Josh Saltzman is a different kind of comedian. He’s something of a renaissance jokester, having performed both stand-up and sketch comedy, in addition to shooting his own short comedic films and being a TV writer (Call Me Fitz, This Hour Has 22 Minutes). We chatted with Saltzman about his “small breaks” into the biz, Jason Priestley and writing the best comedy ever.
How did you get started in comedy?
I was studying sciences at the University of Western Ontario, but I didn’t really love it. What I really looked forward to every year was going to overnight camp, Camp Northland, where I would write and put on plays and comedy sketches with the other staff. One day I just thought to myself, “Holy fudge, if I truly love putting on shows, why just do it two months a year?” After that epiphany I enrolled at Humber for comedy performance and writing. I still get to work with the students and teachers I met there. Best choice I ever made. My parents nearly puked.
Who did you look up to as a kid?
I look up to my father for being unnaturally funny and kind, and my mother who taught me how to pour passion into creativity. She is a part-time potter. The way she rearranges hunks of clay to bring them to life is the way I strive to rearrange words and letters.
You've done sketch, stand-up, short films and now you're a TV writer. What do you like best about each of those platforms?
The thing I love about sketch comedy is performing and writing with some of the most bizarre and hilarious minds in the world. Anything can happen onstage and usually does. Stand-up is the scariest. You start alone on stage, but by the end (if you have a successful set) you’re no longer alone, you’re with the audience. Those laughs are incredibly rewarding. Making videos is like making comedy in a lab rather than the wild. You get control, you can make your vision as close to reality as possible. The finished product stays out there forever. I love it when people say, “Hey, I saw that video, it was funny,” after the video is already a few years old. That warms the heart. Writing for TV is the most rewarding because it is the most collaborative. You have a thought, then you sweat it out as you write and rewrite. Suddenly that thought is adopted by the other writers, actors, directors, artists, prop masters, set designers, producers, camera operators and a million-and-one other people as they infuse their ideas to make it come alive. It gives me shivers just thinking about it.
What was your big break?
Big break? I think I’ve been lucky enough to continually be bombarded by many small breaks. Winning the Tims Sims Encouragement Award as sketch duo 7 Minutes in Heaven was one. Winning a Canadian Comedy Award for my video That Thing That Happened, which I made with comedy troupe The Boom and Lindsay Ames, was another. And then landing my wonderful agents Jennifer Hollyer and Ilana Miller, who helped me get gigs writing for super Canadian comedies like Call Me Fitz and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
Tell us a little bit about what you're doing now.
I have just finished one of the most amazing professional experiences of my life. Getting to be part of the writing team of Call Me Fitz. I think it is the funniest show made in Canada. Now I’m writing for some awesome animated shows [Rocket Monkeys and Dr. Dimensionpants]. In the new year I’ll be going down to LA to visit my video partner Lindsay Ames to make a lot more comedy videos to show off around the city. I’m also working on half hour comedy that is in development at E-One.
What’s Jason Priestley like?
Jason is not only the star of Call Me Fitz, he is also a producer and one of the directors. In fact, he directed the episode I wrote, so we got to work very closely together on set. Jason is a super talent and has a wealth of experience and knowledge. I sat beside him like sponge trying absorb as much as I could. He also has insane comedic timing.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Probably my siblings. There is also this guy at the Starbucks where I write who picks his nose and eats it all the time. It’s great.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In 2018 I want to be writing the best comedy I have ever written. That’s always the goal.
Year started comedy: 2004 Influences: Friends and family, Mr. Show, Stella, Andy Samberg, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey and Andy Kauffman. Next gig: As we live more of our lives in the digital realm, the more my “gigs” become digital. I’m always posting new videos on my YouTube channel. Sometimes they get picked up by Funny or Die or College Humor. But I still rear my goofy head at Comedy Bar and The Rivoli to soak up some live laughs from time to time.