Thursday, August 17, 2017


My podcast this week is an extended interview with my writing partner, David Isaacs. I’ve mentioned him many times in this blog and now he gets a chance to defend himself. You can hear it just by clicking the big gold arrow above. (And I’d love it if you could subscribe and maybe gimme a 5-star review. Those attract ears I understand. Thank you. I need ears.)

Most of the episode is devoted to our partnership – the dynamics, the process, advantages, etc. So today I thought I would add to that discussion.

The entertainment industry can be brutal – especially to writers. It’s much easier navigating those shark-infested waters when you can say “it’s us against them” as opposed to “it’s me against them.”

David and I have written together for 44 years. I owe him a dollar or he owes me a dollar. We’re constantly asking the other for a buck to pay the valet or tip the waiter. At this point we don’t know which one of us has been stiffed (but I think it’s me).

It’s lonely writing by yourself.

Especially for comedy, it’s great to have someone whose opinion you trust tell you something is funny. Laughter doesn’t do well in a vacuum.

You always have someone to give you a ride when you’re having your car repaired.

One issue that needs to be worked out is credit – who gets top billing? In our partnership I originally got top billing because I called David and said I’m going to write a script, do you want to write it with me? But after awhile I made this offer – switch the order every year. David said keep things as is – the credit pops on and off the screen so fast; at least this way his parents and family knew where to look to see his name.

I know it’s an old joke but it’s true. One of us will be walking on the lot and a studio executive or passing agent will say, “Hi boys.”

Make sure your partner has similar work habits. David and I are both too anal to procrastinate when we have a script due. We keep regular work hours, both show up on time, and would rather turn in scripts early than late. If you have one partner who likes to work from 9-5 while the other doesn’t get going until 9 PM, you’ve got a problem.

Along those same lines, both partners should be comfortable in their working environment. David and I both like writing in quiet offices or in one of our homes. If I had a partner who could only work at the food court of the Farmers Market I would last maybe two days. But that’s me.

You find yourself constantly negotiating – for words even. I like characters saying “What?” when they hear something surprising. David is less fond of that. So he’ll pitch something and say, “I’ll give you a ‘what’ for this ‘you gotta be kidding.’” I don’t know about the dollar but I do know I’m owed one “what.”

If the partners’ strengths complement each other you both can grow and minimize your own weaknesses.

Finally, and most important, it helps to like the same sports teams. Probably the biggest test of our partnership was when the Dodgers and Yankees battled each other in three World Series. The fact that we survived that, we knew our partnership could withstand anything. (So in addition to a dollar and a “what,” David still owes me one championship.)

Enjoy the podcast and good luck with your partnership.


Michael said...

I'm reminded of one of the great partnerships in broadcasting: The Vin and Jerry Doggett. They were together more than 31 years, and another broadcaster said, "It's a long season and a small booth." They were always having dinner and golfing together, and I can remember from my childhood a couple of broadcasts where ... well, let's just say I think they stopped somewhere on the way to the ballpark. But as I recall, Jerry said Vin used to say, "We're going to have to ask for silverware," because marriage was a possibility. A partnership requires the right mingling, and Vin said it of Jerry in his eulogy: He had an unwrinkled heart.

Steve S said...

"We’re constantly asking the other for a buck to pay the valet or tip the waiter. At this point we don’t know which one of us has been stiffed (but I think it’s me)."

I think it's the waiter.

JohnP said...

You could argue that Levine & Isaacs is better metrically, like Laverne & Shirley, or The Bean & Freebie (wait, bad example).

Jim S said...


Heard the podcast. Great, and it got me wondering. How do you guys who worked on different shows over the years stay in touch? Regular poker games, barbecues meeting at the deli?

Does social media like Facebook help everyone stay in touch? I mean if the PA you mentored now has the hottest show on TV, what's the protocol for asking for a job?


Melissa C. Banczak said...

I read your blog on my iphone. There's no big gold arrow leading to your podcast. (Which I couldn't listen to anyway cause I'm hearing impaired) is that just me? Does anyone else on a mobile see an arrow? (My hubby subscribes to the podcast and tells me what everyone says.

Mike said...

Ken, you must have worked with Tommy Hawkins at KABC. Any thoughts on his passing? I enjoyed him many an afternoon on Sportstalk and Dodgertalk in the '80s when I lived in LA. RIP.

PJ said...

I'm on my phone and no, no big arrow at the top. But it is there when I click on the description of the podcast, if that helps!

Johnny Walker said...

So useful. I think all potential writing partners should read this first.

Andy Rose said...

Great podcast episode! Always fun to listen to people reminisce who so clearly like and respect each other.

Melissa C. Banczak said...

Is there a description of the podcast here? I don't see that either. I actually might get a cochlear implant so the podcast is on my listen list. Though, if I do get the cochlear, the list has 25 years worth of music on it so it might take a while to get to it.