Monday, February 22, 2010

How my partner and I met: Part two

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 (still there amazingly) and decided to give it a try.

There was only one problem. 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.

Next installment (coming soon): then what?


Max Clarke said...

Destiny, kids. Stories like these are great. Impressive how far you guys have come from out of nowhere.

If the Woody Allen album you're talking about is the one that featured the routine about the moose, it's brilliant.

Kevin B said...

Wow, that sounds just like my story! Well, the pounding down tequila at El Torito part anyway.

Larry said...

Hey, maybe you can offer up a side of the Woody Allen album so your readers can tell you if they think it's funny.

D. McEwan said...

"Larry said...
Hey, maybe you can offer up a side of the Woody Allen album so your readers can tell you if they think it's funny."

I'm assuming you meant the double-disc compilation album, in which case, you needn't offer up a side of it for this reader's benefit. I still have my copy (though I need to get it in CD), and it is just about the best stand-up album ever, up there with The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart and Inside Shelley Berman.

His parents having poor reading habits, and putting off reading his kidnapper's ransom note until bedtime, falling asleep, and never finishing it. Classic.

"I said, 'Knowing my wife, it wasn't a moving violation.'"

gottacook said...

That is indeed a great album - the moose routine is included - I have it in its mid-1970s incarnation, "The Nightclub Years 1964-68." A little of it ended up as part of Alvy Singer's routine at the college auditorium in Wisconsin in Annie Hall - at least the line about how he cheated on a metaphysics final: "I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me."

My favorite of the brief one-liners from the double LP, alongside the one about the "moving violation":
(presumably takes out watch) "My grandfather (pause) on his deathbed (longer pause) sold me this watch."

Pat Reeder said...

Found this just the other day. It's an incredibly detailed page on Woody Allen's early years as a writer and stand-up with info even I didn't know. Like the fact that he never wrote for either of Sid Caesar's series. He wrote one special for him with Larry Gelbart and that's it, but it's gone down in legend that he was a staff writer for "Caesar's Hour."

carol said...

I want to read that first script so badly right now. Any chance you've kept it for future generations to marvel over?

Unknown said...

Great story, thanks. Awaiting more.
In the "who cares but me" department, a high school friend and I got inspiration from that same Woody Allen album while writing allegedly humorous and satirical copy for our mid-70s school yearbook (which people did actually find funny, surprisingly enough). And now I can't get this out my head, where it's been lodged for almost 40 years:
"First prize [at a costume party] goes to the Berkowitzes, a married couple dressed as a moose. The moose comes in second. The moose is furious. He and the Berkowitzes lock antlers in the living room..."
OK, I'll stop now.

blogward said...

Woody Allen shot a moose once:

Charles H. Bryan said...

This is shaping up to be a great story, well told. Thanks, Ken. I love stuff like this.

And I will add my love for that Woody Allen stand up album. I think I had the "Stand Up Years" version. Where it went to, I have no idea. I can't find my "Evening with Groucho" album either.

If whoever borrowed them thirty years ago in colege reads this, I want them back, like now. I mean it.

Matt Patton said...

Probably not the way he actually put it:

My wife and I get a wedding present for our junkie friends. Silver. All spoons."

D. McEwan said...

"Charles H. Bryan said...
And I will add my love for that Woody Allen stand up album. I think I had the "Stand Up Years" version. Where it went to, I have no idea. I can't find my "Evening with Groucho" album either."

I'm glad to say that my copies of both of those albums sit safely on a shelf in my living room. But the memories are even better. I saw Woody do stand-up live once, at the same Valley Music Theater where a young Ken Levine ushered, with Jim Corce as Woody's opening act, and I was seated in the Dress Circle when Groucho hit the stage doing his "An Evening With Groucho" one-man show in Los Angeles. Great, unreproducable experiences, that almost makes it worth it being this old.

gottacook said...

I may be on the younger end of "An Evening with Groucho" owners - that is, I was in high school when the rights to Animal Crackers finally got untangled and it started to be shown for the first time in decades. The album (for those who have not heard of it) is a record of a comedy concert/reminiscence, with occasional songs and music, that Groucho did in 1972 in Carnegie Hall at the age of 82. I just now found it broken down into tracks (scroll down for the full list) at

Unknown said...

OK, I said I'd stop but I just remembered this. One time in the late 70s I went to a comedy club in the Chicago suburbs where the headliner was a guy named Phil Soltanek, who within a few years was famous as Emo Phillips. Point is, one of the opening acts was a guy who apparently assumed no one had ever heard those Woody Allen records because he proceeded to do an entire bit that he stole word for word. Needless to say it was the highlight of his set. It was the bit about Woody getting cast in a play as God ("typecasting") and he went around acting the part in real life: "I tipped big...because He would have. I got into a fight with a guy and I forgave him. I said 'be fruitful and multiply.' (three-count pause) But not in those words." Unsurprisingly, the crowd ate it up. Should I have called the guy out on it? I didn't...

Anonymous said...

Hey, my kid lives in an apartment on Arch Drive in Studio City. Does this portend success?

Anonymous said...

Master Heywood Allen. He's never been the same since his friend, Eggs Benedict, passed on.