“My mother named me Comedian of the Family twice in ten years.”
In 2003, Josh Saltzman entered Humber’s comedy program planning to do improv, but he emerged a comedy writer. Now, almost ten years after graduating, Josh still remembers fondly the first piece of comedy he ever wrote for a sketch show .
“I wrote this thing about Cobra Commander’s daughter bringing her new boyfriend to meet her dad. It was so funny. The whole class really rallied behind it and made it shine. When we performed it, it killed. I played a small part in the sketch so I was able to take in the glory. A room full of people laughing at my words. Glorious. It was the first high and I’ve been searching for the fix ever since.”
And we think he’s found it – over and over again. Josh has written for This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Call Me Fitz, and he’s made over 70 web shorts that have been seen by over 6 million people. He won a Canadian Comedy Award for That Thing That Happened, his video with comedy troupe Boom and Lindsay Ames. Together as the sketch duo 7 Minutes in Heaven, Josh and Laura Cilevitz won the Tim Sims Encouragement Fund Award. And, in his words, “My mother named me Comedian of the Family twice in ten years.”
Of course, Josh didn’t go straight from school to award-winning comedian.
“I’ve worked as a Toronto tour guide on those yellow double-decker buses. I made up a lot of facts about Toronto. I also worked in an ad agency where I made up a lot of facts about the products. Now I just get to make stuff up all the time and it’s not against the rules.”
The best part, he says, is getting to see his ideas go from his head to the page and then to the screen. “It’s amazing.” And no, he says, he doesn’t run out of funny things to say.
“You’ll never run out with the amount of idiots that are out there. It’s a deep well. Getting paid to be funny sometimes feels like I’m stealing money, and yet somehow it feels like I’m never stealing enough money. It’s something I’ll have to work on.”
Jokes aside, Josh admits that the thing he finds most challenging about his job is being funny enough.
“I want to be the funniest, but it’s a steep, steep climb. Also, grammar is really challenging. Semi-colons still throw me for a loop.”
Maybe he didn’t learn quite enough grammar at Humber, but Josh says the program exposed him to many new ideas.
“From the teachers, fellow students, and guest speakers. Even though it has been almost ten years, whenever I finish a script, the first people to read it are some of my fellow classmates. I can trust them to give me an honest opinion. Plus, they’ll give me free punch up. Awesome, right?”
Josh says he’s proud to be part of his Humber cohort, noting how many of the students are still in the biz, all doing different things in different parts of the industry. He says he never expected his classmates to be so funny!
“Every time a bunch of us find ourselves in a room together we always laugh about how this one student farted so loud in physical comedy class. The fart that still gets laughs ten years later. That’s a special thing.”
Interestingly, Josh says the most difficult challenge he’s faced since leaving Humber hasn’t been getting gigs – it’s been simply finishing what he’s started.
“I’ve learned that getting the ideas is the easy thing. The challenge is pushing through when the idea seems old to you. Getting it out on the page. Having that finished document. I think getting to FADE OUT or THE END or, if you’re pretentious, FIN is the secret to having a successful career.”
Advice On Being Funny
When asked for his advice to students going into comedy, he’s suddenly serious:
“Don’t give up. Write what you think is funny. Work with people you like. Get a job in the industry even if it’s getting people coffee. Be the funniest you can possibly be. Don’t take advice; just figure it out. Oh, and go to Humber, of course!”