THE BLOG
11/26/2012 11:51 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

'Writers' Bloc': Going Behind the Fourth Wall With J.R. Havlan

Can the technique of conducting a review in entirely rhetorical questions, as Pete Wells of the New York Times did to verbally flay Guy Fieri, be employed in praise rather than verbal evisceration? No.

Will there still be lots of rhetorical questions in this review? Here's one now!

Hey, what's funnier than a good joke?

Deconstructing that joke, of course. Well, not usually. But since every rule needs an exception to prove it, the world needs "Writers' Bloc" -- a podcast about how our favorite comedies are made, hosted by The Daily Show writer J.R. Havlan, who has been with the show since it was created 16 years ago.

J.R., himself a stand-up comedian and comedy writer, is the ideal host for a podcast like "Writers' Bloc," as his industry experience makes him well-suited to take the audience on a tour behind the fourth wall and into the "complicated and jittery brains of the writers" of today's most popular comedies.

Mr. Havlan promises a look at how the "sausage" that is shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Letterman, SNL, 30 Rock and The Office get made, and is off to an excellent start with episode one, featuring The Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead. Mr. Havlan's approach to the interview is informal and eager, and that, combined with his obvious rapport with Ms. Winstead, makes for a podcast that truly feels like a conversation between friends that the audience is lucky enough to witness by accident.

Over an hour, Lizz and J.R. grant us insight into the beginnings of The Daily Show, the creative process of comedy writing, Lizz's dogs' dietary habits and who you probably shouldn't invite into your office -- even in a nontraditional office environment like The Daily Show. As Mr. Havlan points out on the podcast website's description of the episode and mentions during the podcast in an almost apologetic manner, he and Ms. Winstead do loudly eat pistachios through parts of their discussion. But the sound, as well as the sound of Ms. Winstead's dogs barking in the background and her occasional reprimands, contribute to the intimate and friendly feel of the podcast.

Likewise, in a bonus episode with The Daily Show writer and "The Flop House" podcast co-host Elliott Kalan, J.R. strikes a perfect balance between preparedness and improvisation, giving us the sense that he gets answers to all the questions he intended to while allowing the conversation to take them where it naturally would go. This, too, adds to the sense that the audience is just a fly on the wall of a conversation between friends.

Look for a new episode on November 26th, featuring guest Rachel Axler. After a three-year stint at The Daily Show, Rachel moved on to Parks and Rec, and has since written for Bored To Death and New Girl. New episodes will be available for download every second Monday.

Whether you are an aspiring comedy writer, already established in the industry, or someone who enjoys comedy, "Writers' Bloc" is far more pleasant to listen to than Mr. Havlan's sausage analogy implies. Fans, already perfectly nicknamed "BlocHeads" by J.R., can download the podcast on iTunes, stream it on the website, and follow the show on Twitter.

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