Some anonymous person (please leave your name) asked how actors memorized their lines. Since I’m not one I asked a bunch of folks who are. Got back some fascinating and very different methods. Starting next week I’ll post them. In the meantime, here are some more of your questions along with my thanks for asking them.
Have you ever considered or were you ever offered the chance to write commercials? Many commercials leave me thinking "What ad genius thought that one up?" and "That's supposed to make we want to buy that?"
There was a period before my writing career when I was pretty much considering anything other than movie stars’ personal assistant. I was always leery of advertising because I had always heard it was a pressure cooker, everyone had ulcers, and you had to come up with campaigns without the benefit of a wife who’s a witch. But desperate times called for desperate applications. I got a meeting at J. Walter Thompson’s and was asked to go home and write up some copy. I did and never heard back from them. I’m guessing they didn’t love it.
Several comedy writers started in advertising. Allan Katz (MASH, Rhoda, All in the Family, Roseanne) came up with the name “Screaming Yellow Zonkers”, and Steve Gordon who wrote and directed ARTHUR started as a Mad Man.
Where do you think the Sam/Diane relationship would have gone had Shelley Long stayed on it? Do you think the show would've run as long as it did?
There were no long range plans for Sam/Diane and the thing about CHEERS is that the Charles Brothers always encouraged as many different ideas and directions as we could think of. The goal was to find the most original story arc possible. So who knows? There was resistance to marrying them but if someone came up with a fresh unexpected take on the institution we might have gone in that direction.
And from Ski:
I have noticed that on some TV shows, some writers play characters on the shows they write. Do any of these writers ever switch jobs and become actors? Or conversely, are there any actors who say "screw it I wanna write"?
A couple of writers for THE OFFICE are part of the ensemble. And of course there’s Tina Fey.
But there have a number of instances when comedy writers go before the camera. I’ll give a few examples but I’m sure there are quite a few more. Conan O’Brien went from the SIMPSONS writing staff to some talk show, I forget the name. Jay Tarses, one of the driving forces behind THE BOB NEWHART SHOW and BUFFALO BILL was in the cast of OPEN ALL NIGHT (a show he co-created) and THE DUCK FACTORY. Everett Greenbaum, who I profiled recently, made a nice living as a character actor the last ten years of his life. And most writers wind up doing little cameos, further proving that it’s the one-or-two line guys who kill you. That wasn’t the case with me, however. I was great in the two shows I acted in.
A number of stand-up comics gravitate towards the writing room. A few do both. Dana Gould on RAYMOND is one. Carol Leifer is another. And don’t forget Larry David.
Several actors also write, like Alan Alda and Jerry Seinfeld but aren’t about to trade the greasepaint for grease boards.
And then there’s Rachel Sweet, a wonderful writer with such credits as SEINFELD, DHARMA & GREG, and SPORTS NIGHT. She was an 80’s punk rock star. That's the way I wanted to break into the writing field.