• Roundtable Reveals What’s Important to TV’s “Comedy” Writers

    by  • June 5, 2014 • Broadcast Decency, Cable Choice, Profanity, Sex • 1 Comment

    The Hollywood Reporter recently detailed a “roundtable” meeting between some of the most influential “comedy” writers working in television today. The article revealed how such writers revel in subjects many Americans don’t find notably funny.© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

    Present at the meeting were Chuck Lorre, creator of CBS’ Two and a Half Men, Mom, Mike & Molly, and The Big Bang Theory; Mike Judge, creator of MTV’s Beavis & Butthead, Fox’s King of the Hill, and HBO’s current Silicon Valley; ABC’s Parks and Recreation writer Mike Schur; Jenni Konner, writer on HBO’s Girls; Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black writer Jenji Kohan; Marc Maron, creator of cable network IFC’s Maron; and Armando Iannucci of HBO’s Veep.This article presents selected – but revealing – outtakes from the complete article, which demonstrate precisely where such writers’ priorities lie.

    The writers wasted little time in delving into the subjects they think are most appropriate for comedies shown to families on the publicly-owned airwaves, or which pay-TV subscribers are asked to subsidize: graphic sex talk and profanity.

    You all deal with executives to some degree on a daily basis. What is something they do consistently that frustrates you?

    MARON: Second-guess jokes? Sometimes you’re like, “How could you not get this?” But other times, it’s, “Yeah, maybe we didn’t have to say that. Maybe ‘p*ssy’ was not a great choice there.”

    KOHAN: P*ssy’s always a great choice.

    LORRE: Always!

    KONNER: The biggest fight we’ve ever gotten in with HBO was about a c*m shot, a money shot. They thought it was really gratuitous…They begged us not to do it. We said, “OK, fine.” Then the next year, we had a story-motivated, emotional money shot, and they let us keep it. It really felt like we all grew together.

    IANNUCCI: And now you’re getting notes saying, “Can we have more c*m?”

    KONNER: Exactly.

    LORRE: We used to have that note a lot on Dharma & Greg. “More c*m.”

     TV’s “comedy” writers also think abortion, AIDS, and fart jokes are hilarious:

    What is the weirdest or worst pitch meeting you’ve ever had?

    MARON: When I was a younger, angrier comic, I went into [a network executive’s] office at NBC to pitch a talk show. Ludwin says, “Well, what do you want to talk about?” I was in this rebellious mode of comedy, and “abortion” and “AIDS” were the first two things that came out of my mouth.

    JUDGE: I think the “viral” concept sort of happened back then, too. You’d get a VHS that had been copied a million times. Like that preacher, Robert Tilton.

    MARON: The farting one?

    JUDGE: Yeah, everybody had a copy of it.

    MARON I remember the first time I saw it. Louis C.K. took this VHS out of a drawer, put it in, and we laughed hysterically.

    JUDGE: Then someone goes, “Put in the Robert Tilton fart tape!” And it was through-the-roof [funny]. 

    Many writers also have dysfunctional — or at least, disrespectful  –relationships with their parents, and use television as a way to “get back” at them.

     What is the most personal thing you’ve ever written into one of your shows?

    MARON: My show is so autobiographical that it’s strained my relationship with my father, like, irreparably. Was it worth it? Part of me thinks, “Well, he had it coming.”

    LORRE: Television is vengeance.

    MARON: Yeah. He watched as much as he could. I was like, well, “Judd Hirsch played you, and he’s arguably a better father!”

    KOHAN: Celia on Weeds said things that came out of my mother’s mouth, and [my mom] had no recognition. I’d get calls from her saying, “Why are you so mean to this character? She’s just trying to do the right thing.” Total disconnect.

     

    Some may argue that this article unfairly takes quotes out of context. But what “context” would that be, precisely? The original article is TV writers talking about why and how they do what they do – which, supposedly, is creating entertainment for a mass audience. We have only highlighted statements which directly address what they produce and aim at viewers.

    It is notable that, with the exceptions of Chuck Lorre’s programs and Parks and Recreation, all of the shows named above scarcely garner huge audiences, and are found mostly on premium subscription channels. Though several are critical darlings, and clearly are beloved by others working in the entertainment industry, most are not hugely popular with Americans as a whole.

    This article reveals nothing so much as the incestuous insularity, arrogance, and contempt for the sensibilities of their audience, of Hollywood’s so-called “creative” elite. Is it possible that the reason for their programs’ lack of popularity might be due in part to these allegedly brilliant writers’ obsession with bodily functions, toilet humor, and their own personal problems? And is it any wonder that – given “writers” and “creators” like this – there is virtually no programming available for American families to watch with their children?

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    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    One Response to Roundtable Reveals What’s Important to TV’s “Comedy” Writers

    1. William Warfield
      June 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Give me “The Honeymooners.” “The Lucy Show” (the one where she played Mrs. Carmichael and Gale Gordon was Mr. Mooney), or “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” *anytime!*

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