The Problem with Our Staff
Q&A with Kasaun Wilson, Staff Writer
If you’ve listened to our podcast, you know that our staff is loaded with talented, hilarious writers. We thought we’d give you a chance to get to know them a little better by asking them probing questions about their hopes, dreams, and fears of dying in embarrassing ways. Keep reading to hear how staff writer Kasaun Wilson found out he’d been hired and what cereal he’d choose to eat for the rest of his life.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you were doing before you got this job?
I’m Kasaun Wilson. I’m just a kid from Jersey City, New Jersey, and I only say Jersey City because I went to high school in Delaware, and that gets no street cred. The only time I bring up Delaware is if any chorus or tennis accomplishments come up that I have. But yeah I came from Jersey City, ended up going to Howard, and backed my way into comedy. To know me is to love me. I don’t really know what else to say about myself.
So what were you doing before you got hired?
I was in California. I was a researcher on a BET show that never saw the light of day. So just making it to air was one for two for me. My wife and I moved to California three years ago just to start my stand-up career out there. About a year later, the Coronavirus hit, and that was God’s way of being like, “Ha, gotcha!” So I was doing stand-up in virtual shows and working on the BET show before I got this job.
Our hiring process has been very well covered, but what was it that made you sit down to decide to write your packet?
Everybody else on the staff has like a come-to-Jesus moment in their answer to this question. I’m the person whose story, when they’re like “Jon Stewart packet day,” is probably going to piss everybody off. I was in L.A. and I just wasn’t meeting a lot of people, so I joined this group called Connect The Writers. They send out a newsletter with opportunities, and I was like, “You know what? I have performed a lot, but I’m going to just start working on these opportunities.” And the first one that they sent was “The untitled Jon Stewart project.”
I told my wife, as God as my witness, I told my wife, “I’m just going to do this as a writing exercise. I’m not going to get this. I know I’m not going to get it.” The only thing I’ve gotten in my life was Oklahoma, Grease, and South Pacific. Then we won, like, a show choir competition in Virginia. And that is the crowning achievement of my life, and in my thirties that’s not good.
So I said, I’m just going to treat this like a writing exercise. I did it, and I sent it off like a message in a bottle, never to be seen again. I legitimately didn’t think about it again, and I just started doing other submissions just to learn the format, just to learn writing, just to get things on a page. Then two weeks later, I got a message saying, “We’d like you to submit for a second round.” I ran upstairs and showed it to my wife, and she was like, “Well, write the second packet! So they sent the packet, and she was like, “Do you know how big this is on Twitter?” I don’t even go on Twitter like that, so she showed me that this is like a big deal, which obviously calmed me down significantly.
No pressure, no pressure.
Yeah, so I did the second packet, and I just said as an artist you sign up for millions of no’s and you just hope for one. If you get like five yesses in a career, you got an EGOT, you know? So I said, “Well, if this is a yes, let’s do it again. I did the first one carefree, let’s do the second one carefree. So I sent it off, and two days later they wanted to do an interview. They were so nice that I was like, “I’m definitely not getting this.” Like in the audition room, with the person who gets it, they’re very light. And then with the people who don’t get it get, they say, “Thank you for coming!” This was a very “Thank you for coming!” interview. So I was like, “Oh, I’m definitely not getting this, but these are just really great people and being considered for something that’s great is an honor in itself.”
Most people got a call from [former head writer] Chelsea being like, “We want you to be on staff,” but I got a DM from [showrunner] Brinda saying, “Is it too early to say congratulations?” I was like, if this wasn’t intended for me, my heart is broken. But then within 15 minutes, Chelsea called me and said, “Would you like to be a writer?” And it was one of the crowning moments of my life.
That’s amazing. So what did you do when you found out you won?
It was a very “Price Is Right” moment, where I was like, “I know I’m going to probably bid $1.” But you know, honestly, I cried a little bit. I recorded it and I screenshotted the tweet and ran upstairs to show my wife. She started crying harder than me, and I was like, “This is not about you right now.” It just doesn’t happen that way. I had been performing for so long that I never really viewed myself like a writer. I viewed myself as a performer, so for somebody to look at something that I wrote on a page and be like this is valuable really meant a lot to me. I still have a hard time reconciling that this is what I get to do for a living today.
This is the first show you’ve written on. How does it compare to other jobs you’ve had?
It’s so much different than what I thought, because everybody is so kind and genuine and cool. Everybody’s so cool that you would think this show sucks. The talent-to-kind ratio is not supposed to be this high on both sides. You can ask any comedian here, like we’ve performed at enough bars at 2:00 a.m. with three people who are just tired of being there. Being in a place where it’s not just about being funny, but, like Jon says, what we do in our comedy is informed by morality or some sense of morality. It is inspiring and it means a lot to work here. So, you know, compared to being at a Best Western in Cincinnati, this is pretty great.
That checks out. What is it like to write about objectively bad news and try to make it funny?
Oh, it’s great. I have a great time. It’s the equivalent of asking a parent what it’s like with their child. It’s terrible, of course it’s terrible, but it’s great. So it’s a practice that every comedian has — and probably an exercise that we all got in trouble in the second grade for doing, while we learned what this new muscle was. It’s just being able to see something that other people don’t see.
For some reason, since I was like 17, I’m called up at every family funeral of mine to do remarks because my family is so dramatic they need a counterbalance. I’ve been that balance since the 11th grade. So like, my family has this thing where they jump in the caskets, they jump in the grave. They try to jump into the casket at the church like, “Take me with you, Robert!” Out of the 10 best shows of my life, Wilson funerals are four of them. When you love this thing that we do, you see things that other people don’t see, and part of the fun of it is trying to get you to see it as well.
If the show business thing doesn’t work out, you could be a funeral comedian. You’ve got a side gig.
I would LOVE that. I certainly would screen the kind of funerals I do. Sometimes you just gotta know when the crowd is too far gone. But, yeah, with natural causes I’m killing it.
Just so you know, that was less dark than anything Rob said in his interview.
That is hilarious. I don’t know if, with intention, I have the capability to say anything as dark as what Rob says. Rob has real-life darkness.
I think a lot of people will be surprised to know that a lot of what we do is as much news as it is comedy.
What is the most surprising thing about this experience so far?
Hmm, I knew that working for Jon Stewart would be a masterclass, because he works with so much intention and he’s been doing it for so long and has refined his style. I just didn’t know how much I would be invested in the stories that we ended up doing. Like with the process, you’d think like, “Oh, it’s a comedy show. It’s really great.” But I think a lot of people will be surprised to know that a lot of what we do is as much news as it is comedy.
I have such an interest in things that, you know, wouldn’t necessarily make it into my gauntlet of topics that I see on the news every day, like the guns episode was so impactful and not something that I’ve ever seen on TV before, and gun control wasn’t really something that you’d talk about that often where I’m from. Like burn pits, I knew that Jon had worked so much on that, but it’s a part of my algorithm now and I didn’t expect that. I obviously expected to come here and write amazing jokes, but I don’t know if I expected to be as engulfed into the world of news and caring as much as I think we all have in this job.
What is the habit of yours that you think your coworkers find most annoying?
Is this like Family Feud where they’ve already been surveyed? I don’t want to guess wrong. OK, here’s the real thing: I say “That’s a fact” a lot. I say “That’s a fact,” or I say, “Facts plus tax” all the time. “That’s a fact” is my, like, “I agree.” It means OK. It means a lot of things to me. So somebody in the office can be like, “Yo, Sweetgreen is delicious!” And I say “Yo, that’s a fact.” It’s very demonstrative. It’s very Jersey City. I say it a lot, and people probably get annoyed by it. There’s a small chuckle in the room every time I say it, which means it must be something that I’m known for. Right?
What’s the dumbest way that you are afraid of dying?
I want to say storming the Capitol, but I don’t know if I wanna say that on the record.
[Pauses to recover from hysterical fit of laughter] Is there a chance that you might be storming the Capitol?
No, I would never. But I do think that’s the dumbest way to die. There was that one girl, and then everybody just left and went home. It’s just such a wave, like it crashed and then went back out to sea. And the fact that you’re not here to see any of it is, I think, the dumbest way to go.
You know, if a group of Black people stormed a post office, and then one of them got a shot, to be like, “Y’all, stamps are too high”? I’d be like “Yo, what are you doing, man?” Like that’s just not the way to go. I never would have thought… for us, standing on the steps was like whoa. Like do you know the amount of brainstorming that had to happen for civil rights to be like, “We’re going to stand on the steps and let our voices be heard”? The door was a whole ‘nother world. We didn’t even look at the window like, “I can break that one day.” No, we never would have done it. You think when John Kerry lost, we were like, “That window is coming down!” No.
Alright, what is the strangest thing you’ve ever witnessed on public transportation?
It was definitely in D.C.. I saw a guy come on the train with a full sound system. It was somebody that you look at and you’re like, “Oh, this guy’s about to perform.” And then this really old lady came and sat down just behind him. Then she bust out singing, and he looked concerned. And I was like, that’s why you don’t stereotype. I didn’t see that coming. We’ve all seen peeing. We’ve all seen PDA. That’s the 16 Crayola box. The 64, though, was the time she broke out in song in a way that was like, “Whoa, that’s something.” I also don’t ride the train after like nine, so I leave all the crazy stories to y’all.
For your birthday, the other writers got you a cereal buffet. So I’m going to ask you a cereal question. If you had to pick one type of cereal that you would have to eat every day for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
Cinnamon toast crunch.
Wow. Easy peasy.
Oh, it’s not even a question. The only things in consideration were Frosted Flakes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But it’s like, Barack Obama is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Martin Luther King, Jr is Frosted Flakes. They’re both great, but one has a cell phone. So, you got to go with that one. Here’s the thing: Cinnamon Toast Crunch is about the milk. People who eat cereal and then after the cereal is gone they just toss all the milk, I don’t understand that. My wife does that, and it’s like, “Whoa, you’re a sociopath.”
Did you know about this before you married her?
I didn’t, and I feel tricked, but I made a commitment.
Yeah, you gotta see it through.
I’ve got to see how this ends. You know, I’m going to be on TV either way.
But seriously Frosted Flakes is great, but Cinnamon Toast Crunch is just undefeated. It’s the sugar, it’s perfect. It just does something to the milk. It’s undefeated. It’s the best cereal ever.