An excerpt from Ross Simonini’s conversation with Jesse Eisenberg, a guest on this month’s Organist. Read the full conversation on McSweeney’s.
ROSS SIMONINI: How long have you been writing short humor pieces?
JESSE EISENBERG: Well, I recently went back home to my parents’ house and I was looking through my drawers, cleaning stuff out, and I found a lot of old jokes I wrote when I was probably—starting at 13, 14. I wrote jokes on Post-It notes and I would save them. They were all about sex, a subject of which I knew nothing about at the time but felt confident enough to make a lot of jokes about.
SIMONINI: Do you remember what any of them were?
EISENBERG: Well, they all started out generally with “I just had so much sex!” You know, the most inappropriate setup for a 13-year-old boy to write about. And some of them were funny. I think I was inspired by Borscht Belt humor, really cheesy one-liner jokes that I liked but that were not appropriate for me to be writing.
SIMONINI: And have you just been writing humor since then?
EISENBERG: I stopped to start writing plays that were more dramatically resonant, rather than just jokes—and that was very helpful in terms of writing humor, ‘cause now when I write pieces that are funny, they’re all character-based, they’re not line-based. There’s usually an undercurrent of some kind of sadness. And I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that if I didn’t stop writing things that were explicitly funny to write more dramatic plays.