Thanks to all who participated in and survived the Sitcom Room (or, as the Hilton hotel had posted on our meeting room door – Sitcon Room). I’m sure some of the students will be commenting. I heard a number of them mumble something about revenge.
But it was a jam packed weekend. Saturday’s session began at 9:00 AM. And. depending on the group, ended between midnight and 6:00 AM. And no, I wasn’t lecturing that whole time.
Saturday did begin at 9 with me telling them everything I knew about comedy and writing and life. Then we broke for coffee at 10. After lunch we split them up into four groups of five. Four brave actors performed a ten-minute scene that needed, uh…work. It was like sending soldiers off to combat with nerf rifles. Then the groups were all treated to network and studio notes. And good thing too! No telling what horrendous scenes these people might write without the sage guidance and wisdom of the network and studio!
From there the teams were shown their plush (actually they were) writers rooms. I circulated throughout the day and evening along with my partner, Dan. By 9:00 PM each room looked like a bomb had gone off in it – leftover food, empty Diet Coke cans, Styrofoam boxes, paper everywhere. And the smell of a take-out dinner that will remain in those rooms forever.
The teams really bonded. Imagine THE APPRENTICE if the teams were smart funny nice people instead of Type-A insufferable self involved assholes. I got the feeling that some of the students actually, well…liked each other. Even after 2:30!
Following a luxurious night’s sleep of between four and zero hours the teams re-assembled in the meeting room at 9 A.M. The actors returned and performed their rewritten scenes.
And that’s where things really got fun.
I’m happy…and relieved…and thrilled to say that each group kicked ass. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. For all I knew it could have been PROJECT GREENLIGHT: THE SITCOM. But each scene was funny, inventive, brimming with great ideas. I could not be more proud of these dedicated talented exhausted people.
They went back to their rooms to polish their scripts based on the runthrough. Most accomplished in two hours what it took six hours to do the night before.
The seminar concluded with a panel discussion. I was joined by Sam Simon (THE SIMPSONS, TAXI, CHEERS), Fred Rubin (NIGHT COURT, ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE), Marley Sims (HOME IMPROVEMENT), and David Isaacs (see my credits). For two hours we shared advice, war stories, and answered questions. Topics included James L. Brooks, spec scripts, the state of comedy, nightmare actors, the process, Q scores, animation, Mary Tyler Moore, ageism, getting started, Captain Kangaroo, new delivery systems, first jobs, Standards & Practices, the problems women writers face, viewer complaints, the GIMME A BREAK theme song, partnerships, Drew Carey, fat stupid husbands and way too attractive TV wives, the Fat Albert Show, agents, Garry Shandling, the Disney Channel, Sam & Diane, WEBSTER, fanatic viewers, and big breaks.
Thanks again to Andy Goldberg, Jeremy Licht, Kimberly Wallis, KerriLee Kaski, my esteemed panel, Dan O’Day, “studio head” Cliff Levine, Kevin Gershan, Annie Levine, the guy who set up the coffee pot, and mostly the twenty terrific students who made this weekend come off so well.
I look forward to holding another Sitcom Room seminar, although I look forward to a nap more.