Twenty-four-year-old humorist Simon Rich has the kind of career upon which authorial dreams are made: He is the youngest-ever writer for Saturday Night Live, has been published in The New Yorker, and already has a book under his belt — the well-reviewed 2007 collection Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations. Now he’s back with a second collection, Free-Range Chickens, in which he muses on everything from the monsters that hid in his closet as a child to the absurdity of the euphemism “the world’s oldest profession.” Rich spoke to Vulture about the new book, the upcoming season of SNL — which premieres this weekend — and the possibility of a certain bookish brunette tackling the role of our nation’s latest vice-presidential fixation.
In Free-Range Chickens you put yourself in the mind of lab frogs, prostitutes, video-game ducks — do you feel like anyone is off limits?
I try not to write jokes that are mean. I try my best to write jokes that are pretty universal and jokes that don’t attack anyone. I know I often fall short of that and end up taking unfair swipes at people, but I try not to.
I can’t think of any examples of you taking swipes at anything in Free Range Chickens.
I almost didn’t put in “Acupuncture School.” I felt like it was a little mean to people who practice acupuncture. But then I convinced myself that it was a sweet piece and that the people in the school are pretty nice. It’s more about friendship. And healing. And learning. But I don’t know, that’s probably a pretty mean piece.
They’re kind of asking for it, though, aren’t they?
It’s an easy target. The truth is for the last couple of weeks I’ve had a kink in my shoulder and I might actually go get some acupuncture.
Well, I hope they haven’t read Free Range Chickens.
Me too. In one fell swoop they could paralyze me.
Now that you’re writing for the show and keeping up with your own projects, when you get a new idea, how do you decide where it goes?
My third book is a novel. I just sold it to Random House. It’s a little bit easier now that I’m writing a novel to figure out what to throw on to the show and what to put in my book, because they’re such different types of writing. What I’m telling people is that it’s a comedy about obscene wealth, megalomania, and vengeance. It’s a comic novel about money. Sort of like what New York Magazine writes about: money and power.
How far along are you?
Um, I’m a little more than half-finished. This is completely unrelated, but if you have any ideas for a funny ending for a novel, send it along. This is a total non sequitur. It should be the length of about 40 percent of a novel.
So in your roughly six months of work on SNL, have you written anything in hopes of seeing a particular guest host fill the role?
Oh, yeah, definitely. Everybody always tries to write stuff that will showcase the host’s talents, whoever they are. The first sketch I ever wrote, which was cut, involved a man complaining about his memory foam mattress. He slept in it with his wife every night, and he couldn’t understand how every time he got home from work, there was a LeBron James–shaped indentation in his bed. That was definitely written with the host in mind.
Tina Fey bears a striking resemblance to Sarah Palin. Are you planning to take advantage of that?
She’s totally going to play the governor of Alaska, isn’t she?
Okay. So, obviously things are going really well for you. Are you worried about peaking early? What can you aspire to?
I guess, at this point, just not being killed horribly somehow.
That’s all you ask.
Yes. Not to die a violent death.
Related: Our Simon Rich Envy Is Unending [Intel]