“I find that being in a good mood for creative work is worth the hours it takes to get in a good mood.” – B.J. Novak
This episode covers principles and tactics for creating amazing careers, comedy, writing, and much more. Hilarious stories weave it all together.
My guest is B.J. Novak (@bjnovak), best known for his work on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning comedy series “The Office” as an actor, writer, director, and executive producer. He has appeared in films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks. He is also the author of the acclaimed short story collection “One More Thing” and the #1 New York Times Best Seller “The Book With No Pictures” (great Christmas gift), which has more than one million copies in print. Last but not least, he is co-founder of The List App.
In other words, he does a lot and does it well. What are the habits, tools, and routines that help him to do this? That’s what we explore in this conversation.
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Want to hear another podcast from a comedian? — Listen to my conversation with Whitney Cummings. In this episode, we discuss turning pain into creativity (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: In this episode, we discuss how a good mood impacts productivity. What situations do you find most difficult to overcome, and what techniques have you tried to reestablish a positive mindset? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Learn more about the Harvard Lampoon and The Princeton Tiger
- Seeking contact information for celebrities in Los Angeles? Check out Creative Artist Agencies (CAA)
- Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
- Learn more about Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist
- The Big Book of New American Humor by William Novak and Moshe Waldoks
- The Big Book of Jewish Humor by William Novak and Moshe Waldoks
- Daily Rituals by Mason Currey (Check the audio book)
- “How Do People Get New Ideas?” by Isaac Asimov
- Want to record ideas like B.J. Novak? Get the same pen and notebook he uses
- Check out Scrivener for book writing
- Watch the movie Memento
- Two Toasters, the app development company
- The Oxford Book of Aphorisms by John Gross
- Make your bar fancy with big ice cubes via Tovolo Ice Cube Trays
- Favorite documentaries from this episode:
- Examples of great comedy writing, The Grinder and Season 4 of Mr. Show
- The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
- Follow BJ Novak
- Why do so many people migrate from Harvard to Hollywood? [6:42]
- What happened the year after B.J. Novak graduated from Harvard [13:07]
- How B.J. got Bob Saget booked for his event, and how it opened the door to Hollywood [14:12]
- Stories and tips for getting started as a stand-up comedian [21:52]
- On becoming a writer-actor [29:07]
- The tipping point for when The Office became a success [31:12]
- Lessons learned while working on The Office [33:37]
- The experience of working with Steve Carell [35:47]
- The writing process for The Office: Blue Sky Period [36:42]
- How to maintain positivity and other creative productivity advice [40:15]
- Note-keeping habits and the creative process [44:12]
- What B.J. Novak’s freshman seminar at Harvard on comedy writing would look like [49:12]
- What B.J. Novak’s freshman seminar at Harvard on screenwriting would look like [54:32]
- Why B.J. wanted to create an app [58:42]
- Describing the li.st app [1:02:12]
- Top lists [1:08:22]
- Rapid fire questions:
- Who comes to mind when you think of the word successful? [1:13:32]
- What was your senior thesis? [1:13:52]
- Most gifted books [1:14:37]
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? [1:15:37]
- Do you have any bad habits that you’re working on? [1:16:22]
- Are their words or phrases that you overuse? [1:17:05]
- Best purchase that you’ve made in recent memory for less than $100 [1:18:52]
- Favorite documentaries [1:19:36]
- How to ‘power up’ in the morning [1:21:47]
- Is there a particular time of day when you do your best writing? [1:24:00]
- Examples of good comedy writing TV shows [1:24:42]
- What historical figure do you most identify with? [1:25:15]
- Advice to an aspiring comedy writer [1:27:02]
- Advice to your 30-year-old self [1:29:47]
- Bob Saget
- Jonathan Katz
- Greg Daniels
- Steve Carell
- Blake Ross
- P.J. O’Rourke
- Zach Galifianakis
- Demetri Martin
- Matt Witheiler
- James Franco
- Benjamin Franklin
Posted on: November 25, 2015.
Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.
Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.