For a lot of writers who are just starting out, the prospect of “making it” as a TV and film screenwriter can be intimidating. Most people assume they have to know someone, be in the right place at the right time, or find some other random way to be plucked from obscurity. But for Caitie Delaney, becoming a successful comedy writer just meant writing in her own voice.
Delaney didn’t initially think she’d make it as a TV writer for a hit show like Rick & Morty or the upcoming 68 Whiskey; she wasn’t a prolific child who wrote scripts, and like a lot of creative hopefuls, didn’t think she had the chops to pursue what is already a notoriously difficult career. It was only after living in LA for five years that her first script landed her a job on the multi-camera sitcom Last Man Standing.
“I always had an interest in entertainment, but I didn’t go for writing, which I think was a product of me not feeling smart enough,” Delaney shared during a recent interview at her new home in Frogtown. “That’s a thing a lot of women go through. I got my first job in 2014, and that’s when I realized I could do it. I had nice friends and nice bosses and it took people telling me that I could do it: what I was doing was good.”
Though Caitie landed her dream job working on that initial show, the opportunity itself arose come from creating her own original material. Finding her footing as a writer came by using her distinctive voice and drawing on her own experiences. Delaney’s first script began with a character based on herself – a typical, late 20-something who ends up on a strange, paranormal journey upon entering a crystal shop.
“The feedback I got on the first script I wrote, that got me my first job, was that I had a voice,” she remembered. “That feedback sounded empty until I realized what they meant is that I wrote a character that’s consistent and speaks in a particular way. All I did was write her as myself: I took this concept and then said, ‘what would I do?’ It’s not that it was that unique or that I’m kooky, it was that it was consistent and I built a full, realistic character. Everything I write starts with me.”
Similar to the process of crafting her first character, Caitie found comedy writing in general to be largely intuitive: She didn’t study the genre in a formal capacity or take a typical route such as improv classes at UCB. Instead, she finds humor in the way people speak, in the subtle and authentic ways human beings are inherently funny. And of course, always leaning on her own sense of humor.
“It’s not as specific of a skill as people think,” she said. “I didn’t take a class on how to be funny. You just have to infuse characters with humor and people know what humor is. It’s more innate than people think. I think it differs from other genres in that way — there’s just comedy in the way people actually talk. So, I ask ‘does this sentence sounds like something someone would say?’ And if you can get laughs from that, then great.”
Since landing her first job back in 2014, Caitie has spent the last five years writing for hit shows and building an impressive body of work. But, a lot of her recent success has been using the medium of Twitter. Like most writers, Caitie is pretty active on Twitter and started out with a humble 1,000 followers. Though one day, seemingly out of nowhere, that number skyrocketed to 45,000: she’d gone viral doing impressions of the recording engineer listening to rapper’s strange demands. Now, her following sits at a cool 70,000 and is only continuing to grow. This newfound virality was a strange phenomenon, however, as her thoughts and opinions were suddenly reaching thousands of people.
Caitie also found herself subject to the darker side of the Internet – cyber bullying (which tends to disproportionately target women). “I had a tweet about Mitch Mcconnell that went viral,” she explained. ”People were reporting me online because when something gets attention, it will also reach the wrong people. People called me all kinds of names, there wasn’t really anyway for me to deal with it other than put my phone away and not think about it. I remember thinking people might come after me, and then I realized that people are so stupid, it’s so rare that people are actually threatening.”
Despite the complicated nature of it, Caitie has used Twitter as a writing mechanism and as a way to connect with people, something she advises aspiring writers to do as well. A lot of people have brilliant ideas and Twitter can be the perfect place to get them noticed. But becoming a professional writer hasn’t been random strokes of genius or anything extraordinary, Caitie mostly cites learning how to be helpful in a writer’s room, how to be a fun person to work with on an 8-10 hour day, and to continue to work on her own writing as the important building blocks of her career.
A lot of writers are told to write every single day; to be disciplined enough to cultivate a 6 AM wake up call to work on their own material. And while that’s certainly ideal, Delaney knows it’s easy to fall short of such an ambitious schedule. This is what makes her approach, personality, and of course, her sense of humor so refreshing and relatable: She doesn’t cite some magic sauce or perfect routine in order to be successful. Her advice is to just do what you can, the best that you can.
“There isn’t some amazing story, but I know how lucky I am,” she said. “I wasn’t snatched out of obscurity, I’m just doing my job and I’m so lucky that this is my job. I hope there’s a place for me going forward, but I consider myself one of those people just trucking along and doing what I can. I don’t want to be an actor or comedian, I’m just happy to work in TV and make money and do well. And that’s my thing.”
And as far as what’s next? “I would like to run my own TV shows and I would love to only make the things I am writing,” she shared. “Specifically movies, they’re my dream. That would be incredible.” And with another recent viral moment – a parody of a beauty blogger responding to the Netflix release Marriage Story – we wouldn’t expect anything less from Delaney.