Are you ready for the return of (a) Daylight Savings and (b) Friday Questions?
Matt starts us off:
Have you ever written for a sketch comedy show? Is this type of writing different?
Yes. My partner, David Isaacs and I wrote sketches for THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW on Fox. It was great fun. The trick was finding a good ending. The problem with most sketches is that have funny premises but the writers don’t know how to get out of them.
A couple of the sketches we wrote for Tracey were musicals. In one case, Paula Abdul choreographed a dance number from one of them.
I imagine the writers of SNL are having a ball these days.
You've mentioned being fired from several radio jobs. Did they ever let you back on-the-air after firing you? If so, did you ever do/say something memorable?
I was fired from TenQ in Los Angeles. I had been on the air doing Saturday nights for a year, but then a new program director came in and well, you know that drill. He lasted six months. His replacement (who came from out of town) was a big fan and called to see whether I’d consider doing a show on the weekends. He didn’t realize I had already been there. I was happy to return. When I signed on for my first show back I opened with “So as I was saying…”
I then did a talk show on KABC in 1981 and was fired for Maureen Reagan (who was president Reagan’s daughter). Hard to argue with that. Then in 2008 I returned to host Dodger Talk. Fortunately, Obama’s kids were little.
I was lucky enough to attend a Cheers filming and have always had a question about the set design -- the episode I attended had several scenes in Sam's office and each time the action shifted in there, they stopped filming, unfolded the set (yes, very cool to watch), shot the scene in the office, then stopped and folded it back up. The question: why not have Sam's office designed back in the pool room, which would have eliminated the need for that time-consuming folding and unfolding? Was there a thought that the office would be rarely used and the pool room would see more action? Or did they need to leave room in the studio for those occasional swing sets? Or is there no reason?
And this way we could shoot right down the hallway from the bar to the poolroom, which was a very cool shot and added great depth to the set. Putting Sam’s office over there would eliminate that shot and necessitate that the pool room be smaller.
And finally, from Mark:
You mentioned the difficulty of filming outside for MASH once Fall and Winter set in. Why not have fifteen or twenty scripts ready and then do all the outside filming for all of them before moving to the set and doing all the inside stuff.
Each script required weeks of work to prepare. From idea to breaking the story, to the outline, and all the many drafts. Meanwhile, once we went into production we were filming episodes in four days. Our lead time got swallowed up in short order.
To have 20 scripts ready to go before production began would have required at least a full year of pre-production. We didn’t have that time. We only had a few months.
I like to think we were extremely organized and we had maybe eight scripts ready to go when production began. But the rest of the time we were scrambling to stay ahead of the production schedule. And by the last few shows it was reeeeeeeally tight.
Also, I think it would drive the actors insane to be shooting multiple shows at once. They’d have no idea what they were playing. It would be a confusing mess – not to mention an absolute nightmare for continuity trying to match clothes, where extras were, etc.
Single-camera comedies generally make 22 episodes between the end of July and the end of March. We made 25 episodes a season between July 4th and Christmas. I’d say we cranked them out at a pretty good rate. And first and foremost, we tried to make sure the writing was the absolute best it could possibly be. That takes time even if we didn’t have it.
What's your Friday Question?