Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Questions

Another weekend and time is running out to see my play, GOING GOING GONE at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. Again this weekend, half-price tickets if you just go here and type in Promo Code 008. And tonight only – a talk-back with me and the cast.  But wait!  There's MORE.  A SPECIAL appearance! Howard Hoffman, who does the voice of the announcer, will BE at the theatre. LIVE and IN PERSON. You do NOT want to miss this!

Okay, let me stop plugging my play for five minutes to answer some Friday Questions. Leave yours in the comments section. Many thanks.

Mike Barer starts us off:

Ken, have you ever been on stage? I know many producers and directors insert themselves into a show.

Not really.  On a few of the sitcoms that David Isaacs and I have written freelance episodes for we’ve inserted ourselves in the shows, but only for a cameo and a line or two.

Here’s my feeling about that:  Yes, as a producer I could insert myself into as many shows as I want, but I’m not an actor and by playing a part myself I’m taking money away from a real actor; someone who is trying to make a living or even support a family on the income he makes acting. So I gladly put my ego aside and let someone way more qualified take the role.

About ten years when I co-wrote a musical that was being produced at the Goodspeed Theatre in Connecticut, I was standing on the stage during one of the final rehearsals with Andrew Rannells, who was starring in the show.

I asked him what was it like to be on stage, to feed off the energy of a big audience? He said, “Why don’t you just write yourself into the show and see for yourself.” I nodded and said, “That’s a great idea except for one thing: I can’t act, I can’t sing, and I can’t dance. What the hell am I gonna do?” He agreed that might be a problem.

From Thomas:

You recently joked about Thomas Gibson's dismissal being mood lifting for the writers room on Criminal Minds. But it occurred to me you did include in him your list of actors who where good to work with. Was he better on the set of Dharma & Greg?

Well Thomas (hey wait a minute – you’re not “Thomas” Gibson, are you?), the truth is Thomas Gibson was an absolute dream during the episodes I directed of DHARMA & GREG. Easy-going, totally professional, prepared, took direction well. I had absolutely no problem with him.

I have no idea what his issues were with CRIMINAL MINDS, what tensions existed, what creative differences there were, or what other shit was going on in his personal life. But apparently his violent outburst at a writer was not his first.

Still, I maintain my experience with him was a pleasure.

Jonathan asks:

Are there any "written-word" comedy writers (novelists, essayists, etc.) you particularly enjoy?

A number of them. My favorite currently is Paul Rudnick. His humor pieces in THE NEW YORKER are brilliant. He’s also a hilarious playwright and screenwriter. There are several books that are compilations of his humor pieces. I recommend them.

Political satirist Andy Borowitz is also a personal fave. Dave Barry still makes me smile. And if you want to go back into ancient times – Dorothy Parker, S.J. Perelman, Woody Allen (when he was young and funny), and P.G. Wodehouse.

A few comic authors I thoroughly enjoy are Carl Hiassen, Douglas McEwan, and the late John Kennedy Toole who wrote my all-time favorite comic novel, CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES.

Doug McEwan has a new book coming out soon. Can’t wait.

And finally, from Jahn Ghalt:

Ken wrote: the amount of time it took to write (The Me Generation) vs. the sales didn’t propel me to just jump right in and begin the next decade. Too bad, because lots of neat stuff happened in the ‘70s.

and Carol wrote: What about writing a play based on your memoir? I can imagine a good 'coming of age in the 60's' story working as a play

Carol almost took the words out of my mouth: How about a play based on your 70s careers? Radio, the Army(?), writers room for M*A*S*H?

That’s sort of what I am doing now. The play is very loosely autobiographical about the inspiring world of comedy in the mid ‘70s. And to circle back to the first question – no, I will not be playing a part in it.


Mike Barer said...

Thank you for the answer to my question. Very good answer.

Diane D. said...

What? Nothing about the game tonight that will end the longest drought in MLB history? I really think a study should be done with a graph that shows the increase in heart attacks on this date, and one that reports how many people in Nursing Homes draw their last, blissful breath tonight.

Andrew said...

Friday question: Building on the Q&A about your favorite "written-word" comedy writers, what are your favorite cartoons? Peanuts, Bloom County, Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, etc.? (I grew up in the 80's.) Any contemporary ones? How about political cartoons/cartoonists?

Thomas Mossman said...

Friday Question:

In mentioning your love of A Confederacy of Dunces, it brought to my mind the multiple efforts to bring the book to the big screen. Why do you suppose no ones been able to do it, Steven Soderburgh's suggestion of "bad mojo" aside?

gottacook said...

The first I read about the idea of adapting A Confederacy of Dunces was at the end of Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego, and the Twilight Zone Case, where John Landis - who had recently escaped justice in the on-set deaths of Vic Morrow and two small children - was said to be planning an adaptation. That was nearly 30 years ago.

I'm quite glad no one has done so. Some of my favorite parts of the book are excerpts from Ignatius' journals, and those couldn't be reproduced successfully on screen. Likewise for Toole's physical descriptions of the characters, such as the way Lana Lee sits on a barstool or Miss Trixie shuffles around the Levy Pants office. These are at least as funny as the dialogue, and would be lost by simply showing the characters.

Cat said...

Ken, I've been able to spot Warren Littlefield sitting at the bar in the final season of Cheers, but I haven't been able to spot you!

Ted said...

I was curious about Douglas McEwan, the only one of these comedic writers I haven't read. I bet he's not too happy that a bank robber named Douglas McEwan now beats him to the top of the Google listings.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Thank you, darling. And little Dougie interrupts me to point out that he actually has two new books coming out early in 2017, a novel and a non-fiction work, hopefully both amusing.

D. McEwan said...

Ted, yes, I do find that bank robber an annoyance, especially since people I get into political arguments with online (Which, this month, happens hourly)sometimes assume, or pretend to assume, that he's me. Why can't they mix me up with the Douglas McEwan who lives in Edinburgh and is a "Professional Sean Connery Impersonator." Actually, given that my great-grandfather was born in Edinburgh, the Doug McEwan who looks like Connery is probably a distant cousin.

And thanks for the plug, Ken.

D. McEwan said...

And I'm a huge Paul Rudnick fan also, and won two lovely awards for starring in his play I Hate Hamlet out in Riverside a mere 21 years ago.

Paul Duca said...

Why is there a scene from THE BOOK OF MORMON on top of your page?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Paul Duca: because the actor singing there is Andrew Rannells, whom Ken mentions a paragraph or two in.


Kirk said...

Then there's Paul Rudnick's very funny alter ego, Libby Gelman-Waxner

John Fox said...

The original Leave It to Beaver series broke a lot of new ground for sitcoms - first to have a finale, prioritizing story over simply going for the laugh - things that were later evident in M*A*S*H, among others. Did that have anything to do with your choice of Beaver Cleaver as your "boss jock" stage name?

Jake said...

Friday question: what do you think of SPEECHLESS?

Greg T. said...

Ken, I for one would love to see a play based on your experiences writing 70s or 80s sitcoms. As great as Neil Simon is, I thought his LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR was only partly successful. Thinking about it now, I guess you've gone there a little bit with ALMOST PERFECT, though those guys were writing a drama.