THIS BOOK, RIGHT NOW?
I never thought of writing
a book about sitcoms – or a book on any subject, for that matter.
There are more-famous and more-successful sitcom writers than me: Larry
David of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, James
L. Brooks from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and The
Simpsons. Diane English of Murphy Brown, Linda Bloodworth
from Designing Women and the Clinton Administration.
I could list about seventy much-more-famous sitcom writers than me just
off the top of my head. But so far none of them has written a book about
sitcom writing. I don’t imagine Phil Rosenthal is going get around
to it, do you?
Recently, I was teaching some graduate level courses on sitcom writing
at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Sean Clark runs the screenwriting
program there. Sean and I worked together on Coach. That’s
how I ended up with a “C” boarding pass on Southwest Airlines
out of Burbank every Friday morning for three semesters. I couldn’t
imagine what anyone else could possibly be doing on an airplane going
to Las Vegas at 7:30 in the frigging morning! You can’t check
into a hotel until 3:00 in the afternoon! What are you supposed to do,
pull your suitcase through The Bellagio for six hours?
One Friday afternoon, while walking across campus at UNLV – it
was winter in Las Vegas, and therefore possible to stroll about without
water or sun block – Professor Clark suggested that I write a
whole book on the subject I was teaching. He mentioned that while a
few books about sitcom writing had been published, none of the books
that he had seen were authored by people like me, who had actually made
an entire successful career out of writing scripts for sitcoms. Real
sitcom writers are too busy writing real sitcoms, or sitting in delicatessens
with other sitcom writers complaining about actors.
I was flattered by the suggestion. I thought about it for a while and
finally decided, “Nah.” Writing a book about writing seemed
like something you do when you’re done writing about everything
else. I felt, and still feel, that I have a number of fresh, original,
unsellable spec screenplays in me. So I went back to spinning my wheels
A few months later, my sometime-collaborator, Blake Snyder, published
a book about writing spec screenplays called Save the Cat.
(That’s the second plug for Blake, so enough is enough.) Blake
also encouraged me to write Elephant Bucks.