Saturday, November 10, 2007

"No one earns! As much as Burns!"



SMITHERS: You rang for me, sir?

BURNS: Smithers! What is that infernal racket outside?

SMITHERS: There’s a big rally. The writers are striking.

BURNS: Writers?! I have writers?

SMITHERS: Yes, sir. Remember you bought that network and studio so you’d get invited to David Geffen’s Passover Seder?

BURNS: I thought there’d be girls!

SMITHERS: I’m working on that Playboy Mansion invite but so far they’ll only let you go during the day.

BURNS: Drat! And now I’m stuck entertaining the worthless masses?

SMITHERS: If it’s any consolation, sir, no one is watching since you made Ann Coulter your nightly news anchor.

BURNS: Excellent. (THEN) Well, all this noise is distracting. I’m trying to do this morning’s “Tangle Towns”.

SMITHERS: They won’t be quiet, sir. I’ve asked.

BURNS: Then have them killed! I’m doing “Tangle Towns” for godsakes!

SMITHERS: Uh, we really can’t do that.

BURNS: I own nuclear power plants. Can’t we just respond with a small loaded missile?

SMITHERS: Unfortunately, sir, it would wipe out the entire population of the city.

BURNS: Still! It would send a message.

SMITHERS: We could perhaps negotiate with them?

BURNS: What?! When I could let them suffer, lose their saving and homes instead? What good is busting the anti-trust laws if I can’t squash the defenseless?

SMITHERS: Well, the strike will put a dent in the network and studio profits.

BURNS: Is Korea still buying my Plutonium?


BURNS: Then who cares if America doesn’t get its precious “TV shows”? It’s time someone invented some alternate form of entertainment whose patent we can steal anyway.

SMITHERS: We’re looking into the internet.

BURNS: The internet? Yes. I’ve heard good things. Can’t I just buy that?

SMITHERS: The internet is a worldwide system of computer networks that allows users to send and receive information from other computers. It’s interconnected around the globe.

BURNS: So you’re saying I have to wait three years.

SMITHERS: More like four but yes. It’s this internet that is the sticking point in this writers strike.

BURNS: They can’t have it! It’s mine!

SMITHERS: No, they don’t want it all, sir. Just a tiny piece. They believe that when they write something that we make huge profits from they deserve a small compensation.

BURNS: What?! Ridiculous!! This is the twisted handiwork of Homer Simpson, isn’t it? It’s just the sort of harebrained idea he would hatch. Imagine, writers thinking they have rights to their creation! Don’t we have individual nuclear missiles?

SMITHERS: No, sir.

BURNS: Well, what can we do to shut them up?!

SMITHERS: Nothing. They’re a feisty bunch. We’ve tried scare tactics, we’ve threatened to sue, gotten them to the negotiating table under false pretenses, used the media – which we own – to offer a distorted view to the public. And still they come, in seemingly larger numbers.

BURNS: Fine. Then hand me my airhorn.


BURNS: Well open it you idiot.

SMITHERS: Sorry, sir.


BURNS: Attention, writers. I will never give in. I don’t need you! Any of you! Do you understand! I don’t need writers! And I never will! Ever! Ever ever ever! (BEAT) Listen, while I have your attention – can anyone tell me a town in Wisconsin that has an ‘n’ an ‘m’ and five ‘o’s?


MrCarlson said...

Very Funny Ken, and so in character too. I can totally picture Harry Shearer doing these lines. Incidently, why did you write so few episodes of the show? It sure could use both your partner and yours' contribution, because it's starting to slip a bit. Nice post

Anonymous said...

*BURNS: What?! Ridiculous!! This is the twisted handiwork of Homer Simpson, isn’t it?*

I'm afraid you completely broke the rules of the show here. Mr. Burns is incapable of remembering Homer no matter how many ridiculous adventures they have together.

MrCarlson said...

I think that bit about him not remembering Homer has been droped for some years now. The one they still do is Mr Burn's lack of strength. In fact, they don't even have Smithers and Mr Burns that much on the show anymore. I remember Harry Shearer complained about that, last year, or a couple of years ago.

Kate Coe said...

Well, see--if you worked on The Girls Next Door, you'd be at the mansion.

Kate Coe

Dave Lowe said...


I hope they all remember and being writers to write a really good Christmas card to everyone who is not a WGA member out of a job now who really needed this week's paycheck.

Rob said...

Is there anything that Harry Shearer doesn't bitch about? He can make me laugh, but he's always struck me as a bit of a pain in the ass.

Funny, but you failed to capture the "stuck in the 19th century" feel of Burns.

The line should be, "Yes, sir. Remember you bought that studio so you'd get invited to David Selznick's Passover Seder?"

"I thought there'd be flappers."

By Ken Levine said...

I love this -- getting notes on my parody.

Since I've actually written for THE SIMPSONS I think I'm going to stand by it as written.

I present this parody for your amusement. I hope you enjoy it.

Anonymous said...


Being from Wisconsin, I couldn't resist.

R.A. Porter said...

See Ken, this is why writers need the studios, as short-sighted and greedy as they may be. Imagine getting notes from *everyone* on every script.

Here's my contribution to the new art of script-blogging about the strike. If only I were *in* LA, I'd be bringing you guys food. Or martinis. Martinis make marching manageable.

glassblowerscat said...

But ... Burns doesn't know Homer's name.

Just kidding. Hilarious, of course.

Anonymous said...

What's Tangle Towns? Is that in the morning paper? I never buy newspapers anymore, I just read them up over the internet.

Hope the writers get paid.

Anonymous said...

Burns DOES know Homer's name. That 'who's that man?' bit hasn't been used for ages. Burns has known Homer's name perfectly fine for a long arse time now.

This got me interested enough to slap together a Simpsons bit too, but it's a tad long for a comment post.

Of course, Ken's the man.

Anonymous said...

Ken...will your high profile (?) in the strike affect any Simpsons work prospects when it's over? Do you care?

Hennell said...

Nicely done Ken, no script notes from me : )

(Also have you seen this cartoon? I thought it summed things up fairly well.)

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to send 20th Century Fox and your agency their cut of the money made from this parody script. If you don't they'll release the hounds...

Karen said...

You beat me to it, but I was going to say you're getting notes! On free work.

(Which is why I stopped writing a blog giving advice to writers. I lasted three days, then got tired of hearing why I was wrong.)

I LOVED IT! Do more. There's nothing to watch on TV.

Unknown said...

Don't really want to nag but the Simpsons have been criticized for a decade now by lots and lots of people.

If you ask me this wouldn't be a valid Simpsons bit if it wasn't criticized.

Beth Ciotta said...

I could hear the character voices in my head. Perfect. Priceless. Sitting here most definitely amused.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious - you should write for the Simpsons. But once again, you missed the point by saying writers think they should be compensated for "their creations". The characters they write for are almost always NOT their creations. They are just hired guns who are writing a script involving someone elses creations. Why should they have any ownership (or be paid any residuals) for writing a script. That is what they agreed to do when they took the job. I doubt there was any mention of "ownership" beyond the paycheck they got. If the writers want ownership, let them create their own shows and get those produced. Otherwise STFU and GBTW.

David J. Loehr said...

The cleverly named "a. producer" wrote:

Why should they have any ownership (or be paid any residuals) for writing a script. That is what they agreed to do when they took the job. I doubt there was any mention of "ownership" beyond the paycheck they got.

If I'm not mistaken, the residual is the rest of their paycheck, not an entirely new payment. That's why it's called a residual, as in "remainder."

If someone paid you a flat, relatively small fee for your writing and then went on to make millions of dollars off of it, I doubt you'd feel the same way.

If you made a film that cost you time and money, and then people started spreading it on the internet like wildfire, you'd probably be upset, too.

It's not a matter of ownership. It's a matter of fair compensation for the work and the continued use of that work.

Anonymous said...

I really, really enjoyed the Burns / Simpson scene, and thanks for that effort today Ken. He's really a particular figure, especially to maintain past the one-liner, the "excccellent"... and the rapport with Smithers.

I want to just add it's interesting to read the blogs on this strike. All the discussion caused through the actions of the striking writers, really make it clear those of us on the outside by a bit, have no idea of the way costs are structured in the entertainment industry. I know just barely begin to understand why "Ellen" and "Oprah" are a different kind of show and therefore contract with writers (according to Ellen) than "Letterman" and "Leno". And why residuals exist. And how does one script keep generating income across different mediums.. endless. We should really understand the vastness of the entertainment marketing scheme, and how that relates to the income of writers, before commenting too much on the idea of collective bargaining and people insisting on more money in the future.
Anyway, looking forward to your next posts!

Bitter Animator said...

So only the people who create the characters should be entitled to residuals, Mr.A.Producer?

I take it then that producers just get a one-off payment for their services and then that's it, right? You know, for that couple of phone calls they make.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the striking writers be waving blank signs?

Anonymous said...

> Since I've actually written for THE SIMPSONS I think I'm going to stand by it as written.

Come on, "flappers" is clearly funnier.


Anonymous said...

I don't even watch the Simpsons and I loved this.

The irony of the strike is that the producers don't want to pay residuals to the writers on programs streamed through the internet. Their claim that running the shows on line is "promotional" is a bigger pile of garbage than what's floating out in the Pacific. It's just a way for them make more money and not have to share it with the artists who created it. Because the primary media news outlets are owned by the major corporations or depend on advertizing from the studios, there has been somewhat of a "blackout" of the writers' strike. I think I've seen more coverage of the stagehands' strike! So how has the WGA been able to effectively rally the troops and get the word out about what's really going on to the masses?

The internet.

Nothing is better than seeing them being foisted on their own petard.

Anonymous said...

Smithers: "Why not give them what they want sir? We can always make up the income by screwing the musicians more"

Rob said...

Oh, and is there anyway we could make this Smithers guy a little cuter? The whole gay angle won't play in flyover territory, especially when the guy is yellow, has four fingers, and looks like Chip from my three sons. And do we have to have in love with a man that is clearly old enough to be his grandfather? It might be plausible if the assistant was a beautiful young woman, but a gay man? Just creepy.

I have experience with the Simpsons too. I wrote a spec script in college back in 1992. And it was the funniest 78 pages you'd ever want to read. It was a crossover episode with Herman's Head. Want me to send you a copy. :-)

Anonymous said...

Very funny, Ken. But I have to agree, "Flappers" is funnier. Isn't that kind of collaboration the whole point of your sitcom room?

Julie O'Hora said...


Ken, do they give you notes in radio?

Todd Mueller said...

You know, this whole mess has set me to thinking. It seems this new fangled internets presents the perfect opportunity for a band of richy rich writers (and there are quite a few out there) to get together and create a writer centric Webwork/Interstudio/iChannel. Instead of throwing down your current oars in an effort to win more sea rations, why not jump ship altogether, build your own galleon and pull for the new waters? (How's that for squeezing every last salty drop out of a soggy metaphor?)

I'm not suggesting anything new. Shakespeare not only wrote some damn funny lines, he was a share holder in the theater that profitted from them.

Am I overlooking something here? Does anybody see a reason why this wouldn't work? And wouldn't we all frequent a website featuring the work of our favorite writers...especially if their work was not to be found on the old world boob tube?

And I'll throw in this headline from, for good measure for measure:
"Historic Internet Advertising Revenues: First Half of '07 Hits $10 Billion, Q2 '07 Exceeds $5 Billion For First Time."

Build a ship, Ken. You'll make out like a pirate king. And I'll happily swab the deck.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, you get notes in radio too. I will never forget Biggie Nivens telling me that "Puke my guts out" was disgusting, not funny, and to cut the joke from a comedy piece I wrote over which he had no place criticizing. Yet I never gave him a note to the effect that "Sha-Boom" hadn't been hip since 1960. (Extra Radio Trivia Points to whoever can come up with Biggie's connection to "Sha-Boom".)

Tallulah Morehead said...

What episode is this scene from? Is it out on DVD yet?

"Oh, and is there anyway we could make this Smithers guy a little cuter? The whole gay angle won't play in flyover territory, especially when the guy is yellow, has four fingers, and looks like Chip from [M]y [T]hree [S]ons. And do we have to have [him] in love with a man that is clearly old enough to be his [great-great] grandfather? It might be plausible if the assistant was a beautiful young woman, but a gay man? Just creepy."

Yes, let's rewrite 17 years of Smithers.

Actually, Smithers looks like Mike (Tim Considine) on MY THREE SONS, not Chip (Stanley Livingston). (Mike on MY THREE SONS's full name was "Mike Douglas," but he was neither the dead talk show maven nor the former-movie star Burns's age married to the hot current-movie star Maggie's age. Now they ARE creepy!) And for the record, Little Douglas tells me that Tim Considine was always considered hot to gay men of his generation, so hot that, even if he'd been yellow and had too-few fingers, he'd STILL be hot. In fact, based on a recent meeting with him, in his mid-60s he's still hot, if still too young to attract Smithers, who likes daddies - sugar daddies. Sadly though, Tim is so very much the shortest distance between two points.

BTW, I met Stanley Livingston recently also. Smart, pleasant guy, but still not hot.


R.A. Porter said...

todd mueller: a) Hey, Todd. Hope you're doing okay. I believe I still owe you my feedback on another Office spec. Sorry. It's been hectic.
b) What you're describing, a web-age equivalent to Chaplin and UA, is out there in several nascent forms. For example, Zwick and Herskovitz's quarterlife. That's long-form, as opposed to the short-form sites: Funny or Die and Super Deluxe.
c) I hate to pimp my own blog twice in comments on Ken's home, but I had a few thoughts on the repercussions of producer fragmentation that I put up yesterday. They're questions that I think need to be examined, and I have no answers for them: Is Net Neutrality Bad for the WGA?

Willy B. Good said...

Cheers Ken for that great parody.

ps-what's a parody?

shaun said...

Sweet, a shout out to Wisconsin! I love my state, but after moving out to LA a year ago, I don't wanna go back just yet. To much possability out here. Well, there will be again once the strikes over. And it WILL be over eventually.

Anonymous said...

When I was in college, a girl told me I looked like Chip from "My Three Sons." I didn't see it (still don't) and was vaguely insulted (not that Stanley Livingston is heinous looking, but like Tallulah said, he's not hot either).

I was pleasantly surprised to see Stanley's little brother Barry (who played Ernie on "My Three Sons") pop up in small roles in two recent, excellent projects, the AMC series "Mad Men" and David Fincher's film "Zodiac."

Tim Considine was a very talented child. Prior to "My Three Sons" he gave a nicely understated performance opposite Red Skelton in "The Clown," a reworking of "The Champ" centered on a comedian instead of a boxer.

And oh yeah, Ken, your Simpsons scene was gold.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ken, even before the strike, The Simpsons were in my thoughts and I thought of how would Homer and his family have fights about having no TV over these coming days/weeks of reruns and eventually he drove everyone crazy and goes to Mo and drink beer every night because TV left Homer bored with reruns.

Anonymous said...

a. producer said @ 6:57 am... [snip!]

The script is their creation, regardless of whether the characters and situations are too.

That is what a writer is copyrighting under law when they file with the U.S. Copyright Office. The main basis of the copyright is that you placed these characters into unique situations or into a unique collaboration of sequences (as in a script).

So what you're actually arguing about is already established U.S. law. Is this what's going on at the table in contract negotiations with the Writer's Guild?


Anonymous said...

Kudos on the droll propaganda.

Question Mark said...

I think Mr. A. Producer is related to Mr. A. Knife from the Office.

Ken, right now some studio head is looking into hiring Senor Levino, your non-union Mexican counterpart.

Anonymous said...

I thought about Burns as he relates to this situation days ago. Glad to see it was put into action by someone from Simpsons development. It's a very obvious situation for Burns.

MaryAn Batchellor said...


Anonymous said...

Former MST3K writer/performer "TV's Frank" Coniff has his own take on the strike now:

The GladGirl said...

Thank you! This made my day!

Anonymous said...

Loved it!

power to the wga.

Martin Brady said...


Anonymous said...

Have to agree, the Selznick/ flapper reference clinched it.

Ken, you're awesome; love your work and the writing samples you share. Your current day input is what makes your scripts and excerpts even better! You take everyone to the table and show us how you and your fellow staffers created magic, even with late hours and old take-out food.

The only thing I have to comment on (!) was the ending to that parody. It shows exactly why a writer isn't needed and what can be found on the internet. Google-search a scrabble question and with an intern on staff, ya got it.

The brilliance you gave shows and characters from your earliest work lives on. Sucks that the studios don't share the new distribution profits with you. If only the guild could go backwards and say, pull out the books -- now that we do know what classic DVDs have brought in, let's start to compensate the writers of those shows and movies.

The guild has been extremely fair in its negotiating points. The execs could still walk away with the lions share. Yet they play the public by using their media outlets as personal bullhorns. The internet's on the writers side. Stay strong, and let the numbers form an avalanche of headaches for the suits in control.

Anonymous said...

>bitter animator said...
So only the people who create the characters should be entitled to residuals, Mr.A.Producer?

I take it then that producers just get a one-off payment for their services and then that's it, right? You know, for that couple of phone calls they make.<

Well said, Bitter Animator! I hope you join the guild one day if you aren't covered yet.

As for Mr. A. Producer -- and I think I know what the A. stands for -- does Shakespeare not get credit for writing Julius Caesar because the character already existed?

Anonymous said...

Uh, Captain Obvious, film and television writers don't hold the copyright on their work if it's done for hire, or once it's been sold to a studio. Do you think we'd be in this miserable state if we did?

Anonymous said...

I was responding purely to the assertions of "a producer" that writing a script does not confer any sense of ownership if you didn't create the characters by pointing out that it does according to copyright law.

I know copyright ends up being contractually relinquished in the course of the transaction and that's a sad situation. I suppose the studios prefer it that way as opposed to a licensing scenario whereby the license could be revoked in situations like the present strike to up the ante.

Anonymous said...

Masterfully written I can see why they employed you to be a writter on The Simpsons.

Mr Burns is my faverite charicter
in the whole show.My idea for an episode would inlolve a three parter 60 minnet episode were Mr Burns becomes that powerfull and rich that he himself kills most of the polititions as well as the President.He banrupts all of the richhest people in the countery seises their assets and pulls off a hostil takeover of America and and eventually acheives world dommination.Homer gets a job working for Burns as his left hand man Smithers finally understands that he is working for a madman and tries to kill Burns.

Im still writting the whole story
but thats the basic jist of it.

To make it even more crazy I could put make Stewie from Family Guy join Burns because Stewie hates his Father and Mother amd Mr Burns
hates his Son.They both are two of a kind.