On this episode of Recode Decode, Dick Costolo joins host Kara Swisher for a wide-ranging discussion of comedy. After tracing his path from Second City to Silicon Valley — where he was once the CEO of Twitter — Costolo goes on to talk about contributing to the “Silicon Valley” TV show and how new comedians have routes to success that didn’t exist as little as 10 years ago.
You can listen to the entire interview here or in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as that person who was tweeting all night on New Year’s Eve, but in my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music or wherever you listen to podcasts, or just visit recode.net/podcast for more.
Today I’m in San Francisco with Dick Costolo, the former CEO of Twitter. He’s one of my favorite guests. He’s now the CEO of a fitness startup called Chorus, but over the course of January we’re going to be doing several episodes of Recode Decode together. He’s going to be my co-host and we’re going to be talking about comedy. Today for our first episode, I’ll be interviewing him because he is quite funny and he has a career in comedy.
Dick Costolo: Now we’re set up for failure. Way to go. That is the surest way to guarantee it’s all going to go downhill.
Later this month you’re going to be talking ... We’ve been talking to a lot of people from comedy and where comedy is going, and we’ll get into why, comedy online, and all kinds of things. It’s going to be very ...
Again, wait, that’s going to be great.
I want to start, why did you pick comedy? You could have talked about social media. Let’s talk about why you wanted to do comedy.
Oh, for these podcasts.
Yes. Hilary Rosen did politics. That makes sense, she’s a political person. But why comedy? Explain why you selected that as your topic.
I just think comedy’s enjoying a real renaissance in America. There are more women, successful women comics than I feel like there has ever been. You can argue ... Well, a lot of people would argue, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Amy Schumer, and Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey are the funniest people in the country right now. It hasn’t been since the ’60s-’70s when you had Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett that women in American comedy have had this real amazing renaissance. Then you’ve got folks like Kumail from “Silicon Valley” who just made an amazing movie, “The Big Sick.”
Right. He spends a lot of time on Twitter, too.
Spends a lot of time on Twitter, he’s very good at it. The whole cast of “Veep,” including Julie, is on Twitter all the time. I just think it’s a really fun time to talk about it and talk about everything that’s changing in that industry, and in many ways how women in America are leading the way. I think that’s really cool.
Let’s talk about your history of comedy. You were the CEO of Twitter, which we know you of, which was also very funny in many ways.
Waiting for the outcomes. That was easy, you set yourself up.
There’ll be a lot of them.
You threw the ball in the air and you hit right over the net.
There’ll be tons. There’ll be tons. We’ll be talking about Russia, we’ll be talking about all kinds of things.
Zdravstvuyte (“hello” in Russian). By the way, Dick, I know you are a plant.
You’re known as a tech executive and we talked about this before, but for those who don’t know Dick ...
Yeah. Go way back?
Yes, let’s go way back.
Way back. When I was studying computer science at the University of Michigan, at that time it was in the humanities school, before it was moved to engineering, and you had to have these humanities credits to graduate. I just decided my senior year I would take acting classes because I wouldn’t have to do much homework.
Right. Right, and you could get an easy A.
Yeah, I could get an easy A. I just loved it and decided when I graduated that ...
Had you been in anything in high school?
No, nothing. Nothing. Zero.
Nothing. What did you do in high school? Were you the funny guy?
Lonely, cried in my room, alone. Wondered why people didn’t like me.
Were you the funny guy?
Yeah. Among my circle of four friends, sure.
That doesn’t tell you much.
Really? So you weren’t like the stand-up guy?
No. I was just kind of ... I was always making observational jokes kind of from the sidelines, not ...
Never the class clown person, you know?
Right. Right, but I’m curious, I want to go back to high school because you didn’t ... A lot of people ...
I tried to get away from it, but go ahead.
You were not popular, in other words.
I wasn’t not ... Listen, I wasn’t, “it’s just me and my dog and my imaginary friend Billy,” but no, I wasn’t the homecoming dude or whatever those guys are called. They’re called something.
Right. Do you know I was really popular?
Homecoming queen and king.
I was extraordinarily popular.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit.
I was the yearbook editor.
Of course you were the yearbook editor. You were really the yearbook editor?
Yeah, I was.
Of course you were.
Yes, I had control over everybody at the time. That is a powerful position.
Of course it is.
To which to wield my power.
Right, because, “I’m not going to use that photo, I’m going to use this photo.”
This photo, exactly. It was Facebook before Facebook.
I did a lot of favors for people in that regard, just telling you.
“Listen, I can get you on page 18.”
Exactly. “I’ll put you across from this guy.” “Oh, I don’t want to be ...” That was a big deal, who you were across from.
I’m sure it was.
Yeah. “I can have you removed from the index.”
“Done, you didn’t exist.”
You didn’t exist in high school. Your kids will go, “Where are you in here?”
Yeah, “Where are you?”
You were in college, so you were taking computer, and so you moved in naturally — since you were unpopular — in computer science.
Of course, right.
So you did that, and then what? You took this acting course.
I took these acting classes and then I just decided ...
Was this acting, acting?
No, it was like learn to act, theater 101.
When you think about introductory theater class. We did some Arthur Miller scenes or something.
Then I decided, when I was doing that my senior year, also just started doing open mic night, stand-up, at the student union, which they had on Wednesday nights.
Now, why? What prompted you?
Just because it was part of the acting class, I thought it would be fun to do it, and just started doing it. It was fun. Anyway, when I graduated ...
I’m going to stop you again, what was your big joke?
I’m trying to move along.
No, I’m not moving along.
I really had nothing.
I’ve got an hour here.
I had no material.
It was like open mic nonsense. You know if you go to an open mic thing and you think, “They actually spent time on this.”
Do you watch the HBO show “Crashing”?
It’s all horrible, horrible comedy.
I couldn’t remember one if you made me.
But you got up there and just tried your darnedest.
I got up there and tried my darnedest.
I just ended up really liking being onstage.
What part? Because you’re an egomaniac?
Everything about it. Yeah, maybe, I don’t know. Look, I talk and they listen to me, and once in a while they’d heckle, and I’d get to say something to them. I have a microphone and they don’t.
The combination of that and the acting class, I just decided, end of my senior year, I’m going to go to Chicago and try to get into Second City.
It was known already as sort of the highway to “Saturday Night Live,” Belushi and Murray and all those guys in the ’70s had used it to get to “SNL,” and again in the ’80s. Then a bunch of the people that ended up performing there with, went on to do that, Adam McKay and Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch and all those folks. I, of course, didn’t. I’m skipping ahead, but ...
No, we’re not skipping. There will be no skipping.
As I went through Second City and performed there, and at the Annoyance Theater, which was sort of a companion theater and improvisation in Chicago, and spent a ton of time there, I hung out with and performed with all those folks. [Steve] Carell and I were in the same sort of start group, if you will, at Second City.
Explain how you got there. Back ... how it was done. You went to Second City ...
I just moved to Chicago.
Did you enroll in courses there?
Yes. They basically have this, “Pay this amount of money and we’ll take you through this improvisation, six classes of improvisation,” and when you’re done, you sort of audition for one of the touring companies and you also put on this show.
People come to see.
There are some down nights at Second City, they have two stages, and I think Monday and Tuesday, no one performs on the back stage, and they sort of give that to the last level of training program folks to use on Monday and Tuesday night, before the regular groups get up there and start performing the rest of the week. Steve and I were in the same group there, and that’s where I met a bunch of those people like Rachel Dratch, again, and she and I became good friends. Matt Walsh, who’s on “Veep” now, I ended up meeting him at Second City and the Annoyance Theater. On and on, a bunch of those people who have gone on to do great things in comedy.
You wanted to do that though, right?
I totally wanted to do it. I ultimately, a couple years later, did audition for “SNL” and didn’t get that. Not only did I not get it, I didn’t even get called back to New York.
All right, I’m not going to let you run through this.
What was that audition like?
Oh my gosh. They sort of have this three steps of auditions. Sort of do this one audition in front of a few people involved with the show, and then a bigger audition in a more public environment, if you will, like sort of onstage at Second City if you make it through that first set. Then the third set is you fly to New York and you’re auditioning in front of Lorne and the rest of the team, Lorne Michaels. I didn’t even get through the first thing.
The first audition is something called Three Through The Door. Three Through The Door was, you come out and you can do sort of whatever you want, your own monologues. A one-minute monologue is character A, whoever you want character A to be, it can be an impersonation, it can be a character you created. Do sort of a one-minute monologue, leave stage, come back out through the door as a second character, do another minute monologue. Leave stage, come back out as a third character, and they say, “Thank you very much.”
What were your characters?
I had all sorts of random, weird character stuff.
Give me one. Don’t be difficult.
I had this unemployed Scottish guy that ... He was mostly trying to do voice ... You’re trying to do voices and show them a range of voices, right?
At the time, I think, I’m trying to remember who some of the candidates were. You’re trying to work in ... Anyways, obviously want to do lots of political humor, so you’re trying to be able to do impersonations of the folks that are running for president or are likely to run for president. You’re trying to set yourself up as different from the people you already know they’ve got in the cast.
One of the big challenges with, at least in thinking about auditioning for shows like that at the time, and probably still today is, there’s this type of person, and there’s one crazy guy, and there’s one, “I’m going to be the mom in all the scenes,” so you’re trying to distinguish yourself from, “Well, he’s coming back and I kind of look like him, so I’ve got to try to be not like him.”
Right. Right. What was your actual genuine character?
My genuine character was I didn’t really have a go-to thing, a back-pocket thing, which is probably another one of the reasons why I never heard from it.
You had hopes and dreams. You had hopes and dreams of being on “SNL.”
Yeah, but let’s be frank, there are lots and lots of these people who are auditioning for these shows for a very, very small number of roles. Carell was always hilarious. Carell was great from Day One in the Second City training center, Steve was amazing. Yet, he didn’t get “SNL,” his wife did.
Wait, who’s his wife?
Nancy, Nancy Walls. Nancy got “SNL,” I think she was on for a couple seasons, and so Steve ended up being a roving reporter on “The Daily Show,” and then got the Dana Carvey show, but Dana’s show was canceled after six episodes, so Steve was kind of grinding away. And eventually, in “40-Year-Old Virgin,” did that and that was his breakout hit. He was great from Day One, he was one of those people you always like, “This guy’s going to make it.” There’s just so many great people, some of them do and a bunch of them don’t.
Right. What did you do to make money?
Oh my gosh, you will end up having these horrible jobs. You’re working in the coat room at a nightclub because it’s the only thing you can do off hours to make any money.
Right. Coat room.
I remember, a guy from my computer science class at Michigan, comes to the Limelight in Chicago, this in the ’80s and the Limelight in New York is super hot and then they open one in Chicago.
Yeah, Limelight. Slimelight, it used to be called Slimelight.
Yeah. Right. So, I’m working in the coat room at like two in the morning at this nightclub and this guy from my computer science program at Michigan comes in, and hands his jacket to the coat room dude, who’s me, and he has this moment of recognition.
And does this, “Whoa, what do you know? What happened?”
What did you do?
I was just like, “Hey Doug, how’s it going?” Like he was afraid to ask, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. There you were. There you were.
There you were.
So you were doing that. Was it the losing of the “SNL” thing that you were like, “I’m not going to do this.”
No, it was losing all of them.
How many did you try out for?
Made it on an audition for “Mad TV,” remember when “Mad TV” came around?
They also took a big swing through Chicago and auditioned, and hired a bunch of people from Second City, and the Annoyance, and Improv Olympic was another big improv organization in Chicago, at the time, had started there. After four or five or six of them, you go, “Okay, well, I sense a pattern.” Kind of figuring out what’s going on.
Yeah. Do you understand why you didn’t get it? Did you just ...
There’re all different reasons. There are always different reasons. “We have someone that looks like you.” You know, I don’t have a super ... A lot of people look like me, I’m not as funny as that guy, etc., etc.
Right. Right, but you still wanted to do this, you still wanted to be in it.
Well, after a while, when you’re really, really poor and not getting any of your auditions ...
And living in freezing cold Chicago.
I’m like, “All right, it’s time to go do something else.” So I went back and put my degree to use at that, I was like, “Okay, this is enough of this.” This is like five years later, like, “All right, I’ve had enough.”
What did that feel like?
It’s fine. Like, “All right, this a grind I don’t want to do anymore.” I always thought in the back of mind, “Well, I’ll come back to it.”
Then I kind of have been able to do that, which is fun.
Right. Right, as a very wealthy person and successful person.
Speaking of, you got back to it and then you went back to computing, and you started a company, just walk through [crosstalk 00:13:41]. This, you can walk through quickly, it’s not funny.
I just had a consulting job and when the internet, in my mind, when the web took off ...
This is 2001.
In ’’93. ’93, for me, when Mosaic and then Netscape were just starting.
Yeah. That’s when I entered the picture.
In like November ’93, I realized this is, “Wow, this is this really extensible platform and it’s going to be super important.” Everyone at the time was still referring to it as the information superhighway and everything, but I remember seeing a few Netscape demos and thinking, “This is going to be really important,” and just went off and started my own company that was just doing web technology and design, at the time.
In the early days. Making websites for people.
Yeah. Then you started a company.
Sold that, started a company called Spyonit, which was basically an early alerts company, like watching webpages for changes in them, things like eBay auctions or stock prices or anything really, and would alert you via SMS or via instant messenger or email when there were changes to those pages we were watching. Which got me interested in the mobile internet. We sold Spyonit to a mobile financial services company.
Crazy story, like September 12, 2000, so my birthday’s September 10th, so I’m out to dinner on September 10th, 2001, and thinking, “In two days, when this sort of lockup on our stock for the yearlong stock lockup expires, I’m going to be in this whole really different world.” Then, of course, the next morning was 9/11 and just really taught me ... That was really the day that, I guess for everyone else as well, but really taught me, thinking about, “When this thing happens, everything will be great,” is a stupid way to live your life because everything can change in a moment.
Right. Right. So you then did another company.
Created FeedBurner, ran that for ...
Which, explain what that did, just for ...
The idea behind FeedBurner was while with RSS feeds, the future of content is going to be distributed and syndicated, and people aren’t going to go webpages anymore and read the news, it’s going to be distributed to them in the form of these feeds. We’ll be a content intermediary that basically distributes feeds for publishers and helps them monetize those feeds and distribution, sort of a publisher clearing house, if you will, and that’s going to be something publishers aren’t going to want to do for themselves. That worked and was great, and we sold that to Google in June of 2007. Of course, things like Twitter came along and rendered RSS for the large part like, “Well, this is how I’m going to get all my news and information, not through weblogs or Google Read, or anything.”
Right. Then you went to Twitter. Can you very briefly say how that ...
I went to Twitter. Well, Ev Williams had been ... I knew Ev for a long time.
He had been running it and Jack was the CEO, and then he wasn’t.
But Ev was at Google when we were talking to them about acquiring FeedBurner. He was at Google through Blogger.
So I’d spent a bunch of time with Ev at Google. By the time I got there, he was off doing Odeo, which then of course ...
A sound thing.
The sound thing that they pivoted into Twitter. So, when I left Google, Ev called me and essentially, to make a long story short, asked me to come out and run operations for him as COO.
Right. You were COO. Ev had taken over from Jack.
You got right in the middle of that. Jesus, that’s a comedy.
Yeah. Anyway, I was there for ... I ended up being there for six years.
Which is a long time to be involved in and running a company that’s got as much going on as Twitter does.
It feels like so much longer than six years, you know?
Every day is some amazing, crazy, wild thing is happening.
Yeah. Most of them awful.
All right, when we get back, we’re talking to Dick Costolo and we’re talking about comedy. I just was going through his career and his early career in comedy, which was a failure, apparently. When we get back, we’re going to talk about after he left Twitter.
I showed them, though.
You showed them, you did. You bought a comedy club. That’s right. Then I fired everyone and I just do comedy all day long.
Right. I’m not going to let you perform.
Yeah, you just do it yourself. Why didn’t you do that? Why don’t you do it?
It just seems sort of miserable.
Yeah, it does, but fantastic in a lot of ways. Anyway, we’ll be back talking about comedy. This month I’ll be talking all month with Dick Costolo on a series of special Recode Decode episodes about that and where it’s going.
I’m here with Dick Costolo, who many in Silicon Valley know as the former CEO of Twitter.
Man, you’re really twisting the knife in, constantly.
You know what? That was your has-been. I think I put has-been on one of your cards at one point.
Thank you, that’s very kind of you.
It’s true though, really, it is, come on. Have things changed since you left? You were CEO of Twitter.
Have things changed from being a has-been to something else? No.
No, no, let’s ...
I’m enjoying my life as a has-been.
We’re going to finish up with Twitter because I wanted to get to comedy. I want to talk about comedy and where it’s going.
So, you were at Twitter, which provided a lot of material, I don’t know why you don’t just do sets on Twitter, like being the CEO of Twitter, I think that would be very funny. We were going to do that.
We were going to do a comedy show on tech, don’t you think that would be funny?
I think it would be great. I still think it would be great.
I think it would be good, it’s talking about everything, we could make fun of people every week.
There’s plenty of material.
Plenty of material and we’re going to get to that.
You did that, you left, you took it public, right? You were the ...
You did. Then, as usual, Twitter’s a six-alarm fire or whatever, at any one point.
Is there a six-alarms? I think that’s one more ...
That’s what I’m calling it. It’s a five-alarm plus, I know, but that’s what I’m saying.
Oh, I see, that’s the ...
I feel like you got out just in time for the Donald Trump era of Twitter.
I was not there for what you would consider the Donald Trump era of Twitter.
It is now.
He was on, of course, at the time and saying things that were not too dissimilar than the kinds of things he says today, but he wasn’t in the position that he is in now.
Right. Right. Are you pleased that you’re not there having to deal with that?
I’ve said this a million times, I’ll say it again, I loved running that company, I loved the people there, I loved doing it, it was exciting, like every day was a challenge. It’s just it’s a lot of work, man.
Yeah. Yeah. Plus the attention it gets is really ... All the journalists are on it.
That could be good. That can be fun. You’re certainly under a microscope, but once you’re running a public company, you’re always under a microscope.
Yeah, I guess, but not like Twitter. I think it’s fascinating.
Yeah, that’s fair, I’d buy that.
I think it’s because the media is so interested in it.
Yeah, about everything about it.
Yeah. It’s an interesting place.
It’s a really interesting product, no matter how you deal with it.
100 percent agree.
You then were casting about for your next move.
Casting about. “What, oh what will I do now with my time?”
Yes, what did you do? I want to hear your process, because you went to comedy, went back to comedy.
I did. I had a great dinner with Peter Guber, the Mandalay Entertainment guy, part owner of the Warriors.
Who was his old partner? Don ... They did all the “Top Gun” movies and stuff.
“Tootsie,” I think, and several other hits, big hits. Peter, when the news broke ... Which was instantly the moment I told the company on June 11th, 2015 that I was leaving.
I think that was me, oops.
It’s all right, I’d had an all-hands meeting and was like, “Well, this is going to be public in two minutes.” Peter texted me and said, “I’m coming into town, get dinner with me.” We got dinner and he said, “Listen, when I left Sony Entertainment, I thought everyone really cared about what I was going to do next, and I thought it was really important to be clear about what I was going to do next, I’m going to do this and get my story out there.” He said, “The reality is, I hate to break this to you, nobody cares.”
Yeah. Your mama and your cat.
The waiter came over and nodded, “Yeah,” like, “Really, nobody cares.”
“Just pay my bill, please.”
He said, “Don’t react to anything that’s going on right now, don’t react to offers that come in.”
Yeah, yeah, don’t ...
Wait six months and then ... He specifically said, “Don’t be a catcher, receiving offers. Be a fisher. Wait until no one’s emailing you anymore, and then go decide what you want to do.”
Right. That’s a very good piece of advice.
I thought that was great advice.
It was only about like three days later when people stopped emailing me, so I didn’t have to wait six months.
[laughter] Oh, Dick.
Yeah, no. Too expensive.
Yeah. The interesting thing, and I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus here.
Yeah. Go ahead.
We can do this later in private.
But I will say that this was fascinating. The interesting thing was, the day that the news broke that I wasn’t going to be at Twitter anymore, you would be surprised at the people who immediately unfollowed me on Twitter.
Yes. Yes, you would. So, I’ll tee that up for a future conversation.
All right. Wow.
You’d be surprised at the people ...
How do you know that? I don’t even know, I have so many people following me.
Don’t worry, I have people who came in ...
So you watch this follower and you ... No.
I would get alerted to certain things that I had noticed.
I would go try to DM someone, it was like, “This person doesn’t follow you.” I was like, “What? They do follow me because I have a DM exchange with them from before.”
I never did that.
No, no, no.
I kept calling you.
No, it wasn’t you. It wasn’t you.
No, it wasn’t me. No. I think I’ll do that right now to see what happens.
Interestingly, the one thing I will say about it was, it was never the people in Hollywood.
They’re sort of ...
Yeah, they’re used to it.
No, I think they know, “Hey, these things happen.”
Ups and downs.
That group of people deals with the, “I’m a star, I’m a nobody. I’m a star, I’m a ... I’m a star again.”
So, they get it more than anyone else does, probably.
Right. How did you get to the comedy thing? Besides through me.
Well, you connected me to Mike Judge and Alec Berg, the executive producers and showrunners for “Silicon Valley.” I went down and had lunch with those guys, it was great. They already knew in Season Three they needed to bring in a new CEO because Richard wasn’t going to be the CEO of the company at the beginning of Season Three, so it was just sort of perfect timing with ... You actually went through that.
Yeah, they were asking me, “Who’s a washed-up CEO?” I said, “Wait.”
“Who’s a has-been?” “I know a great has-been.”
I did! “I know a funny has-been.”
“Everyone’s already stopped emailing him and stopped following him on Twitter.” So, I went and had lunch with those guys, it was great, I just went right into the writer’s room, literally into the writer’s room for Season Three, and it was awesome.
What did you do there? What did you actually ... I keep asking you this, you never give me a straight answer.
I would give them advice. So, first of all, there was what I was there to do and what I would do. What I was there to do was the, “Hey, we need to have the board ... We need to get Richard into this kind of a situation. One idea we have is that Laurie and Raviga could do this to him, how would that work?” You know?
“Would he go there? Would they come into the boardroom?” That kind of stuff, just to kind of get the ...
They want verisimilitude.
Yeah, they want verisimilitude, that’s correct. I would give them advice on that kind of stuff and say, “No, it would more likely happen this way.” Then, of course, as I got comfortable being in the room, I would start pitching ideas. Alec Berg has this great way of saying, “That’s a horrible idea,” which is, he’ll go, “Yeah, that’s interesting. That’s interesting, we could do that. Or we could also ...” I was always like, “That was very nice of you to always say it that way instead of, ‘We would never do that.’”
Did any get through?
Yeah, occasionally one or two got through, but they were little minor things here and there.
Which ones are yours?
Like minor lines that you would be like, “Yeah, that wasn’t very funny.”
You’re very funny.
I think at one point Richard says something like, “Well, the four-year plan is to be profitable by so-and-so,” and Action Jack, the CEO is brought in, said, “Hey Richard, in March of 2001, the four-year plan lasted another month before everything crashed.” See, I told you, it wasn’t a very funny one.
Yes, that’s not funny, that’s depressing.
No, you’re like, “No wonder you’re not still with the show.”
They weren’t paying me anything, so it was cheap labor.
I thought you had done the conjoined trial, the success.
No, no, no, that’s John Levenstein.
John came in one morning, who’s great, John came in one morning and literally just went up to the whiteboard in the writer’s room and drew it, the whole thing. Sales, Richard, “Sales and engineering are the two pillars of the conjoined ... Richard compromises the shared hypotenuse of the conjoined triangles of success.” I mean, he literally wrote the whole thing out with ...
You’ve been in that meeting.
I’m like, “Oh man, this is perfect.”
It was immediately one of those, “This is great, where can we use this?”
Then making it Action Jack sort of thing, and his Harvard case study was perfect.
Yeah. You didn’t do the horse sex one, did you?
No. However ...
I was in the pitch session.
But you advised, since you had a horse.
No, I was in ... They’re like, “Would this actually happen?” I was like, “I don’t actually have anything to say about that.”
In the pitch session for the, “What if Jack’s got to go to Sonoma because he’s mating his horse?” They’re going through this discussion about the scene and I said to Mike or Alec afterward, I don’t remember which one, I said, “What’s going to happen when the production team starts ...” So, when the writers are writing in the summer, the production team’s not there. The actors aren’t there, the production team’s not there.
Yeah, they don’t know.
They sort of re-get back together in October and start going through the scripts. I was like, “What happens in October when the production teams, you go, ‘Yeah, listen, in the first episode, here’s this scene.’”
We need horse sex.
“How quickly is this going to be written out of the show?” They’re like, “You’d be surprised what we can ... You’d be surprised what they’re like, ‘Okay, fine,’ and then what they’re like, ‘No, we could never do that.’”
They’re right, I was surprised.
Yeah, they left that in. They really let that in.
I didn’t think there was any way the production folks would be like, “Yeah, that won’t be a problem.”
Yeah, and they did it.
They did it.
They did it.
They did it for a while.
They did a lot. That was real gross. That was a surprise.
What are you going to do?
I was like, “Whoa.”
You were there for a season, right?
I was there for all of Seasons Three in the writer’s room and then a little bit of the production, not a ton of it. It’s amazing to see ... I’ll give you just a few quick observations from being in the writer’s room. One, the writer’s room for that show is like a who’s who of talent. You had Ron Weiner, one of the head writers of “30 Rock,” and John who I just mentioned coming from a bunch of shows, and most recently “Arrested Development.” Clay Tarver and Mike and Alec, it’s just one after another.
No, no, no, no, sorry. Carrie Woodruff’s in the room, and Megan Amram was in the room. Sorry, I was listing all the guys first. Megan’s awesome on Twitter, and Carrie’s hilarious. That was impressive to me, just how good ... Every pitch was like, “Wow, this is so great,” so you would end up with an hour’s material for a show that ended up only needing to be a half hour or so, and you’re constantly cutting out stuff that’s funny.
The second thing that was interesting to observe was how funny some of the episodes felt writing them and reading through them in the room, and then what things would work and what things wouldn’t work during a read-through. Things that you thought were so funny when you were writing them, you’d get to the read-through with the actors around the table and the HBO execs there, and you’re like, “Wow, that just didn’t ... How in the world? That’s just zero.” Then things that really aren’t that funny at all, that you think as written down ...
Give me an example.
Don’t remember, just things that seemed funny on paper weren’t funny when they read through them, and things that seemed mild ...
You did not have any experience writing for TV?
No, nothing like this, at this level. I’d been asked to help out with a nonsense thing here and there before, but nothing like an HBO show, where you’ve got an incredible level of talent. I was just surprised by how things that worked so well on paper would fall flat around the table, and other things that seemed like not so great on paper were hilarious.
Were you surprised how successful the show has been? Because there’s never been a really good tech show, right? We were laughing ... Dick, you and I talk, and we’re in hysterics by everybody.
Yeah, but the fact that people here think of it as so on point, and it’s hilarious to people who don’t understand the tech industry at all.
Why is that?
That’s the genius of the show. I think that’s because Alec and Mike are so good at, “Why do we care about Richard as normal human beings, not VCs in Silicon Valley?” They’ve got that he’s this noble ... They’ve really locked into Richard, despite all his foibles and flaws, is the noble character in the show and he has to do these kinds of things and fulfill these kinds of obligations as the noble character in the show. They’ve figured it out. The ability to do both things is hard and they excel at it.
So it’s not the topic, he could be anywhere, he could be ...
I think so, yeah. The folks in “Veep” hear the same things from folks in Washington like, “Oh man, I can’t watch that show because it’s so on point.” While that may be horrific to all of us, that’s what they hear from folks in Washington.
People like you and I just give them suggestions, they seem to know ...
They’re able to run with ideas and take the suggestion and incorporate it into an everyday situation that works for people.
Do you think Silicon Valley’s gotten more and more ridiculous, then?
The show or real life?
Yes. For sure. For sure it’s gotten more ridiculous.
These people don’t know they’re ridiculous, right?
Well, yeah, there’s a lot of that. Which is, there’s a surprising lack of self-awareness that seems to have gotten ... There seems to be more of it. There just is. You can see it in lots and lots of places.
Why do you think that is?
I have no idea, it’s crazy.
They used to sort of laugh about how ridiculous they are.
I feel like, how does this person just not know this is something you would never do or say or think or run around doing in public.
Yeah, or at least there used to be a little bit of, “I know this is outrageous, but ha-ha-ha, I’m in on the joke.”
I was sort of like ...
Is it the wealth?
I don’t know, maybe it’s the money. I guess so.
Yeah, because they definitely take ... They used to be funnier.
It seems to have something to do with the money.
Or they’re more easily offended.
I remember none of them being that offended. When I tweet them now, it’s fascinating.
Yeah, you’ve got to be able to take a little bit of a punch.
Laugh at yourself, right? They’re kind of ridiculous in their own kind of ways.
Listen, if you can’t laugh at yourself, I don’t know.
I know, but it’s not a funny culture anymore.
It’s a bummer.
Do you find it to be?
Now they agonize in earnest at the same time, that’s my issue.
Yeah, it’s all very depressing.
It is, a little bit. We were talking earlier about the pony.
You can be agonized, but don’t be earnest.
No, exactly. Don’t be either. You can pick.
You can pick one.
Pick one. No, I don’t like earnest, you know what I mean?
I’m getting a lot of that.
It’s usually false earnestness, too.
I’m getting a lot of calls like, “I’m feeling really bad,” like really big people. “This Russia thing really upsets me.” I’m like, “Well, it’s upset democracy, so the rest of us are kind of pissed, thanks a lot.”
“It’s ruining the country, so glad it’s hurt your feelings.”
Then they’re like, “Well, is it ...” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, you ruined the country. Go back to Menlo Park, or wherever the fuck you live, and leave us alone. Stop inventing things, immediately.” The lack of sense of humor is really interesting in Silicon Valley now.
Yeah, it’s a bummer.
It used to be that kind of counterculture of ... I used to think that [Steve] Jobs got the joke.
He seems to, like he had to have gotten the joke. He always seemed like he did.
Gates never did.
Never got the joke.
You know more about ...
Did not get the joke.
I did not get to hang out with those folks.
What do you think is funny right now in Silicon Valley? Then in the next section we’re going to talk about where comedy’s going.
I think not enough is funny in Silicon Valley right now. As I was saying, it’s kind of a bummer. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been so happy to get more involved back in comedy is it’s where a lot of the fun ... It’s where a lot of actually fun stuff is happening and a lot of innovation is happening.
Right, and they’re pointed stuff. A lot of pointed ...
Pointed and inventive, and innovative. Amy Schumer’s show is amazing.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I think, is the funniest person on TV right now. I think that Kumail’s new movie, as I said, I’m doing like an advertisement for Kumail’s movies, but “The Big Sick” was one of the best movies I saw last year.
Right, but it’s not for lack of topics here, right?
Yeah. There’s a new one every day.
Let’s talk about the alibi pony.
The alibi pony, yeah. I’m not sure that if I was his ... If I was the attorney, I would have suggested that as the right ...
This is the ... Let’s explain it. Shervin Pishevar said he couldn’t have sexually harassed someone because he was holding the bridle of a pony at a party, right?
I think the line was, and I’m not going to get this exactly right, but, “It couldn’t have happened because I had a drink in one hand and a pony leash in the other hand.”
Yeah. I was imaging what the exchange between him and the attorney might have been after that. “Next time, let’s go with righteous indignation.”
There’s a lot like that, that’s just one.
I’m laughing about it but ...
No, we shouldn’t laugh about sexual harassment, but we should ...
It’s okay to mock the ridiculous pretensions around it.
Yeah, right, I agree.
You know what I mean?
Do you think it’s because of that? Because of all the sexual harassment, all the topics have been so negative?
No, I don’t think so.
And justify it ...
There have always been ... I mean, look, maybe on the democracy level, the sexual harassment level, I think the fact that all the sexual harassment stuff is being exposed is only good. On the democracy level, right now, it seems only bad. There’s always been, “Hey, this is amazing and this seems horrible,” and yet there was an ability to look at it and satirize some of it, or understand the absurdity of some of it. Now, it’s just weird that there’s none of it on any level.
Also, sometimes Twitter is very funny. Twitter is where a lot of it happens, but sometimes it’s cruel. It can become cruel-funny and in a way that’s not ... It’s just been a hellscape of noise at each other, rather than really funny stuff, which really does well when it hits right on Twitter.
Great satire is amazing in that it’s both funny and opens your eyes to how insane some particular point of view is. I just feel like there’s not enough of that in Silicon Valley anymore.
Or anywhere else. All right, when we get back, we’re talking to Dick Costolo, we’re talking about where comedy’s going, and so we’re going to talk about this month on his special co-hosting of Recode Decode, where the topic is comedy and the co-host is Dick Costolo.
I’m here with Dick Costolo, we’re talking about his career in comedy and we’ve been talking about a range of things, such as his own history, and also where Silicon Valley is on humor, which is almost nowhere.
You were talking about innovation of comedy. Comedy has been around forever, obviously, since the stone tablets, essentially, and then Jonathan Swift did a lot of ... There was always satirical writing. What has changed with the advent of digital? Clips, for example, get everywhere. Jimmy Kimmel’s clips have immense power. Twitter is being used really heavily by comics. Live comedy is ... Talk about each area and where you see comedy evolving.
The format through which comics can now communicate, Twitter, short digital shorts, easy to produce digital shorts that don’t have to be done by a network or HBO, etc., have just allowed people to start to see a lot more stuff, and it’s allowed comics to experiment. It’s one of the ways that T.J. and Thomas Ehrlich and Richard on “Silicon Valley” were discovered.
You mean they were off ...
Yeah, I think they were doing their own two-man thing and they were doing some digital stuff. I think all that is great. There’s just an explosion ... It always goes in waves, but there’s an explosion of comic talent right now that I just think is awesome and fun.
Is it because of how bad things are?
It started happening before this. Again, thinking about the Upright Citizens Brigade folks and Amy Poehler coming out of that, and then Tiny and Amy teaming up to co-host a ... Really co-host some of the awards shows in a way that’s been funnier than those shows have been hosted for years and years and year. Amy Schumer’s show, which was groundbreaking and ridiculously funny, I think there were more email shares and Facebook shares and Twitter shares of some of her sketches than I’d seen since the Dave Chappelle show, you know?
Dave Chappelle, hell yeah.
His stuff used to get shared all the time. Then there was kind of this silence for years until Amy’s stuff took off again and blew up. “SNL’s” having this amazing ... The “SNL” resurgence, I imagine, is lots to do with Trump because that stuff ... Baldwin and everything else that everyone’s done around the Trump administration on “SNL” plays so well and is such a relief from the horror of the week’s news. Alec Baldwin is so, so good at it, as was Melissa McCarthy. The genius of having Melissa play Sean Spicer. I don’t remember who it was specifically in the writer’s room that had that idea, but it’s just ... That kind of stuff’s been amazing and probably directly due to the new administration.
Talk about how the medium’s changed. It used to be people broke in and were on the comedy circuit.
The difference between then and now was there used to be kind of only two paths to be successful. Really, sure, there’s probably some third paths, but there were really only two ways you could be successful in comedy, and either get on TV or get in the movies. You could either be a touring stand-up comic, and that meant you’re playing at the Comedy Hole, the Laugh Pit, whatever the name of the thing is in Des Moines, Iowa. Then on Wednesday I’m flying to ... Not flying, probably, driving to Detroit where I’ll be playing at the Laugh Factor. On Thursday in Pittsburgh at the Chuckle Shack. Really, it’s these comedy dives, dark bars, where the comic’s getting half the cover at the door as pay, and then driving to the next town. You either had to do that or you literally went to Chicago, tried to get into Second City or Improv Olympic, or the Annoyance Theater, and from there, tried to get on “Saturday Night Live.”
Those were kind of your two choices.
Then you sometimes got movies, like Belushi and Ackroyd.
Yeah, if you got on “SNL,” that was one path to fame, and if you were on the stand-up comedy circuit ...
You hopefully got invited to the Montreal Comedy Festival, and if you were invited to the Montreal Comedy Festival and you were seen there, that’s where all the agents were.
You got your half-hour sitcom, Roseanne Barr, etc. Now, you don’t have to get in a car and drive around. You don’t have to, you still can, there’s lots of great stand-ups, but the ability to be discovered through digital now, through just doing things in your living room, and being able to get those easily, cheaply, inexpensively produced shorts and get those out there. Connect on some of these services like Funny or Die, two people who are doing interesting things, has just allowed the discovery aperture to be that much more broad.
What does that do for comedy? How does it change comedy?
I think it just gives many more people access to being able to be discovered and successful, who aren’t either willing or able to drive around the country for months and months at a time.
Is the goal still to have the HBO comedy special?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure. For sure.
You think it is?
The goal is still to ... Well, I would say the goal is still TV, and by TV, today means Netflix, HBO, a network TV or movies. That’s the goal. For stand-ups, beyond that, you’re getting your own HBO stand-up special, but that’s for sure still the goal. I don’t think comics are yet thinking of it in the, “If all goes well, I’ll make my own digital show and get it on Facebook Watch,” they’re not really thinking ... They’re still thinking, “TV, whether it’s network or over the top, and movies.”
Movies. They’re not creating new genres, because we were just talking previously at another interview about the changing nature of journalism, how it’s changing, how it’s delivered. You can’t do these long text stories, they don’t work on mobile, they’re not ... Do you feel like comedy’s changing as a medium?
I think some of the short-form stuff is still a vehicle to get people to see the more traditional stuff.
The traditional stuff.
Yep. I don’t think it’s yet changing as a medium. Most of the digital stuff is to get you pointed towards ...
The reason I’m asking is, there’s nothing like Twitter Comedy, just like, “This is where I’m going to be funny.” You guys had Twitter celebrities, you had Vine when Vine was around, you have Instagram celebrities-
I think most of these people are trying to parlay that into TV.
Parlay, that’s a good word. I like the word parlay.
Yes, but you don’t think there is a ... I do think there’s a genre of people ...
That’s the first time I’ve used the word parlay in 31 years, I think.
We’re going to have a parlay.
I haven’t used it in that long.
The reason I’m asking is because you could imagine the way there are YouTube stars, it is just for that. You think they’re trying to move somewhere else.
Yeah, I do.
Why isn’t there?
Then you see them do that. That’s where the money is.
As long as that’s the case, that that’s where the money is, that’s what they’ll try to go do. If you can end up getting the big audience, like a bunch of the YouTube stars have immense audiences.
They do. Some of them want to stay right there. I met one the other day ...
Yeah, if they could make ... I think if they get to the point where they can make the money they want to make there, they’ll do it, whether that is going to be something that can happen long term or only happens via short-term YouTube subsidies, we’ll see.
Tell me where you think comedy is going, besides it’s just an explosion, it’s obviously a sign of the times. If there’s a worse time, people are funnier.
I think where it’s going is that it ... This is a demographic comment, I think where you’re going is you’re going to see, in the U.S. specifically, a much more gender-balanced comedy scene than was the case 10, 20, 30 years ago.
Right. Well, except for, hello, Louis CK.
A much more ethnically balanced comedy scene than was the case 10, 20, 30 years ago.
That’s because of discovery.
It’s not just going to be guys on the comedy circuit anymore. As I was saying at the very beginning of this discussion, the volume and quality of women, American women, in comedy right now is extraordinary. It’s awesome and I don’t think that’s going to ... I don’t think we’re going to go back to the days of there’s one or two women who were allowed to be on TV ...
Phyllis Diller and Totie Fields.
And everybody else is these funny guys that the show is built around. I think we’re not going to ever go back to that now.
Is it directly because of the discovery? That mechanism?
I think the discovery is so much more amenable to not having to be alone in a car, driving around the country for nine months at a time, for one. I think that the country is now much, much more accepting of, “I’m excited to hear these not just gender diverse, but ethnically diverse, points of view,” and understanding of the fact that an ethnically diverse point of view can also be a very American point of view. That’s one of the great things about ... God, I’m really doing a ... Kumail’s going to owe me a bunch of money for this, for advertising his movie.
“The Big Sick,” once again.
It’s a great American movie and yet this immigrant story, all at the same time.
Yeah. At the same time, so much stuff doesn’t seem very funny. Like Roy Moore, I know you can make fun of him and the horse they rode in, and this and that.
Who are we talking about?
Roy Moore, he lost the Senate race.
Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Remember in Alabama?
With the little leather vest, and the badge, and ...
Yeah. Although people did make a lot of fun of him.
He’s like a comedy gold mine.
A comedy gold mine.
Yeah, but here they are, Trump is a comedy gold mine and yet, it doesn’t stop.
Yeah. To me, that stuff is ...
He’s a little funny.
Funny and horrible all at the same ... In the comedy world, one of the things I love about the comedy world — and as an example I’ll use the “Silicon Valley” writer’s room — nothing is off limits, like really no topic. When you’re with a group of just comedians talking amongst themselves and writing, putting a show together, for example, there’s nothing that’s off limits, and I think that’s great for when you’re trying to really come up with edgy comedy. You can’t be writing in a room where it’s, “Well, we can’t say anything about X, Y, Z.” To be perfectly frank, that’s how one comes up with the, “How about if the two horses are having sex” idea. If it gets to be to the point where people can’t talk about things, no one’s going to suggest something crazy.
I like that about those rooms. All of those people, even when they’re making fun of some topic that you think of as like, “Oh my gosh, you can’t talk about that,” they also understand how horrible that thing is. That’s why folks like Kumail and a bunch of the cast of “Veep,” Timothy and JLD in particular, are so great on Twitter, is they can both make fun of it and comment on the horror of it at the same time, and I think that, that’s important.
Yeah, he’s funny and indignant. Kumail is funny and indignant.
Funny and indignant is great. It’s a good way to go through life.
Yeah, then of course you’ve got the Pod Save America guys, who are ...
I think that’s great. It’s much better than the sort of anguished earnestness that you’re like, “Well, I’m sad, and I’m earnest,” and then you don’t get either the true real indignance or the satire and the hilarity of it.
I’m going to finish up, getting back Silicon Valley, because just this weekend, Sam Altman wrote an essay that was very indignant about how they couldn’t say anything. There’s this whole idea that nobody ... You’re saying that you can say anything, you can joke about anything, and there’s a pushback or a backlash that now we can’t say what we want, we can’t behave like juveniles all the time.
Who can’t say what we want?
All these ... The white guys of Silicon Valley. Now they’re being stopped because now there’s the problems with sexual harassment, or treating women in a certain way, or the gender issues, like James Damore, that was his complaint, he can’t say what he wants anymore. Which is different than comedy, which should always be attacking, attacking and making fun of, and making light of things.
Yeah, I don’t see ...
Sometimes social media feels weaponized, rather than ...
I’ll tell you, though, there’s this ... Maybe I’m just not in the same ... I haven’t been in any group of people where I thought that, “Oh, I’m being made fun of or mocked for saying something.” I haven’t seen that at all.
Well, there are very sensitive flowers here.
I just haven’t seen that. I heard another person the other day say, “Well, I left Silicon Valley because there’s this growing McCarthyism.” I just haven’t seen that at all.
So I don’t know where that’s coming from. I don’t get that.
See, I think it’s the opposite, they don’t like being mocked or made fun of.
Yeah. That’s what I think, they’re used to being praised.
You have to be able to deal with being made fun of.
All right, we’re going to finish up this episode, I want you to tell me who you think the funniest people in Silicon Valley are. Not on the show.
Is there anybody? Ellison.
Ellison? Larry Ellison?
Yeah, he’s funny.
Which funny are we talking about now?
Well, he plays the rich, Bond villain beautifully.
He’s doing a good job of playing the rich person.
He does. He’s funny.
He’s done the house perfectly.
He’s in on the joke.
Okay. All right, good.
I feel like he’s playing the role and he’s doing a nice job at it. I think he’s funny.
You know more important people than I do.
He makes me laugh whenever I talk [to him]. Benioff, I like Benioff, I think he’s funny.
No, I think Marc is funny. I like that Marc is always ... You’re never quite sure if Marc thinks he’s in Hawaii.
Do you think we’re in Hawaii right now? We’re not.
Who else is funny? I’m going to go through them. Dorsey, is Dorsey funny?
He doesn’t seem funny.
Jack is extremely funny.
Jack has got an ... First of all, Jack has an amazing sense of humor and he’s extremely funny. Now, as Jack would tell you, Jack is also an introvert, so he’s not going to walk into the room and be like, “Oh, this amazing, hilarious thing just happened that I want to tell all you about, five of whom I don’t know.” Jack’s not that person, but he’s extremely funny.
All right. If you say so.
I knew you were going to give me an ...
He’s not unfunny.
Actually, you know what I like about him?
He’s legitimately funny.
He answers questions. He’s legitimately funny, okay. He answers questions, which I appreciate.
Yeah. He doesn’t beat around the bush.
He does not. I like that.
Jeff Bonforte, at Yahoo, funny.
He is funny, but he has to be, given that job, right?
Well, see? I’m just setting you up now. Now we’re doing like Abbott and Costello.
He is funny, you’re right. He’s a funny one. Anybody else?
He’s a good one. I pulled one out there for you.
Yeah, you did. Bonforte is funny.
That was one you were not expecting me to say that.
He’s a clown funny. He’s a clown funny.
I think that Jeff is legitimately funny.
All right, legitimately.
He’s got a little bit of the physical humor that he brings to bear.
All right. Who else? You’ve got to pick a woman who’s funny. Sheryl’s not funny, is she?
Oh man, there are lots. April Underwood at Slack is funny.
Funny? She’s funny?
Yes. April Underwood at Slack is very funny.
Yeah, she owes me now for calling her out on the show.
Meg Whitman’s not funny, right?
I don’t know Meg well enough to know whether she’s funny or not.
She doesn’t seem funny.
It’s hard to tell when you first meet people because they give you their sort of initial first take.
Anyone at Uber funny, from your perspective? Arianna, obviously. She’s in on the joke.
You’re setting yourself up now.
No, come on.
You’re giving yourself your own lines.
No, but seriously, Arianna’s the funny one there, and Boz. Badass Boz.
I don’t know Boz.
Well, I’m just saying, from afar.
Travis is not funny, right?
I don’t know Boz.
There’s a lot of people named Boz all of the sudden. It never happened before, now there’s like nine of them, like, “Have you met Boz?” I’m like, “Jesus, where did this name come from?” There was no one named Boz before. Now there are all these Bozes.
There’s Boz Scaggs.
That’s true, that’s a good point.
That was a good one.
He was a good one.
He was a good one.
Then there were none and now there’s like nine. They’re all here.
Is Travis funny in any way?
I don’t know. I think Travis has a good sense of humor.
I haven’t seen Travis in a while.
Okay. All right. He would have the best joke I’ve ever seen. One of the best jokes he’s ever told in Silicon Valley, we were at a dinner for Jeff Zucker that I threw ...
I don’t even have any idea where this is going to go. Are you going to throw me under the bus?
Yes, I am.
No, but you were great. We were there and we were with the guy from ... I forgot who was there, there was a whole crowd.
I’m cringing. I can’t even wait to hear what this is.
There was all these people.
Who am I going to get in trouble with right now?
And John Zimmer came over, and he started to tell me about the 80 percent of the cars aren’t in use, it was right when Lyft sort of started, right?
Uber was around, too, and Uber was there and Travis running it. He was super earnest about the creation of Lyft and “I really wanted to start” this because 80 percent of cars weren’t in use, and he’s a super earnest guy, he’s lovely.
Yeah, a lot of earnestness.
So is Logan over there, both of them are just so earnest and they’re lovely people, I have to say. He was like, “80 percent of the cars and we’ve got to save the planet,” and da-da-da and on and on and on. He meant it, every fricking word he was saying. He walks away and you go, “Travis is going to kill him.” I swear I fell over laughing.
It’s over for him.
I know. We thought it was done.
He doesn’t even know it. He might not make it out of the slanted ... It was in the Slanted Door [restaurant], he might not make it out.
It was very funny. Well, the tide has turned on that issue. Anyway, anyone else in Silicon Valley funny that we can think of?
After we, of course, are done, I’m going to get texts from like 40 people saying, “You didn’t mention me? I’m the funniest person you know.”
By the way, it’s always the people who are like, “I’m funny,” and you’re like, “Right.” Those are always the people you’re like, “Okay, okay.”
I’m trying to think around ... There’s not that many funny. Sundar’s lovely, not funny.
Lots of people ... I’m funny.
Yeah, you’re about it. You’re pretty much it.
I’m saying people say that.
Yes, they do.
That’s a bad sign, when you get the, “I’m funny. Why didn’t you mention me?”
You are funny. You are the funniest CEO. You win the funniest CEO. Now, the bar is low.
I’m trying to think of some other people who are really good. April Underwood is legitimately seriously funny.
April Underwood is funny? All right. Yeah. I think it’s you and Arianna.
All right, well ...
[in Arianna voice] “Hello, how are you?” I’ll keep doing that.
I was waiting. I was having a little bit with myself how long it was going to be before we got that.
I’ll tell you one funny story about Arianna. I’ll tell you one other part. We were in one of her cars, she’s always in a car.
One of her cars.
Well, you know, she’s always in a car.
Okay. I didn’t know this.
Yeah, and she never wears a coat.
That’s not going to play well with the new healthy lifestyle, the thriving thing.
No, I get that, but she’s always in a car and she doesn’t wear coats because she always has a car. I’m like, “Why don’t you have a coat?” It was in the winter.
She says, “What are you talking about? I’m not going to get out.”
She said, “I get in and out, I go right into the places,” she never ...
“No, you’re getting out, I’m staying in here.”
Yes, that’s true, but she goes from whatever party she’s at to the car, and then to the hotel.
Doesn’t need a coat.
Doesn’t need a coat.
Coats are for walkers.
Walkers, like myself, I had a giant winter coat.
I think we were in Germany at the time, but it was after she had talked about Travis in the meditation room, meditating in a women’s nursing room, where women do nursing, pregnant women nursing room.
So that’s where he was doing his meditation, which is so funny on so many levels, the concept of it. I was like, that isn’t ...
I don’t meditate, by the way. Do you meditate?
No, I don’t meditate.
No, I don’t meditate.
What do you think? Hello.
No, I wake up ... Who has time for that?
Who has time for that meditation and breathing? I breathe maybe once extra. She was talking about this ...
Plus, you’re always like, “Observe your thoughts, watch them go away,” I’m like, “It’s not going away, it wants me to think about it more.”
They don’t have to go away.
Oh, they don’t?
No, they can stay there.
You just have to watch them.
You just have to watch them.
Well, when I watch them, they’re like, “Look at me. Think about me more.” Then I do and then I’m like, “I can’t sit here, I’ve got to get up and go do this thing.”
All right, you’ve moved onto something else, I’m making an Arianna thing.
All right, give me an Arianna joke.
I said, “I can’t believe you said that he meditated in a pregnant woman’s nursing room, that doesn’t work with the brand right now, because of all this sexual harassment.” She goes, “Oh I meant it as a joke.” I’m like, “Well, it’s not funny.” She goes, “Too soon?” I was like, it’s never ... She’s brilliant.
You’ve been dying to say, “Too soon,” in an Arianna accent for hours.
“Too soon” was my favorite.
On the way in this morning, you were like, “Too soon?” No, that’s not quite right, that’s too German. “Too soon?” Nope, that’s too Russian.
I’m trying to get funny people ...
You’ve got it. You’ve got it nailed down now.
Who else is funny? Tim Cook’s not funny. Is he? Maybe he’s funny and we don’t know it.
Tim’s calm and thoughtful.
Right, that’s what I mean. He’s not glum.
No, not glum at all.
I haven’t sat with him long enough to know.
He’s very calm and thoughtful, so everything slows down to his calm, thoughtful pace.
It does. It does.
You find your heart rate goes down to about 45 beats per minute.
Exactly, and you’re eating vegetables with a trace of quinoa on it.
It’s all very quiet, you can hear the birds.
Exactly. You’re right.
It’s nice, I like it.
Last question, is anybody at Facebook that’s funny?
Who’s funny there? Zuckerberg is not funny.
I think Amin Zoufonoun is funny.
Who is that?
You asked if there was anyone at Facebook.
All right, go ahead.
I made up a new employee.
You’ve picked out one out of 350 ...
No, Amin is corp dev at Facebook.
I think Amin is funny.
Because he’s a funny person. He’s sort of an upbeat, funny, looks at things and can find the humor in them and makes observational jokes about them.
Let me go, as a company, is Facebook funny?
Oh, as a company, is Facebook funny?
No, but I don’t think any company is.
Google’s kind of funny.
Oh, okay. I don’t think any company is particularly funny.
Not intentionally funny, but they are funny without meaning to be.
Maybe parts of it.
No, come on, on any given day, Larry and Sergey walking in a room. Do you want to hear the joke Larry Page told me?
Okay. Remember Esther Wojcicki is ...
Are we already in the joke?
Yeah, we’re in the joke. We’re at a journalism event that his ... I don’t remember ... Anyway, Menlo Park High School opened this amazing journalism facility run by Esther Wojcicki, who’s ... we’re not going to get into that, all those relationships. I was talking about it with Larry, about journalism and stuff like that, I was like, “You should buy the New York Times,” like someone should buy the ... This is pre-Trump, pre-everything, like someone’s got to fund this thing.
This is hilarious so far, by the way.
I go, “You should buy the New York Times,” and he goes, “I buy the New York Times every day.” That was a good joke.
By the way, your Larry Page impression, kind of like your Arianna impression.
Oh no, it’s not.
Little bit. Little bit.
Okay, let me do it again. Let me do it again. “I buy the New York Times every day.” That’s better, right?
Better. Better. Anyway, so that was unintentionally funny. It was a joke and I appreciated it, because when robots make jokes, I try to laugh to encourage them.
All right, Dick, this is going to be a great month, we’re going to talk about comedy, where it’s going, and we’re going to have lots of interesting guests.
Funny people on. Actually, legitimately, truly funny people.
Not you and me.
Not me and all the Bozes.
No, but you are very funny, you have to know that. Again, just because it’s a low bar in Silicon Valley doesn’t mean you’re not funny and stuff like that. Do you wish you had done another ... If you had made it, where would you be right now?
If I made it instead of being a has-been?
Where would I be right now?
You’ve made a lot of money along the way, for goodness sake.
You know what? It’s all good, everything works out.
I get it, but if you had made it, what would have been your dream?
I would have loved to have been on “SNL” and then from there, have gone and done either shows that I was deeply involved in or films. “SNL” was the thing that I was laser focused on in my 20s, trying to get toward, and I just wasn’t able to do it.
It’s not going to happen now? They can find an old guy.
I think we’re what you would call well past that.
They could do some different age.
Some things could happen.
Some things could happen. Lorne Michaels, Dick Costolo is free and ready to come on “Saturday Night Live.” You’d be good. Who could you play? You could play Stephen Miller.
No, let’s not go there. It’s all a bad dream at this point.
You could do Pence. I’ve got to think hard. You really can’t do Harvey Weinstein very well.
I could kind of do the Stephen Miller guy.
You could do Stephen Miller.
I think I could do him.
You could do Stephen Miller.
He’s an easy mark, too.
Yeah, you could do Stephen Miller.
There’s a lot of material there, I feel like.
There’s a lot going on in there.
You could do Kellyanne Conway, I think.
There you go. That’s a prefect idea. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.
I think you should take away ... Who’s doing it now? What’s her name?
You’re right, that’s the right move. You’ve just done it.
You could do Kellyanne Conway.
Or Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Oh, I think Aidy does a great job.
Yeah, all right, fair enough.
All right. In any case, Dick, thank you for coming on the show. I’m really looking forward to the interviews we’ll be tag teaming this month.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.