Adam Resnick is one of the brightest comedy writers working today. His credits include some of the greatest contributions to modern comedy, like Late Night with David Letterman, The Larry Sanders Show, Get a Life and Saturday Night Live on television, the hilarious 1994 film Cabin Boy, and now his first book, “Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation” was just released in paperback. The book is one of the funniest we’ve read in years, and whether you identify with Adam’s odd life encounters or are horrified by them, the book is thoroughly entertaining and rates as one of our top picks of the year if you’re looking for something to read. When we had the chance to ask Adam a few questions, we jumped at the opportunity.
You wrote about so many uncomfortable moments from your childhood. What is it about discomfort that translates so well to comedy?
I don’t know really. I try not to think about things like that and it embarrasses me to try to articulate it. Even though there’s a lot of humor in the book I never considered it a comedy book. I was never going for jokes. I wanted the stories to be dramatically truthful, but the tone of the book – the sort of sarcastic, beleaguered voice is just how I talk and think, going back to when I was a kid. It was a natural fit. I mean, I realize it’s humorous. Had I written it in a heavy earnest way, the book would’ve ended up in the psychology/mental health section.
Is there a creative upside to isolation?
That probably doesn’t work as a blanket theory. Maybe on a practical level, if you need peace and quiet to create or think or whatever. Everyone is programmed differently. I was always someone who, for various reasons, liked to be alone a lot. But who knows if isolating myself or shutting myself off from social interaction fermented any sort of creativity. I think you’re basically born with a specific mental toolbox and your abilities and limitations are defined by what’s in it. External factors and environment play a part in how you turn out, but just sitting in a room by yourself won’t make you creative.
In your book you are so incredibly descriptive, maybe even more so when you’re describing unappealing places and events. Is it more fun to write about awful things?
Yeah, I think it’s kind of fun to write about awful things. That’s where humor naturally surfaces for a lot of writers, going back to the Stone Age probably.
The people on your book jacket are some of the funniest people on the planet. Letterman, Stewart, Kaufman, Elliott and Odenkirk. What is it like to look back on that, knowing such talented people are such fans?
Well, there’s a bit of an asterisk there because those people are all friends of mine. But I truly believe they all liked the book, so it’s gratifying. Especially Letterman who’s a really important person in my life. I thought about him the whole time I was writing it. Had Dave not liked the book as much as he did, I would’ve felt like I failed, no matter what anyone else said. He’s a strong psychological presence in my life. If he ever starts a church, I’m screwed. I’ll be like Joaquin Phoenix in The Master.
Who are some of your favorite comedy writers/comedic writers past or present?
Truthfully, despite falling down the comedy hole career-wise – which was largely circumstantial, I was never obsessed or overly drawn to comedy so nothing comes quickly to mind. Well, half a second later here, certain names, past and present, do come to mind, but it would be too complicated to list and explain. And I’d be upset with myself if I accidentally left someone out. For me, comedy is just like anything else – if it’s good and it works for me, I like it; whether it’s a book, a movie, television show, whatever. Like most kids, I watched a lot of television growing up so I saw a wide range of things, old stuff, new stuff, lots of old movies. But I never had a specific fondness for comedy where it overshadowed other genres. Overall, I’d say, drama always had a deeper effect on me. Which doesn’t mean drama has to be humorless…just that…ah, fuck it. We’re in vomitland now.
You’ve had some amazing collaborations over the course of your career so far. Is there one that stands out for you as a highlight?
If you’re talking about writing, I’ve only ever collaborated with one person – Chris Elliott, on Late Night, Get a Life and Cabin Boy. And that’s a huge highlight for me. Writing with Chris, especially on Late Night, was always so natural and effortless. It was actually fun because we have a similar sense of humor and we really enjoy each other’s company. As far as good collaborations with directors, I haven’t had much luck with that.
Jon Stewart is leaving late night. How do you think this will change the comedy landscape going forward?
I mean, there’s no one else like him. There are other people doing similar things, and even doing them well, but there’s only one Jon Stewart. It makes me sad that he’s not going to be around for this next election cycle. Of course, for me, seeing Dave Letterman go was especially hard. There’s a guy no one will ever match. That’s the end of something we’ll never see again.
Your book does an incredible job of describing so many uncomfortable moments. The chapter about your elevator guy stands out as one of the funniest, and yet most relatable. In 2015, we are forced to interact less and less. But what are some of the awkward encounters that are still coming up for you?
That’s a little hard to predict. I might have an awkward encounter with a taxicab that jumps the curb and that’ll end all the awkward encounters.
Order Adam Resnick’s Will Not Attend on Amazon.com or anywhere books are sold.