Laughter Is the Best Education

Gerrie Lim merges comedy, communications, and Conan
By Clair McLafferty • Main header photo by Steve Wood
Photo of Gerrie Lim; title: Laughter Is the Best Education
Gerrie Lim merges comedy, communications, and Conan
By Clair McLafferty • Main header photo by Steve Wood
Gerrie Lim can’t sit still. When she’s not in class or at work, she’s combing the Internet, watching comedy shows, and honing her own funny writing.
Right now, most of her comedy lives on her blogs and on social media. But last year, the UAB junior landed on Conan O’Brien’s late night television show. After multiple interviews, she became a production intern, and then was chosen to be a monologue intern for summer 2015.
Photo of Lim at desk on the Conan setLim enjoys a moment behind Conan's desk. Photo courtesy of Gerrie Lim.
Like many interns, Lim made lots of coffee, handed out copies, and went on grocery runs. But writing for the show, including doing some of the setup work for Conan’s jokes, was the focus of her work. “I wrote premises, which involves researching and picking news stories that would make good jokes,” she says. “I had to write 10 of those twice a day. Even though I wasn’t writing jokes, I had to have the comedy mindset of thinking how each one could become a good joke.”
And how was the experience of living in Los Angeles? “In one word, expensive,” Lim laughs. “I loved it. There’s always something to do. They have an overabundance of comedy shows.” She also met other writers in the studio who were quick with advice and information. “They gave me a lot of insight on just doing your own thing, getting material out there, making a name for yourself, and making a space for yourself,” she says.

Comedic Timing

Before she came to UAB, Lim, who grew up in Montgomery, Ala., got her first taste of comedy writing in high school. “I was on the yearbook staff, and at the end of the year, they put on this big skit making fun of the entire year,” she says. “I really enjoyed writing for that. That’s probably where it started.”
At the time, Lim also thought she wanted to be a doctor and arrived at UAB as a pre-med student in the UAB Honors College. But she quickly found that her heart was elsewhere. “When I got to UAB, I started doing a lot of writing and watching a lot of comedy shows,” she says.
Then she began researching what famous comedy writers had studied when they were in college, eventually choosing communication studies, with an emphasis on broadcasting, in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I knew that would help me with internships, which look for broadcasting experience,” she says. “I also knew that the classes would help me learn cameras and the equipment.”

Supplementing Her Skills

When she returned from Los Angeles, Lim joined the UAB Digital Media program as an intern. Though it’s not comedy focused, she says the experience is honing her skills. “I do a lot of writing,” she says. “I work with a lot of different software such as Final Cut and Premier, and I can put that on my resume to apply for an internship in a bigger city.”
Lim hopes to intern for another comedy show this summer. Though she has already fulfilled the internship requirements for her major, she wants to have as much experience as possible in the industry. “There’s an overabundance of comedy writers,” she says. “In the event that I’m not hired as one, then the digital media internship will make me more presentable for future employers.”
At this thought, she gets momentarily serious. “If that fails, I’ll pay off a lot of people.” Then she smiles: “Just kidding!”

Lim under the lights on the Conan stageLim takes the Conan stage. Photo courtesy of Gerrie Lim.


Late Night Secrets with Gerrie Lim

• The shows are actually filmed in the afternoon. “I don’t know why that’s such a surprise to me, but it is.”

• A host has help with almost every joke. “Other people even help write his monologue, which I thought was a very simple piece.”

• Only 10 jokes make it into Conan’s opening monologue, but writers submit at least 80 per show.

• Interns have minimal contact with the show’s guests. They joke that they’re not allowed to “breathe the same air as celebrities.”

• Everyone knows everyone in L.A.’s writing world. “I told one of the writers on Conan that I had shadowed on a Disney show for a week during a production hiatus. He said, ‘Yeah, my daughter goes to school with one of the writers’ kids over there.’ That’s ridiculous.”

• Learn more about the opportunities available through the Department of Communication Studies.
Published March 2016