BWW Interviews: New TONIGHT SHOW Writer Simon Taylor
While on a short tour of the stand-up comedy circle in Los Angeles, comedian Simon Taylor scored a ticket to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - a day later, he was hired to write for the show! The award-winning entertainer spoke to TalkTVWorld about what it's like to be a part of the legendary late night talk show.
Is it true that you were hired as a writer for THE TONIGHT SHOW just one day after visiting as an audience member?
It was all pretty surreal and happened unexpectedly, to be honest. Other performers often ask me to write for them. A few months ago, my friend James Galea asked me over to LA to help him with a project. I wanted to do some stand-up while there, but only managed to get one gig booked before I flew over.
I arrived at LAX and was driven straight to the Nerdist Meltdown to do my first ever American gig. I did ten minutes of stand-up. After my set, a producer from The Tonight Show who was there came up to me. He said he liked my stuff and that if I wanted to go see the show filmed live he'd get me tickets.
The next week I was at The Tonight Show studio in Burbank. I saw the show and loved it. The producer who I met took me back stage to meet Jay. I had a split second to think of what I would say to him when I shook his hand. Being the joker than I am, what came out was "Hey Jay Leno, I'm going to write for you one day."
Jay, to my surprise said "okay, send your jokes in".
The next day I had a contract to sign.
Unbelievable. What is it like being a part of such a legendary TV show like The Tonight Show?
It's only contributed to my common comedian delusion that I will one day transform into Johnny Carson.
What is like working with Jay Leno?
He loves jokes. I love jokes. It works perfectly.
What is the writing process like for the show? Do you have your eye on the news all day long in order to have the most "up to the minute" jokes?
I'm a contributing writer, I don't have to be in the studio but it's a constant preoccupation. I wake up, read the news. I go out, listening to the radio. I check my news apps ever spare second I get. I go about my life with at least one part of my brain toying with joke ideas for the show. So I collect interesting stories around the clock as I see them, but also get the most up-to-date ones in the lead up to show time.
Does American humor differ from Australian humor? Were there adjustments you had to make to allow for the differences?
The first difference is that in Australian we spell it 'humour'. So there's something.
American comedy, I find, has quite a tradition in roasting people. Politicians and celebrities in the US tend to have a lot of 'swagger', so the comedy looks to bring them down a peg and expose them for who they are. Donald Trump is just a guy from New York who likes firing people. Chris Christie is just a guy from New Jersey who likes eating people. See, it's all good fun.
Australian humour, I think, tends to be more harsh and direct when ripping into people. Perhaps it's our convict background. Who knows...
As a writer, I always have to adopt the style appropriate to the project I am working on. When it comes to writing for others, you need to do it in their voice. So I've watched endless amounts of Leno footage to make sure that the jokes I send in are what he wants.
Can you tell me about your new show '1 Man Debate.'
Well, Australia has a much smaller population than the US and thus a smaller comedy audience. So many comedians write and tour a brand new live show each year or every few years. This is now the fourth solo hour I've written and I'll be taking it around Australia starting at Melbourne Fringe Festival. The show's about my manhood. So it's pretty laughable. The main focus is on the lack of masculinity of men my age (24) and what it means to be a man today. Pretty universal theme.
I hope to take it on the college circuit in the States, so if you have any contacts….you know…hook a brother up!
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH Jay Leno airs Mondays-Fridays on NBC (11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. ET)
About Simon Taylor:
Simon Taylor has a new comedy show, "1 Man Debate,." He has had sell-out shows at Melbourne Fringe, Adelaide Fringe and The Melbourne Comedy Festival and has performed at the famous Hollywood Improv, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store and The Super Serious Show. He is also the mind behind radio show "Manthropology" on Syn FM - a conversation hour about modern day masculinity.