I’m falling behind on questions so am tossing in a few extra days this summer to catch up.
Max Clarke gets us started:
Ken, what was the first time you got paid for writing something?
In 1969 I was hired by KMPC radio to write sportscasts. They weren’t very funny, but then again they were paying minimum wage. I once got in trouble during a college football scoreboard report for writing “Texas A&M puffed Rice” and “Oklahoma beat the Jesus out of Oral Roberts”. The sports director was not amused.
I did get a chance to write comedy material for Gary Owens who was on the station at the time. He offered to pay me but I refused. Having him as a mentor and letting me go on the air to perform the material myself from time to time was payment enough.
In the early 70s I sold some jokes to Joan Rivers for $5.00. Don’t know if she ever used them. For all I know she’s still using them. By the way, there’s a documentary about her called PIECE OF WORK that’s out in some markets that is terrific.
Anonymous (please leave your name) wants to know:
Why don't more TV writers write comic novels? The only one that pops into my head is SHEILA LEVINE IS DEAD AND LIVING IN NEW YORK by Gail Parent, many years ago. I'm sure there are others but why so rare?
Simple. They’re almost impossible to sell. For whatever reason publishers consider comic novels death. You can get away with it in chick lit sometimes but by and large editors would rather get Anthrax in the mail than comic manuscripts.
I suppose if you’re Dave Barry you could sell one so I would change my name to Dave Barry.
When I read John Kennedy Toole’s masterpiece, THE CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES (a book that was rejected by every editor in New York, drove the author to suicide, and posthumously won the Pulitzer ), I was inspired to try writing a comic novel myself.
I got about two hundred pages in when I made the mistake of going back and fixing things. It became the chair with one leg always shorter. I got the job at CHEERS and happily put the project down.
A few years ago I stumbled upon the unfinished manuscript and started reading it. God, it was awful. I had absolutely no idea where the story was going or even where I thought it was going at the time. Usually something will jog your memory – a plot turn, a scene, an obvious set up. Nope. Nothing. It’s as if someone else wrote it. I wish someone else had.
No, I’m not going to share chapters.
From Dudleys Mom:
I don't think you've talked about "Hot in Cleveland". What do you think about that show, Ken?
It’s very well done. I adore Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick. And that old lady who plays the caretaker? Wow. She’s a real find!
And finally, this Anonymous question:
What are the non-writing producers who aren't the line producer doing on the show?
They’re giving notes, drawing a fat salary, and taking a piece of the back end profits leaving the writing producers to do all the real work and put in all the long hours. They go to Laker games while the staff stays up till 4 fixing the script. It’s hard to believe that for fifty years talented writers could actually make hit shows without them.
Tomorrow: some questions delving into our partnership. What do you want to know?