New York. Chicago. Los Angeles. When people think of top cities for comedy, few would immediately add the Twin Cities to that list. Jon Savitt does. The St. Louis Park native went to college in Indiana and spent much of his 20s living in Washington, D.C. During the pandemic, he moved home and is now focused on making Minneapolis-St. Paul a top-tier comedy hub. His strategy? Start them young. Beginning this summer, Savitt will offer a free class for high school students called Minneapolis Writers Room. The online workshop, he said, will be a place for students to learn more about the comedy industry and develop their skills in writing and pitching. Savitt tells us more about his vision below.
Q: How would you describe the comedy scene in the Twin Cities?
A: Especially having the perspective of going somewhere else — I performed a lot up and down the East Coast, primarily in D.C. and New York — I think that the Twin Cities is really welcoming, and I think it's really supportive. I think it encourages people to take risks in a comforting way. I think that's really what we need in comedy. There's a healthy amount of competition.
Q: What is the mission of the Minnesota Writers Room?
A: The mission is just to support and empower the next generation of comedy writers in Minnesota. I would say at the highest level, that's what it is. It's also to kind of solidify the comedy and creative community we have here as, again, one of those top-tier communities that should be on any list along with any other city in the country. We have so much talent here. We have so much passion here. We should be able to work with each other and collaborate with each other and empower the next generation.
Q: Why high school-aged kids?
A: I really was kind of thinking about my own life and also where I have experience with teaching and leadership development and mentoring (more at jonsavittwrites.com). That's the age that I primarily have dealt with. Also, I think that's kind of the pivotal time where you're learning more about yourself and what you want to do and choosing not necessarily a career, but starting to explore what you want to do in your life.
Q: What are some of the lessons you hope people can take away from the program?
A: First of all, understanding what is out there in terms of opportunities and career paths. For a long time, I didn't know anything about anything — like literally nothing. I didn't know you could be a stand-up comedian. I didn't know you could write. I think just educating people on what opportunities are out there and how to look at yourself, living in Minneapolis or in Minnesota as an advantage, not necessarily as something that would impede you from getting these opportunities.
Q: Do you hope to move to in-person classes at some point?
A: That would be great. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, but it just never got off the ground because of COVID and various other barriers. I'm really happy that this is getting going before the summer. The objective is to be accessible, and hopefully just create this experience that doesn't necessarily feel like a chore and doesn't feel like a burden. You have to be really conscious, too: What else do they have going on? What changes when you say that now we have to meet up somewhere? I'm really just trying to make this as easy and simple as possible, which is why we're starting out virtual.
Q: What are some of your longer-term goals for the project?
A: I mean, ideally, someone who participates gets really famous and hires me (laughs). No. I think the long-term goal would be possibly expanding this so more people can join and get value out of that. Maybe it's not just me, but there are other instructors or other mentors or teachers. Maybe this inspires other people to do something similar. I'm sure I'm not the first one. I'm sure this isn't that original of an idea. I'm sure there are other things out there like this. But I think the goal is just to continue to push to give your time and empower other people to follow what they love and what they want to do, the same way that I have.
Q: Last thoughts?
A: I think comedy and laughing in general is really important. I think we all need to find some joy these days. And this is coming from a very personal place of being able to find myself and to find my voice and to find my confidence and some of these other skills through what I've learned writing or when being in a writers room, or doing comedy in whatever aspect you want to think of it. I think there are other people out there who might have questions or might want to be doing this in some aspect. Hopefully, this will just be that turning point for them or at least an entryway to learning more about this creative outlet.
Freelance writer Peter Warren is a frequent contributor to Inspired.