Wednesday, November 06, 2019

"Bob Ellison for twelve."

You’ve heard of the “Arnold Palmer,” but are you familiar with the “Bob Ellison?”

Lots of sitcom writers over the last 40 years are. Bob Ellison is one of the all-time great comedy writers, specializing in pitching an endless stream of fabulous jokes. Bob produced THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and wrote many of its more notable episodes, but he's probably best known as a “creative consultant.” That means he would work one night a week on a show. He would arrive for the afternoon runthrough then go back to the writers room and help rewrite long into the night, often contributing the best jokes of the script.

Bob was so in-demand that for years he worked on five different shows a week. When David Isaacs and I got a series on the air, Bob was our first call.

Okay, all that is backstory. (And in case you’re too young to know – Arnold Palmer was not just a drink but a world champion pro golfer.) ‘

When comedy writers worked late on rewrite nights they would have dinner brought in. A popular choice was Chinese because everyone didn’t have to individually order. (Decision making was way too hard.)  A variety of dishes would arrive and we’d form a buffet line.

But the question always was: what to order?

A popular Chinese restaurant on the Westside was Twin Dragons. Bob had been there frequently and knew what was good. So if we were going to Twin Dragons he would place the order.

Eventually, it got to the point where they knew him and his order. So for many sitcoms, if they wanted to order Chinese food for dinner they’d just call Twin Dragons and say, “Bob Ellison for twelve” or “Bob Ellison for nine.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a “Bob Ellison” during a rewrite. Ironically,  I’ve never actually been to Twin Dragons. I wonder what the food tastes like when it's hot and served on plates. Someday for fun I should go for lunch and see what happens when I order “Bob Ellison for one.”

I’d invite Bob Ellison but he is so sick of Chinese food.

Meanwhile, Bob Ellison is my guest on my next podcast episode that drops tonight at midnight in the East and 9 PM in the west.  You'll love meeting him.  


Pizzagod said...

Well shucks, now I need to know if Bob Ellison had a hand in that great Bob Newhart show where they called for Chinese and Howard was ordering moo-goo-goo goo-goo....

Mike Barer said...

What a great little behind the scenes story. My family never went to the cliched Chinese Restaurant on Christmas, probably because in Walla Walla, where I grew up, it was probably closed.

By Ken Levine said...


He did not. That brilliant episode was written by Bruce Kane and all the killer Chinese restaurant jokes were his.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Don't leave us hangin,' bra! Which dishes comprise a "Bob Ellison?" Fried rice? Chow mein? Beef & Broccoli? What?!
And was it Szechuan, Mandarin or Cantonese style?
To quote a line from "Dirty Harry," "I's gots to know!"

Liggie said...

I'm sick of Chinese food, but that's because my extended family is primarily Southeast Asian, and that and other East/Southeast Asian food was force-fed to us at dinner and get-togethers. I actually thought as a kid that mashed potatoes and spaghetti and meatballs were exotic.