Simon Rich reads from “Center of the Universe,” which
will appear in his new book The Last Girlfriend on Earth
I racked up a lot of my early writing clips in college writing humor pieces for websites like Yankee Pot Roast, Points in Case and CollegeHumor. I just recently started actively writing humor again, so I was delighted when I received an issue of The New Yorker last month that featured a story from Simon Rich titled “I Love Girl.” Back then, when I was writing and pitching humor pieces daily, I picked up Rich’s first book Ant Farm at the college bookstore. It’s a book I still flip through regularly, along with Jon Stewart’s Naked Pictures of Famous People, Steve Martin’s Pure Drivel and McSweeney’s Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans, whenever I need inspiration or just a good laugh. There seems to be a trend among comedians towards publishing more memoirs and confessionals, but I’m still a fan of the short humor collection above all else.
“I Love Girl” is the story of a caveman who is in love with a girl:
I have been working on Girl’s path for many years, picking up the black rocks and carrying them away. I never throw her rocks off the cliff like normal rocks. Instead, I put them in a pile next to my cave. I like to look at the pile, because it reminds me of how I am helping Girl. My mother, who I live with, says the pile “has to go.” (I worry that she will move the pile, but it is unlikely. After all, she is an elderly thirty-two-year-old woman.)
Somebody sent an article from Fast Company’s co.create blog around the copy department last week, and I saw that one of their writers, Joe Berkowitz, had recently conducted an interview with Rich. He offers some great insight into his process and how he jumps between different genres and forms (Rich has written for Pixar and SNL). I found this tidbit about generating ideas particularly inspiring:
I find in general that if I don’t have any ideas on what to write about, I just research whatever at the moment I’m extremely interested in. I read a lot of nonfiction on subjects I’m interested in, and that usually knocks something loose. A few months ago, I was stuck and I wasn’t really sure which of my projects to work on, and I was kind of bored with some of the stuff I was doing, so I just spent a few days reading books about monkeys and sign language and teaching them how to talk. Nothing came of it really, but by the time I was finished reading about monkeys, I was ready to jump back into my novel. Reading a lot of nonfiction helps. Wikipedia is also a big help. There’s always something interesting on Wikipedia–the random article button is great. When I was writing Free Range Chickens, I had just discovered Wikipedia and one of the ways I came up with ideas was to just keep refreshing, and keep clicking the random article until a premise occurred to me.