Jokes for Dog Puppets

CCS alumnus Alex Scordelis earns an Emmy Nod for his role in Triumph’s Election Special 2016

Long before he was a Writers Guild of America award winning and Emmy nominated comedy writer, Alex Scordelis, CCS Literature class of 2004, was just a high school kid who knew that he wanted to write for a living. From the moment he heard about the College of Creative Studies Literature program from a college counselor, Scordelis thought CCS was the best place to make this dream a reality.

Learning Comedically

Scordelis quickly realized that CCS would exceed his expectations. “As soon as I got to CCS, I loved it more than I imagined I could,” he explained. He quickly became really connected with the faculty, who advocated that he let his personality show in his writing. “The faculty encouraged me to pursue the writing that I wanted to do,” Scordelis said. “They let me be funny in my writing and actually encouraged it, which is something that I had never encountered in academics before.” The faculty, including Robin Bell, Caroline Allen and Barry Spacks, was happy to make sure that Scordelis’ comedic personality shined through in his writing. They advocated that he, instead of writing a “bland term paper” on a topic, would write a paper with a “weird, comedic take.” He expressed, “I can’t imagine this happening in any other academic setting.”

To this day, Scordelis, a magazine and television writer, uses the tools he learned at CCS. “I graduated from CCS 13 years ago, and it seems so long ago, but in my mind it still feels like I am still there because I still rely on everything I learned at CCS,” explained Scordelis. “CCS gave me a toolbox as a writer that I still use today.” When writing a new article, he can hear the advice of his teachers in his mind; for example, ‘cut that last paragraph.’ 

CCS allows each student to pursue the education they desire. While his classmates were evolving their techniques by writing more serious pieces, Scordelis was discovering how to see things comedically and satirically. He recounted one of the best examples of this, in Caroline Allen’s Museum of Muse class. “We went down to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art once a week and chose a different work of art to write about. I chose to write a satirical piece treating the gift shop as an installation piece. It was such a weird thing to write about, and Caroline was all for it.”

Scordelis also attributes his success as a writer to other opportunities UCSB offered. Acting, specifically dramatic acting, was one of these opportunities. He participated in plays through the Theater and Dance Department. “I acted in a play called Tracers where I played a soldier in Vietnam; it was heavy stuff and really intense,” said Scordelis.  Although dramatic acting is not directly related to his career ambitions, “in the long run it paid off” because a lot of the stuff he “writes now is for TV and involves theatrical stuff.”

Throughout his time at UCSB, Scordelis wrote for The Daily Nexus as the main music critic. “I wrote all of the album and record reviews and would interview bands that came to town,” explained Scordelis. In addition to learning how to get articles published in print, his time at The Daily Nexus also lead to his big post-grad writing break.

Path to the Emmy’s

Scordelis moved to New York to start working at various jobs in publishing and to attend graduate school after graduating from CCS. He then became a copy editor for Paper Magazine, an Arts and Culture magazine. One month, while he was at Paper Magazine, he filled in for the writer who normally wrote the record reviews. He volunteered to do it because of his background writing the album reviews at The Daily Nexus. Although these reviews were really short (75 words) this is how he got his foot in the door.

Once he got his start writing the album reviews, Paper Magazine slowly began giving him more and more writing responsibilities. He explained, once he was “writing these 75 words once a month, they were like ‘oh we will give him something to write online’ and then ‘ok we will give him a little article to write.’ It slowly builds and people go to other magazines and then know who you are.” He emphasized that it took a long time for him to progress up the ladder; he just kept putting himself out there, writing constantly, and people started to notice.  “It is a slow process,” said Scordelis.

Over the past year, Scordelis has written articles for Playboy, Esquire and Rolling Stone magazines. He attributes a lot of these writing assignments to relationships he has built up over his years in the industry. “A buddy of mine who I worked with at Paper is now the editor at Playboy,” described Scordelis, “so that is how I know someone at Playboy. Over the years you cross paths with editors and other publishing types and get on their radar as a writer.”

Scordelis is now based in Los Angeles but lives in New York for about half the year to write for the television comedies Billy on the Street and Difficult People. Both shows star Billy Eichner, of Parks and Recreation fame.

In 2016, Scordelis won a Writer’s Guild of America Award and earned an Emmy nomination for Triumph’s Election Special 2016, a sketch special starring Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Puppet. Although this is a huge honor, the CCS alum remains humble. “I was a small part of a big team who wrote for Triumph,” he said. He went on, “I think Triumph is the funniest thing in the world, but I would be lying if I thought it would get awards attention. It never crossed my mind that anything I have ever done could potentially get awards.” He does admit getting recognized for your work is rewarding. “It is nice when it does happen,” he explained, “you get to go to the Emmys and wait in line for beer next to John Travolta.”

Family Ties

CCS Literature is a family affair for Scordelis; he joked, “My family is down with CCS Lit.” He met his wife, Melissa Seley, in the halls of our unique building. “We met at CCS and were really good friends when we were at CCS but we didn’t start dating until we both moved to New York to attend grad school,” said Scordelis. He continued, “We started looking for grad school together and the relationship blossomed from there.” His cousin Wesley Holtermann is also a CCS Literature graduate. “Wesley is a really great writer and I think he saw that I had a great experience at CCS. I would like to think I had some influence” on his decision to attend CCS. Seley is now the editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, while Holtermann is a poet in Berkeley, CA and has received awards from a number of prestigious journals, such as the Kenyan Review. The always-humble Scordelis described his wife and cousin as “the truly talented writers in my family; I write jokes for dog puppets.”


Contact Info: 

Will Proctor
(805) 893-2035
will.proctor@ccs.ucsb.edu