Thursday, January 19, 2012

SDB Interviews: Josh of JoshLehrman.com

When I started the SDB Interviews series, I wanted to feature people who inspire me and could possibly inspire you.

Check out this all-American guy, Josh Lehrman. This pastoral picture could not be more inspirational.



Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I want to let you see the other side of Josh's personality.

If you look somewhere in the middle of those extremes, you will find the Josh Lehrman I know and love. He and I went to high school together; though I was a year older than him, Josh could not have had a bigger fan than me. His participation in speech & debate caused me to go to a few speech tournaments, his acerbic wit made me follow him during lunch, and his tender heart allowed me to get to know him really well. Josh even saved my butt by participating in a children's theatre production I directed—he stole the show as the wild Uncle Sid bear in a twisted version of the Three Little Bears. Since high school, he has attended UCLA (have I mentioned he's brilliant?) and worked in several arenas of the L.A. entertainment business.

Josh maintains a website full of his comedic writing—the topics range from cringe-worthy tales from childhood to Josh's struggles with roommates and girls. Have I also mentioned that he's friends with Bobby Wilson? I think that speaks for itself.

JoshLerhman.com describes his comedy site:

This website is a collection of my miscellaneous writing over the years—some true, some based in reality, and some completely false…but hopefully all entertaining.

As I type this out, I realize that I could keep going all day about how much I adore Josh.

I am just a fan. I hope you will be, too.


1. What is your site all about? Who would enjoy reading it?

Anything I write ends up in one of three mental folder—

(1) Material I’m working on that I think is good and/or has potential,
(2) material that I like but that enough readers (or, in the case of stand-up, listeners) didn’t, and
(3) trash.

Aside from a few anomalies, JoshLehrman.com is entirely mental folder number two. I post stuff that doesn’t quite fit my comedic character, that doesn’t have a broad enough appeal, that works better when read than when performed, etc. Most of what I write is meant to be funny, but some of it is just stuff that I felt strongly about and wanted to share.

I’m still trying to find my audience, but it tends to be anyone who’s more introspective. Also Latinas. And maybe people who find happiness in schadenfreude. Not a lot of people read my site, but I have gotten messages from individuals I don’t know who say they enjoy it and/or that it has helped them feel better. That’s pretty much the point.

2. Your comedy, like most people's, is focused on exaggerating your shortcomings and bad experiences. How do you feel when good things happen to you or you get a rise in self-esteem? What is something good that has happened to you recently?

Part of me wants to say that I can separate my personality and real life experiences from that of the Josh character that I write for; but, another part of me will admit that—and this is maybe more of a personal thing than it is a “writer” or “comedian” thing—I get nervous when situations go well for me. I consciously minimize the amount of happiness I feel in order to minimize the potential for disappointment if and when these positive things disappear or backfire down the line. Still, the pessimism and negativity is just a protective fa├žade. Deep down, I’m a pretty positive guy.  How could I not be? This career takes a lot of optimism to keep going, even if that optimism is delusional.

(Outside of my psychological inner-workings, though, don’t forget that comedy doesn’t come from positivity; it comes from negative experiences and negative opinions.)

Something good that’s happened to me recently? I have a girlfriend again for the first time in about three years. She’s really sweet and we’re getting along so far, but if and when I talk about her onstage, my character will, no doubt, have nothing but negative things to say.

That’s comedy, I guess: trying to get everyone to love you by betraying the people that already do.

3. You not only produce stand-up comedy, but also screenplays and general silliness. What is your creative process: where/when do you work best, where do you find inspiration, what do you do when you run into a creative wall?

There’s no specific time of day or place where writing works best for me (nor is there, I think, a specific source of inspiration); I just jot down anything interesting that comes to mind and work on it whenever and wherever I have time.

Luckily, I’m usually juggling enough material that I rarely run into a creative wall; but, if I do, I’ll turn to other people. I’ll ask for feedback, I’ll hold a writing group, or I’ll read other material on the topic about which I’m writing.

I know this much for sure, though: self-doubt and panicking are never helpful...but they’re definitely a part of my process.

4. What have been some of the more helpful educational experiences you have had? These could be actual lessons from school or just life experiences.

I majored in screenwriting at UCLA and I’ve taken classes in stand-up comedy, but the best educational experiences have always come from failing...which sucks.

In art, I think you can only find out what works by finding out what doesn’t, and it’s a sad reality that the more experienced professional doesn’t usually want to help the amateur, either because the professional views the new guy as competition or s/he legitimately doesn’t have the time. Whatever the case, it’s up to you to stumble towards that goal yourself.

In terms of lessons, the main one I think I’ve learned is to be as honest as you can when writing.  Most of my best work has come from a theme that I feel strongly about—not something that I think is marketable or has broad appeal. But again, my website only has a handful of followers and I’ve sold nothing; so, I’m not really the go-to lesson guy here.

5. Being in the entertainment industry, such as working on “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” means that you have access to celebrities in a way that most people don't. Do you have any stories that might draw back the curtain on any certain famous people?

No, not really. I mean, celebrities are people, too, you know? Some are dicks and some aren’t. In general, I’ve found that the ones who aren’t as famous are going to be more difficult to deal with because they don’t have as cushiony of careers as they might like.

Also—I don’t know if this is pertinent to what you’re asking, but—it always makes me laugh the way celebrities are judged by such different standards. It takes so little for people to make up their minds. For example, if Tom Cruise shakes your hand when he meets you and says, “Hi,” you’ll walk away going, “Oh my God!  Nicest man ever!” But if he ignores you for an eighth of a second, you’ll walk away going, “Tom Cruise is the biggest f***ing a**hole that ever walked this planet Earth! F*** him and f*** that Scientology horse he rode in on!”

Having said that, I know no one as famous as Tom Cruise.

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