Barry Sonnenfeld is a director, producer and writer who broke into the film industry as the cinematographer on the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, and Miller’s Crossing.  He was the director of photography on Throw Momma from the Train, Big, When Harry Met Sally, and Misery.  Barry made his directorial debut with The Addams Family and has directed several other films including Addams Family Values, Get Shorty, and the Men in Black trilogy.  His television credits include Pushing Daises, for which he won an Emmy, and Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  His memoir is titled: Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Most movie directors use the camera as a recording device whereas he uses it as a story telling device.
  • Lots of cinematographers have tried to become directors but have failed. Part of Barry’s success making the transition was hiring a world-class cameraman so he could focus on the actors and other areas as opposed to micromanaging the cameraman.
  • The key to successful directing is to hire people better than you, answer everyone’s questions to ensure a consistent tone, and feign self-confidence.
  • He’s known to be very neurotic but neurosis is a superpower when directing a project.
  • His philosophy about comedy is that nobody on the show should think they’re working on one. The formula is to have an absurd situation or an absurd character played for reality.
  • “Excellence is being capable, responsible, and the willingness to make the tough decision.”

 

Show Notes

Book: Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker

Josh Blue is a comedian. He has cerebral palsy which forms the basis for much of his self-deprecating humor.  He won first place on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in its fourth season. He has appeared in a number of comedy specials on Comedy Central, Showtime, Bravo and Netflix and has been featured in several publications including People Magazine, The New York Times and NPR. His YouTube videos have been viewed millions of times. He was also a member of the US Paralympic Soccer Team.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how he didn’t try to run or hide from his cerebral palsy but rather, made it an integral part of his comedy early on.
  • A turning point in his life was spending a year in Senegal and coming to appreciate how fortunate he was to just have food, clothing and shelter.
  • Hear about his crazy experiment living in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo for a day.
  • It takes most comedians years to refine their material to get a good 10 minute act but Josh had that “it factor” (i.e. stage presence and likeability) from day one.
  • “A joke is just a story with all the extra words taken out.”
  • He is so talented and spontaneous on stage that he never has to write down any of his material. He tests new material “on the fly” during live performances.
  • “Excellence is being so in tune with what you’re doing that nobody can touch it.”