Writer to Writer: Streeter Seidell


Anyone with a laptop and internet access has probably encountered my guest Streeter Seidell’s work as a writer. Whether it be from years of sketches and Prank Wars while working for online comedy staple, CollegeHumor, or his most recent work writing for the legendary Saturday Night Live. I’ve personally been a fan of Streeter for years, and with all he’s accomplished, it’s an honor to interview him.

Me: What was the first script you ever wrote?

Streeter: I think the first script I ever wrote was for a college film class. It was meant to satirize organized crime films like Blow or Snatch or Goodfellas. Needless to say, it was terrible. We filmed it, though, and every day of my life I worry about that tape getting out. I think I played a guy named Deuce because I had stomach issues. That should give you some idea of the level we were working at. We also almost got arrested making it because we had these BB guns that we were using as props. We were filming this scene where we left a bar and got in the car so we put the guns in the footrest of the backseat. It wouldn’t have been an issue if we went to school in some rural area but we went to school in The Bronx and someone called the NYPD. When they first rolled up next to us they asked if we were “on the job,” which in cop language means “are you a plainclothes police officer?” When we didn’t know what “on the job” meant they jumped out of the cruiser and were not happy with us. The word “stupid” and “dumbass” was used a lot.

Me: Writing professionally is nothing new to you. For those who don’t know, what is the typical work schedule for a professional writer?

Streeter: I think it depends on what kind of writing you do and where you work. Your day changes with your job. When I was at CollegeHumor it was pretty much a 9 to 5 on paper. In reality we worked much more than that due to the fact that we were young and surrounded by our friends. When I wrote for a sitcom it was more like 10 to 7, with the occasional late night. SNL’s schedule is super demanding for a few weeks at a time and then you get a break. So it all depends. Most writing jobs I’d say have hours that sound very normal. But then either because of the workload or because you want to get it right, you end up working way longer. And be prepared for your loved ones to not really understand that there is a difference between writing and “playing around on your computer.”

Me: How much time do you set aside for yourself to write personal projects?

Never enough. I think it’s enough when I plan it but then writing takes forever. The problem is that I have no deadlines for my personal projects so the clock is never hanging over my head the way it is at work.

Me: How many original scripts have you written and completed?

Streeter: If you’re talking about features, I think three. None of them were very good though. I kind of wrote them because I felt like I should, not because I felt like I had a great idea I needed to get out of me. I’ve written a few pilots that I was much more invested in. And of course hundreds and hundreds of sketches.

Me: In what ways, if any, has your career in writing affected your actual writing?

Streeter: Hopefully it’s made me a better writer. I never felt like I was becoming a better writer from the writing classes I took in school. But being around really talented writers rubs off on you in a great way. I wrote on this show Trophy Wife that was on ABC for a season. The room was absolutely stacked with talent and every single one of them was so welcoming and patient with this foul-mouthed clown from the Internet. Being around them taught me more than a thousand books about writing for TV ever could. The same goes for CollegeHumor and SNL in terms of sketches. If you’re lucky enough to be working with very talented people, you’re own work will get better. Or at the very least you’ll be able to see where your own work falls short.

Me: Do you have any traditions you partake in while writing? (eating, listening to music, etc.)

Streeter: I used to chain smoke when I wrote everything. And that’s not me trying to give you the impression that I’m some tortured literary type. It’s just that smoking is really addictive and if I didn’t want to stop writing every fifteen minutes to go smoke then I had to just do it while I wrote. I try not to do that anymore. Now I crack my knuckles constantly.

Me: What are some important habits professional writers should have?

Streeter: Chain smoking. And the ability to observe situations and people in a meaningful way. I was just on vacation with my wife for a few weeks and I think she was going crazy by the end because instead of looking at the Grand Canyon, I’m looking at this weird German family who basically all have the same haircut and look about the same age. If I were a dramatic writer or a poet maybe I’d be looking at the majesty of the Grand Canyon and pondering the wonders of nature. But I’m a comedy writer so I’m looking at this weird German family and trying to distill why they’re so funny to me. Just being aware of the potential ideas around you is half the battle.

Me: Writing comedy as a career is an accomplishment in and of itself and so is marriage. The pressing question I’m trying to build to here is does your wife find you as funny as we all do?

Streeter: Sometimes I can really get her laughing and that feels great. Her laughs mean the most to me because it means I surprised her in some way.

Me: Without being specific of course, what future/dream projects are you working towards?

Streeter: I’m not sure, honestly. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing for the time being. Of course I’d love to write a feature or create a series but I’m not thinking too much about that at the moment.

Me: What other genres, if any, have you written material for?

Streeter: I wrote an advice column for teenage girls in CosmoGirl Magazine for a few years when I was in my early twenties. I don’t know why or how that happened but I was in no position to turn down money. I also write riddles when I’m in the shower on this shower notepad my wife bought me. Then she’ll try to solve them when she’s in there the next day. They’re always four lines and they always rhyme. Here’s my best one.

I’m a working class hero, I’ve been around for a while

My look doesn’t change but it gets more defined

I should be a king for the deeds that I’ve done

but thirty-something years later I’m still I’m on the run.

Who am I?

(I’ll put the answer at the bottom if you want to try to work it out)

Me: If you could write any movie that’s already been made, which one would it be and why?

Streeter: I think I’d probably write either Trains, Planes and Automobiles or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. They’re both flawless movies in my opinion. There’s one scene in Christmas Vacation that is honestly perfect. The Griswolds are in their house and everything is super quiet. It’s maybe five or six shots of them just being domestic and enjoying the holiday calm. Then the doorbell rings and both sets of grandparents have arrived. The cuts get super fast and there’s all this commotion and laughing and hugging and kissing and squeezing of cheeks. That alone would have been enough for most films, that contrast between what it’s like when it’s just your family and what it’s like when the extended family shows up. But then the scene keeps going and slowly the snippets of conversation we hear go from really happy things – “you’re so tall!” “Ohh we’ve missed you!” – to these really sad old people things – “My heart is going, son” “I’ve got high blood pressure” etc. It’s so, so perfectly captures how old people love to turn the conversation to their health problems and kill the room in an instant. It’s one of my favorite scenes from any movie ever and I never even noticed it until people in my own family started to get old and do that exact same thing. And Trains, Planes and Automobiles has John Candy and Steve Martin playing the roles they were born to play. It’s one of like three movies that makes me cry. That part at the end. Crushing in the best possible way.

Me: And finally, do you have any idea what happened to your old coworker Phantom?

Streeter: Last I heard he was composing an epic poem in the style of The Iliad to win back his beloved Syrah.

The answer is Mario


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s