“It’s not like I came out of the womb a comedian,” says funny man and Twitter sensation Jon Savitt. “I thought I would end up a school counselor or something like that. I am fascinated by the way people think.”
Savitt’s comedy career began during his sophomore year at Indiana University, when a friend told him, “Man, you say the stupidest things! You should really get on Twitter.” The tech-resistant psych major discovered that social media provided an ideal outlet for his daily musings, with the bonus of near-instant gratification. “A retweet is basically a laugh,” Savitt says. “I just love to make people laugh.”
Savitt, a 2010 graduate of St. Louis Park High School, wanted to pursue laughter, but starting out with a paltry social media following, no portfolio to speak of and no background in writing, kick-starting a comedy career required some creativity. In 2012, CollegeHumor.com published an article of his, which he describes as “a reflection on the benefits of learning to play guitar,” eliding its wry subtext (guitar as a ploy to increase how desirable one seems to the opposite sex).
As an undergraduate, Savitt continued to write for the popular websites CollegeHumor, FunnyOrDie and BuzzFeed. Encouraged by these early successes, he reached out to an editor at MTV in November of his senior year, receiving what he’d come to recognize as a boilerplate rejection. In spite of this, Savitt says, “I really did believe I had the skills.” And the persistence. Later that year, Savitt took another leap at MTV. This time, he landed it.
“Yeah, I write for MTV now, but that’s the result of three years of rejection,” he says earnestly. “You get rejected much more than you’d expect.” One of the biggest blows came in response to one of his early submissions—to which one editor replied simply, “Yawn.”
“If you’re really, really good, maybe someone might ‘find’ you. Maybe,” says Savitt. “But the myth of discovery doesn’t apply here. No one is hunting for comedians up and down Texas Avenue in St. Louis Park.” Savitt’s affection for his hometown is apparent. He’s even awarded the city the “Jon Savitt seal of approval,” as a good place to raise 7-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel and “love of my life” Mitzy. Nonetheless, relocation for career reasons “is definitely on my to-do list. I’ve thought about L.A., New York or even Chicago.” Not only is Savitt halfway across the country from happy hour with his fellow MTV writers, but he’s also cut off from vital networking opportunities on the coasts.
Geographical distance notwithstanding, Savitt has assembled an impressive set of mentors. He suggests that show biz isn’t the dog-eat-dog world it’s purported to be—at least not the segment populated by comics like Ben Gleib, Mo Mandel, Ben Shorts and Jonathan Kimmel, who have all offered career guidance and opportunities to Savitt.
Back home in St. Louis Park now, and working a full-time marketing job, Savitt moonlights as an MTVNews writer. He doesn’t view his 6,000 Twitter followers as an accomplishment (though he never misses an occasion to mention that former teen idol Aaron Carter is one of them). Many of his coworkers, and even some of his long-time friends, are unaware of his burgeoning comedy career. “I’m never the first to bring it up,” says Savitt, whose in-person demeanor is notably distinct from his sometimes snarky persona on Twitter.
Avoiding the intentionally offensive or vulgar, Savitt’s staple topics, in order of importance, are food (“obviously”), relationships (the plight of the single guy, plus absurd flirtations with ’90s celebrities) and pop culture. Savitt is constantly surprised by the composition of his audience, which ranges “from high school students to grandmas.” He says, “At MTV, I get tenfold the audience I ever had, which is exciting, but also a little scary. I like that [they] give me freedom in terms of what I choose to write.” One day he hopes to follow the model of Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart, using humor to address controversial issues.
While making thousands of strangers smile, smirk or LOL each day does bring him joy, Savitt refuses to be satisfied. “If a day goes by where I feel content, I’ve already lost,” he says. No matter the project, humor has a big place. “It’s not a conscious effort anymore. I use humor in marketing at work, in everyday conversation.” He is writing a book about millennials and working out a deal to have his one-liners printed on novelty merchandise. The self-described extrovert hopes to someday try standup and he is always looking for a duet partner who can hit the high notes. You bring the lyrics, he’ll provide the accompaniment. He plays piano and guitar—eh, ladies?
Follow Jon Savitt on Twitter @savittj.