How Jerry Seinfeld Writes His Jokes


What if I told you a joke about nothing took two years to write. Or that it can take a decade to write a book. In Brian Wilson‘s case – it took 40 years to write and record his masterpiece, Smile.

I remember watching a Sydney Pollack movie a couple of years ago and couldn’t help thinking how bad it was. Soon after I saw an interview where he mentioned that movie consumed two years of his life. I dismissed it in a second, and he dedicated two years of his life to it. I felt a little guilty.

Throughout my career it’s always pained me that people never understood what goes into creating something from scratch. When I wrote video game scripts that were thousands of lines created out of thin air people would say, “just get it done next week.”

“Next week? How about next month?” I’d say with a shitty attitude.

Whether you’re a designer, a photographer, musician, writer or a comedian (famous or not), creating something doesn’t just happen. I once had a friend tell me how easy it would be to write a column. He said he could crank out an article day – no problem. It’s easy.

Until you have to do it.

Creating anything takes time. And doing it well takes even longer. Just ask Axl Rose, he worked on Chinese Democracy for over a decade before releasing it. And books take an eternity. What about the musician who talks about writing a song that sold millions in 10 minutes you ask? That’s different, that when stuff just pours out of you. And it’s rare. Really rare. Of course there’s a flip side to that phenomenon that once hit me like a knee to the groin.

I wrote a piece that I thought was hilarious. It just poured out of me. So much sarcasm and underlying humor, it was destined to be read by millions. And it was. The problem was that it sucked. It was clichéd, unoriginal, and not something I wanted my name on. Over a million people read it and a good percentage either emailed me or commented on how stupid it was. And how stupid I was.

Lesson learned.

Most creative endeavors have to be worked on, and on, and on. It’s a process. Sometimes it’s great and other times it’s pure torture.

When I saw the video (below) from Jerry Seinfeld about what it takes to write a joke it made me feel good. Here’s the most accomplished comedian of our generation and it took him two years to write this particular joke about Pop Tarts.

It took a legend two years to write a joke about Pop Tars. That's what's so great about this video. It shows being creative isn't easy for anyone -- and can be painstaking. Jerry bleeds for his work, just like you. Even if he does have hundreds of millions of dollars more. It also proves that he didn't get where he is just because he's funny, but because he works his ass off. There's dedication and a vision.

Even if it is about Pop Tarts.

Jerry Seinfeld Talking About His Writing Process

photo by Alan Light CC-BY-2.0