Sunday, July 13, 2014

How my partner and I met, part 2

Part one was yesterday.

Following summer camp, David and I went back to our respective jobs… although his was still waiting for him. During my two-week stint keeping America safe the radio station changed program directors. I came back. The new guy hated me. I was gone. That’s the thanks I get for keeping the Viet Cong out of Colorado.

So I moved back in with my parents in Marina Del Rey and sent around tapes trying to get another disc jockey job. Turns out a lot of program directors hated me.

But in the interim I called David and said I wanted to try writing a script. Would he want to write it with me? I’ll never forget his answer: “Who is this again?”

We met the next night at the Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset and decided to give it a try.  Sadly, not only is that Hamburger Hamlet gone, but with the closing of the one in Van Nuys a couple of weeks ago, all of them are gone.   (RIP Lobster Bisque.) 

There was only one problem with teaming up. Neither of us had a fucking clue what to do. I had to go to a bookstore in Hollywood and buy an old ODD COUPLE script off their remainder table for $2 and use that as our guide. I didn’t even know the format. Int. Madison Apartment – Day… oh, that’s how they do it.

We had an idea to write a pilot about two kids in a dorm, thus drawing upon the only life experience either of us had had up to that point.

We’d meet on the weekends at David’s apartment on Arch Drive in Studio City (don’t look for a shrine or anything). To get us revved up, first we listened to a side of the Woody Allen stand-up album (still one of the most brilliant comedy albums EVER). Then we’d sit down at the kitchen table to write. No outline. Nothing. We didn’t know from outlines. Or structure. Or technique.

But so what? We were having a blast.

David took down the script in longhand in a college binder. I was the typist when it was finished.

After several weeks of writing I said to David, “What page do you think we’re on here?” David leafed through the binder and guestimated about 35. I held up the ODD COUPLE script and said, “Y’know, they start wrapping it up pretty quick.”

This gave us pause. We stopped writing, came up with an ending that would have cost $10,000,000 in 1973 money, wrote it in about ten minutes and that was that. We were officially writers. Ten minutes later we were in El Toritos’ pounding down tequila.

To the surprise of no one but us at the time, the script didn’t sell. But we had a great time writing it. And equally important – we made each other laugh.

There were a few funny things in the script. Enough that we decided to keep writing together.

And now I have a play that will be produced this fall at the Falcon Theatre that ironically is right around the corner from that El Torito's. 

14 comments:

Scott Squires said...

What's the name of the play and what are the dates? Thanks.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Great story that demonstrates good advice for marriage and business partners: find someone who can share your laughter. Thanks!

BigTed said...

Okay, all I could think of while reading this was: You drove from Marina del Rey to Studio City every day? That's commitment to comedy!

Howard Hoffman said...

My very first Friday question: Did you repurpose any of the material from that first script into any of your aired shows? If so, what should we look for?

John said...

Companion to Howard's question: I have read of writers keeping an idea file. I imagine that someone writing a Threes Company script would keep an idea file that would contain "Mishears the word pianist" and the like. A murder writer would keep a file of interesting ways to kill someone and / or dispose of the body, etc. Is this a real thing that you know of? Is this more book authors rather than script writers? Do you do this? And why are you an author if you write a book, but a writer if you write a screenplay?
John

Johnny Walker said...

It's interesting. If you guys hadn't had fun writing together, do you think it's likely either of you would have made it? It sounds like pleasure in the process itself (alongside a desire to break in) is what made it happen. I wonder if too many wannabes forget about the fun?

Eric J said...

Partnerships or collaborations have to be fun. The work almost never gets distributed 50/50. With two people the split is usually 60/40 at best. Three people maybe 60/30/10. More people just share that 10% of the load. One person always does more work than the others. You can extend that to clubs, teams, marriages, whatever.

But if it's fun for all concerned, the work distribution takes on a little less importance.

Craig L. said...

Arch Drive in Studio City? I had an apartment there during my longest 2 years in the '00s! There was something scratched into the wall by the front door with a knife. I think it said: " Int. Madison Apartment – Day..."

RCP said...

A pleasure to read ('Who is this again?') and thankfully you guys decided to stick with it and with each other!

I live a few blocks away from the Hamburger Hamlet on Van Nuys and didn't realize it had closed; the fact that an In-N-Out sits almost directly across the street probably didn't help matters - though it did earn some pretty poor reviews on Yelp (lackluster food, slow service, etc.)

Breadbaker said...

That Woody Allen comedy album is pretty wonderful. I can't think about it without thinking about moose. It's restricted!

VP81955 said...

"The Moose" is arguably the greatest comic routine ever. It tops even the best work of Bob Newhart, Robert Klein and Bill Cosby. Marvelously constructed.

Mary Lou Something or other said...

@Craig L. Nice!

Will you post that orig script? I assume you still have it, framed and mounted above your toilet (off-setting the Emmy).

V. Anton Spraul said...

Wait, Hamburger Hamlet is no more? I have fond memories of the place from my one visit to L.A. back in the early 90s. I bet the "Conan the Barbarian" show at Universal is long gone, too...

chuckcd said...

The Moose came in second.
Now the moose is furious...