It’s Friday Question day – something to read on your cellphone while you stand in line at 5 A.M. waiting for Sears to open.
The cast of "The Office" consists in large part of many of the show's writers. Is this kind of doubling common? What would the chemistry be like between the writer/actors and those who just get paid to act?
It seems rather uncommon for sitcoms. On sketch shows like SNL writers often double as on-camera talent, a la Tina Fey and Senator Al Franken. If writers have supporting roles I don’t imagine there’s much resentment from the cast. It’s not like they’re taking big jobs away from working actors.
I actually think it improves the chemistry because writers learn first-hand just how difficult it is to be a good actor.
Doug DeRoo wonders:
"have either of you guys (me and my partner, David Isaacs) ever had an exec say, "this totally blows...get outta my office!" I seriously doubt it!!"
Uh, yeah... it happened. In a BIG way. When we had a development deal with Lorimar we once wrote a pilot for HBO back in their embryonic days. Our mandate was to write something very different from a traditional network sitcom, which we did. Lee Rich, the President of Lorimar hated it, called us into his office, and ripped us a new one. He hated it so much he wanted to get out of the development deal. But he didn’t hate it enough to pay us off the remainder of that deal so two days later we were his “boys” again.
By the way, it was a good pilot. We’ve written MUCH worse shit.
Quisp or Quake asks:
I loved Stephen Bach's Final Cut (about the making of Heaven's Gate); Lillian Ross's "Picture" and "The Devil's Candy," ("Bonfire of the Vanities."). Do you have any behind the scenes favorites?
Yes. INDECENT EXPOSURE by David McClintick. It’s the David Begelman story. Begelman was the President of Columbia pictures in the 70s and was forging checks as Cliff Robertson. It’s insane. We then did a rewrite on a project for him in the mid 80s and he wanted to pay us in television sets.
And finally, from Ed O.:
When a sitcom has an opening that is an isolated joke not always related to the main story, are these written separately at all? For example, on CHEERS, did you guys ever just sit around for an afternoon and write Norm jokes for when he walked in the bar? And then keep a notebook with 50 Norm jokes in it, and just pick one when you needed it?
That’s EXACTLY what we did. When there was time to kill we’d either sit around and try to bang out some teasers (that’s what we called those opening bits) or send off story editors to do that. Same with Norm entrances. But that was just to have things in the bank. When you got a script assignment on CHEERS you were required to write your own teaser.
Since teasers were independent of the stories that followed we also shuffled teasers from show to show to fit time needs. I remember once watching a show David and I had written and it opened with a teaser I had never seen before. It was kind of odd to be watching something for the first time that had my name attached as author.
What’s your question, besides what’s the warranty on that new Kenmore washing machine that’s on sale today only?