Scott Jacobson ’95 and actress Kristen Schaal talk with a reporter about “Bob’s Burgers.”
Emmy-winning comedy writer and producer Scott Jacobson ’95 was a self-described “mediocre” student at NCSSM before finding his way to comedy writing while a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has gone on to win five Emmys, writing for such shows as Bob’s Burgers, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Saturday Night Live. Annie Astraikis ’15 interviewed Jacobson after his most recent Emmy win. Jacobson talked about his deep love of his humanities classes at NCSSM, the instructors that had a lasting impact on him, and his advice for current students.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Detroit but moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, when I was in the fourth grade.
What was your home high school? What made you apply to NCSSM?
I went to Union Pines, a public school in a tiny rural town called Cameron. Cameron is known for its antique shops and once touted itself as “The Dewberry Capital of the World.” If you’re a teenager and, like me, you’re not really into dewberries, you just want to escape. So the idea of going to school in Durham really appealed to me. I wanted to be in a place that had college radio and bookstores and restaurants. I applied to NCSSM even though science and math weren’t my strongest subjects.
What was your initial reaction when you first arrived at NCSSM?
I was nervous! It’s basically college two years before college, and I didn’t know what it would be like to live with a roommate or be away from my family. I was also excited. The kids at Union Pines were nice and I missed them, but NCSSM kids were a different breed. They were more intellectually curious, maybe. I was no intellectual heavyweight but I liked being around people who were clearly smarter than me.
Did you participate in any clubs at NCSSM or did you make any?
I founded a club called “Remember The 80s.” The purpose of the club was to hang out in the Hunt lounge and talk about the 80s. I don’t know why I ever thought people would want to do that, and I don’t think it lasted very long. I also worked on the school literary magazine and wrote for The Stentorian.
What was your favorite class?
I was always into the humanities classes. Literature in particular. Although I had my moments in calculus, and still fantasize about buying an old TI graphing calculator and getting back into the game.
Who was your favorite teacher?
Mr. Woodmansee and Dr. Miller are the teachers who left the biggest mark on me. That’s not to cast aspersions on any of my other teachers, most of whom were fantastic. English lit was just the thing that lit up my brain the right way and Woodmansee and Miller were charismatic and insightful and they paid attention to me even though I was a quiet kid.
Did you get good grades while at NCSSM?
Let’s just say I’m glad NCSSM doesn’t rank students because I would’ve landed squarely in the “mediocre” range. I remember plenty of As, tons of Bs, and more Cs than I’d like to admit.
Did you ever think that you’d go into the television business coming from a science and math school?
I wanted to be a writer for The Simpsons or Late Night With Conan O’Brien, but I didn’t think I’d have the guts to pursue that. I imagined I’d be a teacher. It wasn’t until my senior year at UNC when I admitted to myself and to the people in my life that I wanted to pursue a writing career.
Now let’s talk about the Emmy. Or… let me correct myself. Five Emmys if my count is right and I’d like to think it is! Four for The Daily Show and one for Bob’s Burgers. Tell us how you felt when you won your most recent Emmy in a single word.
Now that you’re a big shot Hollywood-Emmy-winning-TV producer, do you feel any different?
Nah. From the perspective of someone seeing my name in the credits on an episode of Bob’s, it might look like I’m a real Hollywood mover-and-shaker. Like someone you’d see on Entourage (if anyone at NCSSM has seen Entourage, and I don’t recommend that they watch it). The reality is a little different. It’s a tough business, and I know plenty of people more talented than me but have trouble finding work. If my job at Bob’s were to end tomorrow (and man oh man I pray it doesn’t!) I’d go right back to struggling for my next paycheck.
What is your favorite episode of Bob’s Burgers?
This is a very tough question. I love a lot of them. Right now I think my favorite is “Work Hard Or Die Trying Girl,” a musical episode that kicked off our new season. It’s written by a very talented writer/producer on staff named Nora Smith, and if you love early-80s movie mash-ups (who doesn’t?) you will enjoy.
Do you have any advice for people who would like to go into show business/writing/famous-dom?
Be honest to yourself about what you want. You have to love it enough to pursue it even though your friends and family might think you’re being foolish. Also, don’t expect it to come right away. Work hard, and be nice to people.
Do you have anything you’d like to let the people of NCSSM know?
I’m touched that you guys reached out. NCSSM was a formative experience for me and I’m thankful for it.
–Interview by Annie Astraikis ‘15