I have wanted to write for television since I was a child. Strangely, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was the first show I wanted to script. (Yes, I was a pioneer in writing for reality TV.) Cut all scenes with lions hunting game. Cantaloupes, not antelopes! Things evolved. I wrote lines for the Muppets and imagined Chrissy on “Three’s Company” following the yellow brick road in search of a brain. I re-imagined episodes of “Laverne and Shirley” (more Carmine, less Lenny and Squiggy—a bad bent, motivated by impulses I didn’t yet understand).
I wrote my first spec script in 1990 for “Designing Women” as a diversion from law school exams. Studying in Malibu proved highly motivating. I’d spot Bob Newhart in the video store and zip home to crank out another script, certain that he would accost me next time and say, “You’ve got that homely look of a writer. Got anything?” I developed a spec portfolio of “Mad About You”, “Seinfeld” and “Murphy Brown.” Unfortunately, Bob never asked.
After bad experiences getting shot at during the Rodney King riots and screaming helplessly in my thirteenth floor apartment during the Northridge earthquake, I fled L.A. I stupidly put my life ahead of career.
Over the last eighteen years, I have kept writing. I’ve had a novel and some magazine articles published, but writing scripts has always been the most satisfying. As I wait for U.S. Immigration to process my documents—could they be in a slush pile, too?—I yearn to build connections and gain a better sense of what it takes to be successful in television. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to fly to L.A. for Ken Levine’s TV Sitcom Room weekend.
Going in, I had realistic expectations of what the experience would offer. It only reaffirms my desire to break in to the biz. I have scripts ideas to flesh out and a better sense of where I am on track and where I need to sharpen my skills.
I won’t give a play-by-play of the weekend. You have to experience it yourself. If I’d had a chance to go on Twitter during the weekend intensive, these may have been my ten tweets (weeding out all lurid references to the Chicken Dance):
1) Mention of a laugh-free sitcom will always get a free laugh. #Whitney
2) Chinese food does not keep if you put it in the hotel room safe.
3) People don’t see the funny in gluten-free.
4) If you go for the testes, the natural response is a loud groan.
5) Los Angelinos look for any opportunity to show off their winter wear. Toques? Really?!
6) It’s true, nobody walks in L.A. At least, not when I’m schlepping back to my friend’s place at 3 a.m.
7) Networks should take note & hire Ken’s dad as an exec.
8) Falling out of your chair is a good thing…when triggered by laughing. (Bruises heal.)
9) Twelve hours can seem like a blip and an eternity at the same time.
10) The real thing may be sweet, but I’d pay extra for a laugh track for some insincere ego boosting.