Friday, September 23, 2011

Smarmy jokes in pilots My, how things have changed. A number of years ago I was showrunning a show and reading through a mountain of spec scripts looking for new staff writers. Again, young scribes, remember -- we want to like your script. Nothing would please us more. Every time we pick up a script we’re hoping this is the one. Most are disappointing though. One in particular I thought was terrible. It was a spec NEWSRADIO. (Warning: adult content ahead) The story was that the Dave Foley character comes into his office one morning to find there is a big cum stain on his couch. The episode is trying to determine who left it. Hilarity ensues. Now who doesn’t love a good cum stain joke? I mean, really. It’s the staple of comedy. However, for a network situation comedy, it’s a little inappropriate. Not to mention smarmy. So I decided to do what I thought was a good thing. Instead of just writing a standard rejection letter I called the agent. I told him that his client was doing himself a disservice by sending around this particular spec. Some might find cum stain jokes offensive. Besides, it’s not a good representation of NEWSRADIO. They would never do that episode. And NBC would never allow them to do that episode. If the writer had anything else I’d be happy to read it. The agent basically told me to go fuck myself. This was a brilliant script and if I didn’t recognize it then I was an idiot. No good deed goes unpunished, right? I don’t know whatever happened to that writer but I’m guessing he didn’t make it. I never saw his name on a show. And when I received scripts from that agent they went right to the bottom of the pile. Last night did you see the pilot of 2 BROKE GIRLS that debuted on CBS? One of the stars is Kat Denning, who was in one of our failed pilots and I’m very happy for her success. (Aaron Paul was also in that project before moving on to BREAKING BAD. We’re like the Broadway Danny Rose of pilot creators.) Anyway, there are two, maybe three cum stain jokes in it. This is the pilot – subject to all that extensive research testing. So apparently cum stains on a uniform a waitress is supposed to wear during business hours at a diner are now not objectionable. There are actually a lot of good jokes in the pilot but the cum stain jokes aren’t three of ‘em. They're pretty lame cum stain jokes. This is certainly an example of how standards and tastes change. (No pun on “tastes” intended although if you laughed, sure, what the hell?) I’m sure that agent would say “I told you so” (except that I’d never take his call), and maybe he’s right. I hope not but I dunno. Would our failed pilot with Kat Denning and Aaron Paul now be in the sixth year of production if we only had thrown in a couple of cum stain jokes? And there were places for ‘em. There always are. But we took the high road. We like to think we're good enough comedy writers that we can make people laugh without having to resort to lines like, "Gee, I sure hope that was clam chowder".

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