Who am I?

Hi! I’m Sean L. McCarthy. That’s me photographed by Bryon Summers on Election Day 2021 at the Substack Grow meetup at Book Shop in New York City’s East Village.

My resume, in brief…Grew up in the newspaper age; got to cover the 1992 presidential election while interning at my hometown paper, The Hartford Courant; moved West after college and learned how to work a beat at The Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho; became a comedian in Seattle, then an entertainment reporter in the suburbs, and published my first newsroom blog in 1998 before “blog” was even in the dictionary, while competing in the Seattle International Comedy Competition (winning an innovation bonus from Scripps Howard). Became a columnist and reporter at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, then The Boston Herald, then The Daily News in NYC.

Gawker and MediaBistro judged me New York’s Funniest Reporter in 2007, and I subsequently started my own site, The Comic’s Comic, first on TypePad, eventually moving it to WordPress. Since 2015, I’ve reviewed comedy specials and provided expert analysis for Decider (owned by Rupert Murdoch), while also since 2018 freelancing for the Weekend Arts section of The New York Times, curating live event listings. You can find links to these on the Piffany home page.

My home page also lists some of my favorite friends and independent journalists on Substack and around the Web!

What’s this newsletter about?

Questioning popular culture. 💥💥💥 Interviews, Essays, Analysis.

As I wrote when I first started Piffany, comedy does not represent “the whole truth of my existence, my thoughts, my passions, nor my concerns.”

Piffany’s Guiding Principles

  • Most arguments are older than we think

  • Most traditions are newer than we think

  • So how do we change the conversation? 

  • How do we allow for progress without backlash?

  • We need Epiphanies. Welcome to my Piffany.

So yes, it’s spelled Piffany but based on the word epiphany. Spiritual breakthroughs. Mind explosions. That moment when you suddenly realize something so essential about the way we live, and the way we could live. Perhaps you’ve encountered such a transcendence before. Perhaps you merely long to. I hope that by tapping into my own understanding and desires to better understand the world around us and just why or how things are the way they are, that I can experience more such moments and share them with you. It’s about time we all experienced more epiphanies.

Logistically, this newsletter follows my shorter, one-line mission statement:

Questioning popular culture. 💥💥💥 Interviews, Essays, Analysis.

Mondays: Ongoing podcast interviews: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.

(Mostly) Wednesdays: Essays that question popular culture and inspire Piffanys.

(Mostly) Fridays: Expert analysis of the comedy business From The Comic’s Comic.

It usually heeds that schedule, but not always, because the news and life doesn’t always go according to anyone’s timetable.

Best of all, most of my work will remain free!

Piffany is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

What happens if I pay for it?

Paid subscribers can get bonus access, nerd out, and support the cause of independent journalism! I APPRECIATE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU WHO SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER.

I used to have a paid-only section called Thursday Transcripts which I have since folded into the free Monday podcast release, added to each episode behind the paywall.

Employee of The Month spotlights an outstanding comedy performer on the first Friday of each month (coinciding with the U.S. jobs report), with honorable mentions when and where applicable. Because Comedy doesn’t have an HR department or a boss, I might as well assume the duties they’re neglecting! This honor is a monthly mini version of the annual Comedy MVPs discussion I have at year’s end with Jason Zinoman of The New York Times. I touched on this briefly in a recent Piffany.

I may also decide to make other posts paid-only, and introduce even more features.

If you become a paid subscriber, then you can tell me!

Thanks for reading, and please share the good word.


Sean L. McCarthy