Friday, January 13, 2006

The value of a fine education

Harvard and Yale are two esteemed institutions that groom young men and women to become rich. For years that meant banking, Wall Street, the law, church treasurer. But sometime in the 80’s they discovered there were big bucks to be had in Hollywood writing comedy.

Thar’s gold in them thar’ jokes! Forget Milton Friedman. Hello Budd Friedman.

So out they came, the best and the brightest, America’s future leaders, turning sitcom writing staffs into ZBT chapters.

But does an Ivy League education really make a difference?

When my partner, David and I were writing for the SIMPSONS, one day during a story conference David took a poll. He asked where everyone went to school. You can guess their answers. David nodded then recapped, “So you went to Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Yale, Harvard, Harvard. Well I went to the University of Miami and I’m doing the same job as YOU.”

Write funny. Harvard and Yale can’t win at football either.

17 comments:

Shawn Bowers said...

I hope and pray that this rings true every day, seeing as how I go to KU.

P.S. What happened to your other post? I was just about to comment that I liked the passage and wanted to read more and then it disappeared. Either way...nice excerpt.

Ken Levine said...

Thanks. I just worry that folks were missing the point, getting hung up on Disney mentions and explanations for why it didn't sell instead of just enjoying it for what it is. I'll find another passage that doesn't take people off the track.

Philip Morton said...

Hollywood is the great equalizer, isn't it? Doesn't matter where you went to school, if you went to school, if you can entertain, you're in the game.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Just go to show it really doesn't matter who taught you to cook if you don't possess the right ingredients.

Alex Epstein said...

Harvard and Yale don't teach you to become rich. They teach you to Think Deep Thoughts and accomplish Great Things(tm). Ask politicians, artists and academics: that often gets in the way of getting rich.

BiLL Earl said...

hey beav,

i sat next to you at the 1990 KHJ reunion...i wrote the KRLA history book if my name doesn't ring a bell

YOU inspired ME to start my own blog where I'm showcasing lots of images of radio memorabilia

http://billearl.blogspot.com

EARLWMF@aol.com

You were always a nice guy to me..I'm glad all your fame and wealth hasn't changed that

I'd LOVe a "Ken Stevens" pic from KMEN!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, Ken. I'm currently in college for a film degree, but I hate it! With a passion!!! I'm working on producing and writing (on my own)to get me out of college ASAP. I know it's wrong but I don't want college, I would rather be down in California doing the real thing instead of "learning" about it 16 hours away!

-Justin

Anonymous said...

Well, it's good to write funny...but you also post that getting your stuff looked at when you start out requires patience, creativity and originality.
OR, if you went to Harvard, just walk down to the alumni relations office and get the contact info for five people who are already writing for the Simpsons. One of those five will probably say, "Hey, we need a writer's assistant anyway, let's toss it to this kid from the 04 class."
And that leaves the kid from Kentucky thinking, "Maybe, if I move to LA, I'll interrupt Ken Levine's lunch and slip him my spec, and he'll mention it to a friend, who'll be in a jam and need a writer's assistant."

Ken Levine said...

No question that connections help. But that's always been the case. Northwestern and USC were schools of choice at one time. But I'm guessing Harvard and Yale won't help you with FAMILY GUY...or many of today's shows. I'm not saying DON'T go to Harvard or Yale, I'm just saying you don't have to.

And getting a writers assistant job isn't the finish line.

Anonymous said...

But most writers probably have a degree from somewhere, right? Or am I just wasting my time and money doing this whole college deal?

Alina said...

I went to a State university and remember once when I was working as PA at a local station, having to file the applications of people who didn't get the job I now had. I saw Stanford, UCLA, USC, etc... Maybe I was just the cheapest, but I like to think I interview well, too.

And I know that now, as a freelance writer, no one ever, ever, ever asks where I went to college. The work does the work, period.

Bob Donaldson said...

The only show I've heard of where they insist the writers have no secondary education is ACCORDING TO JIM.

Bill Cunningham said...

We used to beat up Ivy leaguers for kicks.

Julie Goes To Hollywood said...

I met David through a dean at University of Miami, who had been my landlord back home. David was the first guy in town willing to read me. Then his show got cancelled. I keep waiting for you guys to get another one while I'm still funny.

Jeff O'Brien said...

With all that education, who comes up with the best fart jokes for Fox? Yale or Harvard writers?

marty said...

When my partner, David and I were writing for the SIMPSONS, one day during a story conference David took a poll. He asked where everyone went to school. You can guess their answers. David nodded then recapped, “So you went to Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Yale, Harvard, Harvard. Well I went to the University of Miami and I’m doing the same job as YOU.”
Episode 9F16 "The Front" had the writers of the Itchy and Scratchy show outed as Harvard grads, and all replaced by Grandpa Simpson...

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