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Home » Archives » October 2007 » Sweaty Clumps of Talent
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10/08/2007: Sweaty Clumps of Talent

Holy cow, Gentle Readers, I was just looking through my current stack of letters-to-answer when I pulled out a nice long one that I don't recall reading before. To my embarrassment, I see that it's dated October 20, 2006. The hell? How'd that happen? So apologies, Adam in West Hollywood, and thanks for the letter!

Adam is (was) debating whether to write a half-hour or an hour-long spec. He was tempted to try specing a multi-camera half-hour to bring some diversity to his portfolio, but he wasn't sure he'd like the process of actually working on such a show. He described a scene he'd seen in a "Behind the Scenes" feature on a Friends DVD in which the writers had to fix a joke during the taping when it failed to get a laugh:

So there was this tight, feverish little knot of writers pitching out jokes like hot little coals no one could hold for too long [...] as the crowd watched from ten feet away...

Adam asks if I've ever been expected to pop out jokes under the gun like that. The answer is that yes, I've been part of those awful feverish huddles in front of a waiting audience, although I've never felt that I've done much good there. The ability to find a new joke under pressure that way is a particular and prized skill that half-hour multi-camera writers are supposed to have, although the degrees of actual skill vary wildly. Also keep in mind that, in that huddle, you're trying to get a fresh take on a moment that you've already been staring at for a whole week. If you're flushing with the excitement of the challenge, go into sitcom work. If you're feeling what Adam calls "big dragging icicle chills," then it's probably not the job for you.

And given that, Adam, I'd say you don't need a half-hour multi-camera spec script. Write shows that are like the shows you want to write, if you get what I mean. If you'd like to write a spec for an existing show that mixes comedy and drama, try Ugly Betty -- it'll show off your joke skills without pushing you toward a tense and sweaty career.

Lunch: Chicken Caesar Salad. The croutons they used were clearly intended to be used as turkey stuffing, as they tasted strongly of sage -- very odd mixture of flavors


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