Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

The Writers’ Currency

Monday night was the first writers’ meeting for the new season of the TMI Hollywood, the show I write for at Second City. The new cast members came and mingled with the writers over the one thing that brings all walks of LA life together: free food. After a recap of last year and the expectations of this year, the cast made their way out and the writers got down to what they do best.

Pose for Cultural Diversity Day

Coming up with stuff to write about.

In a sketch comedy writers room (at least in this one), the writers have their own special brand of currency. I know, I know. The initial thing to yell out is “Words! Writers deal in words!” and in some cases, that’s true.

But words are the currency of the novelist.

The comedy sketch writer deals in trivia.

We huddle around a table, pitching ideas and trading knowledge like baseball cards. Bill O’Reilly said this, Justin Bieber did that. But, pop culture is only the surface.

We have a politics guy. Now, I’m not saying we have a politics guy in terms of a guy who’s job is to keep an eye on the political atmosphere. That’s small town. Our politics guy can name all the United States presidents, vice presidents, and failed candidates in order, not to mention dropping campaign slogans like they’re party favors. It’s not like he has fast fingers on Google. These are just things that he’s learned and retained over his history of education.

This leads to doors and pathways of humor that one person alone has a hard time seeing by themselves.

Sometimes, it feels like an episode of Big Bang Theory. I expect someone to drop something like “Oppenheimer was notoriously hard to work with,” or “a gathering of cats is called a clouder.” And, it’s not ironic. It’s the difference between data and knowledge.

Nowadays, we can look up anything on the Internet. It seems as though “knowledge” is at our very fingertips, but what is really at our fingertips is data. Data, without a brain behind it, is pretty useless. It’s interesting, though, what’s revealed in the knowledge we retain. You can never really lie about what intrigues you. When someone has a piece of knowledge they can’t wait to share, it practically bursts out of them.

Perhaps not everyone who thirsts for knowledge is a writer, but it seems that a lot of writers thirst for knowledge. Knowledge fuels their power cells and they’re ready to share the fuel.

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