The Great Ken Levine gives us the inside scoop on the writing of MASH in one of the best -how-to columns we’ve ever seen.
by Ken Levine
MASH episodes tend to be complicated and I’m often asked how we plotted out stories. So here’s how we did it.
First off, we chose the best stories we could find – the most emotional, the most interesting the best possibilities for comedy. Plotting is worthless if you have a bad story. Chekhov would pull out his hair trying to make “B.J.’s Depression” work.
(Side note: stories where your lead character is depressed generally don’t work in comedy. Moping around is not conducive to laughs. Better to make them angry, frustrated, lovesick, impatient, hurt – anything but depressed… or worse, happy. Happy is comedy death.)
We got a lot of our stories from research – transcribed interviews of doctors, nurses, patients, and others who lived through the experience. But again, the key was to find some hook that would connect one of our characters to these real life incidents.
Some of these anecdotes were so outrageous we either couldn’t use them or had to tone them down because no one would believe them….