Q&A with Sofía Manfredi ‘15, Former Staff Writer, Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
In this interview with the Duke Entertainment, Media & Arts Network (DEMAN), Sofía Manfredi ‘15 shares how she navigated a career in comedy post-graduation. “Duke provided a lot of room to write, workshop, and publish, both in class and in campus publications,” she says.
Majors: Biology, English
What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?
Duke provided a lot of room to write, workshop, and publish, both in class and in campus publications. Those early opportunities to try out different styles and bounce ideas off of other students helped me discard the parts of my writing that weren’t so genuine and hold on to the ones that were. Duke also gave me the resources to start my own projects, which was a) harder to come by after graduation and b) a really valuable way of testing out writing in a setting that I was in creative control of.
How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?
I started out with an internship at ClickHole after graduating, which turned into a full-time job there and an eventual staff writing job. As far as helpful takeaways from my first couple years out, I would say: One, explore a bunch of different areas in your field. If it’s comedy, try sketch comedy and stand up open mics and humor writing online, even if it’s just for a little bit of each, and see which muscles you’re having the most fun working. Even if you don’t end up following through on them all, it’s useful to get experience in different formats and meet the people who are really excited about each one. And two, make art (or comedy or music or whatever you want to make) with friends or peers. Not all of it, maybe not even most of it if you don’t feel like it, but at least some. Building off of other people always feels like it introduces something a little more new.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?
I had always been interested in comedy, but I didn’t really consider it an option until senior year. The thing that most convinced me to take the leap was starting a campus satirical publication. I liked it a lot, more than I expected to, and it pushed me to try comedy in earnest after graduating. I also did the Duke in New York program, and exploring the city’s comedy scene cemented my plan to try it myself.
What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?
My favorite thing is being in a writer’s room and building something funny with other people. It’s hard to get the right chemistry, but when it happens, it’s the most fun thing in the world. The most challenging thing is how zig-zagged the path through the industry is. It can be tough to feel certain in what the next step is, or what the right protocols are to reach it, and every so often I wish comedy had as clear a path as say, medicine. (I for sure could not do medicine.)
What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?
- Meet people who are also trying to do what you’re trying to do. Everything is less daunting when you feel like you have a cohort of other people that you can depend on and/or learn from and/or root for.
- Figure out a way to hold yourself to your own internal deadlines (easier said than done!). Carving out time to work on things that aren’t part of your paying job is tricky, but it’s a really necessary part of doing comedy, even if you’re already working in comedy.