Writing of a Talk Show: Notecards, Improv and Heck Yeah – Ice Cream!

The Scoop is an online talk show that pairs entertainment professionals and artisanal ice cream. Cheryl Laughlin takes you behind-the-scenes.


Cheryl Laughlin reads for the Nashville Film Fest, grass-roots hustles for 20K Films documentaries… and it’s possible she ran through the house with her Top 10% in the Nicholl Fellowship announcement like Anne Hathaway with her Oscar (cuz she’s geeky like that.) You can follow her on Twitter: @cheryllaughlin

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With the summer heat finally dipping below the unrelenting 90+ degrees of California, I needed to rally around something truly chill. So when I discovered Jeanette Bonner’s The Scoop, I was already in an ice cream state of mind.

The Scoop is an online talk show that pairs entertainment professionals and artisanal ice cream and springboards from there. So, if you’ve ever wondered about the behind-the-scenes of a talk show or considering more improv writing, this Q&A is for you.

Plus, hang on to the end for a BONUS speed round of Ice Cream Movie Matchup when we ask… what ice cream do you think goes best with watching Alien? Be ready for Jeanette to expand your ice cream vernacular and up your artisan ice cream game.

The Scoop - Writing a Talk Show

Jeanette Bonner on set of The Scoop.      Photo by permission of Jeanette Bonner.

Let’s jump in…

Notecards Are a Talk Show Hosts BFF

Cheryl:  Even as a screenwriter, I must admit to glossing over the thought that talk shows actually need some form of writing. But obviously, you need a solid structure just like other forms of media. So how do you tackle the writing for each talk show episode? 

Jeanette:  I research the heck out of who I’m interviewing. I make an index card of key facts (e.g., “Opened in 2006 in Brooklyn”) or anything interesting I can find on the internet. A lot of my questions stem from my natural curiosity (“How did you transition from finance to directing?”) But I also brainstorm questions the night before, so I have a direction I to steer the interview in.

However, I find my guests don’t feel comfortable if the show appears too scripted – they seen the index card and get nervous. They’ll ask, “What the hell did you dig up on me??” Haha! When we cut and change angles, I sneak a peek at the card to remind myself what I want to ask, but I try to keep things as natural feeling as possible.

Script EXTRA: A Starter Guide to Researching World-of-Story

Cheryl: How do you note improv or breathing space when writing each episode for real-life interactions with your guests?

Jeanette: I think I just trusted my gut on this one. I find it very easy to have conversations with other people especially when you are asking them about their passions or their lives.  As an actor (and as a tour guide, which is my day job) you have to instinctually know when to talk and when to listen, when to make a comment that ends a conversation or thought and how to steer a conversation.

The greatest safety was knowing that the episode would be edited, so if I asked something strange or if there was a big ummmmmmm or if something was boring, I knew we could just cut it out in post.

Be Open to the Serendipities of Improv

Cheryl:  Do you write dialogue out for openings and closings of the show?

Jeanette:  The tagline “And that’s the scoop!” came from my pilot episode. The casting director I interviewed said “You could just end it with ‘And that’s the scoop!’” So it stuck. The intro tagline – Conversations with Culture Makers and Creators – came when I was in pre-production and submitting my idea to fostering and grant programs.

Script EXTRA: Create Your Beat-by-Beat Outline

Cheryl:  Speaking of guests heading off on their own tangents, do you write in segues to corral them back on topic, wing it… or a little bit of both?

Jeanette:  I wing it! The best moments happen when you’re present and talking to the person like in real life. I wanted it to feel like we literally stepped out for an ice cream break, and I asked them what was happening in their lives. I just kept saying “Just talk to me like you would in real life. We’ll edit it out later.”

And now, a Speed Round of Ice Cream Movie Matchup

Next time you’re watching these films, why not try Jeanette’s special ice cream pairings gleaned from all her hustle on The Scoop

When Harry Met Sally

Strawberry ice cream.  Delightful, timeless, romantic.

The Way Way Back

Hmm.  Coming of age, authentic, uplifting?  I pick – Baby I Was Churned this Way (Ample Hills)  – hazelnut ice cream with rainbow chocolate-covered sunflower seeds.

– to mix it up… Alien

This is dark and kinda, er, alien, so I pick – Coconut Black Ash (Morganstern’s). It’s made from the activated charcoal from burned coconut husks. Definitely weird. Definitely freaky. 

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a bit of a silly throwback, but the remake was fresh and inspiring. This summer Oddfellows had a throwback Carnival pop-up in Manhattan, and the founder mixed caramel popcorn soft serve and Cotton Candy Creamsicle (a tangerine vanilla soft serve wrapped in orange fairy floss).  It’s definitely a fresh take on something nostalgic.  

To check out more on The Scoop, visit watchthescoop.com and catch Jeanette on Twitter @KellysPoolHall and Instagram.

More articles by Cheryl Laughlin

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