In our book, Show Me The Funny: At The Writers Table With Hollywood’s Top Comedy Writers we asked twenty-seven comedy writers to take a generic premise we created and develop it. We told them there were no limits, no rules and no boundaries. We worried that they would duplicate each other…it’d be like the famous episode where Ethel and Lucy show up to a party wearing the same dress. We worried needlessly. We were excited to discover that every writer, whether a team or an individual, attacked the premise in his or her own unique way. That’s one important definition of a professional. Show Runner for Roseanne, Bob Myer made the story into an episode of a situation comedy. He effortlessly created a network-style story. He began by casting the story in his mind so he could picture who he was writing dialogue for, and to make sure that it would be acceptable to a network…That’s another definition of a professional…he expects to be paid for his work.
Then we asked; “If you didn’t have to worry about networks and executives, how would you darken it?”
Bob gave us a choir boy’s smile. We pictured him with his hand on a dial about to turn it as he asked, “How dark do you want it?” We told him he could make it as dark as he wanted. He went to work with glee turning an average, mid-twenties corporate woman into a drug-addicted private detective. The treat for the reader is watching as he goes back-and-forth between developing the story and explaining his rationale as he builds and deepens it.
When we asked how he planned to get the audience to root for a drug addict, he said; “I think her dependency makes her likeable and she’s funny. And we like funny people…she’s pretty. You like pretty people. But she’s also got a struggle and you’re rooting for her. You want her to survive…you want her to pull out of this. And she’s good enough at what she does and entertaining enough in how she behaves…she can keep her friends strung along, her friends haven’t given up on her yet, and you don’t either. And because of her habit, she’s an underdog…and we root for underdogs.”
With great skill, Bob created a pilot episode in which his troubled detective is headed to meet her “deep throat,” a guy with information that will break her case wide open. She runs home to pick up a few things… a file…a hat…a quick fix, and as she opens her apartment door, everyone she knows is there for an intervention.
As soon as he said the word “INTERVENTION” Bob sat up straight and said, “I’m thinking of pitching it now.”
Meet the authors in a new webinar!
Webinar details: Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis will share further insights of the iconic writers they interviewed in their book as part of a webinar to help writers learn tactics to hone their own pitches to perform them fearlessly by learning to manage their stage fright. Register for I Wrote, I Pitched, I Worried: Writing and Pitching Comedy.
About the Authors:
Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis provide readers a unique glimpse into the intelligent and quirky inner workings of the comedic mind with their book Show Me the Funny! At the Writers Table with Hollywood’s Top Comedy Writers. The book presents 28 top comedy screenwriters from the revered figures of television’s “Golden Age” to today’s favorite movie jokesters. Desberg is a joke writer, California State University Dominguez Hills professor and a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the area of stage fright. Davis is a produced screenwriter, playwright and the Screenwriting Department Chair and associate professor of film and TV writing at Loyola Marymount University. Find out more information by visiting www.smtfo.com or ‘like’ them on Facebook.com/SMTFfans. More info at www.smtfo.com