As head writer and executive producer of E!’s The Soup, Anderson cultivates laughs for a living (the show offers recaps of ridiculous television show clips accompanied by snarky commentary from comedian Joel McHale) and credits a Hamline professor for identifying comedy as his career path. “I was in a public speaking class and Professor Lapakko pulled me aside and told me I was naturally funny when I did my speeches. He suggested I try an open mic night to see where it might take me.”
Armed with Lapakko’s confidence, Anderson traded campus life for comedy clubs as he circulated through local venues like Knuckleheads and Acme. By the time graduation rolled around, Anderson was already booked for a summer comedy tour. A move to Los Angeles quickly followed, but the comedian spent more time serving at Johnny Rockets burger joint than slinging jokes, so he headed back on the road (crashing in Minnesota with family when necessary) to become what L.A. needed: “more funny.”
While stuck in a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, Anderson wrote a comedy sketch that he forwarded to friend and writer for The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show. Wayans, who bought the sketch, hired Anderson as one of the show’s writers. “The burn of having not succeeded bothered me quite a bit,” Anderson says of redoubling his efforts on the road after his initial experience in L.A. “Writer and comedian Rich Hall of Saturday Night Live told me that my writing was more layered than the average comic, and that I should put down more on the page. That led me to writing for TV shows.”
A career in comedy
It’s been 13 years since Anderson took his first writing job, and he can boil that timeline down in a quick summary of career moves: Politically Incorrect on ABC (“Bill Maher fired me. Twice.”), Mohr Sports on ESPN (“I am passionate about sports, this Favre thing is agony.”), The Wayne Brady Show on ABC (“I won an Emmy for that show.”), and finally his current spot on The Soup.
After writing about politics and sports, entertainment -- and the gaffes that go along with it -- is a natural resting place for Anderson. As head writer, he and his staff comb through roughly 250 television show clips each week (these range from programs like The View and Good Day L.A. to Yo Gabba Gabba and American Idol). The top 25 are then eviscerated in jokes.
According to Anderson, the weekly program maintains its popularity thanks to age-old schadenfreude. “The things celebrities put themselves through to get notoriety are so ridiculous, and people enjoy the visceral look at all this outlandish behavior,” explains Anderson. “They take a little relief in knowing they’re not that messed up.”
When he isn’t ravaging The Real World or poking fun at Project Runway, Anderson will occasionally hit the stand-up circuit with McHale. Last year the duo played the State Theater in Minneapolis, and Anderson said the Minnesota-style feedback he received let him know the show went well.
“There’s this stoicism about Minnesotans that if you really put on a great performance, you really nail it down, then you will get the highest compliment ever, which is: ‘That was pretty good.’”
Anderson has also recently revived old Hamline connections via the social networking site Facebook. “I did standup in college and basically disappeared for the last two years of school,” explains Anderson. “Now with Facebook I can get in touch with old friends from that part of my life.”
But his true Hamline pipeline operates the old fashioned way: “My mom lives down the street from Professor Palmerton. If Pat tells my mom some Hamline news, I get an email almost immediately.”