#18: Comedy Writer Nick Malis

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

I had a lot of questions for comedy writer Nick Malis: When did he get it into his head that maybe he could write jokes for a living? How did he break into the business? What does it feel like to write for other comics versus getting the laughs for yourself?

Nick gamely answered everything I asked, and he even told me about his brief foray into writing porn scripts. Since my aim from the start has been to make Work Stew as wide-ranging and inclusive as possible, that was truly an unexpected delight.

About Nick Malis: As a student at Harvard, Nick Malis worked on the Lampoon, the campus magazine that has jumpstarted so many comedy careers. Nick’s first stop after graduation was The Howard Stern Show, where he had worked as a summer intern before finding his way into a more writerly role. He then went on to work as a joke writer for Joan Rivers. Over the years, Nick has contributed to a wide variety of TV shows including Celebrity Undercover, Spy TV, and The Biggest Loser. In 2009, Nick’s blog Cute Things Falling Asleep (exactly what it sounds like) became a global sensation practically overnight. Currently, Nick works as the head writer and supervising producer of Comedy Central’s hit show Tosh.O. 

#17: Flight Attendant-Turned-Gorilla Caretaker John Safkow

Listen to the interview by clicking the arrow on the audio player below.

John Safkow was a flight attendant for more than twenty years before he left the airline industry to become a gorilla caretaker. (Yes, he reports that, by and large, gorillas are in fact more evolved than airline passengers.)

I wanted to talk to John in part because his career path is unique: he is, it seems, quite literally the only flight attendant-turned-gorilla caretaker on the planet. But I was also struck by the fact that John’s story has lessons for us all: he pulled off a mid-life career change that might have seemed impossible, and just as he pursued his childhood passion for flying in his first career, his second career is also centered around a personal passion: caring for animals.

About John Safkow: John Safkow worked for United Airlines and several other carriers for over 20 years before taking a job at The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California. The Gorilla Foundation is home to Koko, whose ability to communicate using American Sign Language has made her the world’s most famous gorilla.

Even though John no longer works as a flight attendant, he remains a close observer of the airline industry’s ups and downs, which he chronicles on his cheeky and informative website MarthaStewardess.com.

#16: Author Alethea Black

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You wouldn’t know it from the photograph, but Alethea Black has worked hard at being a writer. Her first collection of short stories, I Knew You’d Be Lovely, came out last month. Since then, her life (at least from the outside looking in) has been one long party: readings at New York’s hottest spots, rave reviews, wine, cheese, more wine! But what was the run-up to the party like? That’s what I most wanted to know. I’ve always imagined that it must be pretty easy to call yourself a writer after your first book comes out…but what do you call yourself, and how do you persevere, in the years and years before that? Alethea was refreshingly frank about her writerly life, and I found myself admiring, and coveting, her gentle strength.

About Alethea Black: Alethea Black was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard College in 1991. Her debut collection of short stories, I Knew You’d Be Lovely (Broadway Books/Random House), was chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for Fall 2011, and is an Oprah.com Book of the Week. The winner of the 2008 Arts & Letters Prize, Alethea lives in Dutchess County, New York.