Who’s up for some FQ’s?
Bob K. gets us started.
When writing for shows like "MASH" and "Frasier", where some jokes are directly related to specific technical areas (in this example the medical or psychiatry fields) is the writing process different? Would you consult with a field expert on a comedic storyline or specific jokes? Or do you let the comedic elements just come from the research and/or your writing sessions- leaving the comedy, so-to-speak, to the experts?
If you have to rely on experts for comedy you're in trouble.
On MASH we had Dr. Walt Dishell who was our technical advisor. We would write operating room scenes and just dummy in dialogue and send the scripts to him. He would then fill in what the surgeons might actually say. So our scripts were like:
HAWKEYE: Nurse, hand me the frabazabber.
NURSE: Yes, doctor. Oh, he’s hermaygolading.
HAWKEYE: Let’s give him 10 CC’s of Blojamin stat!
But any jokes (Hawkeye flirting, the war sucks, etc.) were in the scene before it went to advisors.
We also had a nurse on the set to make sure the doctors weren’t just stabbing each other.
But we never put any comedy burden on the advisors. That was our job.
On FRASIER, there were times when I consulted my wife who is a therapist. And I majored in Psychology at UCLA so I knew enough psycho-babble to get by on most occasions. But there were instances when we'd ask how a shrink would handle a certain situation or patient and then write the scene, again putting in the humor ourselves.
From Charles H. Bryan:
Why did I not know that B.F. Pierce was based on an actual doctor? If I knew it, I've forgotten it. FRIDAY QUESTION: Who is he?
Dr. Roger Willcox. He passed away in 2006. Here’s his obit. You’ll see what a remarkable man he was.
RSaunders has a question about Carrie Fisher:
What were her special skills as a screenwriter and as (didn't realize this) a script doctor?
She was also extremely funny and wrote great character comedy. So she didn’t pump in jokes, she just made the existing characters funnier and more interesting.
She also had great pathos. She wasn't afraid of emotional moments.
Additionally, she was fast. Lots of times when a producer needs a rewrite or polish there’s a time crunch. They’re going to start shooting next Tuesday, or they’re trying to entice an actress and would like something to show her over the weekend, etc. Carrie could knock out the pages quickly.
Finally, I think producers and directors just LIKED her and enjoyed her company. She knew the business inside and out and was a genuinely nice and entertaining person. You got a great rewrite and some fantastic Debbie Reynolds stories.
And finally, from ScottyB:
Have there ever been any successful 2-person comedy writing teams that you know of where one person is extremely funny but can't develop a story to save his/her life while the other person has a fantastic ability to develop great stories and characters but hasn't the knack for banging out the actual laughs? Elton John and Bernie Taupin are a well-known musical equivalent, but have there ever been any in the TV or film industry?
Any possible combination of personalities and working arrangements exist between writing partners. Usually one partner is stronger in one area complemented by the other who is better in another. But not necessarily. As time goes by they learn from each other and grow.
David Isaacs and I write head-to-head but a lot of teams will divide up the scenes and write separately. Or one will do the first draft and the other will rewrite. One team I know works on the outline together, then they each go off and write a first draft. Then they merge the best of the two.
And another team worked this way: One just schmoozed and cultivated contacts while the other did all the writing. David and I both marveled at this arrangement. We would have adopted it for ourselves but both wanted the schmoozer role.
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