Good 'n' Randy
My delightful and talented chum Claire Zulkey recently interviewed New York Times ethicist Randy Cohen.
Here's an excerpt:
Do you miss writing the News Quiz in Slate?
Yeah, very much. That was really fun.
Were you able to do much writing there that you can't do for the column?
I could generate the topics there, but here I can only answer questions from readers but that was my little playground, writing the quiz, and the participants were wonderful. I got to write a funny little essay every day and they were just enormously fun and the people who did the quiz were just so terrific-they were so smart and funny. My job was to provide setups and they would provide punchlines. I thought, "This is my job! This is great!" Really fun and I've stayed friends with people who did it-I'd throw News Quiz parties now and then.
What did you like best about writing for television?
I liked going to the office. Writing is such solitary work and TV was so social in all these wonderful ways. So you'd go there and you'd have colleagues and you'd wander around the halls and chat with them and sometimes during that conversation you'd have an idea. Before Letterman I never really worked on a collaborative enterprise that was so much fun. The person who did the props, she was brilliant, Paul, who did the music, was so smart. None of these were people I'd ever be friends with in my normal course of life and yet together these people put on a show every day. It was just a real treat to be a part of it.
Trivia: I wrote News Quiz's final featured answer.
Here's an excerpt from another Randy Cohen interview:
What's been the highlight of your career?
The first time The New Yorker took a piece. This was when Bob Gottlieb had the magazine — before Tina [Brown] took over, when it still counted for something. I mean, seriously, it's a nice magazine, but it doesn't matter anymore. You know, it was thrilling when they took my piece. Also, getting hired at Letterman. It was a life-changing experience, just wonderful. I did it for seven years. You'd write something, and they'd put it on TV. Astonishing. I didn't write jokes. They had trained specialists for that. There were two guys who wrote opening monologue jokes, and the other eight of us provided the two six-minute chunks needed to fill up the show in an entertaining fashion. My best piece was Monkey Cam. Those who watched the show back then will know what that is.
Here's a humor piece by Randy Cohen that was originally published in The New Yorker: "Diary of a Flying Man."