We had the good fortune of connecting with Howard Jordan, Jr. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Howard, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
I’ve never given up in my life. To give up is to quit. To give up is to completely accept defeat. I hope this doesn’t come off as verbal gymnastics, but for me, this would read; how to know if it’s time to pursue something else. For any number of reason throughout the course of my professional journey, I’ve been faced with immeasurable obstacles and immeasurable odds. In advertising, I tried to go over and around the walls. I tried to dig under and even bust straight through. But the one thing I never did was stop, sit, fold my arms and “give up.” I came it differently. I tried to be the person I needed to be to get the things, titles, brands I wanted. To varying degrees it worked. But never to the degree I thought I’d earned or was worthy of. One day, I decided to take everything I’d learned, the good, the bad and all the stuff in between, and apply it elsewhere. Now, as a TV writer, I’ve experienced success in a brand new field I never thought I’d pursue, that most of the people who boxed me out of advertising would kill to be a part of, because I had the talent and drive all along, I just wasn’t pointing it in the right direction, yet.
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’m a television writer. I don’t consider myself an artist. Novelists are artist. Poets are artists. Playwrights are artists. I write 1/2 hour comedies for broadcast, streaming and cable. Before I began doing that I was a copywriter and creative director in advertising. There are certainly artistic elements and corresponding challenges in what I do, but so much of the day is spent in rounds of notes, serving people and things that aren’t simply dedicated to “the best possible form of this art.” It’s made for the sole purpose of money and consumption and in my cynical definition of art, television writing isn’t art.
What sets me apart from others is my empathy, I think. No matter if I agree with you or not. No matter if I like you or not, I work hard to figure out where you’re coming from and I’m willing to dig through fear, deception, and half truths if I have to find your true motivations. That serves me well in creating and informing characters that feel bigger than life but whose very lives hinge on a small detail. Getting to this career certainly wasn’t easy considering I had a long career in advertising prior to arriving here. I overcame the challenges in front of me by constantly working, developing, growing, taking setbacks as opportunities rather than failures. As I tell younger creatives of all kinds, “you have to just keep getting better.” “At what?” they ask. “Everything,” I tell them. I don’t want the world to know anything about me actually. That’s why I’m a writer, I like being behind the scenes. But, if my work is discussed, I’d love to think people would say I did the absolute most with every opportunity I ever received.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I don’t know LA like I knew NYC. I came of age in that city. I arrived in LA engaged with no friends, no job and no home. When things started happening for us we went out often, to find the best food LA had to offer. So, AOC and Maestro and Lucques come to mind. Once I started to have a little more than enough to survive, we started to take in Lakers games. This year I have season tickets to the Rams. But, honestly, I don’t know. I worked! Ha! I’ve been places. Don’t get me wrong. But find myself and my pleasure in writing and developing my next thing to write and that’s certainly done in solitude. I’d be open to bar hopping. I’d be open to hitting the beach. But I haven’t lived like a tourist in LA at any point. Kind of a shame really. But we all make choices.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I was about to deep dive into Native Son, Cannery Row, and Things Fall Apart. But instead, I’m going to keep it all the way real and say I find encouragement and inspiration in the most unlikely of places. In this moment, I’m stuck on Luther Vandross’ 1988 NAACP Image Awards performance of “A House Is Not A Home.” Stick with me. As a very young boy, I didn’t quite grasp the lyrics this love song. But, from the moment he sang the first note, I knew I was witnessing perfection. I felt like this was a moment all the other moments in his life had lead to… a flawless vocal performance on a global stage. I remember thinking, I want to be that perfect at something once in my life. I want to have the world waiting for my next “whatever” like they are waiting for his next note. I never wanted to be a performer. I’ve never wanted to sing and I can’t read music. But, moments like that made, and still make, me want to be great. And to be great, you have to work. You have to rework. You have to endure and explore every opportunity. Any time someone can take a familiar theme or universal truth and flip it in a fresh, original way, I’m all in.