The Conversation: Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich on love stories, Tina Fey and Twitter

'Most of what I write is really bad'

You're so young, and you've achieved so much – how's that working out?

I have friends who are doctors and pro bono lawyers so I always feel like there is something fundamentally silly about making stuff up for a living.

A lot of your characters are quite lazy – is that you?

I keep a pretty strict schedule. I write every day, seven days a week. But I don't work that many hours – about 40. That's probably fewer hours than a gas station attendant. In the middle of the afternoon my writing becomes very bad.

What's your new book about?

It's a bunch of supernatural love stories about dating in your twenties. It's very personal. In my twenties the most high-stakes thing was dating, so I started writing about my experiences. It was upsetting because these were the most visceral, affecting moments I'd ever had, but when I wrote about them in a realistic style they ended up being really dull.

But when you bring in an ex-girlfriend who's dating Adolf Hitler, as you do in one story…

Exactly. When you find out your ex is dating somebody new, it feels like they're dating Hitler because you hate them so much. Or when you have a stranger kiss you, you're expecting a call from the President of the United States.

One thing that keeps cropping up in your work is a hatred of pretentious art.

My heroes have always been as accessible as possible, like Douglas Adams or the writers of The Simpsons. I would never use a word that someone would have to look up, and I would never use a footnote.

Were you a writer on Saturday Night Live when Tina Fey was doing her Sarah Palin impression?

It was my second season. All of a sudden there'd be a metal detector on your way to the writers' room. Barack Obama was on the show before he was President. He had protection and these guys are trained to be on high alert for anyone who looks even remotely suspicious. I'd written a sketch about blood-thirsty pirates and there were actors with blood streaming down their faces: I saw a bunch of secret service guys reaching for their guns.

You hook the reader very quickly in your books.

I'm a really big fan of pop music, and I think that's influenced my writing. Most of the songs I like, you get to the chorus by 40 seconds. I like to hook somebody by the end of the first page.

The phone you just put in your pocket, was that a Nokia 3310?

This is just for my time in England. But my actual phone is even worse. It's just so I'm unreachable by email because otherwise I'd be distracted. I love iPhones, but if I had one I'd be too distracted by basketball scores to reach my daily word count.

And you're not on Twitter.

If I write anything that's worth showing, then I can probably get some money for it. Most of what I write is really bad. The public only sees 5-10 per cent of it. I'd be very scared if they had access to that other 95 per cent. When I was 16 I was, like all 16 year olds, extremely arrogant. I thought I was the greatest writer on Earth. If I had had access to blogs, or self-publishing, I'd have published novels. And I would have been humiliated by them today. I'm so grateful that I was unable to publish my teenage novels.

Biography

Simon Rich, 29, is from New York. After graduating from Harvard he became a writer for Saturday Night Live and, more recently, Pixar. His new collection of short stories, The Last Girlfriend on Earth, is available now

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before