Who are you?
Josh Lieb is the former Producer and Show Runner of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. His credits include stints as Executive Producer of NewsRadio and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He won 7 Prime Time Emmys as a producer and writer for The Daily Show. In 2009, he published a young adult novel, I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President, which was a New York Times Bestseller.
Lieb was raised in Columbia, South Carolina, and graduated from Harvard, where he was an editor of The Lampoon, the college humor magazine. After graduation, he found work writing for Twisted Puppet Theater, The Jon Stewart Show, and NewsRadio. He subsequently worked as a producer or consultant on shows including The Simpsons, Drawn Together, Sirens, Nikki, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Lieb's tenure at The Daily Show lasted from 2006 to 2010, during which he also served as Executive Producer of “The Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear” and as co-editor and co-author of Earth: The Book.
In 2013, he wrote and directed a series of comedic shorts to raise money and awareness for the charity Water.Org. Stars featured in the shorts included Matt Damon, Jessica Biel, Sir Richard Branson, and Bono.
Penguin/ Random House released Lieb's second novel, Ratscalibur, in 2015.
In October 2016, NBCUniversal announced an exclusive writing deal with Lieb.
Question: Where are you from and how has that shaped you?
Josh Lieb: I was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina.
You know I don’t know. People . . . people say that it must have been odd, but I mean a lot of us are from South Carolina. It doesn’t seem very strange to me. How has it affected how I see the world? I . . . I might have more of a state’s right attitude than a lot of people from other places. I’m a bit more “individual rights” than other people. So I don’t know. You know, that’s all I got.
Question: What did you think you’d be doing professionally when you were young?
Josh Lieb: You know I always knew I wanted to write. I always wanted to write. I thought I would be a poet, but I knew I wanted to write.
Question: What did your parents want you to do?
Josh Lieb: That’s a good question. They weren’t . . . They didn’t push me in any particular direction. I think my mother would have been happier if I had became a lawyer or something. But . . .
Question: Is there a connection between humor and religion?
Josh Lieb: You know I don’t know. It’s sort of cliché to have a funny rabbi. You know every rabbi thinks he’s pretty hilarious, or at least they do nowadays. In the . . . in the . . . in the old days, I think they . . . they thought they . . . they were pretty serious. You know I don’t know. I could wax philosophical and say, “Well there is, you know . . . comedy and religion are about some sort of aspiration or something higher,” or you know, “to elevate us. And when we laugh,” you know, “our souls become bigger.” But I don’t think so. I think . . . I think rabbis are smart people, and I think smart people tend to be funny. So maybe that’s the connection.
Josh Lieb: Religion . . . By the way I should have been drinking coffee. But I don’t . . . If there’s any connection whatsoever . . . You know I think there must be some connection between religion and comedy because while . . . because the people I know in comedy are either pretty religious or – and that’s the minority – or they’re . . . they swing the other way completely and are rabidly atheistic. So maybe there’s some emotional switch that gets clicked on either way.
Question: Why has the Harvard Lampoon created so many great writers?
Josh Lieb: The Lampoon . . . You know I . . . I don’t . . . I think that obviously goes in ways . . . The writers ___________ creating right now, I think they’re all good. It’s . . . it’s just a . . . Look you’re at Harvard, so, you know, you’ve got sort of a pretty good pool to choose from. And it’s got this nice building and a sort of sweet setup, so it becomes very attractive. And then it’s got this history. So you know it became very easy to attract sort of talented writers. And then you know when you’re there, you sort of wanna live up to the people that have been there before. I mean that __________ actually ____________ the magazine are not really always that funny. But the . . . there is a competitive nature with the, you know, people on the magazine itself where you’re always sort of trying to better each other and one-up each other. So you know it’s all those rams butting their heads eventually makes you stronger.
Question: Did you join the Lampoon as soon as you got to Harvard?
Josh Lieb: In my freshman year, yeah. Yeah. I hadn’t heard of it before I got there. And then I remember walking around the campus and seeing this really cool building. And I was like, “Oh, I have to . . . I have to go in there.” And it turned out that it was the Lampoon. So . . .
You know they invite you in to see if you wanna compete to join. And they give you beer, and that was nice. So you just sit around drinking beer while they tell you stuff. And then sort of every event after that was a social opportunity with drinking cocktails or beer, and getting your writing critiqued. And it was all good.
Recorded on: September 4, 2007
On rabbis and lampoons.
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