Let’s get to some Friday Questions to get you ready for the weekend.
Mitchell Hundred leads off:
How do you prevent yourself from overusing a character (i.e. to an extent that the novelty or the thing that made them popular in the first place gets worn out)?
This is always a tough call because if an actor is really scoring you naturally just want to keep going back to that well. We faced that with the Colonel Flagg character, played so well by Edward Winter. Ultimately, we felt once a season was just about right. The character was a little cartoonish so we felt once a year was enough. And he was so funny that his appearance always became an event.
Although, for my money, Harriet Harris is hilarious in whatever role she plays.
What’s your feeling about sight gags in sitcoms? I could think of classic ones from THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE HONEYMOONERS and I LOVE LUCY but couldn't think of any recent ones. Are they outdated like the silent movies, which relied on them and made comedies by Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd truly universal (except for the translated title cards) and timeless?
I unabashedly LOVE sight gags. Even on sophisticated shows there’s room for physical comedy. We did them on MASH, CHEERS, and FRASIER. And did you ever NOT laugh at Kramer on SEINFELD? 30 ROCK did some sight gags as I recall.
Why there is less of it today on sitcoms I can’t say. There certainly are wonderful physical comedians out there.
And sight gags are still a staple of films, especially studio releases. Has there been a trailer in the last ten years for a comedy that didn’t feature a pratfall?
Dan Ball asks:
Which actor, whether they played either a series regular or even frequent background player (like Al Rosen or Phil Perlman), was the best ad-libber on CHEERS? Like they could take what was written on the page and take it up a few notches, either by changing the words themselves on the spot or killing it with their timing? Someone who would always deliver something way better than what you guys had imagined in the writers room.
None of the actors ad libbed, but they pretty much all lifted the material. If I had to pick one though it would be David Hyde Pierce on FRASIER. If there ever was an alchemist it was David. I was and continue to be in awe of his ability (and his kindness). And talk about a great physical comedian. If you haven’t seen this yet, treat yourself. Sheer mastery.
Occasionally, I see a show that sends me into a writing frenzy. The show is sooo f*#king good that I'm inspired and jealous at the same time.
1) does this happen to you?
2) what shows have "sent you writing"?
When my writing partner, David Isaacs and I were just starting out we happened to get tickets to see the filming of a MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. It was the famous “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode written by David Lloyd.
We didn’t know whether to be incredibly inspired or intimidated because what were the chances we were ever going to write anything that even approached being that good? You don’t know whether to shoot for the moon or give up. Fortunately, we hung in there... although we're still trying to write something that good.
What’s your FQ?