The Magical Vulva of Opportunity

I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants over the weekend, because as a lady who writes comedy it is some kind of law. They sent something to my house; it was very official. And because I’m a lady who writes comedy who also likes extra credit, I went to see Tina speak with Steve Martin last week, where I truly couldn’t walk five steps without running into or recognizing another woman I’d either worked with or had a meeting with or interviewed with or knew through comedy since moving to Los Angeles. (I also held the World’s Smallest Impromptu Book Signing, wherein I defaced Tina Fey’s Bossypants.)

I bring this up for a couple of reasons. It’s staffing season, which means right now writers are waiting to find out which shows are going to staff which writers, depending on which shows get picked up for the fall season, and it’s all very hurry-up-and-wait while your scripts get sent to network executives, showrunners, assistants and trashcans. Read more

The good, the bad and the unknown.

Working on this television show is teaching me how to add more specifics to my writing. When I write here, or a recap, or even a script Liz and I will eventually perform, there’s a tendency to write in shorthand, to deliver enough information that someone “gets it,” and then move on. Here I’m learning what happens if you leave things up to interpretation, the confusion that can happen when a script goes through ten different hands before it’s heard out loud again. There’s no room for imagination. Everything will actually exist and there are a thousand decisions to make. If the writer doesn’t specify, there will be notes, questions, and the possibility of something getting cut because it’ll take too long to interpret.

[scripty]
Liz is in the kitchen. She stands by a table, eating food.

LIZ
Chinese food is so messy.
[/scripty]

Is the kitchen in a house, apartment or office? What kind of table? Can it be a counter? Is the food in a bowl, on a plate, in a container? Is she eating Chinese food, or just talking about it because she can’t eat it because it’s too messy? Read more

pre-production

We have spent the past week in pre-production at the Oxygen show.

Pre-production means the producers are planning out the shooting schedule, while we rewrite the script over and over again until it satisfies the network, the budget and the cast (in that order). This is when it gets more intense, and a bit frustrating. This is when you have to, as the comedy saying goes, “eat your babies.” Gone is your hilarious joke about chick lit — too “smart.” Gone is your clever dig at tearjerkers — they don’t “get it.” Another segment gets changed entirely, as the location was impossible to rent affordably. Jokes are rewritten, made “broader” and softer, and less “political.” You are told to lose the subtlety. Sometimes we marvel at what does get in. Jokes we thought were too raunchy or silly, sketches that we threw out there because someone needed to say something at that moment — some of this stuff was in Plan D. Now we’re writing the script backwards, trying to fit the same joke or the same social commentary around a budgetary restriction, and it can be very difficult. It can be extremely frustrating. You know how to make the joke work one way, the best way, but you can’t do that, so you’ve got to sneak it in or illustrate it in another fashion. Read more