Finding funny writers in the age of writing-less portfolios

Our ECD Sean McBride talks with the Drum about recruiting creative talent

Right now at Arnold, I’m doing something not many creative directors get to do anymore: I’m running a group that turns out a whole lot of funny (and the occasional “funny”) content. We are in a near constant cycle of idea generation, script revision, casting, self-loathing, shooting, editing, wincing, re-editing, re-wincing, rinsing and repeating. Not that I’m complaining, it’s the best job in advertising outside of hand-modeling.

But finding talent to throw into this high-speed comedy tornado has been a challenge. We just don’t see the right portfolios. In fact, I’m not sure they really exist anymore. Today’s activation-heavy, two-minute-case-video, what-if-we-made-a-vending-machine-that-accepted-human-tears style ad school portfolios may work well for the majority of creative directors at today’s agencies. But when what you need are writers who can spit out funny scripts like one of those cash cannons spit out fake hundies, those same portfolios can be hard to judge.

So, a few years back I told creative recruiting that I just wanted to meet funny people, and that I didn’t really care where they came from. Since then, we’ve had a huge influx of truly amazing writing talent. Here are a few places we’ve been looking that maybe other folks haven’t.

Twitter

Twitter is a comedy writer’s paradise, and a great place to find writers who understand how to construct and land a joke. In recent years, Twitter has served as a great tie-breaker for me. I meet a lot of writers with competent portfolios and good personalities who want to work on funny things, but simply haven’t gotten the chance yet. A quick view into how and what they write for themselves can either seal the deal, or signal that maybe lack of opportunity isn’t the only thing holding them back.

Performers

Great performers write with delivery in mind. And great script writers need to understand character development and the beats of the spoken word. So, we’ve had great luck with hiring people who have spent time performing – whether they’re stand-ups, improv troupers, theater majors, or just weirdos making funny little movies with their friends.

Friends of funny friends

We’ve made a point of staying connected to the community here in Boston. We’ve had a number of creatives who were active in the local stand up scene; we’ve mined their relationships and hired other comics (and then promptly crushed their Tonight Show dreams with our 70-hour work week). We’ve operated similarly with local improv groups; not only do our folks take sketch writing classes, and develop their presentation and performance skills with improv classes, we’ve used those connections to identify and hire local talent.

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