Going to America was my biggest break. It was just after I left university, and everyone else I knew was planning to go to London and get into journalism; I, on the other hand, had no career plan at all.
I thought America would be an adventure, and a liberation, in that if I got myself away from everyone and everything I knew, I'd have more of an insight into who I was and what I wanted to do. I slept on my brother's floor in Boston and then I found a book called the Directory Of Internships, and picked out the interesting ones, from journalism to advertising to TV. In the end, a local newspaper in San Jose was the only one that accepted me. When I arrived I discovered, to my horror, that it was a free-sheet; but I met a lot of people there who were interested in the strange and offbeat, and who encouraged me to write about bizarre psychics and other weird subcultures. It's where my interest in all that kind of stuff really began.
After a year I went to Spy, the satirical magazine, on another internship. It was quite a hard shift; I had journalistic experience, but I spent the first two months reorganising the bookshelves. But it was good, in that I was surrounded by a brain trust of informed, amusing people, most of whom ended up as scriptwriters on Frasier or Letterman or The Simpsons.
I'd never planned to go into TV, but I was invited by Michael Moore to work on his TV Nation show. When I got there I was more excited than I'd ever been in my life, pitching stories and eventually presenting them myself; it wasn't so much that I was a TV natural; more that the BBC, who were part funding the series, wanted a British correspondent. Weird Weekends eventually grew out of those segments.
When I started on TV my idea of comedy was to find bad people and take the piss out of them. Many would claim I've never evolved beyond that, but my great revelatory moment was finding that comedy came not from making fun of people, but having fun with them - exploiting the clashes of culture and personality so the joke's on me as much as them. It's like making the wrong decision to find out what the right one is - that's really what my whole career's been based on.Reuse content