After NBC abruptly cancelled his sitcom “Next Caller” in 2012, Stephen wrote that he was so sleep-deprived he once fell asleep on his feet in the writers’ room. Things have since improved on both fronts. Falk found success with FXX’s barbed, thoughtful comedy “You’re The Worst”. And, now that he’s got a young daughter to worry about, Falk usually gets to bed around 11:00 — and describes himself as a “great sleeper.”
Falk is the creator and executive producer of “You’re The Worst,” a rom-com about an unlikely and unlikable partnership that deftly balances both laughs and such issues as depression and divorce. It’s currently in its third season. No stranger to comedy, Falk has previously written for “Orange Is The New Black” and “Weeds”, and produces the beloved live storytelling show “Public School” in Los Angeles.
In his own words, here’s one of television’s sharpest showrunners on early mornings, procrastination, and real estate dreams.
I had a child recently, so I’m pretty regimented. Basically since high school I’ve gone to bed around 1 a.m. every night; I now go to bed around 10:30, 11 p.m., and I set the alarm for five a.m.
I get up early so I can try to get some writing done, and just catch up on work before the baby gets up. It doesn’t always work. I walk the dog every morning when it’s still dark, I make coffee, I maybe do a little work. Then the baby’s up and I play with her a little bit before I start getting ready.
I still often find myself, at like 11:15 p.m., wanting to stay up later. The problem is that I’m both a night owl and a morning person. I love love love being up early, I’m a better writer in the morning. I enjoy that — I don’t like sleeping in. It makes me feel lazy and shitty. But I also really love staying up ‘til two in the morning, just fucking around. In the morning, my bad habit is that I hit snooze five times.
I think I’ve always been a better writer in the morning. I just feel more energetic and more creative early. I like drinking coffee — it seems to go hand in hand with creativity for me, and I can’t drink coffee that late at night. And I like to drink alcohol, too. I’m not really a good drinking writer — I think the Irish blood in me has betrayed me.
I’m a really good sleeper. I can probably drink a triple espresso and go straight to bed. I also can stare at screens and whatever and go straight to sleep. Knock on wood, but it’s very very rare that I can’t sleep. Pretty much the minute I put my head down, I’m asleep.
That goes for naps, too. Often here at work, right after lunch, I will go into my office, set an alarm for ten minutes, and get maybe a full eight-minute nap. I can just kind of shut off right away.
I remember very specifically a friend and I, at like age eleven, deciding to stay up all night. I remember splashing water on her face and drinking coffee, which we had never done, but we heard people do that. We wanted to stay up all night just to experience it.
I’m a massive procrastinator when I have tasks to do. I really can’t do it until it’s the last minute. Starting in, I guess, high school and college — the essay years — I’d almost do all of them in all-nighters, delivering them in the morning and then cutting the rest of the day, to sleep. I don’t stay up all night because I have work during the day, but there have been some all-nighters. And, you know, certainly some partying all-nighters, or when you’re first hooking up with someone all-nighters.
I have a lot of dreams of weird houses. Houses that I’m not aware have extra rooms — like the house I grew up in, which my mom still lives in. In dreams she’s always remodeling and adding on. Or of this apartment I lived in when I first moved to LA — I’m always discovering new apartments in back. So a lot of weird real estate dreams, or school dreams, weird extra locker rooms and bathrooms.
For a while, I think right after college, I tried keeping a dream journal. What ended up happening was I started becoming very self-aware. I would be aware that I should wake up and write down this dream. So I would remember five, six dreams a night, but as a result I would just constantly be waking myself up to write them down.
I remember that being very disruptive, so I stopped doing it. But I wish I didn’t, because now, if I’m lucky I only remember a couple dreams a night. I [often] dream up a hilarious tweet or a joke, write it down, and then in the cold light of day realize it’s absolute nonsense. But it seems so real. Occasionally one will survive the nighttime-to-daytime transition, but rarely.
In terms of bedside reading, I just finished “The Nest”, which I didn’t love. I’m taking a little break, catching up on New Yorkers. I’m always about two months beyond. Periodically I’ll stop reading books — I’ll just read the New Yorker and then I’ll read the next book. I think I’ll read “Devil in the White City.”
My bedside table: A stack of books and graphic novels, probably about 15 of them. Sometimes the newspaper if I didn’t finish it. Hand lotion. A little tray where I keep lip balm, my FitBit, my watch, stuff like that. And a candle.
This story was originally published in May 2016.