The Problem with Our Staff
Q&A with Robby Slowik, 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. To kick things off, we talked to staff writer Robby Slowik about how he got here and whether or not a very tiny gorilla would make a good pet.
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you were doing before you took this job.
I’m an international kid. I was born in South Africa. I grew up in England, lived kinda all over the world, but I like to claim Tampa, Florida as home. And before this, I was a stand-up comic, and before that I worked for Jon’s other project, right after “The Daily Show,” that never ended up coming out. Mostly my fault, I was told.
Our process for hiring everybody was very well covered. But what made you decide to sit down and actually write your packet?
Well, I’d worked for Jon before, and I knew — I mean, this is going to sound like I’m sucking up or whatever — but it’s true: I know how great it is to work for Jon. He’s a super passionate guy. I think we align on most things politically. I’ve definitely written for some stuff that I don’t align with politically in the past, because I need a paycheck, baby, and I’m willing to sell my soul for money. So working with Jon, who is someone that I align with, and I love the work he does, and I think he’s one of the funniest guys in all of the world. So when there was an opportunity to work with him again, I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.”
It’s magical to have someone like Jon that you’re writing for because Jon elevates everything.
So how does writing on this show compare to the other shows that you’ve written on?
That’s a good question. This is a show that I can be so passionate about, because as much as I love writing jokes, being funny, and making points, these are exactly the things I want to be talking about. Being able to be funny, but then spotlight our fucked up economic system, the way our veterans are treated, domestic violence and its impact on gun violence — like that is really heady, exciting stuff to be talking about. And then doing that through Jon’s voice is the best. It’s magical to have someone like Jon that you’re writing for because Jon elevates everything. There are some people where you put the thing on the page, and then they do exactly what you put on the page. And there are some people who take what you put on the page, and they just elevate it to another place. And Jon is that, which allows me to be lazier. Jon will fix this in post.
What is it like to write about objectively bad news and have to make it funny?
I think that’s life. I mean, I think that’s just like if you’re living any type of life here on earth, you are consistently bombarded with bad news. Life is bad news, that should be the banner — this is the Russian Jew in me. You have to find a way to keep moving forward, to trudge forward. For me, making something funny has always been the way to move forward, the way to handle this stuff. I like gallows humor, and I think it’s an important skill. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism, some therapists would say, but if that’s what it is, it works for me.
What has been the most surprising thing about this experience so far?
I think as a comedy writer, you can go in very cynical — not even cynical, I think almost rightly believing that all we’re doing is making jokes and critiquing and we’re really not doing anything. We’re not moving the needle. We’re certainly not activists, and I don’t want to be confused with that. We’re people making jokes, a lot of the time at the expense of people who are out there doing the real shit, even though those people don’t do it the way we want them to. A lot of them are corrupt and shitty people, but they’re still in the game, and we’re just kind of standing off to the side lobbing rocks at them.
So to do something like covering burn pits and then seeing on Twitter, for example, many veterans being like, “Hey, I saw your thing, and it pushed me to push the VA for coverage, to go get checked out.” I think it spurred this New York Times investigation into the burn pits. I think it’s a thing that could actually help, not lead to, but help lead to veterans getting the coverage they need. And that is shocking to me. I couldn’t really have imagined a world where, you know, our little yuck yucks could help people’s lives.
What habit of yours do you think your coworkers find most annoying about you?
Oh God — my speaking out loud.
Okay, enough softball questions. Let’s get serious. You can take one wild animal, have it shrunken down to pet size and it has to live inside the house with you. What animal are you picking?
Pet size, huh? I’m going to say a gorilla, I guess. Like a little pet-sized gorilla would be, because there’s one of them that knows sign language for God’s sake, so it’s really pretty trainable.
Right, and even if they went completely crazy, they’d still be small enough that they couldn’t really kill you or anything.
Yeah, but this also raises the important question of like, how small would a gorilla have to be to not be able to kill me?
We’ll have to get our research team on that. I don’t know.
I feel like even a 30-pound gorilla is going to be a pretty big threat to me.
Yeah, but if it was like chihuahua-sized, right? It’d be fine.
Chihuahua-sized would be my best bet? But then they’re smart. So, I could walk home to find that they’ve laid a trap for me…. I like how motivated this gorilla is to kill me.
I think if you’re feeding it, it’s probably not motivated to kill you, right? It probably wants to keep things going.
Yeah, that’s true. And at least I’d be on top of that.
Alright, what is the dumbest way that you’re afraid of dying? Mine is getting crushed in a revolving door.
You know what I’m going to say? It’s a very regular way. It could be anything — an aneurysm, heart attack, whatever – but it happens while I’m on the couch watching YouTube videos of famous musicians covering other famous musicians songs. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Just super embarrassing to be found keeled over on the couch as Miley Cyrus covers “Jolene.”
What is your dream episode?
Honestly, I think for me, it is policing and the justice system. Again, it’s like what are we going to say that hasn’t been said or like? It’s one of those things where it’s like, ultimately — and I know this almost negates what I said earlier about burn pits — but I’m always a cynic. What difference will it make? You know, what’s it really going to expose or change? Probably nothing. It’s such a deeply embedded system that’s corrupt and broken and complicated. But I think it’s one of the core issues plaguing this country right now.