Monday, January 27, 2014
Who is allowed in the Writers Room?
And those are the tasteful jokes compared to the sexual references. Personally, I go by the Carl Reiner code. He doesn’t care how dirty a joke is as long it’s really funny. And if you’re in the right room with the right group, you will laugh your ass off every night. Imagine going to the best comedy club in town and they pay you.
The thing is though, writers have to feel uninhibited. And we can’t when there are outsiders in the room. Many times I’ve had friends ask if they could just sit in on a rewrite, and I always politely tell them no. You’d be surprised how fast seven people become self conscious when someone’s cousin is in the corner.
One time on a show, one of the executive producers let one of the cast members come up and sit in on a rewrite. She was just curious and wanted to watch the process. What she saw was eight people who sat for an hour and didn’t say a word. Eventually she left and the rest of us almost killed the exec producer.
The Writers Room is the ultimate Las Vegas. “What happens in the Writers Room stays in the Writers Room.” Obviously, there’s no control when an outsider is in the room. The CIA leaks more secrets than seasoned staff writers.
And all that is not the worst. When I was on a show, one of the executive producers was friends with a highly renown drama writer who was curious as to the process with a sitcom. Could she sit in? Since this was a fellow writer we said okay. An hour into the rewrite she started shooting down ideas. The staff glared at the exec and mouthed “What the fuck?!” We said, “Let’s call it a day” and broke. Once the drama writer left we reconvened and continued the rewrite.
If for some amazing reason you are allowed access into a Writers Room, do not pitch jokes and do not call out things like, “I don’t believe he would do that.” An agent I know came into the room once and started pitching jokes. I thought his client was going to strangle him. Warm-Up guys have been notoriously guilty of this. It's a good way to lose your job.
So please don't take it personally if you're not admitted into a Writers Room. We're just trying to do our job. And of course the irony is: you can’t get in, but we can’t get out. And 90% of the time we envy you.