If you’re a fan of standup comedy, then you might be familiar with Emily Gordon, an L.A.-based writer, live-comedy booker, and co-producer of The Meltdown, a weekly standup bit-turned TV series (now on Comedy Central). But if you’re not hip to this amusing lady, that’s OK too — we’ll happily school you. This hilarious ingénue has been a staple in the L.A. laugh circuit since 2010, running a weekly show in the back of a comic book store with her husband, Kumail Nanjiani (from HBO’s Silicon Valley), and friend, Jonah Ray. The on-air show is called — you guessed it — The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail.
The most interesting thing about Gordon, however, isn’t her funny bone or knack for storytelling; it’s the way she got started. You’d probably think she grew up in the comedy space, but she actually worked as a couples and family therapist. But after exhaustion set in, she set her sights on her true passion (writing) and carved out a new career path for herself, which is truly inspiring.
We were lucky enough to snag some time from this busy lady to learn more about her background and sweet job. Check out the interview below:
ModCloth: You’re a writer, producer, and have a weekly show on Comedy Central, which skill do you devote the most time to?
Emily: Writing and producing are my passion and they satisfy different things. In my heart I love writing more than anything, but I really love producing the show we do every week. It’s the longest job I’ve had, we’ve been doing it four years now. Anything I’ve been doing that long I must love.
Which one do you wish you had time to perfect?
Most likely the writing — the comedy show gets most of my attention because it involves other people. Writing is one of those things that you can put off for weeks at at time and no one is shouting at you to get back to it.
Tell me more about the Comedy Central pickup, how did that opportunity come about?
The show is hosted by my husband and a good friend of ours, and we’ve been doing it for about four years, and about two years ago this guy started showing up at our show. Turned out he was an executive at Ben Stiller’s production studio, and he was like, ‘You know what I think this can be a TV show,’ and we were like, ‘Whatever.’ So we did it very casually, no one expected this would actually happen. But then Comedy Central gave us money for a pilot, and a couple months later they green lit us to series.
Photo by Tyler Ross
Your career path is really interesting, you started as a therapist, how did you transition to comedy?
I’d been writing as a hobby for a long time and I’d been going to comedy shows in Chicago — there’s a great comedy scene there. I was starting to get tired with therapy and I started submitting freelance work to different websites I liked. When my husband got his first big, well-paying job, I told him that I wanted to start working in comedy. So I got a job in the most low-level position in New York, where the only thing I did was list shows on different websites. But I loved the people I was working with and I loved that I was working in comedy. At the same time I started producing a free show in New York and I booked the comedians. Those were the first two real things I did in and it kind of just snowballed from there.
So do people ask you for advice for how to jump careers?
All the time. When I changed careers I felt a lot of guilt. I got a Master’s Degree in therapy, that was my identity, that’s who I was. And I felt like I possibly wasted a Master’s Degree, which was not cheap. But I realized that no matter what degree you get, the real thing you are getting out of it is that you were able to jump all the hoops to get the degree. I got a lot from my classes, but I got more out of the fact that I was able to get a degree. You can apply that to any job you end up doing. You just have to find the skills within what you were trained for and find a way to make them work for what you’re doing. But you should never feel bad about switching careers — life is too short to be locked into a career path you don’t want to be in.
You also have a blog, Do You Think You’re Pretty. You cover body image and mental health, where do you get your inspiration from?
The therapist in me never left. I think for a long time I was neglecting that part of me. So I sat down one day and tried to figure out what I wanted to focus on. Relationships and self-esteem are very important issues to me, so I started a blog where I collected and focused on those themes. It’s been great. And the reader questions I get are great and upsetting. I like that I get to exercise that muscle and I’m so happy it’s resonating with other people. The reaction has been great. I think my favorite thing is when guys even write and say my posts are helpful. It makes me realize that overall, everyone kind of struggles with the same thing.