Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Amy Schumer & John Hoffman

John Hoffman and Amy Schumer sit down to talk about the joys and challenges of leaning into the personal in your writing, the importance of finding the right collaborators, confronting the hardest parts of life with both vulnerability and confidence, and much more.

John Hoffman is the co-creator and showrunner of the critically acclaimed and award-winning comedy-drama mystery series Only Murders in the Building.

Amy Schumer is a writer, actor, director and producer known for creating and starring in the sketch comedy series Inside Amy Schumer, writing and starring in the 2015 comedy film Trainwreck and creating, executive producing, and starring in the comedy-drama series Life & Beth.

Only Murders in the Building and Life & Beth are both currently available to stream on Hulu.


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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America East. The series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producers are Molly Beer and Tiana Timmerberg. OnWriting’s Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Taylor Bradshaw.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


John Hoffman: You are listening to OnWriting, a podcast from the Writer’s Guild of America East.

Amy Schumer: In each episode, you’ll hear from guild members who create the film, TV series, podcast, and news stories that define our culture.

John Hoffman: We’ll discuss everything from inspirations and creative process to what it takes to build a successful career in media and entertainment.

Amy Schumer: I’m Amy Schumer, creator and executive producer of the Hulu series Life & Beth.

John Hoffman: And I’m John Hoffman, co-creator and showrunner of the Hulu series Only Murders in the Building.

Amy Schumer: Hi John.

John Hoffman: Hi Amy Schumer, how are you on this lovely Sunday morning?

Amy Schumer: I’m pretty good, how are you?

John Hoffman: I’m good, thank you. We all haven’t seen, but I’ve been privy to a kangaroo hopping around your apartment-

Amy Schumer: Yes.

John Hoffman: … which excites me. And beyond that, I think it’s a nice Sunday in New York City, it seems to be. I haven’t been out lately because I’ve been behind my laptop finishing the finale of Only Murders in the Building.

Amy Schumer: Wow. Yeah.

John Hoffman: But it’s done, so that’s good.

Amy Schumer: Whoa, you’re done, you wrote it?

John Hoffman: The script is done, yes. It’s a perfect time to chat, because not that I’m ever really that clearheaded, but you know that feeling, you’re like, okay, you’re-

Amy Schumer: Oh, I know that feeling.

John Hoffman: … [inaudible 00:01:25] in your sights.

Amy Schumer: And by the way, I just want to say the kangaroo jumping around my apartment was my son in a kangaroo towel. Just so people don’t think I’ve gotten into weird pets. So my tradition, when I would finish writing something, something big that I’d been working on, I would go to a bar, and I would get some scotch, and I would just sit there alone and have this celebratory I did it scotch. I haven’t done that in almost 10 years, but that was… Do you have any sort of a I did it vice?

John Hoffman: I want to say yes, but I did a thing… Actually, I finished up the first draft of this on Tuesday, and I do like that idea, and I’ve tried to execute something like it every time. But the best one actually happened this past week, because I got our mutual friend, who we were just talking about, Jonathan Groff, at 10:30, after I had turned in the draft of the finale at Julius Bar, right here in the village, and it felt very appropriate, it felt like delight, like just right. So, that was-

Amy Schumer: And what was the drink, what was your celebration drink?

John Hoffman: I shouldn’t have done it at the Julius Bar, I should have gone straight bourbon, but it was a margarita moment, and I don’t know what he ordered was some Campari thing, and it tasted like cough medicine.

Amy Schumer: I have been in a margarita moment for years.

John Hoffman: Really?

Amy Schumer: Every moment is a margarita moment right now.

John Hoffman: You do the salt rim, right?

Amy Schumer: I do. But do you know when you say, “Can I have a salt rim? Can I have a little salt?” And what they hear is, can you roll the whole glass, so your hand… So much salt. You’re like, do you think I should ingest this much salt? Anyway, I think there’s a joke in there somewhere. I would want to put a moment of this in, where you go, “Can I just have a little salt?” And then you get the glass and it’s just a fist full of salt.

John Hoffman: It comes back to corn on the cob.

Amy Schumer: Yeah.

John Hoffman: Yeah. That’s it.

Amy Schumer: If I were a huge fan of Only Murders in the Building, which I am, and I were listening to this, I would want to ask you the question you’ve been asked 7000 times, of take me from the absolute first premise of this show to the pilot you wound up shooting.

John Hoffman: Okay, well, I will work through my discomfort at the fact that starting with me in the show, after-

Amy Schumer: Yes, okay.

John Hoffman: … fandom for [inaudible 00:03:52] of you and your show and everything else that’s going on, but I’ll work through that and just take you through that.

Amy Schumer: Through it. Reading through it, yeah.

John Hoffman: The rather daunting and thrilling moment that happened many, many years ago now was when I was pulling into a spot on Larchmont Boulevard in Los Angeles, which is a real prize to get that spot on Larchmont Boulevard. And I landed in the spot, I had my foot on the brake pedal, and I just checked my email and it was an email saying, “Would you be interested in meeting with Steve Martin to talk about a show that he has an idea for set in New York in a pre-war apartment building? It’s a mystery comedy and it might also star Martin Short.” I don’t know what to tell you happened other than I just opened my notes thing on my phone and I started writing ideas, because that had been a dream of mine for many years, a New York show, and I’m obsessed with pre-war apartment buildings. I’m in one right now.

And so I started just to have ideas, ideas started coming, Rosemary’s Baby, podcast, blah, blah, blah, all this stuff. I realized 20 minutes later that there were many people who had been honking at me, because my foot was still on the brake pedal. They wanted my spot. That was the beginning and then quickly came a dinner with Steve Martin, where I was terrified, basically, because I’d never met Steve. I love him.

Amy Schumer: Where was dinner? Was it at his house?

John Hoffman: No, it was, we were just in Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills at Piccolo Paradiso, something like that. It’s his favorite little Italian spot. He likes the Lemon Tart there. He only eats the center and he leaves before it’s done. He told us that.

Amy Schumer: God, does that not say everything about his whole psyche.

John Hoffman: Exactly, right. Yes.

Amy Schumer: And why not? What a genius way to live. Okay.

John Hoffman: I know. And he had a little bowler hat on at that meeting, and I saw the character. I saw everything else, and then I pitched him and I was scared to tell him, you know this feeling, but sitting in front of Steve Martin and saying, “Do you think this is funny?” Is a little daunting.

Amy Schumer: A little daunting. That’s the way to describe it. Yeah.

John Hoffman: Right, yeah. And as you know as well, I was met with this absolutely open, generous human being who was so kind and said, “Come to New York, let’s talk about it further. I love this idea, blah, blah.” And so I did and that began everything. And so that was Dan Fogelman and Jess Rosenthal who set that meeting up, and that was the two people who have helped along with Steve to sort of make an incredible shift in my life in the best way.

Amy Schumer: Okay, so you guys get going. You’re like, “Okay, we’re liking this feel.” Who sits down and types exterior… So you sit down and you type. Will you talk about that?

John Hoffman: And this is so good, because I think I was so excited to talk to you today, honestly, and you know how I feel about-

Amy Schumer: Me too. I was like, “Wait.”

John Hoffman: I’ve been very expressive and I really mean it, because it’s like, I think this is the thing, it’s really hard to tangibly understand if you’re a writer like I was, like you were, like we all have been sort of looking for how the hell do I and how can this happen? And there are many lucky moments. And then there are many moments you sort of, “Ugh,” but it sounds very embroidery thing, but you prepare for the lucky moment, but you really do and everything until that is that. So this way it was, I had done a lot of work being sort of learning how to do the thing for many, many years and getting the produced thing that sort has a voice that I’ve been sort of honing.

Amy Schumer: It’s an opportunity, meeting preparation.

John Hoffman: That is seriously the embroidery thing, which is not a false embroider. I put that on my wall. That is it. So in this moment, I felt comfortable enough to share my thoughts with some assurance and nothing better. We sat and talked hours upon hours upon hours benefiting from his incredible insight into the world of mystery and true crime. He was obsessed with it, and I wasn’t. So I craved any nuggets from him that way and then everything else was about sort of mixing this big idea of classic meets modern for the show. We’ve got these classic comedians and then we need a third wheel who’s a complete left turn. And the genius inspiration of Dan Fogelman was to say, “What about someone like Selena Gomez?” And I was like, “Well, that’s an interesting…” So I don’t know what that poster looks like.

Amy Schumer: Looks so much like her that it is…

John Hoffman: It turns out also a true crime fanatic, Selena Gomez.

Amy Schumer: When you say true crime, what is Steve Martin watching when you said what true crime, what were his…

John Hoffman: Literally everything. He’s talking about the Swedish ones. He likes podcasts, he loves the Australian ones. British ones are British television. He is encyclopedic about what he knows and all of that. So he pulls from cold case crime. The names are all very similar.

Amy Schumer: Okay.

John Hoffman: Yeah. So I benefited from that and I benefited from his one sentence emails with the wickedly most funniest sort of like one sentences every three or four hours when we were writing together. So that was the big shaper of all of it was working with him and with Dan and Jess and to shape the whole thing into an idea that we are genuinely… I’m shocked because there’s things in the show tonally that are very strange and that are not a typical mix that a place, unless you’ve got Dan and Steve saying, let us do what we want to do. But luckily, Hulu, Disney, everyone, Dana Walden, everyone kind of just went, “Yes, go with that.”

Amy Schumer: I just want to say, just touched on something that I think is really important for writers, which is that Steve will send you a one sentence email and that I’m going to guess you’re always there to respond. And it’s for me, having a person that encourages you or someone that is daydreaming about the idea and is with you, having a collaborator in that way is invaluable. It’s like, you know what I mean? That is the dream. You can do it on your own. You can do it without major support. But having someone who’s like, my mind is always on this thing too, and I want to say, I listen to your idea and I love it, and keep going is such a huge benefit.

John Hoffman: Everything.

Amy Schumer: Yeah.

John Hoffman: Can I just say that, and we haven’t talked in a little while since then, but I’ll never forget you coming aboard in season two of this show. It was so a jolt of thrill and electricity and then when we got together on the phone to talk about the part and to talk about the… It was like that thing you’re talking about was exactly the warm bath I felt of just, are you kidding me? When you started to pitch and you started and you really grabbed that thing and did the thing that I can’t do that I know you can do, but who do you have? Do you have someone? When did that happen and how long did you have to rely on yourself? Where are those people in your life that you could go to and say, there is that Steve Martin sort of sentence in the email that makes you go, okay, encouraging.

Amy Schumer: I’ve had different people in that position at different times in my life, and I think that’s wonderful too if you’re a Cohen brother or whatever amazing and my sister has been for years that person that we would just go back and forth and encourage each other. Sometimes it was Judd Apatow and then most recently I did, and Kevin Kane, of course, my long time collaborator. And then, you’re onto something, keep going. But most recently I did this movie for Netflix with Happy Madison. It was directed by this guy, Tyler Spindel, who also directed The Wrong Missy and Out-Laws and these other Netflix comedies. And we would just always pick up the phone for each other and be like, “Well, what about this? Or I thought of a totally different ending.” Sometimes it’s not just ending everything. We would be like, that might… But that was my person on this latest film that we just wrapped.

And it’s just a beautiful thing when you have that person or if you’re lucky enough to when you’re in the writer’s room, like the writer’s room for Life and Beth, where you know everybody cares just as much as you and that’s very rare. But I think that it depends on your level of collaboration, what you really want. And that is something as you know, that you have to find your way into. You don’t just pop up in comedy or in writing rooms, understanding exactly how to collaborate, understanding exactly how to encourage people and have them trust you that you do want their ideas and that you’re not going to just do your own thing and why are they even there? You need to be looking at everybody you’re working with empathy and your own self-reflection that you would want if you’re in there, you want to feel valuable and appreciated.

John Hoffman: In a writer’s room ’cause I was late to join a writer’s room just in my career. I was spending a lot of time working on screenplays alone, and I love that. I like building my own little museums. I would then put on the shelf and they would never get produced. And so that kind of a thing would be my thing. But then I was terrified of the writer’s room and I hope maybe it helps for people to hear this too, is that it’s a weird mix, I think. I feel like writing is this weird mix of vulnerability and confidence, and you genuinely have to be with a backbone of your own belief in yourself and the way you like stories to be told and what they should be about to present that in a way and be bold.

It’s a very bold thing to sort of lay it out there. But I also think the story itself wants to be vulnerable and you have to be vulnerable in the process, but that requires a real audience of empathy, as you said, and an audience of, I think for the best writing, just as you said before, I think the no or the like and writing through that, that’s the bridge to vulnerability and confidence. And it’s sort of the person that you crave is the person who’s going to make you better and say, and be open to that no, and be thrilled by it.

I’m so thrilled when I get a boundary or a parameter in writing this show and then also a no from someone I respect and going and I’m like, “Why? What I like this. Am I wrong to like it? And be open to being wrong, to liking it and then have the confidence behind it to say, “Oh, I see what you’re saying. Okay, what if we did this? Because I still want the idea,” some version of that thing and that conversation and finding people who can do that with you is everything, I think. But I don’t know. But there we go back to standup ’cause it’s a thing that I just feel this wild appreciation for that mix happening one person it feels like, and through the whole process, how is that?

Amy Schumer: As you’re saying that, I’m thinking, for me anyway, that’s the ultimate collaboration because you’re actually collaborating with the whole audience because standup is, you’re practicing, you are performing, but you’re also getting information. And so you’re pulling the audience just like you would pull a writer’s room, which I love doing, and they’ll let you know. The audience will let you know, you can’t explain why something should have been funny to either they laugh or they don’t. And so in a writer’s room, but even more on set, everybody there, everybody on the crew will stop certain moments and go, “Does everyone know who this is?” I’m making a joke about, or I’m mentioning Elena Ferrante, can you just raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of her? And then I’m being like, okay. And then sometimes it’s very, who thinks it’s funnier if the car’s in the garage and maybe all the men raise their hands, and then who thinks it’s funnier if the car is not in the garage and all the women raise their hands?

And you go, well, you know what? I think this is going to probably be for about 65% women, so we’re going with the women. It’s really making people feel heard and you’re working toward delivering something that’s going to connect with the audience. So I love the sitting down and writing of something and getting lost in the escape of it and the encouragement from someone or many other people in the writer’s room. But then if you have it in front of, if you’re showing it to an audience, a test screening or a standup or whatever, and they’re not laughing at the moments you thought they were going to, that’s a you problem and you have to fix it or get rid of it, and that’s it. Of course, you can keep one in just for you. You got to keep one in that just maybe one person in the middle of Iowa is going to laugh at.

John Hoffman: Oh yeah, no, please. I’ve got all the theater queens over here in New York who I’ve got to please every now and then with… So there’s a reference. I just was editing for season four, and I’m like, oh, that joke is four people I know are Joe Allen.

Amy Schumer: Even to just say Joe Allen, this is thinking if you’re someone who’s like, okay, I’m an aspiring writer, and maybe they don’t even really know what that means, but what I say, because maybe there’s someone, I’ve met people on the crew who are in different departments and they’re like, I’m interested. And I would say, well try writing a three page scene. And it doesn’t have to be about anything. Just learn how to use final draft or there’s probably something even newer than that now that I don’t know about because I’m old, but write about just put your body through the experience of writing something and just see what happens. Or if you’re someone who’s like, I want to write on a late night show if those are going to exist, I don’t know. But somebody ask that, you go, “Okay, so for the next week, send me 40 jokes a day. Just email them to me 40 jokes a day about the headlines in the news.”

Because sometimes they’ll go, “I don’t actually want to do that.” And you go, “Okay, well then you don’t want to do that.” Or they’ll go, “I really liked that, and there’s some good ones in there and they should be sent to somebody.” But I’m just saying, but for you, for writing specifically the first episode of this show, so I’m assuming you had… Was there already a writer’s room for the pilot for the first episode. Had you beaten out the scripts? Will you walk us through the rating of an episode of your show?

John Hoffman: Sure. Okay. Basically-

Amy Schumer: And I’m sure the pilot was different than in series.

John Hoffman: It was very much so we did the pilot before we pitched, so we had a pilot to deliver to Hulu and Disney and everyone else in 20th and all that with Steven. But we worked on it a long time and got this pilot together and I think the show itself, again, this is just one of those moments where I knew that I wanted the show to completely land in the space of what we love about Steve and Martin together, but then knowing there was a third wheel and sort of like the characters that Steve set up of him as an actor and Martin as a director, and then bringing in Selena and the idea of a podcast where that would allow Oliver to be directing Charles as his actor self. It just felt very fertile for the thing we all knew we wanted the show to be. But then I wanted to do the somewhat, hopefully more unexpected stuff of going deeper and knowing an ongoing series hopefully gets more deep with these characters. And I didn’t know whether that was going to be something that anyone else would’ve bond.

And then beyond that sort of saying something, why are we all interested in these murder stories and what is it about life itself that… I mean, look at who I’m talking to. You’re writing the same thing. It’s that thing of how the death informs the way we live and really reflecting back and forth on that, asking the hard questions about ourselves and our own imper interests.

Amy Schumer: For that first episode, the pilot episode, that was all your typing. You typed that episode up.

John Hoffman: I did. I was a lot of help from input from Danny and Steven, but yes, I was the sort of funnel.

Amy Schumer: Before you pitched it, how many times did you rewrite that pilot episode? 20 times?

John Hoffman: No. This is the other really good thing that happened, three or four times. I don’t know what it was. It was literally from sitting in that parking spot on Larchmont. I just felt like this gut, when the ideas flow, I’m sure you know this, it’s just a great sign. It means the idea is fertile. It means that the world is something that I need a lot of confidence to do this.

Amy Schumer: Totally.

John Hoffman: I need the feeling of like, I got this. To tell everyone else what the hell they’re supposed to be doing. That’s genuinely the show runner job in a nutshell.


Amy Schumer: To let that moment come and get all the inspiration and all your thoughts you’re having down, don’t stop and don’t question it. Just get it all down. Don’t worry about if something’s wrong, write it down.

John Hoffman: Go for it. Go for it. I remember bringing into Dan Fogelman, and again, this is the real gift of this process too, with Steve and Dan, both very open people and you really magnetize yourself to them, open people who are genuinely hearing what you’re trying to do, even if they don’t like it, they don’t want to do it, that’s okay. But open at first is really what you’re looking for. And I found that with both of these guys. And I brought into Dan Fogelman at one point. He said, this is really stupid. But when I’ve been just mulling on this show, I think of the artful nature of Steve Martin and Martin Short and The Fools and the Beautiful Fools they are, and the elegance of them. I said, there is this thing I saw, a friend of mine, Kevin Chamberlain, you may know him.

Kevin Chamberlain sent me a little thing he found on YouTube. I just had to send this to you. This is beautiful and it was this balletic sort of guy going up a stair and bouncing on a trampoline and then bouncing back up. And it was this sort of dance piece. Just look at this, but I don’t know why. I feel like this has to be a part of our show, and maybe I’m insane. Tell me I’m crazy. Dan watched it and said, “You’re absolutely right. We have to put it in the show.” And I was like, that is the greatest thing ever. And sort of, wow, okay, I’ve got a yes on that, so let’s write to that. And then it sort of allowed this lovely other element in the show that I enjoy. I like the surprises that allow you into sort of play in some, oh, I hate these words, but yeah.

Amy Schumer: No, it’s good. And I would just say about my experience being on set, which was so fun and so much because of you, and your warmth and your humility and being down to collaborate and being down to say, okay, yes, let’s throw away that other idea and let’s do this idea. And having zero ego, which is all so vital, I think in making, especially comedy, there’s no tension on that set. Sometimes you’re on a set and it doesn’t feel good and you don’t really understand why. And of course it comes from the top down. So Selena, Martin, and Steve are all great vibes, and you are a great vibe. So you just feel so free to come in there and just enjoy yourself and play and get it wrong, and you’re not trying to nail anything and that freedom. For me, when we filmed the episodes I was on, I’m sure you remember this, but I just want to talk about it.

John Hoffman: Do you remember all of it? Please do.

Amy Schumer: Oh, yeah. But that Martin and I, the moment where we kissed, and it made no sense at all, but it was this moment where he started just kind of playing with me. You’re an attractive woman. I’m like, excuse me. And then neither of us, we were both calling each other’s bluff and then we kissed for a while. We start making out, and it made no sense for the episode, but just to be in an environment where you can have the freedom to play like that.

John Hoffman: It’s the greatest… There are two clips. There is that clip, and we have to share it. I hope you don’t mind. We have to find-

Amy Schumer: Oh my God, please.

John Hoffman: We’ll send you things because it is-

Amy Schumer: Just put it out there. People need to see it.

John Hoffman: It’s still one of the greatest things. I will tell you that in season three, because those guys, Martin and Steven, Selena, all, they’re beautiful actors in every way. And they come in, they’re so devoted to the scripts and they come in and they really want to make it right based on… I’m like, that’s a surprise in certain ways ’cause you would think they would want to free it up and all that stuff, but they really want to hit it. Anyway there are times when they go, that was a brilliant moment, but they only do it with the people who can really play that way. You and Martin were so stunning in that. The other time that happened was with Martin and Meryl, the beginning of season three, there was a moment we just let the camera roll at the end of Martin as the director talking to his championed leading lady.

Amy Schumer: Oh my God.

John Hoffman: Has been a failure in every way throughout her career. At some point, there’s a table read scene in the first episode of season three, and she’s trying out different accents. And so we let the camera roll on a private conversation they were having after the fact. And Martin as Oliver just started into an improv about, I just want to say something. You’re wonderful. I think you’re wonderful, but accents are not your thing. And he starts going, she’s like, well, really? Because I’ve been told, no, no, no, no. And it went on and on and on. We were like, there’s nothing better than being at the monitor, very much like your makeup session with Martin Short, where we were just the jaw, the jaw, the jaw drop.

Amy Schumer: Did you use it? Was it in the show?

John Hoffman: No.

Amy Schumer: No, but it was just the, oh, you have to release that.

John Hoffman: Have to go with-

Amy Schumer: You have to release that. I want to ask about, because I love the show and no one makes me laugh more than these people in person or on this show, but also for creating such a world. I think one of my lines in the second season where it’s describing the show as just kind of cozy murder. So you talked about this sort of ballet moment and whatever. What were the elements that you thought of that would create the world of this show, and did it look and feel how you had anticipated?

John Hoffman: I will say this last question, because Jason is chatting with me on the bottom, and he’s 100% right to say, we are going to segue to Life and Beth, in two seconds.

Amy Schumer: Wait, let me grab a water before our segue.

John Hoffman: No, because I want that so badly. But I will say while you’re gone to answer that question quickly, I think in regards to this show, someone tells me that you’ve got these people in the show, you’ve got to do this job, all of that. I take it very seriously. I step up, but I also down to every little thing I get very obsessive. I’m made fun of for it in many ways. But while I want the atmosphere to feel as you described it, and I hope it does, I think on the other side of things, everything, the look and feel of the show, the brilliant conversations with our DP Kristin, with our production designer, Curt Beech and now Patrick Howe, all of that stuff, the wallpapers and the fabrics and the color scheme and the inspiration of all of that, and the little bowler hat with Dana Covarrubias, all of that was deep conversation that was very, very specific.

And I like the opportunity of a TV show as we’re going to segue right now, because I’m obsessed with and Life and Beth has been, again, I feel like we’re writing the same show in many ways because we’re sort of humanist point of view about people affected by personal death and who isn’t. But I feel like that’s the leveler that we all should open ourselves up to. And that’s the thing that’s sort of the most common ground point is that there is a life we’re leading, but we all know where it’s heading. And so the ways in which that affects us is very important for living.

So tell me, because this is the other thing when I talk about you is that I can’t fathom is that the shift of form that you’ve done in your whole career that going, you can do it all. And I would love to write a sketch one day, and I genuinely, I don’t know that I’ve ever written a successful sketch, but I’ve got other things the way I tell stories, but I can’t fathom your standup to sketch to then this brilliant show and everything else narratively that you’ve written. I just think it’s a wonder and you are, but beyond that, please tell me your inspiration for Life and Beth and how then that became what it became, which is gorgeous.

Amy Schumer: Yeah, thank you. I think you and I are very connected in that. We’ve been learning and getting better at this work. I don’t know if it’s storytelling or filmmaking or TV making, whatever. We’re like students and we’re interested in getting better and we’re sort of taking the tools and doing the best we can and it’s all part of this ride. And it’s amazing to have a moment where we’re making things we’re proud of. We will hopefully keep making things that we’re proud of. Life and Beth came about, I had journals. I’d kept very detailed journals about my life from age 12 to 21 as a means to feel less alone and have something to express myself to and keep it very real with. And I reread those when I was writing my book. And then I got pregnant and I was upstate at this farmhouse that I’d grown up going to.

Nothing fancy, just this place up in the Catskills that we had lost ownership of when my family went bankrupt when I was young, and when I made some money, I bought it back. And so my body was physically in this place. It had been thinking about the pain of early teen years and how they affect you for the rest of your life if you don’t deal with them. I mean, I’m sure that they will affect us for the rest of our lives no matter what, but looking at myself with more empathy and looking at everyone around as having gone through these experiences that have made them who they are and why they react the way they do. And being pregnant, I was pregnant and writing is how I process things my own life, whether it’s standup or a TV show or movie or something. And it was me sort of processing, falling in love with my husband and remembering my teen years. Also, I loved the movie Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham.

John Hoffman: Yes, I love that film.

Amy Schumer: And there’s that one scene in the backseat of the car where this boy is kind of encouraging. Is it Elsie who stars that? He’s kind of encouraging her to do things that she’s not ready to do sexually. And I just thought, God, that age is so traumatizing, and you’re such a kid, and then these moments just come at you with no warning. And it’s so scary. And I felt like it’s kind of under examined, especially for women. I feel like it’s under examined looking at your early teen years when having your first sexual experiences and you’re seeing your parents as human beings and not just these perfect caretakers. And I wanted to look at that. And I don’t really know how to write a TV show. I don’t know how to write an episode of a TV show, so I kind of just wrote a long movie and hopefully in season two I figured out a little bit more about how to write an episode as well as it really just being a long movie.

John Hoffman: They are long movies though, in the world of streaming don’t you find that? I genuinely, that’s all I was doing before going into TV and I think the only way I could do TV was I was terrified of a 22 episode sitcom room. I’m not joking, and I’m going to drown in there. I’m going to be silly and out of there. The world of streaming, it opened up a world of comedy that felt like that, you could have big themes and big ideas and keep them funny and real and human, but then you only have eight or 10 episodes to do them. So they’re kind of extrapolated movies and the middle is hard.

Amy Schumer: Yeah, that’s how I was watching things too. I remember watching Ricky Gervais’ show After Life and the joke of people going, I don’t want to watch a movie. It’s too long, but then you will stream eight episodes or 10 episodes. So I was like, I just want to make something that people can stream in two days and really go into the world of it and lose themselves. And I rewrote the pilot. I’m like the grim reaper with my own stuff. I’ll just throw out 100s of pages, or I’ll go with the exact first thing I ever wrote. Just being open to it and being open to my collaborators and the writers being, just being open to everybody’s input because being the leader, it is a really nuanced position because you need to keep people engaged and feeling good and wanting to do their job, even though you’re the decision maker. That’s a skill to hone over time.

John Hoffman: It is. And I mean, that’s the thing I’m curious about that for you walking into a writer’s room and doing that, obviously you do. I’ve talked to no one who doesn’t love that experience in your room. And I think the gift is, I mean, it’s a pleasure in my mind if you picked the right people, and I tend to try and do that, and I’ve been very successful at doing that. I adore the people who work on this show, and I know clearly when they start speaking, they’re giving me everything that I could not give myself. And that’s the greatest thing to sort of hear whether or not it fits or anything like that. That’s sort of the balancing act as you’re saying, I find. But how is that when, because it’s such a personal story, you were telling here clearly. How is that dance of collaborating in that way and it has to be just a gentle process in certain ways because again, you’ve opened yourself up and now you’re bringing people in. I don’t know how that happens. It’s such a personal-

Amy Schumer: It is so. It’s super vulnerable. So it’s like we would beat out index cards up of, and Colleen McGuinness was really instrumental in helping me figure out how to tell a story and make this show and just be vulnerable and get things wrong. And Dan Powell and Kevin Kane and Ryan McFaul, my main collaborator’s also on my Sketch Show. But it’s like, okay, so I think for the second season, it was like, I think Sas Goldberg’s character, Jess, I think I’d like her to have an affair. It feels like first season we got to see she’s kind of not getting what she needs from her marriage and she wants something else, but what does that really mean, that she’s lost confidence in herself and whatever. And I think Jen gets addicted to opioids.

John Hoffman: Just right out.

Amy Schumer: Yeah, I was like over the summer, just something would hit you like, oh, I’d love to see her get addicted to opioids. And it’s also the things that I want to communicate about being empathetic to people who get addicted to opioids and empathetic to people who have affairs. And John, my character is based on my husband being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and so for example, Ron Weiner wrote episode four of season two, which is the episode that John is diagnosed. So it’s like we would talk about it and I would share, everybody has their own experience with whether they’re on the spectrum or their children or a friend or whatever.

And it’s still such a stigmatized thing that it was like, okay, well, I shared our experience of having a lot of false starts, having not a wonderful experience, finding a therapist who specializes in it, how it came up for us, seeing a little bit about John’s past, going in flashback, looking at Michael Cera’s character as a child, what actually getting a diagnosis looked like for us and the ideas around that and then everybody’s pitching. So there’s a lot of the real, but it’s like I describe the real arc, and then Ron wrote a beautiful episode and then we all work on it together. But everybody really put their heart and soul into this season and-

John Hoffman: It’s beautiful. Can I say, it feels to me also what you’re talking about, which I love, is this clash of the personal meets, the pragmatic and the what do you want to see versus what’s the real of what you want to tell? That is a balance I try to strike as much as I can. The first season of this show, and I’ve talked about this ad nauseum, I won’t go into it’s a big drama story, but the first season of this show is also built on the underneath for me personally, in the fact that a year before I was asked to meet with Steve Martin on Larchmont Boulevard, I had been spending a year unlike any other I’ve had in my life, investigating, asking, trying to find out what had happened to my best friend in my world, my life growing up. My friend Mark and I had just found out that he had died in a way that made it look like he had killed someone and committed suicide.

And I couldn’t fathom I’d grown apart from him, and I didn’t know where he was, what his life was like, but I had to go. I went to Wisconsin, I went and met his family, understood this sort of underneath of everything. Underneath everything was very personal to Only Murders this became Mabel story and Tim Kono and all of that. So underneath is this very delicate, little, very emotional, fragile thing that I’m sort of still dancing around in the first season to understand ultimately that my friend had been murdered. But isn’t that a happy story? Whatever.

Amy Schumer: It’s really meaningful and you can really feel that and the dignity and respect that that character was shown and I think our shows are connected in that grounded, painful, traumatic love. And then also silly because I’m sure there are parts of that for you that were also funny in these traumatic, horrible moments. Sometimes it’s so awful that there’s something funny about it or something so normal that it is so out of place and the [inaudible 00:40:30] and I think that’s why I love your show so much is because it’s not just jokes.

John Hoffman: The same back at you. It’s the laugh at the funeral. It’s when you’re not allowed to have, it’s the sort of thing. Right up against that in some way true. I’m very pragmatic. I’m very at the beginning of our writer’s room. I don’t know if this is helpful too, but it’s 50-50 in many ways, no more than that, 80-20 maybe. But the idea at the beginning of a room, I always start off, and maybe we’ve gotten into trouble this way too, but I genuinely make it a task early on in the room to say, what are the trailer moments you want to see? What are the images? What are the pictures? What are the sort of things you want to see, whether it’s opioids or an affair or anything like that. Kind of a balancing act of what do you want to see?

What would thrill you just to get a glimpse of it in a trailer and now how do we help maybe craft something that takes them there or something like that. That’s also helpful for me. In many ways, it can also get you into trouble because ultimately you have to let the story sort of also guide. And if it doesn’t match up with that big dream of Selena Gomez in a wedding dress in an episode, then you sort of find your way to make it in some way within the show as well. But it can be tricky.

Amy Schumer: Working with Judd Apatow, he really made me confident in, and he just encouraged me so much when I was writing Train Wreck, and he would be like, the funny stuff will be there. So it’s leaving yourself to write something pretty much as a drama, and then you can add the silliness later because it will just come. And I think the funniest moments are just the way that the actors behave. I don’t want to see the writing. And hats off to your show too, because there’s great writing, but you don’t hear a joke and think of in picture a writer’s room. It’s so earned, and it’s just who the person is. It’s not snappy talk and the best is if you can get a laugh just from the way an actor looks at an expression, they make that being free to just to write out just an actual thing that happened or something, and then add the funniness in later.

And I’m so turned off by kind of funny dialogue, but it’s the way Selena will just look at them, just like they’re so pitiful. Just these people that you’re like, God, these people should have never even met, but they’ve been thrown together. That’s my favorite stuff. And then there’s moments where you’re like, oh, I have this amazing, beautiful, because you want it to be beautiful and visual in this world. And sometimes it’s like, oh, I didn’t really earn it. But then what’s amazing about trailer moments is you can shoot them and then they don’t even have to be a part of it. The movie I did, we shot some things that I’m like, this is just for the trailer. This doesn’t even make sense at all. Us walking slow motion through the Cherry Blossoms, I’m like, this doesn’t actually happen in our movie, but it’s going to happen in the trailer.

John Hoffman: No, we want that picture in the trailer because I look really good in this light. All of it. Yeah, that is so true. It’s that balancing act, I think. But also just to that point of, I love that Judd was encouraging in that way because it is, I find it true, it’s sort of the silent moments in our show are the ones I love the most, just the things. We had a whole silent episode, but it’s the silent moments that we just shot one this season. I’m a little spoiler, but it’s like a moment that stops the train and just lets the characters just have a reflective dumbbell moment is my heaven. And there’s a moment where Selena, just as you say, and Selena Gomez in this show, I just think it’s the sauce that is everything to it.

She is the most unexpected thing. When this show came out, the trailer, everything else, whatever, the poster made no sense to a lot of people. How does that work? But it’s intriguing. And then she fulfills, but she fulfills in a way that only she can, but it’s like that particular comedy style she has of lacerating underneath quietness. But here, there was a moment in the season where she’s talking about trying to claim a title for what she does as a career in life.

At some point she’s like, “Wait a minute, how do I introduce myself as a thing I do? What am I doing?” So they have this whole talk, and she tries then to sort of, hang on, I’m a podcast producer, and say it to someone out loud, and they’re giving her tips on, no, you got to come out with it. And Steve’s like, no, underplay, underplay. That kind of thing. But it’s adorable in that way because it’s also, these are the things that are, I don’t know, connective and make you feel less lonely and make you feel all of the things that I think at the bottom of everything, what’s funny is that to me, I’ve always seen in you.

Amy Schumer: Yeah, the humanity that these characters have. And I mean, Martin just kills me, and you just empathize with all of them.

John Hoffman: You do. I mean, here’s the thing with you, and again, I’ve had many friends in my life say, I like it when you’re mean. If I’ve had a drink or something like that, and I’m delightfully mean when I can be. [inaudible 00:46:09] could be that too. It’s that the other thing, it’s sort of say the thing that’s calling it out. It doesn’t always have to be truthful. You can be a jerk, and that’s also part of humanity. You are the thing that you’re feeling about whatever the state of the world or whatever the state of the people are around you, and be straight up about it. I think that’s the beauty of the mix of comedy and allowing yourself to go to places that are, I have to say this.

Amy Schumer: And also something that happens, I think it only happens to women, is that your likability comes into question. Just in my experience, I’ve never heard them say this about a guy, but, can we forgive her? Can we still like her if she, whatever and you have to explain to them, so you know how men are human beings, women are also human beings. And they go, “Oh.” And you’re like, yeah. Just same thing. And sometimes you’ll do something that’s not totally likable that you’re not totally proud of. Women do those things too, and then people still find a way to like and love them.

John Hoffman: It’s incredible. Yeah. And that’s where I think in our ways, you have to be really brave. I do think you have to be brave in order to say things that the world is going to hear in some form or fashion. And you have to be responsible. You have to say, okay. Sometimes yes, people will say things, and I think we have to be more forgiving of people saying things in the moment and not ruining careers and lives and things like that, and branding people in that way that we’ve been. But I also think it’s implicit upon us to be just honest in those ways that feel important to us but it’s also, yes, the divide to reaction along gender lines, along the main one, but along every line, it is shocking. And yet it’s the thing that I think it’s also underneath most writers and their wish to be writers, to say what they want to say and how they want to say it, and from their point of view, any encouragement that I think we could give to say, keep leaning into that impulse and keep leaning into the personal is everything.

It’s thing I would say to anyone because I never know what advice to give people. It’s terrible. It is exhausting. It’s tough. It’s the pressure and trying to step up and do anything worthwhile is challenging at any point in a career.

Amy Schumer: I would just say don’t try and get it right. Don’t feel like you need to understand every part of final draft and write it out shitty. Just write it out even if you don’t know how to do the final draft, just get these ideas out. Okay, they’re inside this place, this music’s playing. This is the feeling I want. Just express it and it doesn’t need to be in perfect form, and yet just not trying to make it perfect because that slows you down.

John Hoffman: Oh my God.

Amy Schumer: You make it bad. Write it out bad at first and then rewrite it until you like it.

John Hoffman: Yes. And get past the time of waiting before you do.

Amy Schumer: Okay. All right. We should wrap it up. I love you. I’m so happy to see you.

John Hoffman: Same here. Thank you.

Amy Schumer: Yes, thank you. So good talking to you. Bye writers.

John Hoffman: Bye writers. Thank you. We love [inaudible 00:49:54].

Speaker 3: OnWriting is a production of The Writers Guild of America East. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producer and designer is Molly Beer. Tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and Stock Boy Creative. You can learn more about the Writer’s Guild of America East online at You can follow the Guild on all social media platforms at WGA East. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening and write on.

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