Is it just us or does “Emily V. Gordon” sound like a perfect superhero-secret-identity name? Of course, it’s no secret that Emily, a TV writer and producer, podcaster, author, gamer, animal lover, and one of the stars of our latest style story is nothing short of super. This media maven finds happiness through helping others find happiness of their own. Sometimes that work involves laughter, and other times, long hours or unseen challenges. But Emily’s drive and confident attitude make her a formidable foe for failure. Go behind the scenes with Emily in our video interview, and check out her Q&A for even more inspiring insights!
Give us an abridged Emily Gordon bio.
I’m from North Carolina! I went to school for psychology and then a graduate program in couples and family counseling in North Carolina. Then I moved to Chicago, then New York, and now I live in LA. I no longer practice as a therapist but do a bunch of writing and producing and talking for a living. I am married and obsessed with animals of all types. I recently sat in a hot tub with some otters.
I write for a bunch of places, and have a book coming out in September of this year called Super You. It’s a funny self improvement guide for women. I like to write personal essays and about emotional wellness. I also produce a live standup comedy show in LA called The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, and that live show is now a TV series for Comedy Central that I am an EP and creator of. The second season airs starting June 30th! I also have a podcast about video games and all the things we consume called The Indoor Kids.
Why do I do this stuff? I’ve never set out to do any of the things I do as a career — I’ve just tried things out and realized what I enjoyed and what I seemed to be competent in. I keep doing it because all of them are great professional expressions of my creativity and what I’m passionate about.
How did you learn how to do what you do?
Hmmm… slowly? For writing, I sought out feedback at first, and did my best to be open to it once I got writing gigs. It can be tough — your ego doesn’t want to hear about ways you can improve, but writing is one of those jobs that you have to always be aware that you can get better, and that outside perspective cannot hurt.
I learned to be a comedy producer by going to a TON of standup shows, for years. I paid attention to how the shows were run, talked to the comedians about their opinions of those shows and what makes a “good show”, and focused on how the audience was treated when I was seated in the crowd. I took all that I learned and applied it to my own show. And then (I’m going to sound like a broken record here) I made a bunch of mistakes and learned from them.
Why is comedy important to you?
Comedy is a universal experience — not that we all find the same thing funny, but a little bit, in that everyone thinks farts are funny. I like that when people are sitting in a room for a comedy show, they are transported from being a bunch of individuals into being one group that feels things together and makes decisions together. This is the same reason church and movie theaters are awesome.
Comedy is also such a great way for people to process and get through difficult emotions, and most importantly, it can help us feel less alone. Everything I try to do in my career is aimed at people feeling less alone. I want people to understand that they are unique and special, but also that other people have felt how they feel, and have survived and thrived, and there’s a comfort in that.
How did you get involved in comedy?
I was going to a lot of standup shows in New York around 2007 because my husband (who is a comedian) and I had just moved there, and we didn’t have a social life and were broke as hell. So I really got into watching comedians’ sets evolve from night to night. I also fell in love with the idea that all these people had so many things to do and decided to sit in this room together to watch someone talk. Intoxicating. I got to know a bunch of comedians this way, so when my friend Pete started a show in a bookstore in Manhattan, he asked me to produce it, which meant that I booked the comedians and also made sure the show ran smoothly. That was my first job. It snowballed from there.
What’s something you never thought you’d ever get to do or experience, that’s now a part of your life?
When I got a degree in couples and family counseling, I never ever thought that I’d be, as part of my job, sitting in a room with some of my closest friends and deciding on the funniest camera angle for spit takes. I never thought I’d be the reason that John Hodgman, Tyler the Creator, and Weird Al took a selfie together (Season 1 of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail). I never thought I’d get to write a book that incorporated my personality as well as my therapy background. My whole life is me marveling at what I get to experience.
What’s something you still aspire to do, see, or be?
Every day I’ve got new things to aspire to. I hope to never run out of those. I never like to set definitive “this is it, this is how I’ve made it” goals, because then it’s either a carrot that makes you miserable, dangling just out of reach, or you reach it, and you’re like “now what do I do?”
What’s your proudest moment to date?
Writing this book was pretty important to me, and I’m very proud of it. It was a lonely, long process, one where you’re alone every day with just your computer and your thoughts, and I was very happy when I finished it. I had always wanted to write a book, since I was in third grade or so.
Who do you hope you inspire through the work you create?
Ooooh, good question. I hope to inspire people who didn’t realize that there are lots of jobs in comedy, because I didn’t know that comedy booker/producer was a job. I hope to inspire people who get college degrees in one thing but decide to change careers — yes, it feels terrifying and like you wasted your time, but getting a degree in itself is the real feat, and you will always find ways of applying the skills you got in college to a new career. I’d rather be afraid of failure than miserable in a job I don’t get anything from.
Oh, and I want to inspire ladies to take a seat at the table even if it hasn’t been set for you. Tables aren’t always going to be set for you.
When a table wasn’t set for you, how did you fight your way in?
I didn’t fight. I just showed up and did the work. Sometimes, I probably got shut out because of gender stuff, but I just kept focusing on the work. I showed up, I worked hard, I asked for more work. That was it.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you or your job?
I think people might be surprised to know that, even though I talked a big game in this very interview, for the most part, my jobs involve quietly working at a computer. Answering emails, keeping track of people’s schedules (and my own!), making sure I’m thinking through all the details of a show or a shoot or a piece I’m writing, checking in with lots of different people, etc. You have to work hard even if your job is really fun — I have a blast, but I’m also putting in a lot of hours and brain effort and muscle and sweat and tears. Hard work is always hard work, even if it looks like just people being silly on a stage.
+ See Emily in our latest style story, and stay tuned for more interviews with women who inspire!