Summer 2016

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96 How Mike Drucker made comedy his business. B Y E LY S S A G O O D M A N P O R T R A I T B Y DA N I E L G A R R I G A Laughs "On the days when you're not feeling funny, what do you do?" I ask Mike Drucker, 32, a South Florida native who is currently a staff writer on "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon. He sips a double whiskey as we sit in a bar on Ninth Avenue in New York City, the day unseasonably warm for the middle of April and the dinosaur hoodie he's wearing. "You try to. You just try to feel funny," he says. But since starting in comedy in 2005, Drucker hasn't just tried to be funny; he's succeeded. An interest in writing propelled Drucker through Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. His experiences there, he found later, were integral to building his career. "I don't think I would be doing comedy if I didn't go to a diverse high school where I learned different viewpoints and met people who weren't like me," Drucker says. "I think meeting people outside of my experience helped me go, 'OK, there are different ways to view things, and some of them are very funny.'" Drucker's comedy career officially began while he was a junior at NYU studying English and journalism, going to stand-up comedy open-mic nights around the city. "In a group of friends, I might not have been the handsome one or even the smart one, but I could make people laugh," he says. And make them laugh he would: In 2007, he was one of three winners of Disney and Myspace's "So You Think You're Funny" competition, from which he eventually gained a talent manager. After college, Drucker became a researcher at "Saturday Night Live," where he was allowed to submit jokes for the late-night comedy show's well-known news parody segment, "Weekend Update." He started to have jokes on the show almost every week. Though Drucker wanted to be promoted to staff writer on the show, the program went another way. His time at "SNL" was not in vain, however. Seth Meyers, who was hosting "Update" at the time, noticed Drucker's efforts and brought him on to write jokes for Meyers when he hosted the ESPYs. "A lot of my career can be attributed to [Meyers] giving me chances at various points," Drucker says. "I think it was just him seeing who was trying to write good stuff for him, and he wanted to help them out." After "SNL," Drucker ended up taking a position in Seattle with Nintendo as a writer for video games, another one of his passions. He was able to blend comedy into his work there, too. "Video games showed me that I could use my skills as a stand-up in a totally new medium that I loved as a kid," Drucker says. "I think a lot of people trick themselves into thinking that if they're going to be a writer, there's this ladder structure they have to follow. But I like the idea that my comedy isn't just television, it is television and video games and internet stuff. It's this wide net I've grown." Drucker's comedy career continued moving forward when he opened for renowned comedian Patton Oswalt. The two would eventually go on the road together, and Drucker would open for two of Oswalt's televised comedy specials. From Nintendo, Drucker moved on to a comedy and video game-related web series called "Up at Noon" for IGN in 2012. Also that year, he was selected to perform at the prestigious Just For Laughs festival in Montreal as one of its "New Faces of Comedy." People from "Late Night" with Jimmy Fallon liked what they saw—in addition to the smart tweets Drucker had been sending out about the 2012 election—and offered him a job with the show. Drucker joined the writing staff of "Late Night" in 2013 and made the transition with the team to "The Tonight Show" in 2014. Drucker and the rest of the writing staff produce jokes for two shows a day, five days a week. Drucker himself works on some of Fallon's monologue jokes and "Thank You Notes." On the show, he's also written jokes for the likes of Michelle Obama and Paul McCartney. "Anybody can write a funny comment on a news story once in their lives," Drucker says. "The goal isn't one time, it's to do it every day." And Drucker does do it every day—and does it well. In 2014, "The Tonight Show" writing staff was nominated for an Emmy. And even with all of his successes, Drucker says his biggest accomplishment is that he started in comedy at all. "I could have gone onstage that first time and been so messed up by it that I never did it again,"he says. "The fact that I kept doing it is weird. But I did." v For

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