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Our podcast illustrator talks drawing, breaking into comedy, and our childhood


Emily Clouse is a Los Angeles-based comedy writer and cartoonist who illustrates this show!

Her work can be found in The Onion, The New Yorker, Reductress, McSweeney's, American Greetings and other, more unspeakable places.

In this episode we talk about our childhood, her interest in drawing, moving to Chicago, Uganda, and LA, and why holding space to explore her interests have led her to pursue a career in comedy writing.

Transcript and show notes can be found here

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Transcript

Emily Clouse 0:00
Honestly, I was like, I had an older boyfriend. And we were like, let's move to Hawaii. And that was the plan.

Jay Clouse 0:08
What?

Emily Clouse 0:09
And then we broke up like three, three months after I graduated.

Jay Clouse 0:12
You've never told me that. You know, mom listens to the show.

Emily Clouse 0:15
Yeah, yeah.

Jay Clouse 0:17
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.

Hello, welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. Today is a special episode which was actually requested by folks in our community on Facebook, you probably noticed that each episode of the show has unique artwork, including a guest and their element of choice. And if you listen all the way to the end of these episodes, you've probably heard me thank Emily Clouse for doing the artwork for this show. Well, as you may have guessed, Emily Clouse is my older sister. I love my family. I feel like I get closer to my parents and both my older sisters Emily and Katie every year. Emily and I have been closed for a really long time. And honestly, I think a lot of my personality is attributed to Emily. She's hilarious, a total weirdo, and she paved the way for me to enroll at The Ohio State University when I graduated high school. We're millennials so we grew up with the internet. We watched a ton of videos and got our sense of humor from eBaum's World and Homestarrunner.com. In fact, if you recall from Episode Seven with Val Geisler, I mentioned that Strong Bad actually answered one of Emily's emails on Homestarrunner.com.

Strong Bad 1:47
Dear Strong Bad. So, if you're so good with the ladies, How come I don't ever see with any. The only female i've seen you into. The only female I've seen even near you is Marzipan. She didn't seem to like you're very much. Okay bye Emily C. Wow. What are you talking about, Emily? Marzipan can't keep her hands off of me.

Jay Clouse 2:08
So here's the thing. All of my friends who meet Emily pretty much immediately tell me, Your sister is way cooler and funnier than you and is true. today. Emily is a Los Angeles based comedy writer and cartoonist. Her work can be found in The Onion, The New Yorker, Reductress, McSweeney's, American Greetings and other more unspeakable places. She studied improv and sketch comedy at The Second City, iO Chicago, and The Pack Theatre. She's a former member of the iO Harold team, First Kiss in iO Comedy Network in improv team Uncle Garbage. She's done some hilarious video work like this.

Emily Clouse 2:43
Right now, there's only one question on every American's mind how many in the light of succession have to die before the president is finally Morgan Freeman.

Jay Clouse 2:59
And a lot of other video work that embarrasses our parents and felt way too inappropriate for me to play in the intro of this show. Before comedy she graduated with a degree in social work and spent a couple years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Masindi, Uganda. And Emily hasn't done many podcasts.

Emily Clouse 3:15
I have done two podcasts. Well, okay, so they were both about like dating. These, these are both like Chicago comedian podcasts. And they were about dating because like, let's be real. That's the most interesting topic known to man outside of elements of creativity, so.

Jay Clouse 3:31
I'm going to say I usually do like a deep dive on Spotify podcasts of my guests. And given that I know you pretty well, I didn't do that for this one. But I bet I could find it.

Emily Clouse 3:41
You could definitely find one of them very easily. The first question that I wanted to talk about Okay, was my first celebrity crush. Yes. Who was Justin Berfield to played Reese on Malcolm in the Middle? Do you know who I'm talking about? I think so. Is he? I was like the middle brother. Okay, that makes sense. And he was the first person that I was ever like, Oh my God, he's hot. He was like the bad boy. He's troublemaker. Yeah. Okay, so he's a bad boy. I totally get it. Yes. But and this also was like, the first time that I am looking back on it. I'm like, Oh, I just consistently even to this day, like we'll have crushes on people that I just want to be, because. Yeah. Like, I found his I got his like, email address. This is a different time in the internet, where you could actually like, look things up and do a sleuthy Yeah, I got an email address. And I emailed him. And I was just like, instead of being like, I think you're so hot, like a normal person with a crush. I was like, how did you get an agent? How did you become an actor? That's a good way in though. And then well, that's also what I wondered. Yeah. Cuz like, I think I just didn't even realize I was like, he's hot. And I want his life. Yeah, yeah. And then like he answered, and he said, like, oh, like my mom knew someone like literally like, the most child answer because we were like, fifth grade. Yeah, yeah. Like so privileged. And then he sent me a signed picture. So I like rushed home on the school bus. And I was like, I think the picture is gonna get there today and I didn't want my parents to find out. So I was like checking the mail. Yeah, I like hid it under my bed.

Jay Clouse 5:12
Since Emily's had such an impact on both this show and my life, I thought I bring her on. And actually, I learned a lot about her that I didn't know before. In this episode, we talked about our childhood, her interest in drawing, moving to Chicago, Uganda and LA, and why holding space to explore her interests have led her to pursue a career in comedy writing. I'll be sharing some of her weird videos this week in our Creative Elements, listeners group on Facebook. So join us there if you haven't already. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @JayClouse, just snap a screenshot of your episode and tag me to let me know that you're listening. But without further ado, let's hear from Emily.

Emily Clouse 5:57
I was born and raised in Coldwater, Ohio. I have an older sister and a younger brother. So I was the middle child, which I do feel like outside of our family bullying me about that fact, it probably does have a lot to do with, like, how I am how I am. But yeah, I mean, I think that I've always been someone who likes trying hard and enjoys being productive. And I do think that is, you know, a family trait. There's simply no denying it. And when I was in, when I was younger, I drew every day I don't think like, my days felt complete unless I had. Okay, so we what we used I don't know if you remember this, I don't know if you even did this.

Jay Clouse 6:45
And this why this is interesting to me, because I don't remember much of our childhood. And I don't know why. But yeah, this is this is why this is interesting to me.

Emily Clouse 6:52
Yeah, so like Katie and I had these hardback kids books that for at some point, the covers were taken off, and I'm guessing like mom did this, like she took the covers off, or they fell off. I don't know, if we had the actual books, we just had the covers. They're like hard covers. And like Katie and I use those as like our tables on the couch to like, draw on. So you knew you just get like computer paper and like use those hardback book covers. And like those were usually illustrated, I don't remember what the books were like what was on them, but I think they were like, illustrated with like, characters or whatever. So it was like, as soon as we sat down, you know, there was like inspiration right there on our lap. So I remember drawing a lot from like, how to draw Snow White kind of books. There was a program on PBS that I was real obsessed with. That was like how to draw imagination station.

Jay Clouse 7:43
I remember that. Yeah, I do remember that.

Emily Clouse 7:45
Yeah. The guy's thing. Like, I can't remember the guys name. But his whole thing was always like, this guy's over here and Oh no he got backs to them. You draw like little contacts, like flying away.

Jay Clouse 7:55
What, I don't remember that.

Emily Clouse 7:50
Which is really creative and original, like for a guy's context, first of all, nightmare scenario. But it's really cute.

Jay Clouse 8:04
And you remember, he was always and maybe this is something else. But I seem to remember some drawing thing that we watch when we're younger. And they're always harping on like, the eyes are lower on the head than you think. They're always like, here's how you draw a line down the center, and then across, and the eyes are actually way lower on the head than you would expect. And that's like the one thing I remember about drawing people's faces.

Emily Clouse 8:25
I wish that I had that in my head because so much of the time when I edit my drawings in Photoshop, I do move the eyes down, because they're like, just floating way above on the forehead for some reason.

Jay Clouse 8:36
Well, there we go.

Emily Clouse 8:36
Yeah.

Jay Clouse 8:37
So okay, so you and Katie are drawing.

Emily Clouse 8:39
So I you know, I always liked drawing, it just felt like a part of myself. So it just felt like something I I did a lot. But then like high school came around, and I took art classes and I really, really loved them, but I just kind of like dropped off. And then like, my whole college career, like didn't really make anything didn't really write anything. I guess another big thing that like stood out that was pretty formative was taking AP English. Mom did not teach that class, by the way. Store for different time. Listeners, I had my mother for a whole year of English in high school.

Jay Clouse 9:13
I did too.

Emily Clouse 9:15
Oh, yeah. Okay, great. Have you said on the podcast before?

Jay Clouse 9:17
I don't think we talked about on the podcast, but it comes up a lot. You're gonna

Emily Clouse 9:19
You're gonna have mom on one day?

Jay Clouse 9:22
Well, one thing that I remember about college, you were the first in the family to not go to Ohio Northern. You went to Ohio State specifically, how did you Why did you choose to break that family trend?

Emily Clouse 9:33
Yeah, I really wish that there was like a really huge answer to this. But basically, I had to choose three schools to send my ACT results to and I had visited Ohio University Ball State. I don't think I hadn't even visited Ohio State yet. I might be misremembering this, but I remember mom and dad being really scandalized, but I had my ACT results sent to Ohio State and that was just me kind of like on a whim being like, I kind of want to, like, move to the big city. And I had a couple friends who were gonna go there. So it didn't seem so crazy to me. And I think in my heart, I always knew, like, I think I'm gonna have to like, go here because my imagination didn't stretch far enough to like, go to Salt Lake school in New York, or like, you know, didn't stretch far enough to really think too far outside of like Ball State in Indiana. But I was like, I think I need to, like, do something crazy. To grow as a person. It's like really like, I don't know, not be restricted. And I had a friend in high school once who said, I just want to, like know everything. And I remember when she said that I was like, Yeah, like, what if I just like, knew everything? Of course, it's not possible. But I was like, why limit myself? Why not? Like kind of stretch? A little further? I don't know, I was talking to someone recently. And they were like, what if I like applied to Harvard Law? And I really started thinking when I was applying to schools, no, I didn't even I don't even think I knew what like Ivy League was, right. So when it came time to like, apply to schools, it was just kind of like, where in Ohio?

Jay Clouse 11:16
Yeah.

Emily Clouse 11:17
Should I apply? Do you relate to that?

Jay Clouse 11:19
Totally, I think back in I don't remember ever thinking about outside of Ohio. And not even saying that, like, necessarily I should have or that's like an obvious miss or anything, but I just don't remember ever thinking that broadly, or even thinking about, like, the jobs that my friend's parents had, you know, like, I feel like I was very much stuck on like, there are like, 10 jobs out there. And I just got to figure out which one of those 10 jobs that I want to do for the rest of my life.

Emily Clouse 11:44
100% for sure. I mean, when I heard about social work as a job I was my mind was blown, because I was like, Oh, this is like exactly what I have been thinking about that I like want to do. So that's why I ended up majoring in social work.

Jay Clouse 11:57
How did you Yeah, how did you come into that? Where did Social Work come into play? And how did it ultimately fall out of play?

Emily Clouse 12:04
Okay, so I started out as a psychology major, as I think like the most people that go to Iowa State and probably all universities do. I was interested in psychology because I love the class in high school, in addition to AP English, right? Oh, I was gonna say I loved writing just like 20 page papers about like one single book. I loved psychology in high school. I mean, everybody likes psychology, because you feel like you understand yourself a little better. You understand other people better. The brain is a fascinating Oregon. So I started out there. But then I really struggled with neurobiology. It was like learning this other language. And I just didn't, like have the motivation at the time. And I just like, was struggling with it. And I was like, I don't for what I want to do, which is like, help people. I was like, I don't want to know about like, I can't even name dropping an example like GBA connecting to the TSA. Well, no, that's not real. But so then I found I was like googling around, like, how do you like, be a therapist without going to school for? and social work was an option. I was like, Oh, actually, if you even get your undergrad, you can kind of, in essence, be a therapist, you can if you get higher degrees, you can straight up be a therapist. This is what Google said verbatim.

Jay Clouse 13:24
Did you feel trapped by trying to get out in four years when you're making these decisions? Or was this like truly where you thought you were trying to go?

Emily Clouse 13:33
I did not want to be in school for longer than four years. I don't know. I don't know what I wanted to do. But I needed I wanted to like wrap it up. Even when I graduated with my undergrad, Ohio State had a program where you can get your master's in social work in one year, which usually it takes at least two. And so most of my colleagues went that route. And I was just like, nope, like, I just never I barely even thought about it. It's not even that I wanted to join the workforce. I just like wanted to like be an adult.

Jay Clouse 14:00
Yeah, what that looked like because it wasn't like you're saying I gotta get my comedy career started at that point.

Emily Clouse 14:05
No, not at all. I mean, I honestly. It was like, I had a an older boyfriend. And we were like, let's move to Hawaii. And that was the plan.

Jay Clouse 14:15
What?

Emily Clouse 14:16
And then we broke up like three, three months after I graduated.

Jay Clouse 14:19
You've never told me that. You know, mom listens to the show.

Emily Clouse 14:21
Yeah, yeah. He had his plan was to move to Hawaii.

Jay Clouse 14:26
What?

Emily Clouse 14:27
For just for fun, just for fun. Yeah,

Jay Clouse 14:29
Not even like visitors.

Emily Clouse 14:31
No.

Jay Clouse 14:33
Oh, wow. Okay,

Emily Clouse 14:33
But to be fair, I like didn't really visit Chicago before I moved there or Uganda.

Jay Clouse 14:38
After a quick break, Emily and I talked about her moves to Chicago and Uganda, and how they eventually directed her towards comedy. right after this. Welcome back. To this point in the conversation, I was playing a little bit of catch up on Emily's life, leaving our hometown and going to college. I was still in high school and we've never really talked that much about what her college experience was like. She told me that throughout her college experience, and even after college, she had gotten into a habit of giving yourself space to explore her interests and question the path she thought she might take, starting with her degree in social work.

Emily Clouse 15:12
My last year of college, I had a social work internship. And it was at an outstanding organization. The women who work there were incredible. They were they just really took me under their wing. I mean, they went out of their way to make me feel comfortable to help me out, I got clients, it was really, really tough. It was super hard. The clients that we had had, they were at this specific agency, because they had coexisting diagnoses, just to like generalize. And it was really tough. And as a 21, 22 year old, I kind of like, was in over my head. And I was like, am I gonna do this for the rest of my life or like, terrible money? And I think my, I don't know what you call it, my idea of myself as being like a really altruistic cape like person that's really capable of like giving myself to others that much, was shattered a little bit. And it was like, it was a big, it was a big growing up moment. But then I was kind of like, what am I gonna do now? I wasn't consciously like, I don't think I'm gonna pursue a career in social work. That was never a real serious thought. But I was like, I need to figure out an easier way than an agency like this, that's for sure. The other options are like hospital and I was like, I don't want to work in a hospital. It smells. And it's like sad and scary. And it was like school. And I was like, I never wanted to be a school teacher. Because I just didn't seem like the route I wanted to take. And so I was like, I don't want to be in a school. I was like, oh, and then so I graduated, worked for a few months at my campus job, which was great and cushy. Then my friend got me a job at a cafe, shout out, Northstar, I'll name drop this time. Northstar Cafe.

Jay Clouse 17:08
Creek cafe, one of the best.

Emily Clouse 17:09
Everybody loves it. It was a good time. I mean, it was like a good post college jobs. A lot of people post college and young. And you know, when I went out a lot, and everybody's got to work in food service. That's a rule. So.

Jay Clouse 17:21
And at this time, thinking back I remember you went through like, some other creative projects where like, at one point, I gave you a friend of mines drum set, you're learning the drums, and then you're doing like the 48 hour film projects every summer. So like what was going on in that part of your mind that you were just like, needing to create something?

Emily Clouse 17:41
Okay. You're good. Yeah, I like forgot about these things. Yeah, so I drum set that was during college. So I was like, in my college house. That was me. Again, just wanting to like branch out, learn more. See what's up. I was really into the local music scene at that time too like going to a lot of shows and stuff. And I was like, maybe I could like be Meg White. She's not that good at drums. And that was super fun to like, wail on those hobbies. And then my sophomore year was when I met our friend, Evan. And so he was an animation major at his school. And he had just moved to Columbus and needed friends. And he and I became really, really good friends. And we met because of a club I was in, throughout college called the film and video society. And we made a lot of shorts. We actually made a web series before I think the word web series was really even used. It was called Kollege with a K.

Jay Clouse 18:35
I don't remember this. I remember you were in a film and whatever group.

Emily Clouse 18:39
Yeah, yeah, it was cool. We went to Sundance a

Jay Clouse 18:42
What.

Emily Clouse 18:43
One year. Yeah, it was super fun. Yeah, so I met a lot of really cool people. Actually, a lot of those people live in LA now. And like, I, I hit one of them up when I moved here, and I got to hang out with them. It's been so long.

Jay Clouse 18:57
That's crazy. I don't know. I don't know you go to Sundance.

Emily Clouse 19:00
Yeah, totally. I mean, that was me. When my roommate was in this film, a video society. She was like, really the film, which I really wasn't like, I loved TV a lot. I watched a lot of TV. But movies, not really so much. But I was like, this sounds fun. I love making stuff. I love the idea of like making stuff. And it was it really was it was really fun. And people in that group were like really serious about film, studying it, analyzing it, making it and I was just kind of along for the ride. And at the time, I was like, I might act i might be an actor. So I was like auditioning for stuff there. Oh, I auditioned for the Vagina Monologues at Ohio State. I did that one year. It was really fun. So yeah, it was kind of like, oh, maybe I'm like gonna act because you don't really have to. I was like, maybe I can just like be good at it. Like, of course you should study. I'm not saying you don't have to, but I was like, maybe I could just naturally be good at it and like audition stuff.

Jay Clouse 19:55
Well, hold on. Am I oblivious? Or did you just never talk about this stuff.

Emily Clouse 19:58
I might not have. I mean considering filming video society was kind of like just something I was doing with friends at, you know, in a certain way, it was a club. It was an official club, but it was kind of also just like dicking around with friends, although it was also kind of a lot of work. Like, when we were filming that web series, we would start shooting at like 8am on a Saturday which was, you know, like 3am an adult time so.

Jay Clouse 20:22
At what point I know this is before you went to the Peace Corps you started doing stand up Why did you decide to start doing stand up?

Emily Clouse 20:28
Oh, so to mention Evan again, he started doing stand up at what was that sculling.

Jay Clouse 20:33
No, no, no. Surly girl.

Emily Clouse 20:36
Surly girl. Yeah. They had open mic night, like once a week he started doing it. I was like, I can do this. But why? Hmm. I think I just like always fancied myself kind of a funny person. I don't know if they're like is a lie. I just decided to do it a few times. And I had a couple friends who were like, supportive, like my friend Sarah came every single time I did an open mic. I think it was just in the back going. You know, and then we got to hang out afterwards. So this is like something to do. Okay, I actually do know how I got into comedy. I got obsessed with SNL when they aired the 25th anniversary special, which was in 2000. So in the year 2000, when I was like 12 or 13. Katy taped, like the 25th anniversary special and so it had all these like best of sketches from all of SNL time. And I the sketch that got me super into it was this Geminis twin sketch, which is like on a gas dryer and Maya Rudolph, and like always like a guest. And they were like this girl group that was kind of like Destiny's Child or whatever. And they were I just thought it was so Laureus, and I got a big crush on Jimmy Fallon, and then got like really obsessed with Tina Fey as they were hosting Weekend Update in that era. I even like would read fanfiction online of Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey like having an illicit affair, like backstage. And so I got really into it. And I think I was in like, sixth grade or something. And I got so flabbergasted to find out that the way the show worked was there were these other people who were writing sketches. In addition to the actors. I knew it wasn't like, improvised, but I figured it was just like, the players that you see, wrote the sketches, which is true to some degree, but there are also other writers. When I found that out, I was like, Oh, my gosh, I was like, This is the coolest thing I've ever even heard of, like, that's your job. And I think it was like my sixth grade planner. A lot of girls would like, make their own little cover for their planner and like have like Justin Timberlake on his mind was like a printout of the cast. And I remember my teacher, I can't remember her name, but I remember my teachers like seeing it and being like, What's this about? and being like, I love SNL. And she was like, cool, cool.

Jay Clouse 22:57
That's hilarious. Yeah. So funny. listeners, you don't know this, but we didn't have cable growing up. So our TV was like regular network television, which SNL was actually part of, which is nice that and like the Simpsons and really bad Fox, nighttime TV, like Boston Public.

Emily Clouse 23:13
and Bad TV. I also.

Jay Clouse 23:15
Yeah. If you were looking at SNL in sixth grade, and you were just like, very casually, maybe doing video stuff in college and then starting to do stand up, it seems like there was a period in there where like that dream kind of died, or you just weren't paying attention to it anymore.

Emily Clouse 23:29
Yeah, I mean, I really just chalk it up to being a teenager. And just, I think I was just like, mostly focused on friends and socializing. And in high school. Yeah, in the actually, through college. I didn't even watch too much TV in college, I don't think. And I definitely wasn't like writing or anything. I think it was just doing schoolwork, and like having friends and roommates and just being around people all the time. That is until probably like my senior year of college, which is when I discovered graphic novels, and started checking out like, every graphic novel I could possibly find from the library, and just sitting on my porch and like, drinking Mike's hard lemonade and reading graphic novels. And then that got me into being like, I'm gonna, like, draw again. I think my first one that I drew was called a hippie in hell. And it was just like, all these it was all these frames of what it would look like if the hippie was in hell. And I don't remember exactly what the punch lines were, but I drew it because I had looked into like the local comics, see, and I gotten in touch with a guy and he was taking submissions for something. And so I submitted it, and then he rejected it. And then I asked for feedback. And he like, was nice, but kind of tore it apart. And I was like, Yeah, well, look, I got a lot to learn. Yeah, and started getting back into that, you know, in the months leading up to graduation, and then ending that relationship and then like starting to apply to the Peace Corps.

Jay Clouse 24:59
We're coming Friends supportive of this, my college friends were not at all supportive of me trying to do anything that wasn't like drinking.

Emily Clouse 25:05
Yeah, it was like the end of college. So it was just these times where I would just be like, I'm going to my room and I was getting kind of like angsty because like things were changing. And my best friend probably, like had relationship anyways, so she's probably somewhere else. And I would just like be in my room like trying to, like, come up with how to draw different characters. Like, I remember I started planning this graphic novel about like, the apocalypse, you know, and it's like, oh, maybe they're like, they look weird, because our radiation and I was just like doodling, but then abandoning the idea because it was way too ambitious. And I didn't know what I was doing it all.

Jay Clouse 25:39
Well, I remember you getting back from the Peace Corps and being like, pretty sold, or like, pretty convinced you're like, I'm going to do comedy. And I remember being so like, surprised. And I didn't know what to make of that. Or like, what, why? So what happened in the Peace Corps that that became the thing?

Emily Clouse 25:56
Yeah, I think I always was still kind of that sixth grader obsessed with SNL. And so the story with that was, I ended a relationship. And it was just something that I like, had wanted to do for, I don't know, probably like a year or something not super long. But since I heard about the Peace Corps, I was like, that sounds like something I would like to do. It would be, again, like trying to be true to this version of myself that was really out there and like, tried new things, but also was like, kind of like a person who cares about other people, I guess. And I knew that if I was going to do it, I should do it like right then because it would get harder later, which was honestly true. So before I went, I started looking into plan B's, because the admission written to the Peace Corps isn't like 100% by any means. I don't know what it is, actually. But so I was like, what's my plan B. And I had heard that there are these comedy theaters in Chicago, like Second City. And that's where, like Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. And all of those people, like got their start. And I was like, I can go, I can take writing classes. I can, like, become a comedy writer. And so that was my plan B if I didn't get the Peace Corps, but then I did. And then when I was in Uganda, my last probably even like year, you know, I was like, What am I going to do next? What am I going to do after this is over. And I was like, I should just, I should just do what I was going to do if I didn't get into the Peace Corps, and just like move to Chicago and take writing classes. And then when I got to Chicago, the writing classes didn't start for like three months. But improv classes were starting in like a few weeks. So I was like, I'm just going to sign up for an improv class first, maybe I'll make some friends. And then I'll do writing classes like after that, because I'm sure I will get more than the part time job I currently have. Be able to afford this. And it worked out super well because I met like so many amazing, dear friends to this day in that improv class.

Jay Clouse 27:57
Well, when you got back from Uganda, you introduced me to podcasts. Actually, I didn't know what podcasts were I didn't know anything about podcasts. But you said that you had been listening to You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes while you're in Uganda. And that was my first podcast or listen to you still listen to it. Love it. How did you find podcasts? And why did you choose that one?

Emily Clouse 28:13
I wish I could tell you how I found podcasts. But again, this was before Peace Corps, probably post college. I had some friends who are also into podcasts. Maybe they introduced me, I don't really know. But I had a friend who introduced me to Comedy Bang Bang, which I also still kind of listen to to this day, which is so crazy. It's like I'm listening to a podcast that I did like 10 years ago. But I don't know how I found You Made It Weird. I bet I like Google the list of podcasts, listen to no joke, but they were a huge thing for me in the Peace Corps because it was really like my connection to American culture, but also my comedic aspirations, my creative aspirations because podcasts like Pete Holmes, I mean, he, especially back then, you know, now he talks a lot about like, I don't know what he would even call it wellness, emotional well being and stuff like that. But back then he was like talking about like the hustle of stand up pretty much exclusively. And it was like, it always really lit my fire. And then Comedy Bang Bang is an improv podcast. So you know, there's like doing characters and making up entire scenarios right there. So it was like really huge for me to feel grounded and that part of myself while living in like the remote village.

Jay Clouse 29:28
When we come back, Emily and I dive deep into what it looks like to get a job writing in comedy. And we answer some questions from the Creative Elements listeners group to right after this. Welcome back to my conversation with Emily, my sister. After Emily got back from the Peace Corps in Uganda. She moved to Chicago to take writing and improv classes. Now she's out in LA so I asked her what it looks like to get a job writing in comedy. Do these classes help you get a gig right after you graduate?

Emily Clouse 29:54
Oh, my God. I wish they did it considering how much money it takes to take classes. No. So I took once I got into my improv class, I kind of just like got hooked on improv, and I barely took any writing classes. So I got into that class met my best friends, we formed groups, we did shows, we were just improvising, improvising is writing on stage like live, right. But you don't have the burden of looking back at what you wrote and having to revise it. So it's really great if you want to just like have fun and have PBRs. After the show, I did take writing classes that I will say, so I was writing a lot. I was like writing sketches for shows, I started trying to figure out how to like write for internet stuff. So at some point, I came across Reductress and was like, This is the funniest website I've ever seen in my life. And I started getting stuff accepted there, started contributing to The Onion, which was huge. That was through, like a friend of a friend, she helped me out. I would like to just be transparent. People are always like, how do these things happen? So they were starting up their video segment again, I mean, video has come and gone. It's a big lot bigger budget you can imagine. So it also depends on like, who owns The Onion at the time and whatnot. So onion video is coming back person of a person that I know, like, knew the guy who's heading it up, I think recommended me I submitted a packet I got in looking back on that packet, I don't know think it was very good. So I'm like, I don't know how much of it was like actually like a fever. I just want to be transparent about that. But it worked out, I started contributing a lot, I got stuff taken, you know, I got invited to write full scripts for like video pieces and stuff. And so it was just like the best experience ever, and kept doing improv shows. My friends would like write plays, and I would like be in their plays.

Jay Clouse 31:49
What is a packet?

Emily Clouse 31:50
So a packet is a writing sample that you submit. So it depends on what the show or publication is what they want in that packet. But The Onion, for example, it was a bunch of headlines. And then since it was video, it was also like a full script of a segment. But they didn't really have like, Oh, this is what it's going to be because they didn't, I don't think they quite knew what the new iteration was going to be yet. But like for a late night show, for example, you also submit a packet. And that'll be like, a page of monologue jokes, example ideas of like desk bits, like so you know, the bits, they do a top like Jimmy Fallon does like the thank you notes, and then maybe some other stuff, too. So it just kind of depends on the show. But usually, that's what you submit, to show like, Oh, these are topical jokes. So I just wrote it. And also like it's in the format of what I would potentially be writing.

Jay Clouse 32:40
How do I submit a packet? Do they have like job openings on their website that you're just looking for? And then you say, Oh, I want to apply that one. And you send in a packet?

Emily Clouse 32:49
Dude, you're asking all the right questions for like someone who just moved to LA, which is me. So typically, your representatives, I don't know why I said before word people just say reps, it's because I don't have any. Usually your reps, so your agent, manager or whatever, literally barely know, they usually acquire them because they are professional people who get these calls from the shows. However, there's also an underground pipeline. So sometimes people will get like, writers will get these packets, and then they will send them to their friends, which is how I've gotten a few. Actually, no, that's how I've gotten any that I've ever gotten. But that is how I've gotten a few, for example that I'm in, that wasn't published. The Onion actually does have fellowships that they publicize to the public. But this one in particular, they actually didn't. And so, yeah, you gotta you gotta just like, no people, and they have to be like, I'm gonna send this to you. I mean, it's really nice, even if it's like, I'm actually going to submit to the show. But also, here you go, friend. I mean, it's kind of beautiful.

Jay Clouse 33:52
Yeah, and I'm asking his question, because I've got to see a little bit of this. And I don't think that people were, like, really understand what it's like to try to get a job in these places, because it sounds nearly impossible.

Emily Clouse 34:00
Well, the good thing about these packets, a lot of times it will be blind reads. So you don't have your name or anything on there. So they don't know that you don't have reps or that you don't, you know, have a ton of experience necessarily until they look at your resume that you also said, but you know, their first the first stage, ostensibly is just like reading the packets and being like this one's funny, good pile. So and that way it does even the playing field.

Jay Clouse 34:23
So what does it look like to break through in this world? Because you're not you're not writing for TV full time yet? What would it look like for that to actually occur for somebody?

Emily Clouse 34:33
Um, we should have like a third bike so I can ask them these questions and listen as well. So there are a few ways so I moved to Los Angeles a year and a quarter ago, because in Chicago, I was there for like five years doing like I said, tons of like shows and writing a lot. But there really isn't a writers market there. There is a performance market like you can do shows you can have a really great time you can get on the mainstage a second city but if you Want to be like a TV writer, there's you literally can't do it in Chicago, you couldn't move to New York as well. There are some shows in New York. But I was like, I'm just gonna make this move. I'm saying like, it was easy. It was actually agonizing for months. But I was like, I'm just gonna move and I don't know how to break in. But I know that it exists there. And so if I'm going to try should go there. And my plan was just like, Well, hey, I moved to Chicago, not knowing anyone. And I made a lot of friends and wrote a lot of stuff and took classes and like, didn't show so maybe I'll just like do that in LA, too. So writing wise, from what I hear, the most common tabs are submitting packets like this boom, get hired on a show, a common thing that people do is become a writer's assistant. So that's like, someone who's in the writers room with the writers, but is basically like taking notes and keeping the room going so that writers can just focus on like throwing out the ideas and someone else's, they're clacking away, a lot of times these writers assistance will get promoted on that show. You know, if people like them, if they read their samples, and they enjoy them, if there's an opening, sometimes it never happens. Sometimes it takes years and years. Other ways are, you get reps, and your reps, no people, but you would still have to submit to write for that show. Right? So you would submit like an original pilot that you wrote, or perhaps a spec of that show or a different show? Probably a different show. So from what I can tell, it's really like know, know, some people.

Jay Clouse 36:34
You've put a lot of time into making a bunch of stuff, whether it's like on Instagram, or Twitter, or for The Onion, and Reductress, and McSweeney's, like, you've you've made a lot of public facing stuff, is that part of the path to getting reps? So it's like a necessary part of getting a rep to possibly breaking in? Or is that like, you kind of hedging and trying multiple ways of getting attention?

Emily Clouse 36:56
I think like, both. For me, it was like, I like the process of making stuff. It also depends on what you're talking about. I do make out kind of a wide variety of stuff, just because they're like all my little children. And I like love them for how who they are individually and like what they bring to me. So for example, like, oh, one frame comic on Instagram, that's just because I want to do it. And I like drawing and I like getting likes, right? And I like making people laugh. But something like getting published in Reductress or getting published in the New Yorker. I'm a little I'm I both feel good about that for myself. And I'm like, this is something to show for myself. So it really is both things. I it's not like I've ever heard of anyone getting reps from like, make getting reps kind of sounds funny. Like.

Jay Clouse 37:48
I don't use it. People talk about that in though, like the the world of creative anyway, because it's like, you just need to get practice. Like you need to ask stuff.

Emily Clouse 37:57
Again, reps for getting reps. Yeah, no, it's true, like,

Jay Clouse 38:00
Get reps to get reps put on a shirt.

Emily Clouse 38:03
Yeah, but I mean, it's so it's really both. It's like, I want to do it. And I like being prolific. Like, someone had called me a prolific once and I was like, ooh, fits like a glove. Like, I really enjoyed that. I like being prolific. But certain things I do specifically for future potential jobs and attention, like I have written this year, I've written three original pilots, and that is specifically to get writing jobs. And those are not I'm not gonna like put those on the internet, because, like, it just took way too much work. And it's private. Like, you know.

Jay Clouse 38:37
Kelly in our Facebook group asked if you make stuff with certain audiences in mind, or you just make what you think is funny, and you think it will find an audience?

Emily Clouse 38:46
Oh, I love that question. I'm both, I think in the back of my mind, there is a group of select people that I will be like, this is for them, and their people throughout my life, or even some people that like I don't even keep in touch with anymore, but it's a certain sense of humor. And it's like I could, I could see them enjoying this. But in a way that's almost like for myself too, because they are a part of my sense of humor. So it makes that part of myself laugh. And sometimes I do make stuff for a specific audience in mind if it's commissioned.

Jay Clouse 39:18
And Kelly, also in the Facebook group, who has told me before in that group that she loves just seeing, like, what the image for the episode every week looks like. She wanted to know what your process looks like, how do you actually do the illustrations for Creative Elements?

Emily Clouse 39:33
Oh, that's a great question, too. It depends on the guest and what I know about them or what I can find about them. So people, I don't have to think about it at all, like your next episode. It was just like a no brainer of like, something that I was going to do for him. Right. Some people it's like, I have to like conceptualize their element and like who they are and try to like, extract this meaning.

Jay Clouse 39:55
You're talking about

Emily Clouse 39:56
Summarization, Yes.

Jay Clouse 39:58
You're saying that was a no brainer

Emily Clouse 39:59
That was was like a no brainer because he makes art himself. So it's like, oh, I'm just gonna, and it's something I can easily copy, like the stick figures. So it's like, oh, I gotta like include that in here. But sometimes when it's like I was trying to there was well curation, for example, that was the word was really popping off the page to me and I was like, I want to embody curation, but like, man, like how sometimes I will even Google image search or word like that to get inspiration? And then sometimes I'll see some that are like, perfect, I'll be like, should I just do this? And if anyone out there see something that looks very similar to something you could Google image search, it is coincidental because I actually would not be able to live with myself by just straight up stole something like that.

Jay Clouse 40:42
What about the actual drawing process? How do you do? How do you get it from your head into a digital file?

Emily Clouse 40:48
I go click pencil. Big fan of click pencil.

Jay Clouse 40:51
What is that?

Emily Clouse 40:52
On computer paper.

Jay Clouse 40:54
Oh.

Emily Clouse 40:54
Like one of these mechanical

Jay Clouse 40:55
Oh mechanical pencil okay, yeah, yeah,

Emily Clouse 40:56
Yeah. mechanical pencil on computer paper. I one day, I will actually upgrade I'm gonna like get an iPad and procreate. But for now. And then I use ink pen, I actually have a few different kinds that I use. I can't name drop, right. But I do, especially like picking a graphic. And then I do have to erase it. And I also use click mechanical eraser. love these. The best. Yeah, elementary school vibes. And then I edit it, erase it. And I scan it and did recently get a better scanner, which has changed my life

Jay Clouse 41:33
Faster or

Emily Clouse 41:35
Higher quality, oh, outrageously better, just makes everything. It's like the DPI is higher, and everything's like so great. And then I plug it into Photoshop. And I actually hand color everything in Photoshop with the ink drawing. You can't really use the paint bucket too much.

Jay Clouse 41:51
How do you go from beginning to end on one of these

Emily Clouse 41:54
Average hour and a half? Fun, like really feeling it? And it's like simple. Occasionally I'll just draw your guest. And that's it and not not a lot of other bells and whistles around their element that maybe like an hour. Yeah, hour and a half.

Jay Clouse 42:08
Well, it's very fun. And it makes the show way better because you do it. So thank you. Yeah, and if you are breaking a TV, I know you'll fire me and that's okay. But I hope it's not.

Emily Clouse 42:17
Okay. I love doing the illustrations. By the way. I mean, it's been really fun to like get better at actual portraiture, that's something I never really have done that much of, and really try to get them to look like that. Like, when it really looks like the person. I feel really happy about that. Like to make it in my own style and look like the person is quite satisfying. And thank you also for saying I'll fire you because who works for who here? I don't know.

Jay Clouse 42:43
Well, but I don't know. I feel like I'm getting I'm I don't know, I feel like you are doing a lot of work on this. And I'm asking a lot of you and it's a weekly show. I do it into perpetuity. It's a lot. I know, I know what it's like to have like a weekly deadline for something.

Emily Clouse 43:00
Oh, yeah. Well, I really don't have a problem with the weekly deadline because you also map it out so far in advance. It's really quite simple for me. Tt's more of just about just when I want to slack off on my regular work by drawing something fun for yourself.

Jay Clouse 43:21
If you made it this far, kudos to you for humoring me and listening to me catch up with my sister. I know this is a little bit of a departure from our normal episode, but I also know she'll probably be writing for one of your favorite TV shows and the not too distant future. Emily has had a huge impact on me as a person creator and a weirdo. And I'm super, super appreciative of the illustrations she's done for this show. I don't think the show would have grown the way that has if not for the little touches like this that show how much care and intention I'm putting into it. If you want to learn more about Emily and her work, I'd highly recommend following @EmilyFClouse on Twitter @partyoatmeal on Instagram, or her website EmilyFClouse.com links to all that are in the show notes. Thank you, Emily for being on the show and making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show while he's moving in Barbados, and Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you liked this episode, you can tweet @JayClouse and let me know if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.