Writing, Fear, And The Comedian Economist

Comedians are the ultimate economists.

The setup of a joke has to be commensurate with the punchline.

Payoff vs. investment. Paid for with time and attention.

Cut every word until the next renders the joke unintelligible.

‘There’s no such thing as fun for the whole family.’ – Jerry Seinfeld


I go through a writing curve every week. I heap on words for three days until I’m sure there’s an idea. Then for three days I chop, as many hundreds as I can. Like a sculptor preparing a hunk of clay, although it feels less like Michelangelo and more like I’m serving kebab.

I know craft comes with time but I think there’s also an element of fear.

In ‘Playing Big’ Tara Mohr[1] talks about the two sides of fear from the Hebrew bible, pachad and yirah.

Pachad is an imagined fear. Adding words because our idea isn’t good enough yet.

Yirah is the feeling of fear ‘that overcomes us when we inhabit a larger space then we are used to, coming into possession of considerably more energy than we had before, a fear we feel when stepping into the presence of the divine.’

Qualities of awe, she says.

There is ego when we write. A feeling that we need to control the exact words the reader is using to think. Shedding weight allows room for interpretation.

Maybe editing is a religious experience, coming to accept that our strengths are enough, our ideas are enough, we are enough. A bar-mitzvah with presence instead of presents.

‘I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.’ - Unknown


Given the topic I oughta wrap.

I guess I could have just said that shorter is better, more economical, and maybe even divine.

A duck walks into a shop and asks for some lip stick.

“$1.25,” says the clerk.

“Put it on my bill.”[2]

[1] https://www.taramohr.com/the-playing-big-book/ See her blog post on this topic: https://www.taramohr.com/dealing-with-fear/my-favorite-teaching-about-fear/

[2] Unknown but I think Ellen tweeted this once.