What techniques do you use to help you come up with new ideas?
I take walks. I find that if I’m stationary, sometimes it’s not going to happen. I take drives. I’ll force myself to go to bed if I’m not tired, because if I lay there and toss and turn then I get ideas. Other than that I have — I guess they’re formulas? I’ll change one thing. I’ll look at an object or a situation or a show and just change one thing about it. What if oranges were square? What if Gilbert Gottfried was the star of 24? If you change one thing in a dynamic, it changes all the other relationships, so you start to be able to abstract it and look at it in a different way.
Does listening to music help your productivity or get in the way? For me, for example, taking a long walk without music can be a big help.
Oh completely. An iPod, or even having the radio on in the house, or if you’re going for a drive and you have a CD in, you’re just not going to really create during that time. Which sometimes is good because you have to absorb too. Joe Strummer said that — you have to have input to have output.
Can you describe the creative process you use when you’re working on a sitcom script? Is there anything in particular that you do to stay focused and get your work done?
Yeah, well, we have deadlines.
[laughter] That’s pretty straightforward — have deadlines and hit them.
Yeah. You know, I have a writing partner. A lot of times, we come up with the raw ideas for the story and then go meet at a coffee shop to work them out and distill them down to what we want to do. One of us will have an idea for a show, and then we’ll try to see if we can expand it into a pitch. And we’ll get together and flesh that out day by day. We meet for a couple of hours about three times a week.
I’ll change one thing. I’ll look at an object or a situation or a show and just change one thing about it. ‘What if oranges were square? What if Gilbert Gottfried was the star of 24?’ If you change one thing in a dynamic, it changes all the other relationships….
Is keeping your comedy fresh a challenge?
We get really bored with ideas really quickly even if they’re good original ideas. So, I don’t know if we even work too hard at that. Because we get bored so fast we always want to have a new idea. You can get a real high and a real feeling of growth and positivity if you have a new idea and a new project. That constant reinvention is a way of feeling like you’re still alive and you’re growing. And you get really depressed if it’s not happening.
Does working in three different areas (standup, sitcoms, and music) help, because if you get temporarily tired of one kind of work, you can move on to the next?
For sure. For sure. I think it’s a blessing and a curse. I’m glad that I have it because if I ever tried to just stick to one, I’d probably go crazy and get frustrated and want to quit it altogether. But being able to bounce to one when you get tired of the other is a great thing. The bad side of it is, in a way you’re not focused and you’re not putting your all into any one thing.
A graduate of the American Academy of Drama, Howard Kremer has performed onJimmy Kimmel Live and Comedy Central’sPremium Blend as well as at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, the Montreal Comedy Festival, and top comedy clubs around the world. He’ll be performing at the upcoming Coachella Festival in April, 2007, and his half-hour comedy special airs on Comedy Central on April 6th. One of the stars, cowriters, and cocreators of MTV’s Austin Stories, Kremer has sold nine original sitcom pilots to HBO, ABC, NBC, FOX, MTV, and Comedy Central. As Dragon Boy Suede, he performs and records filthy, funny, infectious rap.
Howard Kremer on the Web: Dragon Boy Suede on MySpace (adults only)
I’ve tried it before. “Hey — stop writing songs, stop doing music. You’ve got to just concentrate on television or just concentrate on standup.” But then that just makes you want to do [that other project] even more. And to avoid the pressure of writing a TV script you wind up coming up with five songs in one day. So it’s good to have those sorts of escape valves. If I really know that I need to bear down and finish one thing then actually it just inspires me naturally to come up with the other stuff. And that’s the way I’ve been doing it for a long time.
In terms of your writing habits, do you find you’re more creative at any particular time of day?
I think nighttime. Chris Rock said you should try to write a joke every day. And it’s great if it comes in the morning because then you feel like, “Oh well I did my work and I’m good.” But usually it comes at night.
Is that what you try to do — write a joke a day?
I won’t say that it’s a hard and fast religious rule. But I try — I create every day. I try to write a joke every day. Or [I write] a fake song title every day. Or work on the script. I create comedy every day.
Have you ever read any of the books on writing or creativity? Have you found them helpful?
The Artist’s Way?
The Artist’s Way, Bird by Bird…
What happened with The Artist’s Way is, someone said, “Would you read this book?” And I started to read it and I thought, well, this is all I do all day is just try to be creative. So I wasn’t sure if the book was going to help me that much.
It was lent to me by this girl that I knew and she’d written notes in the book. There was this one chapter about “crazy makers.” And it says beware of crazy makers — these are people that inspire you, but because you get so wrapped up in them, they also wind up sucking away all of your life energy and your ability to create.
And so I’m reading through the book and I get to this point and then I see, scribbled in the margin, it says “Howard Kremer.” [laughter] I don’t know, if you’re going to lend someone the book, maybe you erase the part where you…. [laughter] But, that was it. I never read The Artist’s Way after that.