Here are some answers to your Friday questions. I’ll also be answering over twenty more in my teleseminar on the 25th. It’s free. Go here if you’re interested.
Michael Tassone has a question and only uses the F word five times.
Are there any golden rules of thumb when it comes to using profanity in comedy? I think about the wedding singer in Old School who starts adding fuck to the lyrics he's singing. I thought he went one fuck too far. What do you think? Why is fuck so fuckin funny?
Obviously, it depends on the project. On DEADWOOD I assume a polish of a script meant adding fifty more. On HANNAH MONTANA you’d be hard pressed to get in one.
Assuming this is not for network television or a Sunday school play…
If a character you’re writing is foul-mouthed (like a sailor or rapper or anyone in a Judd Apatow film) then you’re just being true to who they are. But generally speaking I say less is more. Not because I’m a prude but because the word loses its impact.
Sometimes I feel writers use the word as a crutch. Isn’t there a funnier, more elegant comeback than “Fuck you, dude!”?
My basic rule of thumb: take the high road.
Bob Summers wonders:
Have you ever been forced to write an episode based on a real current event? (WKRP Who concert trampling episode, for example.)
I wouldn’t say “forced” but on MASH most of our stories stemmed from actual incidents. We did extensive research, interviewing doctors and nurses and veterans from Korea. Some of the real life stories they told were so outrageous we had to actually tone them down.
Also, have you ever been on a show where the premise was the victim of bad timing? (ABC's "Invasion" in 2005 about the strange aftermath of a hurricane debuts weeks after Katrina.)
On CHEERS we had a rule: never include an elderly public figure in a joke because we would be responsible for their death. If we had done say a Rose Kennedy joke, we just knew that five minutes before it was to air NBC would break in with a bulletin that Rose Kennedy had just died. We didn’t want that kind of blood on our hands.
David and I wrote a SIMPSONS that inadvertently was the victim of horrible timing. The episode is called “Saturdays of Thunder”. In it Homer feels he needs to be a better father so we had him go to the Bill Cosby Fatherhood Center. Channel 11 in Los Angeles reran that episode just hours after it had been announced that Cosby’s son had been tragically murdered. Needless to say they got phone calls.
And finally, from the lovely Mrs. Trumbull:
I enjoy Chicago's MeTV, home of "I Love Lucy," "Dick Van Dyke," "Andy Griffith," "Bob Newhart Show" "The Cosby Show" etc. All reruns. What is the typical deal for actors, writers and others these days on reruns?
It depends on what the guild contracts were when those shows were produced. For I LOVE LUCY, no one gets royalties. For shows in the 60s and early 70s I believe the actors, writers, and directors received residuals for only ten airings.
Starting in I believe 1978 the situation improved to where we all get residuals in perpetuity. We’re paid on a de-escalating scale of course, but free money is free money. I’m very fortunate to have come along during this era, which is why I’m so gung-ho union. I want to ensure that future generations of writers receive the same or better benefits.
Thanks for your fucking questions. If you have one just leave it in the fucking comments section.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
By Ken Levine at 9:06 PM