I've been in the business for a long time, writing freelance scripts for everyone from MTM to Garry Marshall to Norman Lear, Mitch Hurwitz and Chuck Lorre.

I also know a lot about sitcom history. I know Reddit hates The Big Bang Theory, but love Arrested Development, so this could be interesting.

Edit: I've never done anything like this before. How am I doing so far? I might come back tomorrow after I've rested.

Edit 2: After several false starts, I'm going to bed! I'll check in later! Edit 3: I'm REALLY going to bed.

Comments: 2162 • Responses: 77  • Date: 

BennyFackter545 karma

Psh. I love the big bang theory. Fuck the hive mind.

What's the funniest thing you've ever come up with?

Thanks for doing the AMA! It's a good one!

[deleted]318 karma

On Arrested Development I came up with the gag about the goat attacking Buster.

geekjive40 karma

much better than the seal attack.

[deleted]314 karma

I think Mitch came up with having Buster constantly be attacked by animals. The idea was that he was inherently so pathetic, defenseless, and weak that if he was by himself, he would ACTUALLY be in danger from things nobody else would have to fear.

It's sort of his mommy issues, his need for maternal protection (in the form of Lucille 1 or 2) manifesting itself in a self fulfilling prophecy of constant danger from nature.

thebluefork354 karma

I just want to say thank you for Arrested Development

[deleted]270 karma

Thank Mitch Hurwitz for creating it, and Ron Howard for getting it on the air and for being Opie!

joetromboni66 karma

I love that Opie Cunningham!

[deleted]73 karma

Is that not the best show ever?

Vitalstatistix123 karma

Nope. Arrested Development is though.

[deleted]97 karma

I highly recommend the first three seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, and the first three seasons of Happy Days. The first two were the two best, the third was the funniest. Stop after the third season for Happy Days. Keeping going if you want for Andy Griffith.

Vitalstatistix24 karma

I guess I should revisit all of these now that I'm a little older and can appreciate them more. Happy Days especially I watched quite a lot of as a 9-12 year older, which was pretty odd considering I was born in '87.

pinsir93556 karma

We can thank Nick at Night for that

[deleted]46 karma

Since it took place in the 1950s, that show can never age. Well, pre-shark, anyway.

[deleted]10 karma


porkmaster109 karma

except for that episode where opie has one of the first issues of the amazing spider-man as a prop. but it's the real thing. and he's just carrying it around wrinkling it up. it's not in a bag or anything. horrifying.

[deleted]41 karma


crazyjc278 karma

If Community gets canceled because of Big Bang theory taking all the viewers, SO HELP ME GOD I WILL COME AT YOU!

[deleted]120 karma

Community is a brilliant show!

srocco3130 karma

Community is the best comedy show on TV right now.

exohuman250 karma

As a prospective physicist and fan of comedy I dislike BBT.

To me it feels like a ultra stereotypical 80s/90s comedy wrapped in a veneer of geekdom. Even though I get most of the more obscure physics in jokes and references, I am disappointed the structure of the show is so "old school" especially in light of shows like AD and Curb. Honestly, I sort of feel like something I love is being trivialized and exploited in a very unoriginal way.

I noticed you said that BBT is intentionally traditional, why?

It seems like the show is not really intended for members of the culture it attempts to portrait because in some ways it is "lowest common denominator." It seems like most geeks tend to like more edgy comedy, hence the aforementioned AD love.

No offense intended I'm just curious as to the ethos of BBT. I respect your work and am sure you are much more creative than I could ever be.

[deleted]282 karma

"I noticed you said that BBT is intentionally traditional, why?" Because it's a style of sitcom people love and that I love. It's a play. Plays are not edgy. They're people reading lines in front of an audience. But the specific lines themselves are the creative work. The tradtional format is just a structure.

It's like the lines on basketball court. within that rigid structure has happened some of the most thrilling entertainment ever.

and, as for it being lowest common denominator, yes, but I prefer to think of it as just "popular entertainment" I think that can be a good thing. I really do. People love the characters.

I mean, it's not as if it's an example of popular entertainment being something evil, like some Nazi plot, or liking an awful president like George W. Bush, or a war. It's a popular sitcom. We try to have mass appeal, but it's not for evil purposes. People are too cynical about this stuff. So it's mass entertainment, there's nothing wrong with that. It's the dessert of life. Taxes and work are the main course.

[deleted]192 karma

How many times have you used the following lines:

  • "he's standing right behind me, isn't he?"
  • "you say that like it's a bad thing!"
  • "OK, who are you and what have you done with [name]?"

[deleted]159 karma

Those are clams. never. ok, sometimes in the 90s, but I'm off the stuff for good! i swear!

That first one is the perfect example of a cliche-breaking line that became more of a cliche than the original cliche, which was to have the character not know the one he was talking about was behind him until he revealed himself.

[deleted]20 karma

Good answer. What else should be on the clam list?

thieving_magpie120 karma

Everything in 2 and a Half Men

Tubemonster166 karma

  • What is a typical day like for a TV writer?

  • How many hours per week do you work?

  • Do you like writing freelance or working on a team of writers better?

  • What is the worst part about writing for television?

  • What about the best part?

theroyalwe36 karma

Seeing what you do already, I couldn't begin to imagine the shenanigans that would happen if you started to contribute to a TV show.

neuroticfish146 karma

Is there always money in the banana stand?

[deleted]255 karma

No with the ratings that show got...

geekjive130 karma

it was too clever and subtle for most. we love it. still watch the reruns.

[deleted]164 karma

The reruns are where the flavour is.

watabit69 karma

Flavour. British? Canadian?

[deleted]161 karma


wunderboy144 karma

I have an idea for a show. It involves a guy, pretending to be a gay chef, living with two hot women, one of whom may or may not be gay. All three live above a flamboyant straight man and a perverted old robot that makes increasingly flawed versions of itself. Is it too progressive?

[deleted]209 karma

No, it's not too progressive, but I got a perfect title for it. "The Republicans." Hah! Political humour!

TheRiff51 karma

And now I'm trying to remember the perverted old robot from Three's Company.

[deleted]12 karma

Larry was a robot?

[deleted]15 karma

Is that what they're calling them now?

[deleted]140 karma

How was Arrested Development supposed to end?

[deleted]191 karma

Exactly as Mitch had it end, with Lucille being arrested, but the seasons themselves, what led up to it, was supposed to have been longer. It's like Cheers, the show ended how it began.

[deleted]81 karma

Any missed plot points you can mention in the more fleshed-out story arc? Have you been contacted or spoken to anyone about the progress of the movie?

[deleted]276 karma

All that stuff about Tobias becoming Michael's assistant and becoming anorexic was real. He has scripts about that. That entire storyline was cut and compressed into that one scene where Tobias said "Don't you remember? I developed an eating disorder, Michael!"

[deleted]175 karma

I just raised my fists in the air and yelled "Fox, what have you done?!?!" My roomate told me to shut up.

terafunker101 karma

Tell your roommate to shut up!

[deleted]66 karma

Don't worry I put Arrested Development on really loud in my room, fight the man

fronkinsteen9 karma

Oh man. That little joke in itself was super hilarious. If only...

Orbixx116 karma

Have you seen The IT Crowd? What do you think of it?

[deleted]18 karma

I'm curious to see what he thinks of this as well, probably one of the funniest shows I have seen in a long time partly because I work in IT as well and can relate with these guys.

kankle_king88 karma

What do you think of Community? I love how they talk about TV and episode structure like they are in a writing room or something.

[deleted]139 karma

I love Community, but I don't think it'll win an Emmy because most TV writers don't like TV about TV.

jameson16 karma

Yeah I noticed 30 Rock hasn't picked up a single Emmy ever.

[deleted]35 karma

30 Rock has another thing going for it: satire.

someotheridiot82 karma

How did you create a character like Sheldon in such a way as to be so socially retarded and yet my hero?

[deleted]133 karma

I think his relationship with Penny, their fucked-up chemistry, and Jim Parson's immensely appealing performance contributed to Sheldon being more likable than he really should be. I mean, his adversarial relationship with Penny is a comedy tradition dating back to Shakespeare, and so the audience sort of recognizes it and it makes them like him.

frijolito73 karma

You mention a few times the terms "multi-camera sitcom" and "single-camera sitcom". Could you please elaborate on the nuanced differences between the two? Why is it harder to write for one than the other, and why do you think one of them is usually funnier? I guess I could google the terms but I'd rather have an AD writer enlighten me!

[deleted]232 karma

multi-camera sitcoms are shot on a stage like a play in front of a live audience with multiple cameras running at once that capture the action on stage like a basketball game. you can tape an entire show in a few hours. in the 80s, some multi-camera shows didn't use an audience, they used laugh tracks.

single-camera sitcoms are shot on sets, like a movie. they shoot with one camera from one angle, then turn the camera around and shoot it one shot at a time. an episode can take an entire week to shoot.

arrested development was a single camera show, but it was actually show with two camera, to capture the action like an episode of cops, or a reality show, or a documentary. so it's really like an mockumentary. it shot VERY quickly. other shows like this were the office, the larry sanders show (the first one like that) and modern family. they usually shoot with multiple camera.

in the old days single camera shows used laugh tracks, which didn't make sense because there was no audience possible on a movie-like set. at least on multi-camera sitcom it looked like a taped or filmed play.

nowadays single camera sitcoms don't use laugh tracks, so shows use music cues in place of them. that's because you need to develop comic rhythm for the big jokes. it's the set-up, the punchline, and the pause after that that gives the audience a chance to laugh, and to acknowledge the punchline.

on arrested development, we use act break musical cues and stings. on 30 rock, they use horns. on all the abc shows, they use strings, and they all have lots of music. on the office, they use glances to the camera and awkward pauses. these are all substitutes for laugh tracks.

[deleted]150 karma

  1. Examples of single camera shows:

leave it to beaver

the andy griffith show

arrested development

the office


30 rock

it's always sunny in philadelphia

the brady bunch


get smart

the first two seasons of happy days

  1. Examples of multi-camera shows:

i love lucy

the big bang theory

the honeymooners

how i met your mother (although it shoots without an audience)

all in the family

lucky louie

the mary tyler moore show

everybody loves raymond

the cosby show


the third season of happy days, and every subsequent season

If you want to know why someone would prefer one format over the other, let the guys from Newsradio answer that:


The guy talking is a producer on The Daily Show.

ProtestTheHero72 karma


[deleted]127 karma

Thansk. Although, when you tell people you write for "Arrested Development," people think you're a genius. When you tell people you wrote for "Two & A Half Men," people think you're an idiot."

The funny thing is, literally every writer on Arrested Development came from the multi-camera sitcom world, NOT the single-camera or animated sitcom world. None of us wrote for "The Simpsons." Most of us wrote for "Roseanne" and shows like that.

I figure I'm somewhere in between the two.

sushisushisushi154 karma

Roseanne is a good show. It was perhaps the last working-class sitcom that actually dealt with the realities of working-class life. And the husband wasn't an idiot; nor was the wife a beautiful genius.

[deleted]73 karma

The last one was Lucky Louie, the second last one was Roseanne.

TBBT's original pilot tried to be very working class, it had a very different cast and feel, but it didn't work. We tried to combine too many things at once.

tweets21 karma

Did you write for "Roseanne"?

[deleted]87 karma

Yeah, that's where I first met Chuck Lorre and the great Norm MacDonald.

Bonestown25 karma

any cool Norm stories?

[deleted]93 karma

This one time Norm threw his cigarette into am empty carton of chinese food and nearly set the room on fire. It was full of napkins/

[deleted]11 karma

I demand norm IAMA!

[deleted]22 karma


Forensicator65 karma

I imagine that you watch comedy in a different way than the average person. Is it possible to turn your brain off and just enjoy a television show? And do you, upon seeing something that isn't quite that funny, think about how you could have done better?

[deleted]98 karma

I find I talk to myself a lot when I watch a comedy, and say things like "that was a stupid joke," "Oh, that's a pretty good joke" and "that didn't quite work." so I try not to watch comedy too much anymore, except the classics. I prefer drama for my contemporary personal viewing, and film to tv.

oh_the_humanity59 karma

  1. Do you work directly with the actors?
  2. Who's the worst to work with?
  3. Are any of the characters closely based on any real world people that the writers know?

P.S We love BBT @ our house.

[deleted]77 karma

  1. Yes, on the set, often if a line doesn't get a laugh, we write them a new joke on the set. Sometimes we write a new joke for the third take so the audience explodes.
  2. Klaus Klinksi. What a terrible choice to play Charlie on 2.5 Men.
  3. Sheldon is based on a guy Bill Prady knew in college.

ihaveacalculator51 karma

Was "Sheldon" originally supposed to play such a major role in BBT or did it just turn out that way over time due to fan response?

[deleted]98 karma

Every sitcom has a "breakout" character, and on BBT Sheldon became it, but I think he was always considered something very special, mostly because of how much more nerdy he was compared to the other characters, and also because of Jim Parson's genius acting of him.

I guess he was the breakout character we knew would break out, but maybe we could have been wrong.

SniperTooL51 karma


[deleted]110 karma

  1. Whores.

  2. Yeah, on AD they wrote enough scripts for the full season 2, same length as season 1, but got the show downgraded for that season. They wrote an episode about that in season 2. On Season 3, we just were picked up for a short season, which made us waste too much time with Rita and that whole British storyline which was the worst thing we ever did. Spending that much time on that storyline would have been fine on a full season but in a truncated episode order, we should have wrapped that a bit quicker. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

  3. I doubt I'll write for that, but nobody but Mitch seems to know what's going on.

Since Mitch is such a strong head writer, all he needs is a good staff for him to lead and they'll have a great movie. I'm too busy with BBT, Mike & Molly and 2.5 Men right now, and so are most of the original AD writers (seasons 1-3, I mean), but if he got just 75% of the original guys and 25% other multi-camera guys, the movie will be just as good.

AD and BBT are both shows with frequently revolving doors of employment. We burned through many guys. On other types of sitcoms, they keep the same staff, and don't write in the room, so every episode is individual.

  1. Green Acres, Fibber McGee and Molly, Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, It's Garry Shandling's Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, Night Court, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 30 Rock, Community, How I Met Your Mother, Spaced.

  2. Yeah, that idea behind that was 1. To reward viewers for paying attention, 2. To try to make the show as funny as we could, since historically, single-camera sitcoms (like Leave it To Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show) have not been as funny as multi-camera sitcoms (like The Honeymooners or TBBT) But in single camera, since you don't have an audience, you can actually tell more jokes per minute than on shows with an audience, it's just that most shows never did before, for various reasons.

But an average multi-camera show still has more jokes per minute than the average pre-Arrested Development single-camera show.

edit: The numbering is fucked up, it should sat "4 & 5" on those last two.

SniperTooL9 karma

Thanks heaps for the reply.

  • LOL, great answer.

  • To this day I still get "for British eyes only" stuck in my head for uncomfortable amounts of time, oh and "Mr F". Who can I hold accountable for this? On a good note I always torment my room mate with these too.

  • That's too bad. Think about it though, it'd be great to see you involved with that. I'm not a huge fan of BBT to be honest, it seems as though if there was no canned laughter the show would be terribly awkward. Hot girls hanging around with nerds etc? I know that's part of the satire and not even sure why I made that point. 2.5 Men is always good if you're in a non-thinking mood and want a cheap laugh, I don't mind it sometimes. Can't say I've ever watched Mike & Molly so not much I can say on that.

  • Nice list, thanks. I remember watching Green Acres a little bit as a kid, catchy theme song. Currently watching through Seinfeld again, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is good too. I'll definitely check out the rest though :)

  • Well I certainly feel rewarded, gives the show more re-run watchability, I must say. The multi-camera set up works well, and most of the time there's stuff going on in the background so it satifies people that focus more on the foreground as well as the back. If you put a number (as I'm pretty sure would have been done) on the number of jokes per minute, I imagine it would be fairly high in comparison to other shows.

  • One thing I forgot to ask before, do you have your own chicken impersonation or is one of the ones in the show a reflection of your own?

Don't worry about it, got the flow. I think it's just because that paragraph breaks it up in the middle.

[deleted]9 karma

I think the multi-camera set-up works on AD because comedy is like a wild animal. It has to be captured live with multiple capture devices. On a movie style sitcom, turning the camera around to get one side of a conversation kills the comedy. That's why for years single-camera sitcoms had laugh tracks.

lovess51 karma

Just wanted to say I lost my virginity with Arrested Development in the background. lol.

[deleted]188 karma

You think that's bad? Alia Shawkat lost her kissing virginity with Arrested Development in the FOREground.

[deleted]22 karma

Maebe it was just her time?

[deleted]15 karma

No touching!

[deleted]50 karma


[deleted]86 karma

Mitch Hurwitz is responsible for all the characters.

[deleted]84 karma

Mitch is my best friend's uncle. I've met a lot of the family and you can tell how much Mitch borrows from his real life and childhood growing up in Newport Beach (ala the banana stand on Balboa island, the Balboa marina, the model homes of Crystal Cove, etc.). His mother is pretty much a living, breathing incarnation of Lucille, but I've yet to meet the family member that strikes me as a Tobias.

Also, thanks for doing this AMA!

fluxus46 karma

Did David Cross ever have any hand in writing for the show? What was it like working with him?

[deleted]94 karma

David is a writer, not officially on the show, but in general, so he improvised screamingly funny lines on AD that we used because they were so good.

Part of the reason people love AD is the spontaneous quality of the mockumentary format and the seemingly improvised nature of the show. In the 80s, most single camera sitcoms felt "canned" and movie-like, and most multi-camera sitcoms felt spontaneous. Tom Hanks used to improvise very funny things on Bosom Buddies. Now it's sort of switched. People think of multi-camera sitcoms as canned, and because of performers like David Cross, who's a great performer and a stand-up, a show like AD seems spontaneous.

nearvana22 karma


[deleted]16 karma


[deleted]41 karma

What was your role in writing for AD? Did you write entire scenes, or do you and the other writers sit in a room and write collaboratively? Can you say that you authored specific lines, gags, or ideas in any AD episode?

[deleted]102 karma

Everything in Arrested Development was written "in the room," with story credits assigned randomly, but the storylines were written by Mitch Hurwitz. He was the genius who had the master plan for the plot lines.

So I can't say I "wrote" an episode, just came up with jokes along with the rest of the staff.

[deleted]40 karma

Can you remember any jokes you wrote for the show? I'd like to tell you how much they made me laugh/smile/cringe :)

[deleted]472 karma

On Arrested Development, I wrote a gag where every time Gob Bluth mentioned the price of his suit, it kept going up. That's something I've done since I was a kid. I usually went something like:

"Hey, can I have a cookie?" "No." "Sweet, I'm glad you're letting me have two cookies." "I said no." "Awesome, I am so gonna enjoy these four cookies."

CleftOfVenus294 karma

That reminds of a joke about the Jews.

A young Jewish boy walks up to his old Jewish father. "Dad, can I borrow Five dollars?"

The dad says, "Four dollars? What do you need three dollars for?"

[deleted]151 karma

Holy shit. I just pissed me pants laughing.

gadgetcopter109 karma

"Here's two dollars; split it with your brother."

[deleted]90 karma

"and give me the change."

gimpwiz62 karma

I hope you know that this running gag is repeated in every relevant (and a few irrelevant) threads here. How does it feel to browse around and be able to say, "Ha! I made that up"?

[deleted]229 karma

I feel like the guy who invented the artifical flavouring in macdonalds hamburgers when he hears people talk about how macdonalds hamburgers taste. "You know, I mixed those chemicals together... " "Yeah, at your job, asshole. Do your job and shut the fuck up."

blitzed46 karma

You're the guy who made up that joke? Come on! Seriously, that joke's hilarious.

[deleted]107 karma

When I was a kid, it was really more about the fact that I would pretend the request I was denied was being granted. The amount being granted increasing with each instance of braggadocio was more about the complete and utter disregard for the authority or me ostensibly pretending not to accept the rejection, increasing the significance of denial with each self-aggrandizing sentence than it was the actual absurdity of the amount increasing.

But I think that was lost in those lines.

I also wrote that line where Tobias couldn't accept Lucille telling him he's an awful actor and psychiatrist. Fruit from the same branch.

[deleted]35 karma

thank you for that joke.

TheEphemeric32 karma

That's an amazing bit, but I can't tell how much of it is due to the funniness of the joke itself or the great comedic performance of Will Arnett.

[deleted]94 karma

He's a genius!

Vitalstatistix24 karma

Was it your brainchild to get away with the first f-bomb on TV?

[deleted]65 karma

You mean the "-cking" and then the "fu-" lines?

K_Loggins39 karma

Looking back, has there been anyone, in particular, who you've felt lucky to lucky to be working with?

How did you get into the business?

[deleted]86 karma

Norman Lear was a genius and also a visionary. He stood up for us against the network in any kind of content dispute.

Mitch Hurwitz was great for calling back jokes from earlier into later episodes. He sort of helped weave them into tapestries that increased how funny the callbacks were. They were like more advanced versions of catchphrases.

Chuck Lorre is great for having a strong vision for what his shows are supposed to be, and not trying to be hip or cool or modern . He wants his shows to be old fashioned and efficient, and 99% of the time he's right.

shkibb47 karma

Are you referring to lines such as "I've made huge mistake."?

[deleted]236 karma

Yeah, and when you've established that a character says something like that, the joke comes from the VARIATIONS on those lines. That's how you get GOB saying something like "When have I ever admitted to a mistake?"

Or a joke like the fight between I think it was Michael and Gob set to music. That scene is like 10 jokes at once.

  1. The initial external joke of having Ron comment on how the fight wasn't entertaining set to any kind of music. This is the "big joke."
  2. Calling back every musical sting used before in the show, from the latino music to the act break music.
  3. Saying "It was kind of funny set to "yellow submarine," but who could afford it? A Beatles joke and a 4th wall breaking self-reflexive joke"
  4. Having the song play "yellow boat", which is a reference to 4a. Yellow Submarine, as ron said earlier, 4b. Yellow Boat being a reference to Gob's actual yellow boat 4c. Yellow Boat actually refers to the banana stand, and is reference in the lyrics to Yellow Boat.

See what I mean about the tapestry?

[deleted]166 karma

Dude, stop, I don't have time to rewatch every episode right now!

Draggnknucks35 karma

What do you think doomed AD? Was it ahead of its time? Or perhaps too intelligent to be successful on a huge network like FOX?

[deleted]126 karma

Bad ratings. It wasn't ahead of its time, but Fox treated it terribly. And I don't think it was too intelligent to be successful, because it was a lot like Seinfeld or Green Acres, in how intelligent it was, in its self-reflexive jokes, callbacks, big "universe," cartooniness, and other factors people mistakenly said were "innovative."

Also, I think the people who liked the show didn't promote it well. People said "oh, it's so intelligent," which sounds douchey to me. To me, that show was the best show on tv because it was the FUNNIEST. It could be very stupid sometimes.

SamuraiSevens70 karma

would you say that this is accurate?

[deleted]79 karma

That clip makes me happy and sad at the same time. David is my hero.

VikingCoder35 karma

My grandpa passed this year. He was a hell of a guy, I think most redditors would have liked talking with him. He worked multiple jobs to take care of his kids, and to make sure they got a better education than he did; he only made it through the fifth grade.

Well, his favorite show was The Big Bang Theory. It made him laugh and laugh. Even when his emphysema was suffocating him, he would laugh at The Big Bang Theory.

So, thank you - and thank all of the other people who contribute to The Big Bang Theory, for bringing him so much laughter.

[deleted]19 karma

WOW! That's an amazing story. Did he like any old sitcoms?

instantinsanity35 karma

By the way LOVE BBT!!!! Why did the writers pick CalTech, and not MIT or Stanford?

As someone who has a lot of friends that attend CalTech and are experimental physicists, you guys nailed the lifestyle and personal relationships on the freaking head.

[deleted]59 karma

The show had to take place place in LA so we could have Penny be an aspiring actress in a ratty old apartment. and thanks!

Scripto2363 karma

Wait, wait. I really hope that "ratty old apartment" is sarcasm or something. Because that apartment is awesome.

derefr47 karma

The apartment is Hollywood ugly.

[deleted]24 karma

Oh, man. I must live in a crack shack compared to Hollywood standards.

Puppy_Breath34 karma

What is your favorite BBT line/joke/plot that you developed?

[deleted]105 karma

There's one episode, which is everyone's favourite episode, where I wrote that Leonard gives Penny "101 science experiments for kids" for Christmas.

robbysalz28 karma

How did you get your start? I'm 22, what's something I could start doing next Sunday that would eventually get me an interview/noticed?

What's an average day like for a writer? Have you ever worked "on set" or in an office setting with other writers? What's it like writing then?

Thanks for making this thread! I'm so piqued

[deleted]35 karma

I recommend submitting writing samples (on "spec," which is basically a script for a pre-existing show,) to an agent in New York or LA.

As for the average day, Arrested Development and The Big Bang Theory/2.5 are very, very similar in terms of how they're written. We write and rewrite a lot, one episode per week, until we shoot. Then, when we shoot, if a joke doesn't get a laugh, or we think we can do better, we write new lines on the set.

The writer's room is basically like a board room where we pitch jokes. On the set, the writers suggest lines to the actors and directors in order to make the show funnier. In that way we really vet the comedy.

[deleted]11 karma

Do you recommend any agencies? How receptive are showrunners to spec scripts?

[deleted]37 karma

You don't contact the showrunners, your agents do, and if they go through the proper channels, they're very receptive. People in Hollywood hate it when you don't go through the proper channels and hierarchy of communication. It's sort of an unspoken rule. It's very tribal and ritualistic. I can't recommend any specific agency, though.

If a showrunner got a packet of writing stuff from just some kid, they'd return it unopened as a policy to avoid lawsuits from people who think we stole their ideas.

someotheridiot22 karma

What are your favorite sitcoms (that you didnt have a hand in!)

[deleted]43 karma

In order (from most to least favourite)

  1. The Honeymooners
  2. All In The Family
  3. Sanford & Son
  4. Fawlty Towers
  5. The Larry Sanders Show
  6. Green Acres
  7. Sgt. Bilko
  8. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  9. Seinfeld
  10. Lucky Louie

Edit: I wrote some freelance stuff for All in The Family, Sanford & Son, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (back when freelance writers could get jobs on a regular basis, thank god for Frank Darabont) but I don't count that as me having had a "hand" in it So I included them.

Edit 2: This changes all the time. honourable mentions: the andy griffith show, everybody loves raymond, and our miss brooks. Edit 3: How could I forget THE COSBY SHOW?

Obvious0ne18 karma

Cool! Love BBT and watching Arrested Development for the first time now (in season 1 on hulu+)

[deleted]72 karma

It gets REALLY, really good in season 2.

questionmark10115 karma

Great topic!

  1. How did you get your foot in the door and what inspired you to be a writer?
  2. How often do you writer and do you have certain practices for how it must be done (i.e Stephen King 5,000 words a day)
  3. What are your favorite television shows and movies?

[deleted]22 karma

  1. The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mad Magazine inspired me to become a comedy writer, and I got my foot in the door by writing animated cartoons for HB in the 1970s.
  2. For personal writing, I try to write at least two hours of serious writing a day, off-season, and I'm always writing down ideas in a little notepad I carry around. For the show, we work long hours from early in the morning to late at night.

Multi-camera sitcoms (like 2.5 and BBT,) and Arrested Development, which was LIKE a multi-camera sitcom in more ways than not, require a lot of rewrites every single day, from Monday until the end of taping on Saturday, which takes a few hours. So we're really writing 12+ hours a day 6 days a week.

ILikeAppleJuice11 karma

Yay! How does the actual writing work? I've always been curious about it. After watching 30 Rock, I always imagine the writers sitting in a crammed room with lots of food and feeding ideas off of each other. Is it like that?

And you've been doing this for a long time - how have things changed? What do you think of new sitcoms like Modern Family?

[deleted]25 karma

The food part is very true. We get take-out for the long hours. I love take-out.

A lot of the Indian Food and Chinese Food take-out jokes on the show (you know, the character based stuff nobody every talks about, even though it's the meat and potatoes of the show) come from writing room culture.

Modern Family is like Arrested Development in that it's the brainchild of traditional multi-camera sitcom "hacks" who created a single-camera/mockumentary sitcom in a hip style and tried everything they knew about multi-camera sitcoms in it.

Once again proving my theory that single camera is way easier to write than multi-camera.

If Modern Family had been developed one year later, it could have been multi-camera because a lot of networks were going for it that year. Then all those shows got canceled, so the networks blamed the format, because they're stupid. "not hip enough!"

So things have changed in that, in the 90s, most sitcoms were multi-camera, and some producers preferred single camera. Now, all the executives prefer single-camera, and think multi-camera is outdated, despite the fact we've switched back and forth all the time since the 1950s.