Taking a moment during pitching changes of the playoffs to answer some Friday Questions. What’s yours?
Hamid gets us started:
Do you ever get games developer Ken Levine's fan mail - or residuals - by mistake?
You mean the successful Ken Levine? I haven’t received any of his residuals. Don’t know if he’s received any of mine. When we finally meet he may owe me eleven cents.
I get occasional comments meant for Ken and on Twitter I get fans thanking me for inventing Bioshock. (You're all welcome, by the way.)
When I did that rant on Kickstarter that went viral, he had to put out a statement saying he had nothing against Zach Braff and it was the other Ken Levine.
At one time, a gaming convention was trying to put together a panel where he and I would both share the stage. The timing didn’t work out but I’d still love to do that someday.
Hey, if I’m going to be confused with anyone, who better than a genius in his field?
Mark P. asks:
Ken, I've been enjoying the Frasier episodes being run on the Hallmark Channel. I noticed they cut the audio for naughty words like "ass". If you were running a sitcom on a network today and expected it to go to syndication, would you shoot separate "clean" scenes, or just leave it up to the syndicatee to edit it however they wished?
I would not make alternate versions. It’s expensive, time consuming, and the parameters of what is deemed acceptable seems to change with every passing episode of TWO AND A HALF MEN.
I’m not even sure movies shoot alternative versions anymore. They used to do that when their only television exposure was on commercial networks. But now, very few people watch films for the first time on broadcast networks.
Of course some series lend themselves to syndication better than others. Have you seen THE SOPRANOS in syndication? The only thing untouched is the establishing shots.
Interestingly, back when sound was first introduced in the ‘20s (note: before my time), studios would require the actors to make several versions of the same scene – in different languages. They would have to phonetically recite dialogue. You think someone would have invented “dubbing.”
How do actors cry? Can some just summon tears on demand? Is some kind of irritant placed in the eyes?
As a director, I’ve found that cattle prods are the most effective. Seriously, some actors just have that gift. Many will try to dredge up something very sad from their past and tap into that emotion.
Harder even then crying on cue is crying on cue when you’re also supposed trying to get a laugh. This is an amazing skill – to laugh convincingly and still deliver a comic performance. The three best I’ve ever worked with are Kirstie Alley, Mary Tyler Moore, and Nancy Travis.
There was a great early episode of THE DICK VAN DYKE where Laura dyes part of her hair blonde. When Rob came home and sees it, Laura breaks down crying while trying to explain why she did it. It was a bravura monologue, and series creator Carl Reiner said when he saw her do that he knew he had someone special.
Carol wants to know:
Do you, as a comedy writer, think there's room for variety show format in today's television landscape? I'm talking the old-fashioned, Carol Burnett type show. Because if anyone can pull off a variety show successfully, I think NPH could. I'd watch it, anyway.
I suppose you could label a show like SNL a version of a variety show. Comedy sketches interspersed with musical guests. But in general, audiences don’t want variety today. They want their specific niche.
I’m glad I didn’t get my start in the business as a variety show writer. Or writer of westerns.
And finally, Dana Gabbard with a question my post from last week on trolls.
What is the chief reason for removing comments: bad language, rudeness/disrespect, incoherent or out of context, robo-ads, or is there just a "it is my blog and I don't have to put up with that appearing on it" factor sometimes in play? Do you ever have a "really?" reaction to what folks post.
All of the above. I try to be lenient with allowing comments but as time goes by (eight years next month) my patience with trolls diminishes.
That said, I’m fairly lucky compared to some other sites. I have on occasion allowed the Huffington Post to reprint some of my blog posts. And the comments and trolls who patrol that website are positively staggering. How do some of these people even brush their teeth (those that have teeth)? The large majority of my commenters are thoughtful, funny, and best of all – respectful. But I’ll be cracking down more on those who aren’t. You know me -- badass blogger.