Former stand-up comedian creates new laughs in first book

When Robbie Pickard came across nearly 40 narratives he had written over the years, he didn't want to just flush the ideas down the toilet, so to speak.

But the Encinitas-based former stand-up comedian didn't feel like turning them into jokes either.

So, Pickard decided to take his humor skills into another venture: writing his first book.

"Toilet Material: Very Short Stories for Very Short Attention Spans," which was released last month and supported by a Kickstarter fundraising campaign, includes the 38 short stories Pickard wrote over the years.

Pickard, who began his comedy career working at the Irvine Improv in Orange County while studying journalism at UC Irvine, described the work as "if Saturday Night Live was a book."

"I was looking at this backlog of standup ideas on my laptop, thinking these things could either die or I could try to do something else with them," said the 33-year-old former comedian who was a regular performer at Hollywood and Orange County clubs for eight years before moving away from the profession two years ago.

"After toying around with how to transfer these standups into short stories, it finally clicked."

However, realizing the costs of publishing his own book, Pickard decided to leave his work's fate into the hands of fans. Luckily, they liked his idea, too, raising more than $11,000 in a 30-day online fundraiser on Kickstarter.com.

Pickard considers Kickstarter a "wonderful tool" for today's emerging artists.

"There are so many avenues now to get things done, whatever you want to do," he said. "If you want it bad enough, there's always a way. Kickstarter was a great way to prove that there was an audience for this idea."

Reviewers on Amazon.com, where the book is available for purchase, have praised "Toilet Material."

Pickard also received testimonials from former SNL cast members and other professional stand-up comedians.

Former SNL performer Brooks Wheelan considered the book "such a fun, easy read. Like for children, except don't let children read this.”

The stories, which include fiction and non-fiction, range from between one and five pages long. They are unrelated and can be read in any order. "Toilet Material’s" short length, at about 120 pages, is aimed at the common short attention spans people possess today, Pickard said.

He added the stories are ideal for quick reads in places like the bathroom, at an airport or at a doctor's office.

"The whole idea of calling it 'Toilet Material' was trying to find some structure," he said. "It was kind of a way to play up the fact that people today are used to getting a lot of content really quickly and our attention spans are very short. I wanted to write the kind of book that got read by today's audience."

Pickard, who is in the early stages of writing his second release, a comic novel, said he hopes “Toilet Material” book offers readers an escape.

"It's sort of the idea that this world is so busy and we're always surrounded by tasks. Being in the bathroom is sort of the quietest time people have now," he said. I make the joke that it's really the only 'you' time that we have left."

To purchase "Toilet Material" visit http://amzn.to/2uegCLu. For more information about Pickard, visit www.robbiepickard.com.

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