Alumni Profile: Melinda Taub

In her time at Uni, Melinda Taub, from the Class of 2001, participated in theater, Russian club, and Interact for a Better World. Two weeks ago, she won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special.

Taub, along with her fellow writers at Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, won for their work on “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner”, a response to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an annual event for the media hosted by the President. The episode, which aired April 29, was marketed as an event honoring journalism, a clear reaction to President Trump’s criticism of journalists.

The idea, Taub says, was developed by Bee and head writer Jo Miller amidst talk of people not wanting to attend an event hosted by Trump. Trump ultimately did not attend the event.

Taub says her foray into political and topical comedy was inspired by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who hosted the recurring current events sketch Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live from 2004-2006.

“I used to leave parties early to watch [Weekend Update],” says Taub.

She was also inspired by “fake news” shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. However, she points out that political comedy is “only one dream of mine” and that she still enjoys writing other forms of comedy.

Taub’s journey into comedy began in college, where she began to develop an interest in the art form. After college, she moved to New York where she initially pursued acting. Eventually, she turned to writing, finding that it suited her interests much better. From there, it was just a few steps to her career as a comedy writer. Taub joined the Upright Citizens’ Brigade, a sketch comedy group in New York. There, she wrote regularly and attended shows every week.

After spending time “honing her skills” at UCB, Taub managed to land a job at Funny or Die, a comedy video production company founded by Will Ferrell. Soon after, she found another job writing for Adam Ruins Everything, a comedy series on TruTV. Not long after that, she began writing for Full Frontal where she has worked since 2016.

For Taub and her fellow writers on the show, the work week starts on Thursday, the day after their weekly show airs. On Friday, they begin writing the second act of their show, which is less time-sensitive since it features less topical humor. Then they send it to their head writer at the end of the day. On Monday, they write Act 1, which is more related to current events. Tuesday is often hectic, according to Taub, since they’ve sometimes had to completely throw out stuff they’d written the previous day because President Trump did something in between Monday and Tuesday. Luckily, Taub says the chaos has diminished overtime.

“Everyone’s starting to understand this news cycle a little better and also so much crazy stuff has happened that nothing feels that crazy anymore,” Taub says.

Taub says that now that Trump is in office, her comedy style has changed.

“Maybe I used to have a little more hope and now it’s maybe a little darker,” says Taub.

However, she says she believes that the show works best when they put what they’re genuinely feeling into writing. Taub says her goal is simply to “make them laugh and blow off a little steam” rather than to educate or inform the public.

When it comes to her time at Uni, Taub says that while she did participate in theatrical productions here, it didn’t greatly influence her decision to become a comedy writer. Nevertheless, she did still gain necessary skills to become a comedy writer while at Uni.

“Comedy is really hard and you have to work really hard to get good at it. Uni kinda teaches you to do things that are hard,” says Taub.

For any budding comedians, Taub advises that you “join your high school improv troupe” or, if there isn’t one, start one. She also says to go to local open mics if you’re interested in stand up. Taub says a benefit of comedy is that it doesn’t require a degree; you can start right now.