12: Zanandi Botes (comedy horror and twisting tropes)

Danielle Krage interviews Zanandi Botes, who has so much fun experience writing for theatre, TV, comics and her own film. She has written articles for cracked.com since 2016, with a particular love for horror comedy as a genre! All this makes for a lively discussion about excellent comedy shows, and areas where there’s still a lot of room to do better. 

You can find out more about Zanandi and her work here:
https://twitter.com/ZaNandi
https://www.cracked.com/members/Zanandi

2 fun articles to start with are:
https://www.cracked.com/article_37408_each-succession-characters-funniest-moment.html
https://www.cracked.com/article_35860_ranking-jason-stathams-funniest-movie-moments.html

CLICK HERE FOR TRANSCRIPT

Danielle

Today I am super excited to have Zanandi Botes with me, who I first came across on Twitter. I found some of her really fun cracked.com articles about some of my favorite comedy shows, and comedy performers, and I would literally start yelling at my phone in agreement with her. So I knew I had to have her on the show. But Zanandi, before we dive in, is there anything else that people should know about you and your connections to creating comedy?

Zanandi

It all happened so suddenly, really. Like, I used to study drama in college and started experimenting with comedy, but then for years I wrote, like, television series for our local broadcasts that are here in South Africa. And I didn’t do any comedy for a long time, and then Cracked just kind of happened, and I was like, hmm, fun. And from there, yeah, I got some interesting gigs. Like, I worked for a satire site called bunnyears.com. I ended up doing a Trailer Park Boys comic book story, which was fascinating and so much fun. Like I kind of liked doing comedy comics too. So yeah, I’m just always in search of what’s new, what can be done in terms of creating fun comedy, like literature, films even. Yeah, I’m just all about the comedy and the horror, of course, comedy horror. Great little genre that I’m sure we’ll be discussing in this podcast.

Danielle

Yeah, I’m so glad you said that. And let’s start right there, because I know that you write about comedy and horror, and I love that you do. And I have a bit of a vested interest, because I’m currently working on a novel, a young adult novel, and it’s got a little tinge of horror in act one, and then it merges a bit more into the more com side of the rom-com, but it’s much more com than rom. I’m fascinated by those genres, how they fit together, and you’ve got such a great insight into those genres. Why do you think they work so well together and what interests you about them?

Zanadi

Yeah, I’ve said I think comedy and horror are like cousins. I think mainly because both genres are all about subverting expectations. I think like with horror, you’ve got the twist and the shock value that makes people feel a certain way. And with comedy, it’s kind of the same thing. You kind of want to bowl people over with an unexpected joke that makes them laugh instead of being terrified. But yeah, I think those two play so well together. Like, yeah, I mean, we just love comedy horror. It’s such a fun thing to balance between being like, you know, suspenseful and terrifying. And then being suspenseful and kind of almost like sometimes it can be anticlimactic, the punchline, or just like an absolute twist on something you usually know or the norm that just makes you think about it differently and makes you laugh, of course. Llike the silliness of it. I think horror can have a lot of silly in it. Comedy, obviously, it works well with silly.  The crossover with the two sub genres just makes them work well together.

Danielle

Yeah, I totally agree. And you’re probably spoilt for choice, but have you got any favorites? You can say more than one.

Zanandi

Oh, gosh. Yeah, I think like modern, some of my favorite modern comedy horrors, I love Werewolves Within, Josh Rubin’s Werewolves Within is a great comedy horror. Stuff like Wolf of Snow Hollow, that’s almost a bit satirical in nature because I love my satire too. Yeah, there’s actually so many. I’m a Scream fan, but maybe just because like I grew up in the 90s, you know, die hard Scream fan. What about you? What comedy horrors do you prefer?

Danielle

Oh, my goodness, I think I’m a little bit of a wimp when it comes to them. So for example, I really like them when it’s in the zombie end. I like werewolves too. But I love the zombie like horror comedy and so I really liked Life After Beth, which I would say is light, yeah, light horror, more sort of squirmy. That was my sort of wussy end of the scale.

Zanandi

Oh no, but I love that. I think, yeah, like the Simon Pegg movies, comedy horrors, they also fall into that. They’re great fun. And I love that also because it’s almost more accessible, I think, for a wider audience, that type of comedy horror. Because again, you know people are a bit squeamish, and you know, don’t come for like the gore and they’re like terrifying. That’s a nice little sweet spot to kind of get everyone involved and enjoying some good fun.

Danielle

Yeah, I agree. And I wanted to ask you about tropes. You mentioned the Scream films, but you might have any number of films you’d love to refer to. What are some tropes in comedy? It could be straight comedy, it could be comedy horror that you really love, or conversely that you think are pretty outdated and people are still using and they really annoy you.

Zanandi

That’s a good question, curveball question, Danielle.

Danielle

I know, they’re my favorite.

Zanandi

Tropes, yeah, let’s think about tropes. Yeah, I do like the whodunit ropes, like they’re always fun, kind of, you know, trying to be very on point, red herrings, trying to lead you to a certain way just to pull you back, like, oh gosh, I never saw that coming. I think that’ll never get old, if done right, of course, which I think is a skill. I myself have never tried writing anything like that, maybe one day. Yeah, tropes I don’t appreciate. Gosh, I can’t really think of any right now. Is there anything that comes to mind for you?

Danielle

Yeah, well, I’ll ask you a sort of slightly more general question around it, which is…women in comedy and portrayals of women in comedy. So I know that’s quite broad, but there are some things that do irritate me or that I would like to see balanced out a little bit when it comes to women in comedy films and the kind of roles that are written for them.

Zanandi

Yeah, that is true. I think there’s been a lot of conversation lately around having strong female characters, but then at the same time, kind of getting bored with it in a way.I think it’s like giving them fresh angles. Like, I mean, we all loved Bridesmaids, but I don’t want to see another like women in a bakery in a comedy. You know what I mean? Like, I think about Maggie Gyllenhaal in  Stranger Than Fiction.

Danielle

Oh my God, I love that film.

Zanandi

And love that film, but I think we’ve had enough of like the women, you know, baking and whatever. Those little things. Give me like women in strange careers, careers we haven’t seen before, you know? Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any right now. I don’t know, a female firefighter or something. Like, yeah, I think like occupation-wise, give us an interesting scenario where a woman is finding herself in an occupation that is wildly different from anything we’ve seen and let the jokes play out.

Danielle

I would love to see that too. So I think the…Same is true of rom-coms sometimes. I know that in the genre, there can be great comfort for people in some of the predictability of it. And I think there have been interesting things that have been done with some of the diversity and gender roles in rom-coms. But still when we look at professions and context, it’s like still another coffee shop scene, still another two people in an office scene. There’s so many fun opportunities that could be explored. So I like you coming at it with Occupation. I think that’s a fun angle.

Zanandi

Yeah, I think that’s kind of also a thing that started irking people when, you know, we started doing…listen, I love the Ghostbusters remake. I thought it was very fun. I love all the actresses in it. And I thought they did great. It was very entertaining for me. But then we started having the all female Oceans 11 movie. And it’s kind of like…, can we give them their own stories and not just put them in the male roles with the male occupations and you know what I’m saying?

Danielle

100%.

Zanandi

Yeah, come at a fresh angle.

Danielle

Again, I just have the urge to shout YEEEEESSS at my screen, but I’ll try not to blow the mic out. Because it’s exactly the same thing that was in my brain. I also think there were some fantastic actresses in those films and loads of great writing, but also some frustration at being like… let’s remake this with women. Let’s have the women characters trying to be even more guysy than the guys. And that’s where the joke is. Almost taking the same blueprint and putting women in it. And that’s what’s funny. It’s like…but there’s so many other angles.

Zanandi

100%. I mean, I think Bridesmaid did that so well where you had the whole food poisoning scene whilst they were in their bridal attire. And I mean, that was so fresh because yes, that is like, you know, a situation where women not being like, you know, putting on you know, like bridal dresses and whatever, but then having this terribly gross, hard experience. Like that was a fresh thing. That was taking a trope that we usually saw only guys get to play on screen, giving it to women, but giving it to them in their own situation that is more relevant to them. You know?

Danielle

Yeah, no, I love that. And I know it’s really subjective. And also hard to choose from the plethora of them. But are there any, if you had to pick just two or three comedic characters that you absolutely love, do you know who would come to top of mind? Whether from series or films.

Zanandi

Jason Statham in Spy.

Danielle

YES.

Zanandi

Yes. Oh, he’s just, yeah. His character in Spy was really revolutionary, honestly. I think none of us expected that from him. None of us expected any filmmaker to put him in that situation. It was just really brilliant. I’m thinking about comedies. Oh, I have my cat here. Oh, no. Hi, cat.

Danielle

Oh, no, they’re welcome. Hello. We love pet performances.

Zanandi

That never happens. Comedy characters. I’m thinking… I watch so many movies.

Danielle

I know.

Zanandi

So many shows. Barry in Barry is also brilliant. NoHo Hank in Barry is fantastic. Like I want the NoHo Hank fashion line, that needs to happen. He’s just such a great character.

Danielle

So again, I’m so suppressing the urge to yell at the screen. Because I really love Jason Statham in that film. I’m not the kind of person that generally quotes films a lot, but I was insufferable after watching that film…doing very bad Jason Statham impressions.

Zanandi

Same.

Danielle

And also, just the other morning, before I read your Jason Statham article, I literally spent about a half an hour riffing with my husband on potential films to put Jason Statham in, just so I could see him do comedic acting. I was like, what about if it was this combination? What if you paired him up with this? What if it was this? I just love him. So, awesome. Yes.

Zanandi

He’s really good, yeah.

Danielle

And also a massive Barry fan.

Zanandi

Right, oh gosh, I mean, we’re in the new season, final season now, and it’s just a hoot, absolutely. NoHo Hank is everything. What a fantastic character, and I mean…Anthony, Anthony Carrigan, I think is his name.

Danielle

 I don’t know. Yeah, I only know his screen name.

Zanandi

Anthony Carrigan. I should know these things.

Danielle

Oh, don’t worry.

Zanandi

No, he’s just… Yeah, he’s wonderful. He’s just everything that comes out of his mouth. He’s like, he’s got this like fun camp vibe, but then also subtle acting. It’s just really good from an actor’s point of view also. It’s just fantastic.

Danielle

And what do you like about Barry? Because again, that was a show that when I started watching it in season one, I kept telling everyone to watch and people were like, ah, not that into it. I was like, how can you not be into it? It was like my favorite show. I was absolutely obsessed. So what is it that you found great about it?

Zanandi

So I love dark comedy to begin with. I think it’s also the same reason why I also like comedy horror because I love my horror. Dark comedy, yeah, it’s just so delicious because it gives you so much, you know? I mean, you laugh, but then you’re also like, what am I watching? You know, these people are mad. It’s, yeah, I think the show is just really good at taking its time. I mean, it’s short episodes, you know? It’s like sitcom episodes, but still it manages to take its time with…either an idea or a theme for an episode and it takes its time with the actors. Sometimes we have scenes where not a lot is even said, but what happens is so funny and so diabolically funny. I think, you know, it kind of…Dark comedy in a way gives you a bit of a whiplash. And I like that. I like watching stuff that makes me think differently or puts another perspective to something that you know, you’ve just never seen it that way. Or like the character work in Barry is really what makes it. It’s character work. And I think, you know, using the whole stage and theater, like discipline and performances, juxtaposing it to like the show that’s really these character studies, with these fascinating characters, who find themselves together. It works so well. I love when form and content marries. Like that’s, yeah, I’ve always loved that. I think that’s a sign of a good, well-written, solid piece of anything. Yeah, so.

Danielle

That’s a great way of putting it and I also 100% agree with you about the character work. And also you really put your finger on something with the amount of time that they take with things too, because as you were speaking I could see so many scenes in my head where they take their time to such an almost excruciating extent that it’s brilliant. Like I’m picturing Barry riding his moped or motorbike.

Zanandi

I was thinking the same thing.

Danielle

And you see the people that are trying to shoot them and just the tension that builds as they take their time in that scene, I thought was phenomenal.

Zanandi

Absolutely. It felt like five minutes, but then, I mean, I was so engaged and it was so intense. And then the payoff was this brilliant comedy, you know…I don’t want to spoil it for people that still want to watch Barry, which everybody should. It’s really good. But yeah, I mean, like comedy, it’s, you know, set up and punchline and Barry does that. Yeah, like faultless, really. It’s just really great.

Danielle

It is. And like you say, never at the expense of the character. I never feel like they’re just getting the joke in. It always fits within the character, which I love. Oh my goodness. I could talk shows with you all day, but I also want to know about you as a comedy creator, because I know that you’ve created the comics. I know you’ve also written a comedy drama. You worked in theatre. So I’d love you to just pick whichever project you want to speak to and tell us a little bit about the concept behind it and what it was that drew you to it. Why you were like…. there’s comedy here I want to dig into.

Zanandi

Well interesting because I think we’re kind of, without even speaking about it or discussing it, kind of developing a theme for our pod episode here. Because it was back in 2014, where I was approached by a woman that I used to study with and she was like… listen I want to produce my first film would you write me something. And we wanted to do… back then there was a push for like more female led comedies… so we were like… let’s do an all female lead, you know. Like something about three sisters, kind of a strange sisters who end up back home…for reasons. That was like the basic bare minimum premise that I was like suggested, that they suggested to me. And I was like, okay, cool, I’ll roll with it.

And it was really fun writing. I wrote this in my, so English is my second language. I wrote this in my first language, which is Afrikaans. But with a lot of, we mix Afrikaans and English a lot also. We are not like purists or anything. So yeah, so I wrote, for instance…And this is like maybe a tip for people on how you can make something, because it was a dramedy, but it was also like dark comedy vibes. How you can make something that is dark and serious funny. Because I was like, OK, so we decided they all go back home because mom died. Very simple, very easy plot, because a lot of it was, again, more character driven. So it was the characters that really made the story pop and shine.

But yeah, so mom needs to die. So I decided to actually write the first scene where we see mom standing on this cliff type edge on top of a quarry. And you know, she’s thinking of… this is it, you know, she wants to end things. But then this thing happens and she’s like, you know, laughs at herself, like, what is she even thinking? And then as she goes to walk away, all of a sudden, a falcon drops a turtle on top of her head and she dies.  So the next scene is like the cops finding her out here in the middle of nowhere and they’re like…a turtle? And this one guy’s just going on…but yeah, this happens, like the falcons are crazy, you know. Like, it’s just this absurd scene that happens because the mother just died. So yeah, I think that’s again, like going back to how you subvert, because that’s kind of a shocker, but it’s one that will instantly make people laugh. And that’s setting the tone for, it’s okay, you can laugh in this movie. That’s the idea, you know. And yeah, it was fun writing.

It actually got picked up in 2019 right before the pandemic hit. And then the pandemic came and it was put on hold. Production was put on hold at first and then eventually it got shelved. Like, yeah, so it was kind of a bummer. I was so excited, like, yeah, finally the first movie because I’ve written a couple of screenplays on commission. But this was finally the one that’s going to get made. And then covid  happened. And well. Yeah, now I do other things. So it’s okay. Maybe one day still.

Danielle

 I hope so, because you have me with that concept and that image. I mean, that’s just brilliant. That’s just so good. So I really hope it gets made.

And what is it you think that draws you to absurdity? Because I think I’m also, I’m both drawn to things that feel really real and also to absurdity. To both.

Zanandi

100%.I love that you do too. I love meeting fellow absurdist fans. I actually, when I remember when I was in high school and I first learned about absurdism and Becket and existentialism in general, I was very much drawn to it.

I’ve always been a bit of a thinker, you know. I was one of those kids that thought a lot. So yeah, so when I started like doing that and acting too and doing…I love Beckett so much. I used to be such a nerd and call myself a Beckett baby. But is that such an influence on me really and my writing and I just love his work. But yeah, I think it’s kind of that thing where, you know, you question things in life and so many things are so contradicting and that’s what absurdism is really. You know, it’s like trying to find meaning in a meaningless life and the concept of that is what is absurd. But yet we do, because what are you, you know, what are you supposed to do? Kind of its windy and happy days. It’s yeah, I do see life a lot like that. What I love about absurdists works though is that it allows you to laugh at it, you know, and not be overly serious and depressed about it. I mean, because that can happen. Depression is around the corner. But yeah, usually those types of works allow you to laugh at it. And I think that’s a good thing. I think we need to do that. Otherwise, good luck to all of us.

Danielle

Yeah, and again, I so feel you. I too am quite the thinker and also about all things existential and have been like for as long as I can remember. I am that creepy kid that’s like thinking about death and where we come from and all the questions like before it  is really appropriate to. Not just happy conversations. But then absurdity creates such a lovely balance the other way. Like I do call myself ridiculously serious because I will get so serious and then realize how ridiculous I am and flip back the other way. So it’s like the turtle falling from the sky. It saves you from descending.

Zanandi

Exactly. It’s like the trigger that just pops you back, you know, and gets you out of the hole of despair.

Danielle

Yeah. And also it makes it a lot more enjoyable for me to watch and read.  Because sometimes… I do enjoy really quality drama…but sometimes I just find it too much. I feel like I feel too much and it really helps me to have the absurdity. So if we’re going to look at a funeral, or I’m going to look at grief and all the things I want to watch, I would much rather have a dramedy, comedy drama, some surrealism, some absurdity thrown in.

Zanandi

100%. You know, I think about that one scene and have you seen Garden State? You remember Zach Braff’s movie Garden State?

Danielle

I have not, no.

Zanandi

Oh really? You’ll  have to check that out sometime. They’ve got some interesting scenes. Like I think it was his first feature film. So it’s very indie, very experimental back then. Also, it had a whole like controversial thing with the manic pixie dream girl. That was, oh, now I can’t remember her name. Oh gosh, the actress in it. I’m blanking. Such a famous actress. Anyway, we can look it up. That’s embarrassing. Just blanking. Anyway, but they, I mean, the movie is not perfect or anything, but there’s a scene, a funeral scene in it that is so absurd and hilarious and cringe. And like, that’s the kind of thing that we love, you know? I mean, nobody wants to watch… Nobody even likes going to a funeral. Why do I want to watch an all serious, very sad funeral, you know? Yeah. Give me the funny stuff. Give me the uncomfortable. Someone says or does something very inappropriate, like the one thing you should never do at a funeral. They did it. Give me that. I mean, yeah, it’s it’s great to watch.

I also prefer watching those kinds of things, rather than something that’s just dripping with the melodrama and the… I love my melodrama at times, don’t get me wrong, but you know what I’m saying.

Danielle

I do. And I’d love to ask you about the comic as well if you don’t mind, because I would say that I am quite a beginner reader when it comes to comics and graphic novels, but it’s something that I’m starting to read more and appreciate more and I’m also a beta reader and I’m reading and providing feedback on comics for people, but I don’t feel equipped to do it because comedy in that genre is a whole kind of different game.

So I’d love to know when you were writing the comic…. again it’d be great for us to know a little bit about the concept and also any things that you really learned about craft while you were creating it.

Zanandi

Interesting that I didn’t really grow….We had comics here, but back in the 90s in South Africa, we had the bare minimum, like, you know, imports and exports and all of that wasn’t what it is today. So we had some, and I remember usually like reading comics when I was at friends houses because they had the comics, but I never really like…I didn’t read a lot of comedy comics either, you know. I think like maybe the quirkiest comics I read was X-men, because I loved X-men.

Yeah, what happened is I was working at bunnyears.com and my editor there, after we closed up shop at the site, my editor emailed a couple of us and said….oh, so like the Trailer Park Boys from Canada want to do a comic about their show. Who’s interested? I had actually written a local comic before that. That was way more serious. And I kind of said after the first edition came out…maybe get someone else. Because I didn’t really feel like I wanted to do something that serious in a comic form.

So when this happened, and it’s Trailer Park Boys and it’s like just these fun… again, very character driven because it’s all about the characters…. I was like, okay, sweet. And I watched, I mean, there’s so many, there’s so many seasons out. I binge watched so much Trailer Park Boys to kind of get into the characters, get into the voices. Because that was the trick really. And I was surprised that I could like, you know, do it in a natural way.

I actually told my husband I think it might…I have a music background… and I think that might have helped because every character has a certain rhythm. So I could pick up on their rhythms very easily. So when it came, because I mean, writing a comic is pretty much writing dialogue. You set up the frame, which is the scene, the set. But it’s I mean it’s one frame, you know, so it’s like… outside car park day. It’s as simple as that. And then you’ve got the characters with their dialogue, you know.

So it was just getting that rhythm and kind of mimicking to make it sound exactly like them. And that’s really the trick with that is… if you’re doing that. I mean, obviously, like with my first comic, I had to create the characters from scratch so I could do whatever I wanted. But this was kind of like writing a spec script for an existing TV show that, you know…I don’t even know if people still do that. I remember people used to do that a lot back in the day, writing spec scripts and trying to, you know, burst into the industry with those. It’s kind of like that. Just pick up on the characters and you learn a lot. You learn why this guy is funny because he actually talks very funny or like in a staccato, unnatural kind of way that is hysterical. Or this guy actually just grunts the whole time and that’s what makes him funny. And those little things that adds to the comedy and adds to the characters and just nailing that. Yeah, that was fun. Like I enjoyed that.

The story that I wrote was wild. The guys basically because they do a lot of, they smoke a lot of weed and they do a lot of shrooms, and they basically started tripping and seeing little garden gnomes come to life and it was hysterical. Yeah, very proud of that one.

Danielle

Yeah, so you should be. I love the sound of that. And I love thinking about the different rhythms of the characters. That’s like a really great bit of practical advice, that is so easy to forget.

And when you’re thinking about creating characters from scratch, the ones that you have in your head, whether it was for your film or for other projects that we may not have discussed. Do you have any favorite go-tos for creating comedy characters from scratch?

Zanandi

 I think, yeah, for me, it’s always like, I like finding a character’s vice, first and foremost. I think if you can find your character’s vice, it just unfolds really. Because I think that’s what makes people the most interesting. Like, you know, it also…Because what we do with our vices a lot of the time is we hide them… so you pretend. But that’s the way you pretend kind of, you know, it’s countering that. So I think vices inform a lot of that and you can find a lot of comedy in there. Because, you know, it’s also a source that can be embarrassing or can like make people do silly random things or… you get what I’m saying?

Danielle

I do. Yeah.

Zanandi

So I like, yeah. What would this character not want anybody to know about them? And that usually is a good source for some comedy to just naturally happen.

Danielle

That’s genius. I’ve never heard anyone give that advice before and it’s so good because it sounds so fun. So I’m literally going to go back through my novel and all the characters in it, and when I write short stories, and ask that question because it’s really fun. I love that. That’s genius.

And do you have any particular settings that just really tickle your fancy when it comes to comedy, that if you had an unlimited budget, if you didn’t have to worry about the constraints of the film or the series that you’d be like…I would totally set my piece there.

Zanandi

I love carnivals. It’s such a weird place because so many things can happen there and it’s so vibey and I think people’s energies are just automatically kind of lifted, you know? Yeah, I think maybe that. But also it’s like I’ve never thought of this question. I don’t think I have a specific like, oh, I would love to do that there. But yeah, I mean, the carnival just came to mind now.

Danielle

That’s brilliant. Because again, I think everything’s, like you say, slightly amplified, slightly off kilter. And if we combine carnival with people’s vices, now my goodness, it’s gonna be chaos. I love it.

Zanandi

I love that. Yeah, we’re starting to get ideas here. I love it.

Danielle

I love it. And I’d love to know if there are particular comedy writers who you really love. Just because I think often they don’t really get enough credit. I’ve got a few, for example. I really love Georgia Pritchett, who writes on Succession. I think she’s wonderful. I love trying to find out which scene she’s written. Like, for example, she wrote the scene where…they’re in, they’ve kind of been sealed into the not so good safe room and it’s with Greg and the water bottles. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen the scene but it’s just so funny and she wrote that, so I think she’s amazing. And also I really love… she’s written a brilliant memoir. That isn’t like any other memoir that I’ve read. It’s like lots of short little scenes that build up throughout her life and it’s just genius and heartbreaking and funny. So she’s a writer that I really admire. Are there any particular comedy writers that you really admire and love?

Zanandi

It’s funny that you mentioned her because yeah, that was the first person I thought of. Like, I just love the writing on that show. It’s really, if I think of comedy writers now, I think of that because it’s just so good. But yeah, honestly, I actually have more horror favorite writers.

Danielle

Oh, do you? No, tell us. It could be horror as well. I just like to give a shout out to some writers. Who do you like in horror?

Zanandi

Yeah, listen, like from a literature point of view, I mean, when I discovered Terry Bratchett in my 20s, I was a goner. I was done for. I absolutely just love his silly kind of absurdist humor that he uses. I mean, it’s so fun. And again, that’s the kind of thing that I enjoy. It’s not bashing you over the head, trying to be too clever or anything. It’s just fun, but still saying a lot of things.

Yeah, and then horror. I’m a boring nerd who really just thinks Stephen King is that good. I recently read If That Bleeds, all his short stories. So good.

Danielle

I haven’t read that.

Zanandi

Do yourself a favor. If It Bleeds, it’s four short stories. One is actually more like a novella. It’s just four, they’re four completely different stories. I…full disclosure, I cried so much in one of them. It was so good. I was like, Stephen King, what are you doing? Getting all sentimental on me now. It was just amazing. But yeah, I think…Yeah, I read so much with my Cracked job. Like I, you know, it’s a lot of research that we do with like that kind of online blogging, journalism type of stuff. So I just read a lot of things. I honestly can’t even tell you half of the people that I read, because I’m terrible with remembering names. But I’ll always, if I read a good article, I’ll always remember that article. So like, you know, I can think about it and go search it and send it to someone. But yeah, now you’re right though, comedy writers should get more praise. I should also be giving them more praise.

Danielle

Oh, no, that’s great. But that’s a lovely recommendation for me. Thank you. So I’m doing the Ray Bradbury 1000 Nights Challenge at the minute. I think I’m on like night 189 or something… where you read a poem, a short story and an essay. So I’m like, I am totally going to get that Stephen King book and read those four short stories. So thank you.

Zanandi

I hope you enjoy it. It’s not too scary.

Danielle

Well, it’s good for me to be a little bit scared and I can manage a bit better in fiction because I can kind of pull it away and cover it up a bit easier than trying to watch through my fingers.

Zanandi

Exactly, exactly.

Danielle

I would love to talk to you for hours, but I’m just going to ask you one more sort of craft and industry based question and then we’ll wrap up with a little bit of advice and where to find you. But in terms of craft, I would love to know, for other people who would be interested in the kind of job that you have at cracked.com…you’ve mentioned how much research that you do and how many things you have to watch. And I love your pieces because they are so great on analysis. Like they’re really joyful and fun to read, but they are really smart. They take things that I kind of half think about and make them much more coherent and give me more things to check out. But I can see the amount of work that goes into them.

So I’d love to know, from when you started with that kind of work, to where you are now, what do you think’s helped you improve? And what advice might you have for someone who thinks… oh, I’d like to give that a shot. I would like to try writing articles about comedy.

Zanandi

Honestly, again, it’s the same thing that most people will tell you, read, read, read, read, read. Don’t stop reading. Read as much as you can. If you…want to go into comedy writing…read comedy writing. If you want to, like, it helps the more specific you get almost, you know, because it actually makes it easier. Because with comedy, it’s so broad. I mean, every day we’re trying to figure out at Cracked, okay, what is hitting right now? What do people…and sometimes there’ll be properties that we think, oh, people will love this. Ted Lasso, new season just came out. But for some reason, people aren’t really like, you know, clicking on the articles, which is always fascinating to kind of, you know, get a gauge on our readers and stuff. But yeah, that’s the thing about… if it’s just comedy and it’s a very broad like, you know, theme basically that you’re going for.

But yeah, just read everything because that not only gives you confidence but you learn just a lot and you find your own voice. I mean, it’s… obviously you find your own voice when you’re writing too, but it all happens when you read. That’s where it starts. Because you’re like, oh, I like this, or I would say that a different way. That’s good.

It’s like the same advice that people always say, read bad stuff, too. See what doesn’t work and why, because that is how you learn. And basically, you know, become self-taught in all of that, because it’s really just that at the end of the day. And thank you so much for the compliments. I love that you love my stuff. But, you know, it’s just my opinions. It’s just how I think about things. And sometimes it’s daunting because I would not at all say that I’m an expert and I know everything and everything I say is right because it’s not.

But yeah you kind of have to be brave with coming out and saying something or doing an analysis on something and giving your point of view on it. And so yeah that’s also I guess another good tip is try and you know if you read something… what is your point of view on it? Do you have a different point of view on it? Because that’s always the key too.

Obviously, we don’t want to read the same article 100 times written by 100 different people, but it’s really just the same thing. You want to read from a different point of view. So if you can find your own, yeah, then, you know, go for it. Try it out. Pitch to places that are taking submissions. Don’t pitch to places who aren’t. They will not like it. But, you know, yeah, I think I think a lot of writing comes down to courage. I mean, it’s something that I have struggled a lot with. I’ve had imposter syndrome for a very long time until I realized, yeah, I need to get over that now. I mean you do have to just keep pushing. And yeah, I mean, you get to a point where you don’t even really think about it anymore.

I did a Jesse Plemons article today for Cracked today. I wrote one, it’s coming out in two days. And it’s just about five times Jesse Plemons showed up and made everything better. And just about his fantastic performances. And I wrote it in like an hour and 15 minutes. I mean, it was just so easy because you get used to it. Later on, you don’t really have to think about it. You’re just writing your own opinion in the form. The format comes on its own because you’re kind of used to it. And yeah, you just keep cracking at it until you feel comfortable, I guess.

Danielle

I think there’s so much good advice in there and it’s so helpful what you’re saying about point of view and being brave about your opinion because I do think it is what really separates it out. Because there’s so many articles that we come across on social media and so many that will scroll past or so many that will read but won’t really stick with us. But that’s what separates yours out because again when I’m like… I just have such strong responses to them. I’m like… this is a real person. This is great.  You feel like you can connect. Which it wouldn’t if you weren’t being so brave and clear about your opinion. And I really respect that you do. And I’d respect if there was one that I disagreed with as well. I’d be like, no, but I would love it just as much. It’s evoking that response, but in a lovely, thoughtful way. And you make it look so easy because it’s so fun to read. But like I say, I write too, and I know it’s not. So I love your bravery. So well done.

Zanandi

Thank you. Thank you.I love to hear it.

Danielle

Yeah, and for people…you must go and check out Zanandi  work. Where’s the best place to connect with you and find you?

Zanandi

I think the best place for now still, until it dies, is Twitter. Yeah, find me @Zanandi at Twitter.  I share all my work there. It’s definitely the easiest place. Oh, yeah, I’ll be on cracked.com’s front page every other day of the week. But yeah, Twitter. Twitter is where I usually do some self promotion, even though I hate it, but as a writer in this economy, you got it, so yeah. Twitter is a good place. It’s where we found each other, that’s awesome.

Danielle

Yes! It does have some good things. And I will be sure to put your Twitter link in the show notes and also I will link to some of the cracked.com articles that you’ve written that I just love. They’re so smart and so fun and so helpful. Thank you so much. It’s such fun talking to you. You’re awesome.

Zanandi

Yeah, we should do this again. When you’ve done like a year, you know how you circle back to the people. We’ll have another chat about all the great comedies.

Danielle

100%. That’s a great idea. Let’s do that. Thank you.

Zanandi

Thanks Danielle.