Luckily, today we have a guest post from Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis, authors of Show Me the Funny! I'm excited to delve into this book as I revamp the comedy in The Exit Strategy, but first, here's a snippet of what their book is like.
Dialing Up The Darkness
By Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis
In our book, Show Me The Funny!: At the Writers Table With Hollywood's Top Comedy Writers we asked twenty-seven comedy writers to take a generic premise we created and develop it. We told them there were no limits, no rules and no boundaries. We worried that they would duplicate each other…it’d be like the famous episode where Ethel and Lucy show up to a party wearing the same dress. We worried needlessly. We were excited to discover that every writer, whether a team or an individual, attacked the premise in his or her own unique way. That’s one important definition of a professional. Show Runner for Roseanne, Bob Myer made the story into an episode of a situation comedy. He effortlessly created a network-style story. He began by casting the story in his mind so he could picture who he was writing dialogue for, and to make sure that it would be acceptable to a network…That’s another definition of a professional…he expects to be paid for his work.
Then we asked: “If you didn’t have to worry about networks and executives, how would you darken it?”
Bob gave us a choir boy’s smile. We pictured him with his hand on a dial about to turn it as he asked, “How dark do you want it?” We told him he could make it as dark as he wanted. He went to work with glee turning an average, mid-twenties corporate woman into a drug-addicted private detective. The treat for the reader is watching as he goes back-and-forth between developing the story and explaining his rationale as he builds and deepens it.
When we asked how he planned to get the audience to root for a drug addict, he said: “I think her dependency makes her likeable and she’s funny. And we like funny people…she’s pretty. You like pretty people. But she’s also got a struggle and you’re rooting for her. You want her to survive…you want her to pull out of this. And she’s good enough at what she does and entertaining enough in how she behaves…she can keep her friends strung along, her friends haven’t given up on her yet, and you don’t either. And because of her habit, she’s an underdog…and we root for underdogs.”
With great skill, Bob created a pilot episode in which his troubled detective is headed to meet her “deep throat,” a guy with information that will break her case wide open. She runs home to pick up a few things… a file…a hat…a quick fix, and as she opens her apartment door, everyone she knows is there for an intervention.
As soon as he said the word “INTERVENTION” Bob sat up straight and said, “I’m thinking of pitching it now.”
You can find out more about Show Me the Funny! at www.showmethefunnyonline.com or www.smtfo.com. And, hey while you’re at it ‘Like’ us at www.Facebook.com/SMTFfans.
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One out of every 150 people in America bought a copy of a joke book that Peter Desberg has written. Unfortunately, Scholastic sold the most popular one for $1 each, so he still has to work. Counting his five joke books, he has had twenty books published. In addition to this lucrative writing career, he is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the area of stage fright. He has worked with many top stand-up comedians, who are regularly confronted with massive cases of flop sweat. He also has been moonlighting as a full professor at California State University Dominguez Hills for over thirty years.
Jeffrey Davis's earliest memories are of sitting around the writers' table at Nate & Al's Delicatessen, where his father and his comedy writer cronies gathered over corn beef and Doctor Brown's Cream Soda, told war stories, and tried to fix third acts. He began his own career writing jokes for Thicke of the Night. Among his situation comedy credits are Love Boat, House Calls with Lynn Redgrave, Give Me a Break, Diff'rent Strokes, and Night Court. He has also written for such shows as America's Funniest People, America's Funniest Home Videos, and Small Wonder, and has had film projects developed by Bette Midler's All Girl Productions, among others. His plays have been produced in New York and Los Angeles. His most recently published play is Speed Dating 101. He is the Screenwriting Department Chair and associate professor of film and TV writing at Loyola Marymount University. His one night of stand-up at the Comedy Store convinced him that he should stay permanently seated at his desk.