Standup Comedy "Your Host and MC"

Karen Anderson TV Writer Interview and Comedy Set Show #121

August 07, 2022 Scott Edwards Season 3 Episode 121
Standup Comedy "Your Host and MC"
Karen Anderson TV Writer Interview and Comedy Set Show #121
Show Notes Transcript

Here is a terrific interview with Karen Anderson, who started as a standup comic at my clubs and ended up as Head Writer for the "Ellen DeGeneres Show", she also wrote for Arsenio Hall, Wyanda Sykes, "The Talk", and many other (over 50) TV shows, specials, and late night talk shows. She has had an amazing career, and is currently working on a project with Sean Hayes. Listen to her great "Hollywood" type story, as she shares some old jokes, talks about the craft, and shares some interesting aspects on writing for television.
Hosted by: R. Scott Edwards

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Announcer:

This is another episode of stand up comedy, your host and emcee, celebrating 40 plus years on the fringe of show business, stories, interviews and comedy sets from the famous and not so famous. Here's your host and emcee Scott at words.

Scott Edwards:

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another fun episode of stand up comedy, your host and emcee. It's been such a fun doing interviews and presenting sets of people I got a chance to work with over the years. Today is extra special for me because one of the young ladies that was around a lot in the early days has just gone on to fame and fortune and I get a chance to interview her. Ladies and gentlemen, she was a writer on TVs, Little Big Shots, dancing fools. The talk the soup, apparently the anything. And one of the head writers for the Ellen DeGeneres Show, ladies and gentlemen, Karen Anderson. Karen, so great. Yeah, the crowd can't care. Stop. Hey, it is so great to reconnect. We had a chance to work together recently on the comedy roundtable with a couple of your friends, Tony Kamini and Arj Barker. And that was the first time though that we had chatted in over a decade. So this is really a treat. And today it's all about you, young lady.

Karen Anderson:

My favorite subject. I'm actually talking about myself up for you. I will well,

Scott Edwards:

we do share a bit of a history. And it was interesting because it came out during the roundtable that you know, to the owners of laughs unlimited, and which includes Bob and Mac and my wife, Jill and I, you were really a big part of the laughs unlimited family in the early days back in the early 80s and stuff and but it came out in the interview with the with the roundtable that you really felt like you were more of a Bay Area act and not a Sacramento act. And I found that fascinating. So I want to dig into that a little bit. So Karen Anderson now a very successful television writer, you started off as a stand up comic, how did you kind of end up in comedy?

Karen Anderson:

Well, I mean, I started in, you know, when I was in high school. We did we had an improv group, you know, comedy was really popular in San Francisco when I was in high school, which was late 70s, early 80s. I graduated 81. And it was really, really popular. Robin Williams was really popular. And so, my buddies, I had these, you know, we were I was in the drama class. And we would go to San Francisco all the time, and go see the other Cafe go to probably trying to think of where do we want to get? Well, we don't think we want to we aren't old enough. You know, I think we went to where did we go? We went to the spaghetti. We would go to things like the improv like It's spaghetti jam, there was this, you know, this big old Spaghetti Factory they had, I think, I feel like it was there or the warfield or someplace where the door the boarding house where we go see them probably now they had like papaya juice, you remember a group called providers?

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, there was actually a few improv troops that were moving around the bay area at the time, but it was it was different than stand up. So I didn't follow it as closely. But so you were more a theater geek.

Karen Anderson:

I was I was a total theater geek. And I loved Saturday live and sketch. I love sketches. So I love money plays on I loved you know, ferrite live a lot. I loved all the late night shows. But I also love stand up. I loved you know, I love Steve Martin, and I love all that, you know, but I just got into it. My parents are listening to comedy records with their friends all the time. And I just always always liked it. And anyway, we go to the city and we'd see these these in Proverbs. And then I think my senior year in high school, maybe my year out of high school was a thing called the junior San Francisco comedy competition. And I must have I must have been my year out because you had to be 18 or younger, and I was 18. And it was done in Marin County by the guy that was in papaya juice. One of the guys Rodney sheriff. And he would it was was he gave a class on stand up comedy, kind of like I did later at your club. And then there will be a competition afterwards. So you kind of learn how to do it. But you had to audition first. And when I say denim before it two times, and I remember I auditioned It was the scariest time of my life. You know, I had things that I was planning on going to say. And then I got up there. And I said, like, maybe a couple things, and I went completely blank. And I just said, like, I don't know, there's a big audience here it was in the daytime to remember. And I don't know what I forgot all my jokes. I literally don't know anything. My mind is blank. And I and they started laughing, you know? And so I said, No, seriously. And then I just left. I didn't even like say goodbye. I just left the stage.

Scott Edwards:

That was your first stage experience just up. I don't know what I'm saying and left.

Unknown:

That was my first actual stand up in front of an audience that wasn't like school or my class. But I had done it before, but not ever in front of like that, you know, whoever the guest judge was, I feel like it was. I mean, Bobby Slayton was one of the one of the performers for the show. Wow. Was it was Wilgers. Debbie, it was all this game, that San Francisco gang. And maybe it was like, well versed, you just said, we did exactly what you're supposed to do. You just kept talking. And as he goes, Oh, it was funny. And I was like, okay, you know, and I kind of got the idea that I could talk to the crowd. And I don't know if you remember that. But I did a lot of talking to the crowd. A lot of times if I did forget something, or that was just kind of my thing. A lot of times I kind of liked Paula Poundstone. A lot. She used to do that. And I kind of got the first I was I was into that? Well, I think that's kind of how I learned how to do it.

Scott Edwards:

I was just gonna interject that it's interesting that is opposed to trying to do material. And now as a comedy writer, that must be a bit ironic, but you were you found and will derse pointed out that a lot of people can't just talk in front of an audience without material and just still be somewhat poised enough to have a conversation and be funny, hopefully. So that's kind of an important lesson early on.

Unknown:

It was it was it made me think I could do this. And then you know, sure, I would have I wrote jokes. And I really did write too. And I was a, I was really big. And in high school, also in the, you know, school magazine, and all this and I would write a lot. And they would write sketches and stuff like that all the time. I may have like notebooks and stuff from them. So I was always into it. And I remember this lady told me, I wrote like this book for my friend across the street for her birthday. I just got like a journal and made to basically, I, you know, I guess roasted her in this book, you know, I was just like, because she was she would always go buy clothes all the time. So I was, you know, she always had like, some new clothes. So I made a book about that to the clothing attic. And it was just a funny book that I made. I mean, I can't think in particular, that was funny. But her, her aunt was an author, she lived in Berkeley, and she was a pretty successful author. And she looked at, she said, Hey, this is really funny. You know, it's really hard for people to write stuff on paper and make it be funny. You just be surprised that you so she goes, it's not a common because I was like, oh, and then like, I was like this person, you know, I really thought oh, she's she's, and she's, you know, a pro. And she's telling me that my little book that I made is funny. I was like, you know, loving that. And so I always kind of had in my mind, I could do it.

Scott Edwards:

Well, it was interesting. And I think valuable to you that you got early validation on two aspects of the industry of the art form, that are so important and difficult for other people to do. And one is being comfortable and be able to just talk to strangers from onstage and to writing is one of the biggest challenges for any new stand up. And you obviously, in an early age, had that talent that you could put a little bug I kind of like paper, right?

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, I always like to, I always journaled, I always did that. I still do. I guess I don't know something about it. I don't go to therapy. Right.

Scott Edwards:

Well, it's obviously paid off for you. But that's, that's interesting. I didn't know that you. I mean, I knew you for many years back in those days, and I knew you're a talented performer. But I don't know if we ever talked about the writing aspect in your background. So I find that fascinating because now where your careers gone, it just seems so Oh, of course. But back then. All the comics were the or wannabe stand up comics. Were just trying to get on stage and get comfortable on stage. Writing almost came secondary. You had to kind of get over that stage fright hump first. And then you would you know that a lot of the young comics struggled with the writing. And you found that easy. I think that's interesting. Do you remember any of your first bits or jokes

Unknown:

Well, I kind of remember. I mean, I don't remember my very far I remember writing something about my dad taking us on vacation. I called a post done to California and set up Placentia. And I said, it's a really fun place. But when you have to leave, it's hard to cut the cord. I remember that was a joke of mine. But it was so stupid because it wasn't really called placenta, placenta, it was called placenta. I mean, it was like totally porting a joke. I that's always like stuck in my craw a little bit. Like, that's not what the joke is. If it was really called that, you know, the funny.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, but still for a young. I mean, you got to give yourself a little credit at your age, just coming up with that wordplay, and then be able to make a joke off. It's pretty good. Hi, though,

Karen Anderson:

but it's always got to be that I tell you so yeah. And then. But I did have a joke where I'd say they have, you know, these all these wires and bras. And it's just, you know, we're expected to just I don't even know how to joke but but it was something like, you have to have to wear it. And it's basically like jail for your tip. That was the joke. And that stayed in my act for a fair amount of yours. I'd say, Oh, I remember that. Jail. It's like, you know, for your kids that just got the laugh, you know, but it was like, basically like because it was wire a wire bra. Right? Anyway, then the other? Yeah,

Scott Edwards:

no, I was just gonna say I remember that bit. And it works. Because it's one it's true. In two. You know, anytime a woman says tits on stage, it's gonna get a titter.

Unknown:

Exactly. Yeah. And then the other joke was that Kaiser is a really bad hospital. It's such a really bad house. My best friend went to go have a baby there. And that's not what he went in fourth year with that joke.

Scott Edwards:

Oh, yeah. And I always thought that was a really poignant joke, because it's so true about Kaiser again, there's always a little truth in comedy, right?

Karen Anderson:

Well, Kaiser was known Kaiser credit. Now, I don't think that joke at work is great now, because Kaiser has made like a little bit of a image comeback. But back then that was known as the worst. And it was that joke, I was able to do that joke, I probably would still do it. The other one was the other one I did at the very beginning was these are my best jokes. I can count on the Kaiser joke, because it was one of the earlier ones. And so I was able to use that like, at your club or wherever like that, at the beginning, you know? And then I would probably still do that joke, though. But then the other one was, I had a nice day today. How do you have a good day. And then I had a great day, I ran into my ex boyfriend, his new girlfriend was my car. I that wasn't one that was another one that I would I would do a lot. But don't like is open or enclosed or things like in the middle I would do. You know, I started then talking about later I started talking about kids and stuff like that. Or, you know, I mean, I don't know, I can't remember what my jokes were. They were Oh, they were this is not good for your podcast, because I can't remember anything. But it was. That's fine. I want to talk about my family a lot. My mom playing games, how she'd forget all the rules, every game, I used to start to get an ax stuff out a lot. Yeah, I would do I would tell more personal story that we're really, you know, made up jokes, I would kind of do that.

Scott Edwards:

Well, that's the genius of stand up comedy is that people think that you have to write out of the universe and come up with something funny. And yet, what works best with the audience. And I'm sure you could back me up on this as a professional writer, is that what really works is usually the simplest stuff that comes from your own life. Because what you find is that out of 50, or 100, strangers in the audience, even though their personal experiences might be a little different. They all have kids, or they all have been kids or they all have parents or our parents. And so when you talk about those things, they can relate to it. And that's kind of the secret of Stand Up is you need to relate to the audience. So even though and by the way, I remember all those jokes, and I remember him being very funny. And the audience got it, they related to it. And that made it so much easier to connect with them. And that's why we do stand up.

Unknown:

Wow, okay, it's silly to I mean, you know, I was kind of goofy on stage. A little bit like um, your friend kinda Yeah, kind of party girl. It was I had different few phases. But the one who like when, you know, jokes that I probably gravitate to now are more. You know, I had one about I said, you know, here in Los Angeles, they have a meter in the paper. Now it talks about the weather, sometimes. The meter in the paper, whether it tells you if it's healthy to go outside or not. If the air is so there's actually an indicator people live in a city where or in the paper, they look to see if they can go outside or not. And then I have a little kid I have a little boy, he wants to go play, you know. So if he's out there and I see him struggling for air that I know it's not safe for me to go outside

Scott Edwards:

you don't need the major just use your your kid like one of those mining cave. Pigeons, right?

Unknown:

A canary in a coal mine down to the basement if there's if there's a gas leak, if he doesn't come back, I know there is one, you know, so I would do stuff like that.

Scott Edwards:

But see, I think that's funny stuff because it is based on a truth. And yet you've taken it to the absurd and the canary in the coal mine is is a great analogy of why that joke works. And everybody figures it out and it can and they all connect and it's funny. I mean, it's it's not hard to understand why you're such a successful writer. In fact, Lynne Stoneburner always admired your ability. It's

Karen Anderson:

funny, Brian was really funny.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, but but she emulated you you know she she enjoyed watching you and paying attention. I'm sorry. I think we both

Karen Anderson:

like the same we both like the same kind of comment in mainland we both like like your Paula Poundstone style, you know, we're both very into that

Scott Edwards:

right not so much joke jokes ism, as much as sharing a little story or something, and then putting a twist on it and making it funny. It's different than the Steven Wright kind of approach where it's just joke joke joke. You're, you're you're connecting with the audience through shared experiences. And both you and Lynn had success that way. But you're right now, you know, I mean, I would have said this anyway. But I think you guys come from the same style. But she always enjoyed watching you and learned a lot. Now speaking of all that, how did you end up coming to laughs Unlimited, because we had a pretty good history, but I'm not sure how it started.

Karen Anderson:

Out. Well, because you had all those comedy competitions. Yeah. So yeah, that's how I got into it. I mean, I went up there with like, you know, Tony, I don't know, maybe not Tony, whoever whoever I was hanging out with those days you're gonna steal. Remember her? Andrea live then?

Scott Edwards:

Large Barker mentioned that that's how I discovered him that he came up and came in third place competition once and then I gave him a week's work based on that. And then he never He kept working for me after that. I use the comedy competition. That's how I did it. Yeah, yeah, I use the comedy competition to try to discover talent and bring it into the show. But unlike ours, and even Tony who was irregular, you really made laughs unlimited more of a home. I mean, you were involved in the open mics. You and Dell Van Dyck did. Well.

Unknown:

You know what, what? Yeah. Why? That was was because so for like, let's just say, I don't know, when I start working for you like 8788, something like that. Maybe seven probably. Maybe later than that. But I don't know, probably around that. And then and then it was because it was so close to San Francisco. We'd always go up there and you put me on my first week you gave me a week at the club that you only had for a little while. I think it was Stockton. Right. And it was as low as Bromfield was the headliner. Oh, was New Years. And I just loved her. She was like, I was like, oh my god, she is the funniest person I've ever seen in my life. That was just a really great really big good week for me where I just like we'd write I write with her all the time. I remember, we you know, we'd all right at your senior condos or whatever, you know, we all write together and it was really fun.

Scott Edwards:

Well, there was a sense of community and you're not the first to say that your first week road gig was through laughs Unlimited, which is a bit of a I take as a bit of a compliment and glad that it worked out for you and Lois, who I had a chance to interview recently living in Germany is still hitting the stages in England and Germany and I think still one of the best comedians out there but she's a whole different beast than you when it comes to comedy.

Unknown:

He totally different. Like I never I could never you know, I always I tried to have the minor tried. I got a decent middle act that was about it. I kind of didn't put my effort towards like this. I don't know, it was I didn't have that kind of thing where the sooner they started writing. I was like, Oh, I'd rather do this. It was pretty, pretty easy to figure out.

Scott Edwards:

Well, before we move on to writing Do you have any good well, you just shared one good memory. But you spent many years hanging around laughs And as I'm mentioned, you did the comedy classes with Dell Van Dyke, you hosted a lot of the open mics. What was your takeaway on your years? Through? laughs?

Karen Anderson:

Well, you mean like, just a story or whatever? Well, no, did you know? laughs was like I would go if you would, I would work at your club, probably four times a year, five times a week, sometimes six when I when I lived in San Francisco. And because number one, you had a place for us to stay. So it was like, easy, and it was just he just drove over there an hour and a half. You're there. And I remember when I was, you know, we were talking about earthquake earlier. I remember that wasn't on the thing yet. But it was the 89 earthquake. I was driving to San to your place your condo. And as soon as I pulled into the driveway, the earthquake hit. Wow. Like I went across the Bay Bridge. Like, what? 45 minutes before them?

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, you can have there was some people killed in that. That's scary. Sad.

Karen Anderson:

is weird, right. And anyways, I ended up saying, because there was a lot going on, obviously, like I couldn't, I had no idea. But I had a roommate. And I lived in a place with Eric Cisco's roommate, I had no idea what happened on my stuff. I had a cat there, that there was no phone, you know, he couldn't call anybody. And I walked in and the comics who I was working with, which I can't remember who it was, we were they were watching the game. And they're like, they were just going on. And it was exactly at that spot. And anyway, cut to like, two or three years ago. Wanda Sykes is company is doing a pilot presentation thing at the Improv where you have to bring your old tape. And I think Tony did it to bring your own tape from a long time ago and play in front of the audience. And then there's a panel that Karen Kilgariff was a host and there was a panel and they would you talk about your tape, you know, and obviously they so anyways, I showed the tape of last unlimited on the day of the earthquake or the day after the earthquake saying talking about it was the worst jokes and one of them was terrible on parents, Cisco, even even homeless people's cardboard houses collapsed on the

Scott Edwards:

Mississippi sensitive.

Unknown:

And Jeff, Jeff Wilson was one of the panelists and he just reminds me he's just like, that's right, Anderson. Give it to him. Give it to him. Let the homeless know they don't deserve you in a cardboard box. Aaron, oh my God, it was the worst. But anyways, I had all those tapes from Monster unlimited. COMM them because we tape every time we did a show there.

Scott Edwards:

Wow. Yeah, you must have had a lot because you worked a lot.

Karen Anderson:

Alright, tons of tapes from last time limited?

Scott Edwards:

Well, you know, I remember you being one of my, you know, favorite go to gals for anything special or fill out. So filling in weeks and covering people and stuff. And then I've alluded to a couple times, you were hosting some of the open mics. And you and Dell did the comedy school.

Unknown:

Well, yeah, cuz I moved to Sacramento. So I moved to LA, I got a writing job that got canceled. And then I kind of hung out in LA for a while. And then Blake and I got married and we moved to Sacramento. And that's when I started working with you a lot. And that was then I mean, more than just doing weeks, you know? And then that's when you let me do that. That once a week. Open mic night. And then with Dell, we had our class and we did competitions and yeah, so I lived there for five years from 96 till about 2001 I was there all the time.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, it was a benefit to me to have you around because one of the hard parts as a producer is finding talent you can trust that you can count on to be funny and and that you in my case, I was open to literally giving you in Dell the club, you know, okay, you want to do an open mic. You want to do some training. I'll open the doors for you. You go for it.

Unknown:

Yeah, it was great. I mean, I have to say we had the best time if I stayed in Sacramento I'd probably still be doing it. I loved it. It was so fun. Well, I still I do that with some other this other guys these guys these writers from everyone was Raymond have a thing where they we watch stand ups and then give them advice kind of like you would do on Last Comic Standing kind of really fun.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, no, it is. It's interesting. I mean, obviously one My main jobs as a producer was to watch young comics and open mic errs and then critique them. And I had a bit of a reputation that I would I was fairly I mean, I was always honest and sometimes brutal, because that's what somebody needed a one of my great stories from back in the day was Ed Solomon was working for me a lot. And he was an amazing writer, but he just did not have the knack for performing. And I had a chance to talk to him recently. But we, he remembers, and I remember that I sat him down, and I said, you know, you're an incredible writer, but, you know, you kind of suck as a performer and you ought to maybe focus, you know, you need to maybe focus differently. But it goes, yeah, he goes on and writes, you know, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and oh, yeah, he's huge. I didn't know that, oh, he's written. Now you see him the series, all the men and blacks. He's written, like a dozen major motion pictures, and hugely successful as a writer, but he was trying stand up back in the day. And, you know, it wasn't really working for him. You know, it's, it's it, it goes to the point that you were able to mix writing and stand up. And not everybody could do that. Some people were great on stage, but couldn't write themselves out of a wet paper bag. Other people could write, that maybe couldn't perform. And what I was looking for as a stand up producer, was those people that could write and perform and entertain an audience. And of course, you fit that bill, but you did shift. So what, what year or what happened, that really took you off the stand up stage, and set you down the path as a professional television writer.

Karen Anderson:

I started going down to LA, I was doing TV appearances, I was actually doing getting some footing and like, doing pretty well in stand up like I was doing, you know, all the different comedy shows that were on TV. You know, I wasn't doing late night ones. But my first late night one was not to a lisp, it was something like that. It was on Fox. And that was my first thing. And so when I did that show, I kind of, I don't know, I got a lot of people to sort of notice me a little bit like some of the people I was hanging out with. And all it turned out to be a little bit more like the alternative crowd, so to speak. And because a lot of those comedians from parents disco, like Greg Baron and Margaret Cho, you know, we were all buddies. And they started doing, they moved to LA, and it's all comedy, which I'm sure you know, Jimmy Garoppolo, all that. And so I ended up really hanging out and going down there a lot. And I would go and I met doing that we would go to all these parties and stuff. And I've met tons of writers. So one time I was doing a showcase with, like, you know, I mean, there was like, pretty good people, like, you know, it was Doug Benson. That's another person I would hang out on, I still do have a podcast with him all the time. And he invited me to do this thing where he had a show. And it was him and Andy Kindler and, like, you know, David Cross, or Bob Odenkirk or something, there's just a bunch of people like that, you know? And, yeah, all right. You know, I just ended up in kind of a fun, cool little crowd that they were this all thing that I just kind of hung out with. And that wasn't really an all comic, though. And then anyways, I was at the show, and doing this thing with those guys. And this guy comes up to me afterwards. And he said, we're doing a show on E called news. weasels. Do you want to? You know, try to write for it. And I was like, Sure. So I went in, I took a test. And I actually took a test.

Scott Edwards:

Oh, I did. They test you.

Karen Anderson:

This is the first time that's the only time it's ever happened. They gave me they gave me a they put me in a room. They gave me a thing. They said write write out these answers. Like they were news headlines. And then I was supposed to write jokes about them. And I went and I did it all. It was like a like I was going into to see how many words I could type per minute for like a secretary job. It was crazy.

Scott Edwards:

and yopu got a Gold Star!.

Unknown:

My dad, so I gave it to give it to the guy who reads it. And they call me and said, Do you want to start tomorrow, basically, or start next week, you know? And I said, Yeah, you know, and I was and they they gave me 750 bucks a week. I took I stayed with Karen Kogarah for a while and I stay with Laura Milligan and Greg barons on their couches, you know?

Scott Edwards:

Well, yeah. Um, you and Blake were still in Sacramento. And you had not made the transit?

Unknown:

Like, no, no, no, I was I wasn't San Francisco. I didn't remember like, oh, this. I had just met Blake, I guess not like on a road trip. But when I when I met him, I met him in Chicago at a comedy club that was performing. And when I came back, that's when I got this job.

Scott Edwards:

Oh, okay. I was just trying to. I was just trying to get the timeline. But that's interesting. So what year was that? Approximately? It was 94. Wow. Okay. So that was still early on that. And I think it's so hilarious that they gave you a writing test. I had not heard that before. And it sounds like you haven't had to deal with it since. But

Karen Anderson:

the guy was the guy was Chris hunter. He was Chris Sanchez, Brookfield husband now. And he worked for welfare. Oh, for years. He's still a producer, and a producer and writer. Wrote tons of Will Ferrell stuff. But he Tom Martin, which was a producer for The Simpsons for years and writer, John Wang and I remember him and yeah, so we all work together. And

Scott Edwards:

news "News Weasels" was your first professional paid writing gig.

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, and I went in there, it was a daily, it was like to before the Daily Show, we just made fun of news. And it didn't last that long, though. And after it was over, I kind of didn't. I didn't know what to do. I was like, Well, I don't know what you're doing. I was now together with Blake. You know, like six months later. And I just went and he and I just figured, well, let's go back to San Francisco. You know? I mean, this job is over. And I'll just stand up. So you know.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah. So like, Yeah, you didn't know what was your future? At this point. It was just a job. Rally. Yeah,

Unknown:

yeah. Yeah, but I really liked it. And it really fell on to it, I really, really learned a lot. Learn how to go to an edit bay. And, you know, so you're go can put pictures and all this. And we like moved to Sacramento, five years. We're stay there, through all this stuff with you. We get married. It was basically like, that's what I did. I did that job. And then I moved back. And then all my friends were getting writing jobs. And I kind of had a manager in LA called Dave Ross. And a lot of us had Dave read for a manager. And he just didn't know you could, you could get a job here. And so Blake went bought this house in Sacramento, this Victorian or she would go back to LA. We sold our house and bought a house in LA. And then just goes to show you how little of a writing job mattered. This was now in 2001. And my friend Karen Kogarah calls me and she goes, Hey, I'm writing for somebody called Ellen DeGeneres. You're heard of her? And I was like, Yeah, I think she knows. She needs some help with her stand up special. Do you want to help or No, no, she does. She's gonna have you're going to have a talk show. And you're the only writer I know who did a daily talk show. This is seven years later. Wow. You're the only girl writer I know who had. So that little tiny job was the only reason I got that job with Ellen.

Scott Edwards:

Oh, that's story.

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, that weird. Yeah. Not only that. Yeah. So she, you know, I go. I didn't even need her yet. And they rad calls me goes. Did you know you've got a job right down Hollywood Squares with Ellen DeGeneres. And I go, what? So then Karen kilkerran calls me she was like, I should better meet Ellen, now that you're working. And I was like, This all happened like in one second. And I had just moved to LA. I was there for like, four or five months.

Scott Edwards:

It's such a Hollywood story. And so they hooked you up with Ellen and how you must have had an immediate connection.

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, we did. We just had an immediate connection. I mean, I remember going to her house the first time and she knocks on the door. We knock on the door and see, or it's like one of those things where she could talk on the speakerphone. And she and Karen does. I brought Karen and she goes I told you not today. First laughing and then see that she comes in she goes she goes Karen says You're really funny. Are you funny, and I go I'm pretty funny. She goes, she just kind of stares at me. She goes, Yeah, I think you are. And then that was pretty much it. Well, for seven years,

Scott Edwards:

right. And people need to know that Elon was just an up and coming star was not the Elon that's the one word famous woman now, after all those years.

Unknown:

Well, yeah, but before that she had a hugely successful sitcom, and she'd come out as a national rights person to be gay. Like to be gay. That's not the right word,

Scott Edwards:

but I was just making the point.

Unknown:

She was hugely famous. Well, she wasn't she wasn't the You're right. She wasn't the superstar. Iconic, Ellen that she is now. No. Right? Iconic.

Scott Edwards:

Well, I was just making the point that that she came up through the ranks as a comedian, she worked for me as a feature act. She got noticed, got some The Tonight Show, got some stuff and then ended up getting her own sitcom. But the Ellen, the one word, you know, it's like Leno or Seinfeld. The one word recognition came from the talk show.

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, I mean, our show was called Ellen. But

Scott Edwards:

right, but I have to say, Ellen DeGeneres was was

Unknown:

arguing for no reason other than she did become obviously another level of fame.

Scott Edwards:

She had already had a lot of fame, but she was going to the next level and you help take her there. And you were ended up being one of the head writers for the Ellen DeGeneres Show for a number of years. And you that had to have been a great experience. But I think bringing the story full circle, it all started from that early news, weasels writing gig, and people remembering your talent and knowing your stand up history and putting it together. And again, we're focused, I'm focused on the fact that you are more than a stand up and more than a writer, you are a writer that had done stand up and ended an understanding that fit for future writing jobs like Ellen.

Unknown:

Yeah, it was just like, looking back on and it is, you know, I didn't really put actually the two and two together that I mean, sometimes I do I go, Oh, that's where that, you know, she remembered me from news, weasels, which was just so odd. The only reason she even probably knew that was because we had like a viewing party with all the buddies at our little house that we stayed in. And it was like, everyone wants to see my name come up, you know. And it was like, that's probably the only reason she knows I worked on worked on that show. Because I didn't like hang out with her every day.

Scott Edwards:

Wow. Well, still, what a great opportunity in such a Hollywood, quote, unquote, story. People get discovered in unique ways, in show business, and I think that's a terrific story. And I didn't know that. So thanks for sharing that. Now. Once you got good in known as a writer, I mean, you've just gone gangbusters the last couple of decades. The talk Little Big Shots, the soup. I mean, you've there's a whole list of you know, what, 10 or 12 shows you've worked on? And you've done some producing too.

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, I mean, honestly, you know, because I worked in Ireland for, you know, seven years in a row, you know, work for her. You know, when that's when, you know, it's hard to get on another show that just keeps going and going, you know, so I've done like, you're saying 11 or 12. I've worked on like, probably 50 shows. But they're because they're not all on, you know, you're doing pilots, you're doing those you're doing that you're coming in for a week or whatever. But yeah, I mean, right after Oh, and I got kind of, you know, I was lucky enough that Wanda Sykes started a late night show. I wrote two monologues for her that kind of fit what she wanted, and I got that job. So luckily, after I left Ellen, I had like a job right around the corner, which was nice. Clothes. Like I could use a whole different sensibility of late night stuff, you know, which was really fun and writing sketches and filming stuff and being on it. It was a fun. Well, it's a new Yeah, I did Arsenio and there's a reboot. And Late Night with James Corden. I started doing some more late night stuff. Throughout the years, a lot of award shows Teen Choice, all that kind of stuff. Well, I did Alan, cuz I had like, a lot of award experience with her.

Scott Edwards:

Right, right. And what's interesting for the listening audience, is that when people think of show business, they think of the famous actors that there's two points I wanted to bring up. One was that people in the real world people don't understand that when you're in show business, that you might get a five year Series in and be a name actor. But guess what, after those five years, you may not have a job for another five years. It you're really going job to job and you were able to land writing gig after writing good after writing gig, which is a testament to your talent as a writer, that you didn't have the downtime that a lot of actors and other people in show business have. The other part that was interesting to me, is that a lot of people think well ever Anybody in Hollywood, that makes it famous, become multimillionaires. And they don't think about all the people behind the scenes, the camera people, the writers, the producers and people that you don't actually see the directors, but you were able, and I'm only assuming, because we haven't discussed it. But you made a good living as a writer, and that's a great success story.

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, it's like, yeah, I'm not like, you know, a big movie writer or anything, I'm just kind of like a, you know, daily show right now I just walk around, write some stuff and leave. But yeah, it pays pretty good. And you know, if you can get it, and WGA is, you know, Writers Guild is really important to me, as far as anything that tells me, you know, health insurance, stuff like that, like, always work, but you know, you need that kind of backup otherwise, you know, you hear the stories, you know, people have to pay an exorbitant amount of money for health insurance. Well, writers don't make that much money. But that really helps, you know, write that kind of stuff. Right, then you will, you know, getting when you don't have a job for for three months, or whatever it is, or sometimes a year, then you have at least residuals coming in from shows. It's important.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah. And that's something else, I'm sure now. And I'm sure that's something people don't realize, as well, it's not just the actors that can get residuals from TV series that get rebooted or rerun, but the writers as well.

Unknown:

Yeah, and writers kind of get, you know, screwed a lot of time to produce, it wasn't my money. But, I mean, depends. It depends who you are what you do. But for me, you know, I just walk into a place I get basically a weekly WGA rate. And then sometimes they get more, which is fun. And sometimes I get less, you know, so you never know, but sometimes everyone's just like, stand up, you know, you'll get a job. And they'll be like, you get this, you're gonna get a lot of money for this job right here, you know? And then next job, maybe you don't get so much. So it's like, it all evens out in the end. But it's been great, you know, very good.

Scott Edwards:

Well, congratulations. I'm just so proud of all your success. Now you've worked with, we've already mentioned Ellen DeGeneres and a number of other people was there anybody that you got to work with that the maybe a celebrity or somebody you got to write for that really stood out for you is is memorable, or you learn something from?

Karen Anderson:

Well, I love working with Wanda, I mean, you know, I tend to edit bay with her we do stuff. I mean, a lot of it is going to be you have to go in it, you have to do that part of it. You know, there's a lot more than, like, you have to produce your own stuff. I really learned a lot on that show. Just because it was totally up my alley. But and same with you know, oddly Arsenio just these places where we were able to kind of do whatever we want to because they didn't really know what the show was yet. So we would be able to just write these weird sketches and do these weird things and write so for ourselves if we wanted to. And that was just one of those things, again, where I really learned a lot and worked with. I mean, recently, honestly, one of the, here's one of the, you know, now you're talking about it. I just finished a pilot with Sean Hayes.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, yeah.

Unknown:

Talk Show pilot. And it was me as a writer, and this guy called Matt Roberts from David Letterman. He was, he had been there since he was an intern. He, his whole career was basically David Letterman, except for the last until Letterman went out there. And he was executive producer. He was head writer at one point, you know, anyway, his buddies was Sean Hayes. That was like, just working with that guy. I mean, it was one of the best experiences I've had in a long time. But we really hit it off. And Shawn was just just a pure joy to work for who's so funny, so funny. And again, we just got to do what kind of we didn't know what we thought was funny, you know, and he really added to it, Sean, Sean is really good. He's a really good producer. And it's really funny. Well, we're hoping that that show goes,

Scott Edwards:

Yeah, let's hope it does. And I think it's a couple of things. One, it's exciting, that here, you know, 2030 years into your career, there's still something new and different and exciting that gets your creative juices going. And, again, that's a statement towards your talent as a writer and as a performer, that you still find the joy in the in the new creative challenges. The other thing that comes to mind that I think you know, we could wrap this up pretty soon but I wanted to share with the audience in you are a particularly good example. Comics write for themselves all the time they so they know the press And they know the what they're trying to present on stage. And so their writing goes along with their life or their experiences or what they want to portray as the character on stage. As a comedy writer, you shifted from writing about and for yourself, to writing for a vast array of people. And what made me think of that is that if you were to put Ellen and Wanda Sykes and Arsenio Hall and Sean Hayes, in a room, you have four completely different personalities, four different projections of who they are to the audience. And yet you're able to morph in and write for them. Does that come to your mind? Or do you have an acknowledgement of that each time you're writing? You're writing for somebody different?

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, I mean, I try to I think it's probably like an impressionist, you know, you have an ear for it. Yeah. Or music. You can have an ear for? I don't know, I guess, people waste. So yeah, I kind of, so when I say you to write in their voice. I guess that's what that means. Because I've never honestly talked about it like this. But like, that's what it would be, I can hear their voice. So then I can write it in, where they can hear it

Scott Edwards:

just to compound the situation. What I teach comedy or talk to people about doing comedy, one of the things we say is you have to find your voice on stage, who you want the audience to see and hear. And I think you made a great analogy that like an impressionist, you have to have an ear for the tempo and the style of the somebody else. And then in your case, you turn it into paper writing. And you're you're being funny, but in the voice of somebody else. I mean, I would think that's one really challenging to really creative in three can be really difficult.

Unknown:

I don't know. I try not to sound like you know, try to be Mert not that hard. It's not as hard for me as other things in the world. You know, I mean, for me, it's, it's just, I can hear their voice. I can write in it. Sometimes it doesn't always click, you know, it's not always a thing where it's a really great fit. I mean, for me, most of the time, it's a decent fit, you know, sometimes I wrote for like James Corden, it was okay. You know, I didn't really, it wasn't like, at first it was fine when I was writing his monologues, but then it was it kind of switched, it switched up his monologues from being like a stand up monologue to, you know, just your regular late night monologue. And it wasn't, you know, I don't know. It just wasn't my fit, you know, for six months,

Scott Edwards:

I would just thought that it'd be easier to write for Ellen and Wanda Sykes because you come from that same kind of stage stand up background, and yet writing for Sean Hayes, Arsenio Hall or some of these others, you have to really pivot and be able to, like you said to, to understand and speak their voice. Yeah.

Karen Anderson:

But like, well, like, Sean was just me, Sean was, to me just a perfect fit. I was immediate, immediately fit with him. And then

Scott Edwards:

zero standard background.

Unknown:

No, no, just okay, acting and improv and stuff. But and then are sending Oh, yeah, maybe I had to kind of pivot a little bit over there. Just a little bit. But that was another good learning thing. I mean, you know, once you start doing it a lot, you kind of also know how to do it.

Scott Edwards:

Well, and you made a good point that it's easy for you. And I think that it's interesting for everybody. I'm kind of announcer

Karen Anderson:

like I want to make the point that it's not everyone's a hit, you know, there's some times where you go,

Scott Edwards:

you're being modest because everybody's more critical of themselves than other people. And that's just a good thing to have in you because it keeps you beaten up on yourself to improve and it pushes you. So I understand where you're coming from on that my thing that I was sharing was that you were making the point that it comes to us somewhat naturally. But that's like, some people can go off and pick up a guitar and play it or they go to an engine and they can fix it. And it just it's kind of a natural thing for him. But for everybody else. It's a real challenge. And like my mom spent decades trying to make me a musician and I just don't have that gene in me. I could try 12 instruments and I suck at all of them. But if it comes to sales or marketing or you know producing a show to me, that's like falling off a rock. I can do it real easy. So Your talent, in your experience over the decades has made what to everybody else is a really amazing talent. And to you, it's like, oh, no, that's really easy for me. Because you have that part.

Unknown:

The hard part. Yeah. But the hard part is, you know, it is all like, you know, they say it's like, basically having homework every night when you're a writer. But yeah, so you have to actually have, that the hardest part for me is like, the discipline, part of it is like, being on a deadline. And, you know, I really have to have, I have to have an actual hourly deadline practically to get to really be successful, because otherwise I'll just,

Scott Edwards:

well, that was what

Karen Anderson:

cooks do all day. You know. I mean, I literally sit in the kitchen and cook for, you know, three weeks instead of write my own. Yeah, exactly.

Scott Edwards:

Having a deadline. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I need it. Right. Well, Tony comedian, his interview was really complimentary and said that both you and arch Barker, arch really likes to write and makes an in doesn't make himself but he literally tries to write something almost every day. You write under a deadline, but you're writing for other people, and it's your job as opposed to writing for yourself. And Tony, who loves being onstage and loves performing? finds it challenging to sit down and write? And is not, as you said, discipline is that? Well, you've had all these decades of experience, and success. And we've mentioned a number of the shows. Before we close this up, and it's great. We're gonna hear, hopefully, the Sean Hayes show goes through, I don't see why it wouldn't. And that'll be another amazing opportunity for you. But we should also touch on that you have a terrific podcast called dining with Doug and Karen, you and Doug Benson have been doing this for a while? Is that something you're having fun with?

Unknown:

Yeah, we love to do it. The only problem is, because what we do is we go into restaurants, and then we talk about the food. So

Scott Edwards:

a bit of a stop to that. But the point my point was, is that you're still active and creative. And it goes beyond writing, you're doing a podcast that people can still look up. It's out there, it's evergreen people can find dining with Doug and Karen.

Karen Anderson:

Yeah, we do have quite a few episodes. And you're we haven't done it in a while, though.

Scott Edwards:

And you're looking forward to working possibly in the new show with Sean Hayes. What's coming up in fingers crossed my fingers, what kind of other adventures or in your future? I would think you'd be a terrific book writer, is that come up?

Karen Anderson:

No. I mean, I always think I'm gonna write some kind of book. And then I, you know, I started to do one in the pandemic of basically cooking for my family, too, because they just look at me, like, you know, it's like, the old thing of like, women are the shorter cook in the family. But when the pandemic came, all of a sudden, we all sudden are working from home, like our husbands or our partners, or whoever, and but we're still doing all the work. And so, I kind of started writing these sorts of things like that, like I pretended I was on. I don't know what you think of this book. This is like, something I just started, which is that, you know, I feel like I'm like in a civil war, you know, and I have to make do with what I've got, because you can't, you couldn't at the beginning, no one went to the store anything. You know, you have to just like, make sure you use all the onions in the house, and I called my husband the other day. But it's true, we just would just like wait for like food, you know, I just make sure I'm trying to, you know, because everyone is stealing toilet paper, not stealing, but you know, hoarding toilet paper. And so I was like, I kind of make these noodles last night, I got to use this for 14 meals. And now I'm not making it that clear, but it's pretty much just cold, like, you know, oh, and then what I would do is, and I still have to do this, because I'm not working today. I'll do it for blood because I put I make him lunch every day in the back office, that I bring it to him and he's on Zoom meetings. And like the other day, I heard somebody go is that on the Y enroll situation from the Zoom call. I did hand him a plate, just a hand and a plate. I won't show my face. And I basically get a kick out of it, you know, so and I love cooking and I have a lot of cooking connections in the world. And I've worked on Martha and Snoop Martha's I've worked with Martha Stewart for three seasons, and I really like cooking. So I'm trying to combine them.

Scott Edwards:

Oh, that's that would be fun. And I think that recipes and stuff. You know what would be interesting and I'm just throwing out an idea for you. So if it hits I want a percentage. You could probably write a really, really Funny cookbook, you know, cookbooks are usually recipes. And you could turn that into a storyline where you're still sharing what I want to do. Yeah, yeah. You're still sharing cooking ideas and secrets. But you you've wrap it in a story, some fiction, that makes it a lot more interesting. I think that would be a huge hit. I'll publish that for you.

Karen Anderson:

All right. You know how to do that. That'd be great.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah. All right. Well, I mean, no, go ahead.

Karen Anderson:

Oh, no, that's it. I think we've got a book. There.

Scott Edwards:

You go. Well, congratulations on all your success. We've mentioned a number of the shows you've written on, you've had so many, such a variety of experience when it comes to writing all these various shows, all these various celebrities and actors. And I always like to bring it back to stand up. So as we wind this down, stand up comedy. And really, the sketch work you did in high school is what led and kind of started this ball rolling. Is there anything that you know, now you wish you knew, then?

Karen Anderson:

Well, I think I kind of mentioned this with you. But I didn't really know that you could just go from stand up to writing the show. I don't think when I was first starting. You can't because do it, you have to actually work towards it. But you know, I didn't realize that. That's a lot of like, I don't think I realized like Steve Martin used to be a writer. And although I don't think I knew that then. So I would realize that. Yeah, that could be a stepping stone, you know, but Right. I kind of think I thought that.

Scott Edwards:

Well, it makes sense to perform later. Yeah, performing improv in high school, you're not thinking, wow, I could be a TV show writer. I mean, it's just not the connection I think anybody would make. But I think that is a very common one very common way to go. Right. Right. in show business, the right, or the opposite way,

Karen Anderson:

you know, writers to performers, obviously.

Scott Edwards:

Yeah. And it's all interconnected. But I think that in your case, your stage experience as a stand up comedian, was a foundation for your success.

Unknown:

Oh, totally. Absolutely. It was like my, that was like, how I went to school for it. You know, I mean, you go to school to write and, you know, and I did, and I, you know, I did get a degree, but and I learned how to write pretty well in college. But you know, as far as writing, writing, technically. So that helped. But yeah, I mean, you can't go to school for it. Really, you know, you have to just start doing it. That's what they say. And I don't ever know if without Santa Pau. Anybody gets something that gets the right.

Scott Edwards:

Well, it was a terrific joy to work with you and have you around in.

Karen Anderson:

That was so nice to have that club. That was big part of it. Yeah. Well, I'm

Scott Edwards:

glad those days every

Karen Anderson:

night two times a night. Yeah, you

Scott Edwards:

get a lot of experience. And you learn so much about yourself and writing. And I'm glad that it had a small part to do with all your success. But you're an amazing talent. I know that you're going to continue to knock it out of the park. And we wish you and your amazing husband Blake and your two great boys, Spencer and Andy, a terrific future. But for now, it's all about stand up comedy. So guess what? Yeah, that's right. We have lots of material from Karen Anderson. So right now, ladies and gentlemen, we're gonna share a short comedy set by Karen Anderson live on stage. Karen. Thanks for doing the podcast.

Karen Anderson:

Are you kidding me? What are you gonna put?

Scott Edwards:

Well, you're here. I'll see ya. Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening to the show. Karen. Thanks so much for being our guest today. You shared a lot of great stuff about being a professional television writer and we appreciate it. And right now ladies and gentlemen sit back. Oh good. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Sit back and relax. Here's some great live stand up comedy by Karen Anderson.

Karen Anderson:

Hello. Now and many of you may or may not have heard about our lovely beloved Weiland from the Stone Temple Pilots has a drug problem my rom he has a drug problem so I decided he's going to call the radio station Epic is going to tell them that he has a problem really sorry he's gonna read it, but he's too high to do it. So he has Courtney Love do it for him which How high do you have to be has Courtney Love for a sponsor? You guys sit at home, gotta kneel hang out of his arm she comes over while and you cannot do hair when? That way The needles upside down appointee goes my doctor told me that I have to stop drinking alcohol because I have a numbness in my hand and my arm whatever so I wonder if you don't get in that fun good time with it Enjoy yourself. I'm one of those people that think alcohol is all it's cracked up to be national spokesperson for the alcohol advisory board alcohol, the other clear liquid does a body good? Got gin?

Scott Edwards:

Well, that was a little bit of Stand Up Comedy by my good friend Karen Anderson. And I gotta tell you being able to work with her early in her career and watch her develop as a stand up comedian and then going on to fame and fortune is one of the head writers of the Ellen show. More recently, she's done dancing fools Little Big Shots. The tuck her own podcast dining with Doug and Karen. It just goes on and on. She's a terrific writer and comedian keep an eye out for a and watch for the new Sean Hayes show. Let's hope that that happens. All right, ladies and gentlemen, thanks again for joining us for this week's show. Be sure to share it with friends and rabid if you get a chance. We'll see you next week with another great podcast. Take care. Thanks. Bye.

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