super key to managing energy and putting in the reps and producing good results. There's a quote from you in the New York Times, and the quote is, "I'm not OCD, but I love routine. I get less depressed with routine." Aside from the writing sessions, are there any other routines for you that are particularly important as scaffolding or automatic behaviors? Exercise, weight training, and transcendental meditation. I think I could solve just about anyone's life, and I don't care what you do. With weight training and transcendental meditation, I think your body needs that stress, that stressor. And I think it builds the resilience of the nervous system. And I think transcendental meditation is the absolutely ultimate work tool. I think the stress reduction is great, but it's more the energy recovery and the concentration fatigue solution, which is, of course, you know, as a stand up comic, I can tell you my entire life is concentration fatigue. Whether it's writing or performing, my brain and my body, which is the same thing, are constantly hitting the wall. And if you have that in your hip pocket, you're Columbus with a compass. He was chatting with Hugh Jackman on the podcast, and he's also a devout, seems like an outward to use, since it can be used quite secularly, but a proponent of TM. How many times, what does your weekly schedule look like for weight training? When do you do it? And do you do TM twice a day? I do it at least twice a day, but I will do it anytime I feel like I'm dipping. Energenically. Yeah. Yeah. If I sit down and the pen doesn't move for like 20 minutes, I know, I'm out of guess. Why is the pen moving? My weight training routine is three times a week for an hour, a session, but I've been into that. I mentioned the Bill Phillips body for life. Body for life. The HIIT training. So it's three times a week of weights and three times a week, the interval cardio training. There are a lot of days where I want to cry instead of do it, because it really physically hurts, but I just think it's balancing. It's very balancing to the forces inside humanity that I think are just the over wellness. We are overwhelmed by our own power. And you got to put that ox in the plow. Make it do the stuff that it doesn't want to do. It just keeps it. What the hell do oxes do in the wild? I can't imagine they were happy. Checking Twitter. Just developing neuroses. Put it in the harness. I don't know. A lot of my life is I don't like getting depressed. I get depressed a lot. I hate the feeling. And these routines, these very difficult routines, whether it's exercise or writing, and both of them are things where it's like it's brutal. That's another thing I was explaining to my daughter. She's frustrated that writing is so difficult, because no one told her that it's the most difficult thing in the world. It's the most difficult thing in the world is to write. People tell you to write like you can do it, like you're supposed to be able to do it. Nobody can do it. It's impossible. The greatest people in the world can't do it. So if you're going to do it, you should first be told what you are attempting to do is incredibly difficult. One of the most difficult things there is. Way harder than weight training. Way harder. What you're summoning, trying to summon within your brain and your spirit to create something onto a blank page. That's another part of my systemization technique. Learn how to encourage yourself. That's why you don't tell someone what you wrote. Be proud of yourself. Encourage yourself well for having done that horrible, horribly impossible thing.
Larry'S Perspective On Failure, Pain, And Work Habits
Pain is knowledge filling a void at great speed (52:27)
I would have to imagine, and maybe this is just a projection, because I hope that when I have kids, which I don't have yet, that this will be true for me, but that being kind to your creative self and offering positive reinforcement for yourself through the process would affect how you parent. I would have to imagine. Yes, unfortunately, we seem to have lost the luggas side of parenting. Pescue Child Protective Services. What do they know? But yeah, it is similar. You want to be very encouraging, but you also want to explain there are laws in life that you need to know about or it's going to hurt. I think one of the better lines I've come up with over my life is that pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void with great speed. Can you say that one more time, please? Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void. You don't know that that post of your bed was not where you thought it was, but when your foot hits it, that knowledge is going to come rushing in really fast. It's going to really hurt when your foot hits that post, because that was a piece of knowledge that you didn't have. You're going to get. You're about to get. You were talking about Black Stallion and learning to ride Black Stallion, unless you be broken yourself by your superpowers/potential murderers.
On the allure of depression (53:56)
I've struggled with depression for decades and have found some respite in the last five or six years for a whole host of reasons. But aside from the writing and weight training, is there anything else that has contributed to your ability to either stave off or mitigate depressive episodes or manage? No. I still got them. Still got them. The best thing I ever heard about it was that it's part of a kit that comes with a creative aspect to the brain. That a tendency to depression seems to always accompany that. I read that like 20 years ago, and that really made me happy. I realized, well, I wouldn't have all this other good stuff that just comes in the kit that you have a tendency to depression. But I think it's fair to say that I don't know a human that doesn't have the tendency. I'm sure it varies. I have a number of friends who are in comedy, and a lot of them are afraid of getting any type of treatment or taking antidepressants because they worry that it would rob them of their comedic insight. I don't know if that's something you've run into yourself, or is it more that you accept it as a natural byproduct or companion to the subject? The sensitivity. I would agree with a chemical intervention and to stabilize your mood. I would be nervous about that also. Besides which, as you know, as we all know, there are many other better remedies that basically a pair of running shoes is probably better than any of the drugs they have on the market, depending on the severity of course. Or at least make sure that you're adding those elements into your life. Since I think we all know people who take antidepressants and are still depressed, so it's worthwhile to tick off the bigger boxes. Behavior, at least. I don't think depression is really a creative source. I think irritability and crankiness is. Right. But not depression. Depression is just an annoying thing we have to deal with. You gave me a quote, I'll ask you one more question, and then we can go a little more. I'm enjoying this so much. Let's go. Alright, let's do it.
Favorite failures (56:24)
I'd love to ask about following up on depression. I'd love to ask about failure. Just to keep this bright and shiny. Can you think of how a particular failure or a parent failure set you up for later success? In other words, do you have a favorite failure of any type? Something that seemed catastrophic at the time that, in fact, set you up for great things later? Yeah, yeah. I have a couple, really good ones. And there's another thing I try and teach the kids, you know, and something horrible happens. I think of all the things I would trade, if you could take your experiences and ask to trade them in, the last ones I would trade would be the failures. Those are the most valuable ones. When I moved to LA, I was only doing comedy four years, but I had built up a pretty good reputation in New York. And New York was really in those days still very much the minors to LA, which was the majors. And so I went out to LA and people talked that I was coming and that I was, you know, one of the hot guys coming out of New York. I was only doing it four years. I was, you know, 25 years old. I mean, I really still just starting. And the comedy store was the club in LA that you had to break into. That was the club. And the guys that worked there and the women were killers. I mean, these people made the room just shake with laughter. It was very intimidating to go on there. And I went on there and I did very well. You know, in those days you would call and they would give you spots if you were good. And I would never get spots. I would get like one spot a week. And, you know, one spot a week is like one push up a week. It's like, you get it. Don't even bother. And so I asked to meet with Mitzi Shor, who's the owner of the club and person who ran the whole thing there. And she said to me, she said, I'm the kind of person that needs to get stepped on. And that's what you need. You need someone to step on you and I'm going to be that person. And she said, if you called and said, if I had four spots available and you called in, I would give all four spots to this other guy. She mentions this other guy. And I sat there in her office and I nodded. I nodded and I said, well, I won't mention the name of the guy. She said she was going to give the four spots to. I said, well, if maybe he can't do all four, I'd be happy to take any of the ones he can't do. And I walked out of there and I never worked at the Comedy Store again. And saying you're not working at the Comedy Store in LA, it's like saying, I want to be a baseball player, but not the majors. Not the majors in the United States. I'm going to apply my trade someplace else. You can try to lift away. Yeah. Yeah. And so from there, I went from, I hope it doesn't sound as modest, from being absolutely at the top of the heap in New York City to playing at discos in the basement in LA, you know, to like eight people. But my resentment and hostility to her. I was a guy who, well, I would say I was a three day a week guy in terms of my writing discipline in those days. And I went from three days a week to seven right there. And I was like, okay, we're not, this is, this is, I was angry. I was angry. I was frustrated. I was resentful. But I used that. It was just fuel for me. She wasn't stopping me. Nobody was going to stop me. But when someone is that hostile to you, that can be a very good thing. If you're tough, if you're tough enough to eat that shit and say I'm, she's not stopping me. That's a great story. I actually think, one of my friends, Alexis O'Hanyan co-founded Reddit. And at one point early on, they were super excited about, of course, their company, their baby. They'd put all of their waking hours into it. And they met with some Yahoo executive who was basically just fishing for inside information. And at some point in the meeting, this exec said, oh, there's your traffic? Oh, that's a rounding error for us. And so Alexis and his guys took a huge, they made a poster that said you are a rounding error and put it on the wall in their office. Yeah. It worked. It worked.
Writing three days a week vs. writing seven (01:01:14)
It worked. So what then transpired after you went from three days a week to seven days a week, when did you get a glimmer of hope or vindication? The Tonight Show saw me. And every comedian in the world wanted to get on the Tonight Show in the 70s and 80s. And it was the only way out of the clubs to real gigs was to be on the Tonight Show. The clubs was, you're working for free. Right. Free. Zero. You know, that's not really the object. The object is to get paid. The object is to be a professional. So when you're on the Tonight Show, you're going from the service road to lane one. No more Applebee's. Yeah. In five minutes. And I told that story in the book too. What that felt like. You know, my favorite sporting thing. I mean, I'm a baseball maniac, but the 100 meters in the Olympics is a thing I love. I love the 100 meters. And that's what happens when you did the Tonight Show in those days. When I see Lindsey Vaughn at the top of the mountain or I see those guys kicking their legs when they're in the blocks, you know, I know what that feels like. I know. And I'm very grateful that I know that. You know, if you're an adrenaline junkie, which I am, there's no good comedian that isn't. It's a big treat in life to know how that feels that I'm going to change my whole life in the next three minutes. How many times did you rehearse that three minute segment of material?
The Tonight Show: the first appearance (01:03:00)
I mean, I would imagine you must have done it a thousand times before you. A thousand. Yeah. A thousand.
Mitzi Shore of The Comedy Store (01:03:13)
Did you ever have another conversation with Mitzi Shor or did any, did you ever convey any message to her or have any communication? I did. When I got my TV series in the 90s, I moved up to this fantastic house in the Hollywood Hills that overlooked all of LA. Every day, I would drive down the hill to go to the studio to work on the show. I would see Mitzi taking her walk on a nearby street that we happened to have in common. And I would always give her a nice look. I wouldn't wave her hunk, but our eyes met. Newman. Newman. Newman. And you know what? Maybe she was right. Maybe I did need someone to step on me. Why did she respond that way? That just seems so aggressive. Did you do anything? Because I would never be the broken, the type of broken wingbird that she wanted to have in her little chicken coop of dysfunction that was the commonly filling of days. I was not built like that. All we don't want to be a stand up comic is because I wanted to say to myself and to the world, I don't need you. I can do this myself. And the comedy store was filled with people that needed her. The comedy world knows that he was a drug. It's a very dysfunctional world, a comedy world. Because you're taking these people that can't fit in, they can't, you know, they have this one skill. And then you put them in a situation where they can get anything they want. And so whatever dysfunctional chemical, sexual, you're lazy, you're broken, you're messed up, you know, now you have no structure around you to fix it. You know what I mean? You're out in the world. You're completely on your own. It's designed to break human beings. Stand up comedy. It's a perfect way to break a person psychologically. You know, I've only been to the comedy store once. I was brought there by a friend and I went into one of the back rooms. I'm sure you would know the name of this room, but they listed off a whole lot of old names. I want to say, Sam Kinneson and a bunch of others. And they said, this is where they used to be. This was the green room, blah, blah, blah, blah. And there was this huge table with a mirror top with thousands of scratches on it and not from fingernails. Right? And you just think, oh my God, if you don't have rails to stay on, I mean, pun intended, I guess the environment is just designed to destroy. And yes, but that's part of the fun also. The moguls of this. If you, it's like you're a fish in the Hudson. It's a toxic environment. The attrition is brutal. You never have to say, I don't get why people like this comedian. Don't worry. Don't worry. You don't have to comment on it. The environment itself will correct. It is a self-correcting ecosystem of pure toxic water. The self-sufficiency or desire for self-sufficiency that you give voice to, the proving to others that you don't need, that you can do it on your own, seems to be a very sharp contrast to a lot of entertainers I know, including comics who seem to have a lot of codependency, right?
The Concept Of Success
Self-sufficiency and gamification (01:06:40)
Like they need the audience to validate like they need life support if they had respiratory collapse. And was that perspective and that character or constitution rare? I have to say the constitution is kind of rare. But I also have to say I don't know anyone who made it over a long period of time that didn't have it. Yeah. And that's another thing that kind of leads me to the weight training aspect. I think it builds your constitution. Mm-hmm. Yeah. The weight training, you know, I just want to give credit where credit is due with Bill Phillips. I read that book long time ago. It was before my second book, which was on physical performance. And I was really impressed because it is to me first and foremost a book about behavioral modification and behavioral psychology. And it really nails those elements really, really well. And, you know, if I think back across the hundreds of interviews on this podcast, whether it's Bob Iger in the world of business and heading Disney or an athlete or otherwise if you look at the people who have really performed at a high level for decades, weight training seems to be one of the constants or one of the near constants. Yeah, because you're deteriorating. You're just trying to bend that curve a little bit. You know, I'm 66. I shouldn't be performing at this level at 66. I should be over. So you have to cheat the biology. Yeah. I mean, I suppose I could have tried to do the math. I never would have guessed. Do you just wake up some days and find that number to be unbelievable to you? Or is it a foregone conclusion, I guess, because you're in your own body and go year by year? I find it funny and I find it very, it really makes the game fun. Because I know this should not be happening. I am getting away with murder. So I love, it really makes it, that's another thing I believe in. I believe we've talked about systemizing. Gamifying is another thing I'm very big on. Let's make this into a game. You know, whatever the problem is, let's make it a game. To me, it's a fun game. I honestly, you know, I wouldn't say this around my family, but I don't care if I dropped dead tomorrow. It's like, I just wanted to, I still feel like I played the game well. You know? Yeah. That's all I want to feel. I just want to feel like I played the game well. What would be an example of gamifying? I mean, I've read, of course, the, about the, you know, Seinfeld's productivity secret, the marking, the crosses on the calendar, which I guess some people better. Yeah, that's not really a game. Yeah. That's more based stat. I think stats are good. If you want to improve anything, my trainer, Adam Wright, and I always like to play this game. Well, this was the maximum amount of weight you did three months ago. For this many seconds or whatever. And then it's like, that's, so it's a game now. Let's see if I can keep the reps going for 30 seconds. Last time was 25. So it's a little game. It's just, again, this just goes back to my, the human brain is a Schnauzer. It's just a stupid little contraption that you can easily trick. As soon as you tell me, I did it 25 seconds last time. Okay. Let's say if I can do 30. Yeah. That's not wisdom. That's not intelligence. It's a stupid little machine. It's going to do that every single time. Every time you tell someone your last best was 25 seconds, you're going to try for 30. Well, thinking back to the, what ox do when they're not in a yoke and how disquieted they would be if they were checking Twitter all day. Yeah. Oxen in the wild. Yeah. In the world of dog training, I know a couple of really high level dog trainers. And one of the expressions you hear, it's kind of this mantra like you would find in the military or something, which is a tired dog is a happy dog. And just ensuring that your dog is properly exerted. Uh huh. Yes. I think there's a lot to that as a human also. Yeah. Yeah. So if you're looking at gamification in the, let's just say the fitness realm, are there other ways that you've applied that to your creative or professional work? I guess you have these logs. So in a way, I mean, you have. Yeah. But I don't believe, I don't score myself creatively. I don't believe in that. This kind of gets into my thoughts on material. I don't know if this will illuminate this for you. But one time, I love to go on stage at Gotham and hearing about the vaccine today got me very excited that maybe I'll be going back there soon on the 23rd street in the city. And that's where I like to play with material. So I always, I'll go there and I'll go on stage. I'll do 20 or 30 minutes of just working on material. And then I like to take questions from the audience. You know, when I, when I perform for gigs, the audiences are too big to really take questions. It's too difficult, but in a room of a couple, you can take questions. So one night, this guy says to me, he says, when you go back to the same city twice, do you ever worry that they're going to see the same show you did last time? Or how do you know what you did? And how do you know when it's time to take a piece of material out of your act that you've been doing it too long? And it needs to be retired and you should do something else. And you know, these are kind of reasonable questions from a regular person. And I said, so these pieces I was doing tonight, I said, do you think that you could think of things similar to this? And the guy says, oh, God, no, not in a million years. And I went, yeah, that's what I was thinking. So what that does to me, the point of that story is, if I'm going on stage and I'm doing these bits, however long it took me to figure this stupid bit out, you know, and however many years I've been doing it, which I don't even know, just be glad I'm doing that, you know, it's a good thing. It's a good thing. So this goes to my nurturing side of the equation. If you're going on stage and standing in front of a group of strangers and trying to make them laugh, God bless you. I don't give a shit what you do. I don't care if it's old stuff, new stuff. I don't care if you're dirty, if you're clean, if you're going to stand up there by yourself and try and make me laugh, I love you. And I'm not going to criticize anything you do beyond that. I'm not going to criticize it. And you shouldn't criticize yourself either. So in other words, it's no, to go back to do I gamify it. No, it's always a win. If I got up there and tried to do it, I win, even if I didn't reach what I'm trying to reach, even if I, to me, it's like a four out of 10 show, I still pat myself on the back for it. It's still a win. Yeah.
Survival as the new success (01:14:22)
It's still a win. When you hear the word successful, who comes to mind for you and why? Could be parents, could be outside of parents, could be anybody. But for you, when you hear that word, is there anyone who is really a sort of paragon of what you would consider success or someone you have looked up to as someone who is successful? Well, that's a pretty broad, hyper broad. It comes down to kind of how you define it also. You know, I think, I don't know if I mean it as a joke, but I say a lot these days, survival is the new success. I'm a big, look, Tim, what do you want me to tell you? In my business, if you're 60 plus or if you're 55 and you're getting paid to work paid well, you have crushed it. So stand up comedy, you know, I would move this piece of our conversation next to the toxic ecosystem of this world. When you have seen the attrition that I have seen, it's like in the heart of the sea, you know that book? Yep. Ron Howard made the movie when they're dropping like flies and the handful, that small handful, somebody asked me the other day, how many people whose careers were made on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson are still working? I didn't want to answer the question. So longevity is what I, because you had it, you know what I mean? You had it. You had it. So once you have it, you can only lose it. You know, you can only fail to take care of it. And that's when we get to health and work ethic and managing yourself so that you don't break because they're trying to break you. I always tease my friend Jimmy Fallon that this is like a sick experiment, these talk show gigs. Let's take a human being, put him in a studio for decades, doing an hour of television a day and let's see what breaks. It's sick. It's a sick human experiment. Like it's like a Pope job. It's like they just do it till you're dead. The forever Skinner box. Yeah. Yeah, that's brutal. Brittle. Now, I mean, there's a fantastic book about stand up that I read during the virus called Seriously Funny and the guy writes only about communities of the 50s and 60s and the introduction of that book, which is like 20 pages long, and he goes through Woody and Lenny and Joan Rivers and all these great people and how it broke one after the other, one after the other was broken by it that they either will worn out or their brains cracked or their psychology cracked or, you know, it just took them apart. It's a very, very difficult profession to sustain in. So just to survive to me is the game. That's my concept of success. Did you beat them at their game? They're just they designed this thing to kill you. The travel, you realize what it takes to travel to go to the airport in your 50s and your 60s to fly on planes, to go to strange cities, to go to hotels, to put on a suit, to go out on stage at eight o'clock at night and run around and yell, you know, and project your physical energy for an hour in front of thousands of people. They're trying to kill you. So I have made it into a game like it's like Mitzi. I'm going to step on you and I went, no, no, I'm going to step on you. That's the game we're playing. That's life. Life is they're trying to kill you. You get this free ride till you're let's be generous, 43. And then God goes, you know what? I'm going to move on to the people in their 16 to 23 and I'm going to give them my best. If you want to hang around, you can hang around, but I'm not giving you anything anymore. It's on you now. If you want to stick around, but I got nothing for you. You figure it out. So this caught my attention because I'm exactly 43. So perfect. Oh, we got to end up. Oh, yeah. I'm not going to ask you to leave, but I got nothing for you. I'm going to start giving these 15 year old girls amazing stuff and the boys. I'm going to give them crazy bias. That's my focus. My focus is 15 year olds turning them into super humans. You come with you. Yeah, I'm the eight foot sturgeon in the Hudson barely limping along. Yeah. No one's going to ask you to leave, but we're not giving you anything. No food. No help. There was no help. Survival is the new success. If you have time for one or two questions, then we'll I can bring this to a close. I need to go do some interval training. Eat some lentils.
Jerry’s billboard (01:20:21)
This is a question that sometimes hits a dead end and I'll take the blame for that if it does. You've already given a bunch of possible answers to this, but if you had a billboard, metaphorically speaking, that could get a message, a quote, an image question, anything out to billions of people, what might you put on that billboard? Back in the 80s, I had a friend who was teaching a comedy course at the improv on Melrose in LA and he asked me if I would come in and talk to the class and I said, sure, I went in and there was like, I don't know, there'll be 20 people in the class in the afternoon. And I went up on stage and I said, the fact that you have even signed up for this class is a very bad sign for what you're trying to do. The fact that you think anyone can help you or there's anything that you need to learn, you have gone off on a bad track because nobody knows anything about any of this. And if you want to do it, what I really should do is I should have a giant flag behind me that I would pull a string and it would roll down and on the flag would just say two words, just work. Just work. Just work. Yeah, I love it. Well that is I think an excellent place to wrap up. Jerry, people can find you on all the socials, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, @jerrysignfeld. The new book is, is this anything which features your best work across five decades. That's nuts in comedy and it's a fascinating book and a hell of a ride. I highly recommend people checking out it. For anyone who's a student of creative process, doesn't have to be comedy but craft, whatever that craft happens to be, I think you are real exemplar of just doing the work but doing it in a also a systematic way which is a particular species of working that I think makes a beautiful case study. This has been so much fun for me. I really appreciate you taking the time, Jerry. Thanks. I love talking with you Tim and your podcast is the best. Oh, thanks so much. It really makes my day to have the chance to have a conversation with you. I've had the bass riff from Seinfeld going through my head all day and in prep for this and it's a real gift that you're showcasing and sharing your notes with the world over such a period of time. I mean it is I think something that will really provide, like you said, just work but nonetheless will provide so much help and inspiration to people who are just setting out. Unlike the 43-year-old 8-foot sturgeons, those 15-year-olds and 15- to 20-year-olds and I will let you get back to your day but this has been great and please do let me know if I can help in any way or with anything else. Oh, it's been a great pleasure Tim. Great pleasure. Thank you for the kind words. It's much appreciated. Absolutely. And to everybody listening, we'll have links to everything including Is This Anything in the show notes as per usual at Tim.blog/podcast and until next time, thanks for tuning in. Hey guys, this is Tim again, just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Phyble at Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little more soul of fun for the weekend? And Phyble at Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to 4hourworkweek.com. That's 4hourworkweek.com. I'll spell it out and just drop in your email and you'll get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you by Rockform. That's without a C. R-O-K-F-O-R-M. Rockform is the active lifestyle, iPhone and Galaxy protective case company. I've been using their stuff for a few months now. And good God, they can survive anything. First off, Rockform protection is beyond great. You can find thousands of five-star reviews and customer testimonials, which the team at Rockform calls survival stories that include things like a drop from the upper deck of a baseball stadium and a 75-foot cell phone tower fall. It's kind of unbelievable, but these cases make your phone virtually indestructible. Each case is built also around an integrated magnet that is completely safe for your phone. The magnets are incredibly strong and allow you to instantly attach your device to any magnetic surface, toolboxes, file cabinets, refrigerators, golf carts, you name it. I use it in the gym to check my form all the time. You can just slap it on just about anything. Rockform pioneered magnetic technology in the mobile accessory space in 2011. And I've never seen anything quite like these magnets. I will use mine on my Peloton bike so I can watch, listen, and take calls during workouts. It fits my iPhone 11 Pro Max perfectly and allows me to keep my hands free for all sorts of stuff. All their cases also come with a built-in twist lock system that can be used with any of Rockform's optional mounts for bike, motorcycle, car, and much more. These machine-deluminant mounts are built last and are compatible with every Rockform case. So if you get a new phone or whatever, you just need a new case and it will still attach to all of the mounts. Rockform also has a portable golf speaker, this is Bluetooth that instantly mounts to a golf cart with mind-blowingly strong magnets. I mentioned I don't really golf, but I will use this Bluetooth speaker to listen to music in the kitchen. I'll slap it on the refrigerator. I will use it in the gym and hang it from a carabiner which is included with the speaker and so on and so forth. So upgrade to a Rockform case today because you have better things to hold on to. You can use your hands for other stuff and like I mentioned, these things make your phone a little bit. And as a special offer for Tim Ferris, you'll listeners, that's you guys, get 25% off. That is a good discount. 25% off at rockform.com, that's R-O-K-F-O-R-M.com. When you use promo code TIM, that's 25% off at R-O-K-F-O-R-M.com. When you use promo code TIM, one more time, rockform.com. Promo code TIM. This episode is brought to you by Aura O-U-R-A. It is the only wearable that I wear on a daily basis. Aura is the company behind the smart ring that delivers personalized sleep and health insights to help you optimize just about everything. And I've tried every device out there that you can imagine. This one really makes the cut. I've been using it religiously for at least six months now, and I was introduced to it by Dr. Peter Atia, who's also vetted just about everything. With advanced sensors, Aura Pack's state-of-the-art heart rate, heart rate variability, HRV, super important to me, temperature activity and sleep monitoring technology into a convenient non-invasive ring. It's tiny. It weighs less than six grams and focuses on three key insights, sleep, readiness and activity. I can use it to help focus my attention on the type, volume, intensity of exercise that I should do in a given day. I use it to determine how certain types of alcohol at different times of the day affect my sleep, which they do. I can see all of that in graph form trended over time. There are tons of actionable insights that have come from using this ring for me. They have a number of incredible people on their team, Dr. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, and also author of Why We Sleep, the mega hit is Aura's chief science advisor, as just one example. The Aura Ring is one of the most accurate wearables available because it measures your vitals directly from your finger. So it's not deducing that or making a best guesstimate based on a bunch of other things and trying to triangulate. Compared to a medical grade electrocardiogram, the Aura Ring is 99.9% accurate for a study testing heart rate and 98.4% accurate for heart rate variability. And I work with HRB doctors and they recommend that I use the Aura Ring. So try it yourself. It is super cool and super practical, very actionable. The Aura Ring comes in two styles and three colors, silver, black and matte black. I use matte black. For $299, you can give or get the gift of health by visiting auraring.com. That's O-U-R-A-R-I-N-G.com. Again, that's auraring.com.