A reader wanted to know just what it meant to be a “Creative Consultant” on FRASIER. First of all, these titles are arbitrary and completely made-up. They can mean anything and nothing. For my responsibilities on FRASIER I could just as easily have been called “Teleplay Consultant”, “Script Captain”, “Producer for a Day”, “Supervising Shecky”, or “Power Forward”. In the theatre the job was called “Play Doctor”.
Essentially you come in one night a week and help to rewrite the script currently in production. You attend the runthrough and go back to the room and help fix the show. Primarily it’s punching-up the jokes but it can also be story help too. Often times the staff can get too close to a story and it helps to have a pair of virgin eyes. Even mine.
In this day and age of tightening budgets, “creative consultants” are a luxury most shows can no longer afford. It’s too bad. A good consultant can not only contribute to the script but also provide a welcome boost to the rest of the weary staff. Another screen credit could be "Part-time Buddy Sorrell".
I’ve done that job on many series including CHEERS, FRASIER, BECKER, WINGS, SIBS, MAMA’S BOY, IT’S ALL RELATIVE, LATELINE, and countless pilots. It can be great fun but also long hours. And when you’re working on two or three shows a week, and each rewrite goes until 3 AM your life become the Night of the Living Dead by Thanksgiving. The late Jerry Belson, one of the funniest punch-up guys EVER, worked on two shows a week at one time. LOVE SIDNEY on Monday and CHEERS on Wednesday. Except LOVE SIDNEY was in New York. Jerry would commute back and forth every week.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the finest “Creative Consultants”. In addition to Jerry Belson, there’s David Lloyd (unfortunately he too has passed on) and the all-time king of this field – Bob Ellison (pictured).
I marvel at Bob Ellison. The man is just a machine. He can come up with more jokes and BETTER jokes faster and more plentiful than anyone I’ve ever met. Most writers look for any excuse to get out of the room for a short break. They’ll call their agent, use the bathroom, make some coffee, agree to a root canal if it’ll buy them an extra four minutes. Not Bob. He’ll sit down at 4:00 and not move until 2:00 AM. And during that time he’ll pitch great joke after joke. Bob can come up with more quality material in one night than most accomplished comedy writers can deliver in a year. And for twenty years Bob worked on as many as four shows a week. How he does this and remains so sharp and funny and consistent – night after night after night -- I will never know.
An example of Bob (and there are literally millions): There's a writer who always wore black. Bob crossed paths with him while walking across the Paramount lot and noticed he was wearing a white shirt that day. Without missing a beat Bob asked, "Who died?"
Like I said Bob Ellison is the King. Maybe that’s the screen credit he should be given. “King of Comedy” or even “Executive King of Comedy” if they want to spruce it up.