This is the sixth entry in the IN CONVERSATION series. Click here to read the previous entry with author Danika Stone.
Rob Fee is one of the most talented comedy writers working. Odds are likely that if you recognize his name (or don’t recognize his name) you’ve read at least one article from him. More recently, he gained attention through his vocal criticisms of The Fat Jew’s joke thievery.
Fee’s writing is all over the place (Playboy, Thought Catalog, and MTV to name a few) — and for a good reason. The man is a wealth of comedy gold, and I was lucky enough to interview him for the CLASH series IN CONVERSATION.
So, without further adieu, here is my exchange with Rob Fee.
JAYME KARALES for CLASH: First off, I want to give you congrats your success thus far. I think you’re one of the first to stand out in this generation for becoming well known for their writing online. That’s not take away from your #1 comedy album Grape Stomp or writing for Ellen or any other ventures, but your articles are everywhere. So my first question is what is your work ethic like, how much are you writing per day?
ROB FEE: Oh that’s incredibly kind of you to say! I write quite a bit on a daily basis. There are several websites I do daily articles for and I run social media accounts for a few brands as well. Between that, TV shows, and movie scripts, it can get hectic. Plus there are always random one-off projects that come along as well. Last week I wrote a script for a web series, some sketches we pitched to Comedy Central, monologue jokes for an awards show, and some football jokes for a company that wanted to start live tweeting games.
KARALES: How do you deal with time management in relation to that and everything else going on in your world?
FEE: I really try to give myself a set amount of hours to work, or otherwise I’ll just sit in front of my laptop all day typing away. It’s nice being able to do your work from anywhere, but the problem is there’s no clear distinction between work and leisure time. So even when you’re not technically working, you end up grabbing your laptop during a movie and all of a sudden you’re back on the clock at midnight. As much as you have to motivate yourself to work, you also have to make sure you take time to turn off your brain, or you’ll burn yourself out.
KARALES: When you initially started writing to get published, was there a clear goal in mind?
FEE: The first thing I ever had published was a piece I wrote for National Lampoon. I was so excited I spammed the link to everyone I knew. I mean, I was sending it to people I hadn’t talked to since high school. I was just so excited to have my words out there that I wanted to share it with everyone. I quickly learned that’s probably not the best idea. I just wanted to write about things I liked and have fun with it. So many people now seem to go into it just wanting to make money. I’ve had people with no experience and zero credentials ask me about places to get published then turn it down because it’s not paid. What other job could you walk into with a blank resume and insist on getting paid? It’s baffling.
KARALES: Has your routine changed at all since you first began?
It’s a lot more work. At one point I was writing 120-150 articles per month, which is just stupid. I’ve cut back on internet writing and work a lot more on TV and movie projects. So in addition to online writing I’m doing 2-3 production meetings every week. It’s busy, but I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve gotten. There are a few projects that’ll be announced soon that I’m REALLY excited about, so that’ll change up the whole routine all over again.
KARALES: As I mentioned before, you had a popular stand up album called Grape Stomp. What was your experience doing stand up prior to that and did your interest in it precede that of comedy writing in general?
FEE: I definitely don’t consider myself a stand up, because those guys and girls are grinding it out and getting on stage constantly. I certainly write more than anything, but I had always wanted to do a stand up album, so I did one. Before that I didn’t have a tremendous amount of stand up experience, but I enjoy it and still get up from time to time. The best part is that every year you have to renew your album with iTunes to keep it in the store. I didn’t realize that until it was already taken down. I thought that would motivate me to do a new album. It did not, haha.
KARALES: Who are some of your influences, both from writing and comedy perspectives?
FEE: I’ve always adored Norm Macdonald. No one will ever be better than him. Jerrod Carmichael is so good it’s almost frustrating. I love the guys from It’s Always Sunny because they’ve found a way to keep a show with such a simple premise fresh and hilarious for so many years without ever jumping the shark. The Impractical Jokers are pals of mine and I love that they’ve built success as a group of friends just going out and having fun with each other. It’s amazing. Also Nathan Fielder is a comedic angel and makes me laugh until I hurt.
KARALES: Between articles, web series, stand up, and others, you’ve dabbled in a number of different mediums. Has there been one in particular that has stuck out to you as the most enjoyable?
FEE: Not really. If you’re not having fun with whatever project you’re working on, it’ll show.
KARALES: What would you cite as an important piece of advice—that isn’t often dealt out—for people looking to write full time?
FEE: Obviously you always need to be writing, but don’t just try to write what you think will be popular. Write what you know and what you like. You can tell when someone is writing about a topic because they think it’s popular as opposed to something they actually enjoy. Also ignore mean comments by anonymous commenters because those people are human versions of sewage.
KARALES: What was your favorite film featuring Sinbad?
FEE: I mean, Jingle All the Way is the obvious choice. That’s like choosing Michael Jordan as your favorite 90s Chicago Bulls player. But then you’ve got First Kid, which is certainly the Scottie Pippen. There’s also Necessary Roughness aka Horace Grant. Houseguest is either BJ Armstrong or John Paxson. Anything else is Bill Cartwright or Bill Wennington, for sure.
KARALES: Where can people find your work online?
FEE: If you follow my Twitter @robfee and my Instagram @robfee11, you’ll get most of it. I don’t know why there’s an 11 at the end of my name, by the way.