Time for some more Friday questions. Leave yours in the comments section. Thanks.
From Sally creeping down the alley:
My Friday Question is about influences, when it comes to writing, who were you influenced by and when did you realize they influenced you?
I have always been interested in comedy. My initial influences were disc jockeys. Dick Whittington, Robert W. Morgan, Gary Owens, Lohman & Barkley, and the greatest of them all – Dan Ingram.
I loved THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW as a kid, both for the writing and the lifestyle Rob Petrie led. I thought, if you could get a girl like Laura Petrie by being a comedy writer then where do I sign up? That’s when I first started paying attention to credits. And it always seemed like the best, funniest episodes of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW were written by Garry Marshall & Jerry Belson so I became big fans even though I had no idea who they were at the time.
I began to read plays in high school and really admired George Kaufman & Moss Hart and Neil Simon. But the play that really knocked me out was A THOUSAND CLOWNS by Herb Gardner.
In 1969 I first saw TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN and was blown away. Woody Allen became my idol. I then devoured everything he wrote and did.
There was a real golden period of TV comedy in the early 70s and I became huge fans of Jim Brooks and the MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW writers and Larry Gelbart who wrote MASH.
Other influences along the way: Bob & Ray, P. G. Wodehouse, Elayne Boosler, Monty Python, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Bob Crane, Richard Pryor, Billy Wilder, S. J. Perelman, Preston Sturgess, the National Lampoon, and MAD magazine.
I haven't seen "Wings" in years and got season 1 from Netflix and saw the name Roz Doyle as producer (I never noticed that before) and made me wonder, other than using friends and family, how do writers come up with the 'perfect' character names?
Roz Doyle was the line producer on WINGS who unfortunately passed away. To honor her memory Casey, Lee & Angell used her name for a character in FRASIER.
Sometimes we would use names of buddies and old girlfriends. Radar’s love interest in “Goodbye Radar” was Patty Haven, a former flame of mine. The soldier whose eyes we saw through in the “Point of View” episode of MASH was Bobby Rich, a close radio friend. And the blind patient in the first MASH we ever wrote was Tom Straw, another close friend.
One year on MASH for all the patients and nurses and extraneous others we used the 1978 Dodger roster. You’ll find Rau and Hooten and Cey and Garvey, et al.
Most of the time I just look for interesting names. I have a file with lists of names and will refer to that from time to time. And every so often I’ll come across a name and write it down for further use. There really is an Evelyn Dorkaspig.
And finally, from Todd:
What are your feelings about "table writing" vs. having a single writer complete as much of the script as possible (I'm talking specifically about 1/2 hour comedy here)?
Just curious, with all your years of experience, where your philosophy ended up.
I prefer writers doing individual drafts. Table writing is joke writing. I want my staff to exercise more skills -- storytelling, and character development. Writers are much more invested in their work if they write the entire script.
I understand the time constraints and the need for room writing scripts but what you get are always good solid serviceable drafts. When an individual writer turns in a script there’s the chance for brilliance.