1. Be at the lowest point in your life.
This one’s important because it adds character. You will know when you’re at your lowest point in your life because you will be emptying your retirement account from the day job you briefly had back when you had common sense and wanted a “stable” “life.” You won’t know this yet, but having a retirement account you once emptied will feel nostalgic when you can’t afford cheese at Trader Joe’s. The cheese day will be the actual lowest point in your life. Then an ovarian cyst will explode and you’ll owe the hospital $10,000. In the end,it will be less like a “low point” and more like a “downward spiral.” Congratulations! You’re on your way.
2. Make a thing you think no one will care about (and make that go viral).
This one’s fun because you have no control over it. You can’t make anything go viral. Having no control makes you write videos that you think are popular, like recording your cats sitting in a gym bag. This won’t be funny. No one will watch and no one will care. So out of anger, say “fuck it” and write something that means something to you. This may or may not resound with other people, but your success hinges upon it so no presh. Also do it in different ways like four more times. Stephen Colbert once said, that someone once said, that “all it takes” was a series of overnight successes, and that person was right (but also not successful at getting their name remembered so…).
2 1/2. Take credit.
If you want to get your name out there with your videos, it is more difficult to do that if you’re a part of an institution (theater, etc.). These places can be invaluable places to learn, but if your video takes off, the institution will get the credit. They’re not evil, but it’s an important thing to keep in mind nonetheless.
3. Write your ass off.
Write three pilots. Throw them away. Then start writing again – and don’t try to outsmart it by speed writing three scripts you don’t care about and then being like “I did it. Where’s my parade?” Write three things you care about sincerely. Write three things you think are genius. Throw those away. It’ll be fine. Because you don’t actually know what is good if you wrote it. Stuff you think is good will be terrible and stuff you think is terrible will go viral. You just don’t know. The only thing you can control is your output. So output a ton.
4. Go back in time and meet a guy at a party eight years ago.
He will think you are a lesbian and you will think he’s really nice for not hitting on you like a d-bag. Sure, he works at a pizza parlor right now, but in the future, this will be your future showrunner – I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
5. But don’t party too much.
The comedy scene can feel like college, which is great if you didn’t have a great time in college, and also great if you did, and also if you never even went. Either way, the friends you make in comedy might be the closest thing you’ll ever feel to feeling like you belong anywhere. You will want to go to every party and attend every show. But keep a balance– you came here to have a community, but also came here to work. When I was in college, Coolio would show up to a lot of our parties. At first it was like, “Awesome! Coolio is here!” But after a while it was like, “Is Coolio okay? Why is he here?” Don’t be the Coolio of my college experience.
6. Ignore your director friend who says you’re doing everything wrong.
I did not go to film school. I majored in International Development Studies because I thought I was going to be a journalist embedded with the FARK while my newborn son slept soundly in the vines above me. Then things changed. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t let your lack of technical knowledge stop you from trying to get your idea out there. Same with if you do have a fuck ton of technical knowledge. It doesn’t have to be technically perfect. Few are the people that will watch your series and say “Wow, they keyed that scene two points off white.” (I don’t even know if what I just said was a thing, but you’ll never hear it again, because no one will ever say it.)
7. Make a cold open for your pitch meeting.
YouTube will ban it. Use it anyway – You will have an idea that will make you uncomfortable and scared and insecure. That’s how you know it’s the right idea. You will enlist your trusted friends Erika Heidewald and Adam Catino, telling them that in the rare event you get your web series made, you promise they will have cameos. Then you have to cancel their scene because of budget cuts. Then you will give them a shout-out in an article you wrote later and use it as documentation of an extended I.O.U.
8. When they shut down production for reasons beyond your control, you will be pissed.
Stay kind and positive to everyone – including the lady at Panera who told you your free cookie coupon expired. Don’t go off on her. Smile genuinely when you’re pissed. Say “thank you” when everything in your body wants to scream, because you’re getting to do a super special thing so fuck you for ever feeling resentful of anything. Seriously – your emotions are valid, but these are all good problems to have so chill.
9. Be suspicious of all praise but also learn to take compliments.
Follow your vision and never someone else’s, even if those people LOVE your idea. Keep an arms length away from anyone else’s ideas apart from your own. But also consider feedback. Feedback is important. You don’t want to be known as the person who can’t take feedback, do you? Know when to stay the course, and know when to accept feedback, this is called “wisdom,” and you will die trying to perfect it.
10. Keep perspective.
It’s just a web series. I recommend watching documentaries about war or the Roosevelts or other things that are grander than you and your little project. Did you know Franklin Roosevelt got diagnosed with congestive heart failure right around when the U.S. entered WWII? He could have died and he kept it a secret. That’s bonkers! It’s easy to get wrapped up in the drama of your digital showbiz. Don’t. That’s silly.
10 1/2. Do not get 20 minutes of sleep before the first day of shooting.
Smoke weed, do guided meditation, take Tylenol PM, Ambien. Have it stocked and do whatever it takes to knock back the free-fall feeling of imagining everything that can go wrong. Because some of it will happen for real, and you need to be well rested when it does.
Taylor Orci has appeared on “Kroll Show,” “NTSF:SD:SUV” and was a staff writer on the current season of “Golan the Insatiable” on FOX. Her video “Bitchy Resting Face” was immortal on “Funny or Die” and it currently has over six million views. She is is also co-creator, co-writer and star of “Broken People” now streaming on Comedy Central here.