As a current student in SAC 311 (Screenwriting for TV), I’m always wondering how, exactly, people break into the industry. TV writing would be, in this writer’s opinion, the best job ever. But someone’s done it — and from Michigan, no less! Megan Ganz is an alumnus who writes for “The Last Man on Earth” and is a producer on “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” I reached out to her to figure out how, exactly, she pulled it off, and to learn more about a day in her life.
Where are you from, and when did you graduate from the University of Michigan?
I am from Kalamazoo, but I was born in Ann Arbor while my father was finishing up dental school at the University. I graduated in 2006.
What activities did you take part in at Michigan that helped to start your career in comedy? Have you always been interested in working in comedy?
I wrote for the Michigan Every Three Weekly which was a huge help to the start of my comedy career. Both Mad Magazine and The Onion contacted the E3W about internship opportunities, and I applied for both and those were my first two jobs in comedy. The internship at The Onion eventually lead to my first full-time writing job as a staff writer.
I have been interested in comedy for as long as I can remember — since my father first showed me Marx brothers movies when I was six years old. When I was a teenager, my mother bought me a collection of Onion articles, and from that day forward I wanted to specifically write for The Onion. But writing for TV wasn’t a goal of mine until much later in life.
What was your first job in the industry? How did you end up where you are now?
My first internship was at Mad Magazine during the summer between my junior and senior years. They were the first ones to pay me for a joke. It was an idea for a fold-in drawn by Al Jaffee, and I framed the check (after I cashed it, of course). After I graduated, I moved to New York for an internship at The Onion. Eventually I was hired to the writing staff and then became an editor. During my time on staff, we wrote a story about “This American Life,” which resulted in Ira Glass doing a piece on The Onion. Some agents in L.A. heard me on that “TAL” episode, and they called me, and that’s how I got agents. They convinced me to start writing packets to try to get hired to a TV show. After three years with The Onion, I left for a job at Demetri Martin’s sketch show, “Important Things With Demetri Martin.” That moved me out to L.A. and into TV writing. At that time I was a huge fan of “Community,” which was still in its first season. I knew Donald Glover in New York, and I started watching the show because he was on it. My agents submitted me for season two, and that lead to my first job on a sitcom. After “Community,” I went to “Modern Family” for a few years, then “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and now I write for “The Last Man on Earth,” which is what I’m supposed to be doing instead of responding to these questions. (Shhh… don’t tell my boss.)
Which shows do you currently work on?
Right now I am writing for “The Last Man on Earth” until February, at which point I’m planning on returning to “Sunny” for their thirteenth season.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Just writing jokes. It’s not a big enough part of the job. I spend most of my time sitting around a table talking, trying to come up with storylines or conflicts between characters. Very little time is spent pitching actual jokes, because you can’t put icing on a cake before you bake it.
TV writing / producing is often described as a dream job. Have you always found that to be the case, or are there any drawbacks?
It is a dream job. That aside, whoever said, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” was a liar. I work plenty of long, hard days. And I spent years writing comedy and not being paid for it. But I love what I do, so it’s worth the struggle. When you truly care about what it is you’re doing, the lows are pretty low. But the highs are spectacular. And at this point I’m not qualified to do anything else.
Why do you think TV (and, specifically, scripted comedy) is seeing such a creative surge?
Well, the easy answer is because there used to be three channels and now there are hundreds. You don’t even have to sell a show anymore, you can just post it online and people will find it. But the more complicated answer might have something to do with the current political climate and how much people want and need to escape from reality.
What do you see as the future of comedy on TV?
The future of comedy won’t be on TV. It will be on the internet. Gone are the days when people rush home to see their favorite show when it airs. People don’t want to wait, they want to binge, so I think shows will have fewer episodes per season and probably end after three seasons instead of nine. But what do I know?
What are your favorite shows to watch right now?
Oh boy. I watch way, way too much TV, even for someone who works in TV. A very short list would include “Veep,” “Kimmy Schmidt,” “Game of Thrones,” “Atlanta,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Episodes,” “Rick and Morty,” “Last Week Tonight,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and “Friday Night Dinner,” which is a great British show I love. That’s not even counting how many times I’ve rewatched “30 Rock,” which is probably too many.