Everything you ever needed to know about comedy
by Ken Levine
Dan O’Shannon is one of the executive producers of MODERN FAMILY. He was a showrunner of FRASIER and an executive producer of CHEERS. The man knows funny. Recently he wrote a terrific book called WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING AT? A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THE COMEDIC EVENT. Somehow he managed to explain comedy, which to me is harder than trying to describe the color red over the radio. As insane as it is to plug someone else’s book when I’m still shamelessly hawking mine (available here — go buy it), I really recommend Dan’s book (which you can order here). Recently, I had the chance to talk to him about it.
What possessed you to write this book?
Like many who actually create comedy, I occasionally see books and articles that academics write about humor. And like many who create it, I find most of it tone deaf. It’s like reading about bicycle riding from someone who’s never been on a bike. One day I asked myself how I would define and analyze comedy, if I was so smart?
It seems like such an enormous undertaking. Explaining the world might’ve been easier. How did you go about organizing this bad boy?
A lot of people start right in analyzing joke structures. I chose to analyze the comedic event, which includes the study of context, as well as structure, content, and transmission. And I relentlessly asked myself questions: What changes in social context or delivery might enhance or inhibit the laugh? How does being part of an audience make you laugh differently than when you’re alone? How does being in the presence of the source of the comedy enhance or inhibit response? How can a joke be funnier through repetition and then stop being funny and then start being funny? Why do things cease to be funny? Four years of stand-up followed by twenty-seven years in sitcoms provided me with thousands and thousands of hours of experimentation.
Erm, probably. (Would you believe maybe?) We’re just doing this because we feel sorry for NBC, which needs all the positive P.R. it can buy get.
Meet Pearlena Igbokwe, NBC’s New Executive Vice President of Drama Programming by Alanna Bennett
NBC has named its new head drama exec, and it is veteran TV executive Pearlena Igbokwe. She’s been working with Showtime for the past 20 years, during which time she worked on the development of shows like Dexter, Nurse Jackie, The Big C, and the upcoming Masters of Sex. Oh, and she also happens to be a woman of color. As someone who follows television news as if it held the same national importance as the electoral race, and who also happens to be a woman of color, this makes me pretty happy.
I started this post as a simple congratulations to Igbokwe, but after further probing into her internet presence I seem to be developing a rapid inspiration-crush. For instance, take this excerpt from her Twitter bio: “[I] believe only in Star Wars and Empire, not the other travesties.” In other words, she’s our kind of woman.
Igbokwe will be stepping into the shoes of Laura Lancaster, who departed from NBC just yesterday, and will be reporting to NBC Entertainment’s president Jennifer Salke.
You know, this is one of the best-written articles we’ve ever read on the web. Hey, Alanna Bennett, want a new gig? (Maybe, if NBC really had paid us to carry this, we’d even be able to afford to pay…)
So, uh, Kickstarter no longer is for you and me? I mean, how do we compete for the bucks when it’s rapidly becoming overrun with stars? Deserving stars, we don’t doubt. But still…
Charlie Kaufman Pens Stop-Motion Animated Film ‘Anomalisa,’ ‘Community’ Creator Dan Harmon Exec-Producing by Oliver Lyttelton
Charlie Kaufman might be having some issues getting his next directorial effort, “Frank Or Francis,” up and running, but he’s not exactly lacking for work. The writer of “Adaptation” and “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” is adapting young-adult novel “The Knife Of Letting Go” for Lionsgate, and he’s developing an HBO series starring Catherine Keener. And now, he’s moving into new territory with some very, very interesting collaborators.
As pointed out by sometime Playlist contributor @williambgoss on Twitter, a Kickstarter page popped up today for a project called “Anomalisa,” a stop-motion animated film written by Kaufman, his first incursion away from live-action. And he’s teamed up with Starburns Industries to get the film made. What does that mean? Well, as the title might give away to fans, it means a “Community” tie-in, with the cult sitcom’s creator and former showrunner, Dan Harmon, along with his friend and sometime collaborator Dino Stamatopolous, who played the occasional character of Starburns on the series, as well as being a consulting producer. But he’s probably best known as the man behind cult Adult Swim animation “Moral Orel” and “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole.”
Hey, let’s look at the bright side. Maybe Kaufman and Harmon won’t get along and they’ll have to refund the money. Which will mean a little something still available for the likes of…us. (New writers “us,” not TVWriter™ “us.” Okay, boss?)
‘NCIS’ Co-Stars Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette & Sean Murray Ink Deals To Return by Nellie Andreeva
EXCLUSIVE: The entire cast of NCIS will come back intact when the veteran CBS drama starts production on its 10th season next week. Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette and Sean Murray have all signed two-year deals to continue on the hit procedural starring Mark Harmon. Weatherly, Perrette and Murray are three of four veteran NCIS cast members whose contracts were up after Season 9. The fourth, David McCallum, re-upped in April, while negotiations between CBS/CBS Studios and Weatherly, Perrette and Murray continued on-and-off until separate agreements were reached over the past 10 days.
Also returning with a new deal is Rocky Carroll, who joined NCIS in Season 5. Weatherly, Perrette and McCallum are original cast members, while Murray joined during the first season. The rest of the cast, including star/executive producer Harmon, have deals in place for next season.
AMC OFFERS DISH SUBSCRIBERS LIVE STREAM OF Breaking Bad SEASON FIVE PREMIERE by TeamTVWriter Press Service
And now, because TVWriter™ loves its BREAKING BAD fans (and there are so damn many of you), here’s today’s not-so-sneaky tip on how to get past DISH’s recent dropping of AMC channels to gain leverage in an ongoing lawsuit.
Seems that AMC itself will give DISH customers access to the Emmy® winning drama on Sunday, July 15, at 10PM EST via a special live stream of the season five premiere to all DISH subscribers on amctv.com.
According to AMC (and who are we to argue?), “Every cable, phone and satellite company other than DISH carries AMC and its popular programming, including “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Mad Men,” in their basic package. AMC wants its loyal DISH viewers to experience the excitement of the “Breaking Bad” premiere at the same time as their friends and neighbors, and we want to give DISH customers an extra week to switch providers so they can enjoy the rest of the season.”
Wait, there’s more: “Created by writer- producer-director Vince Gilligan and produced by Sony Pictures Television, the critically acclaimed series has garnered six Primetime Emmy® Award wins and a Peabody, and been named to the American Film Institute’s (AFI) list of the “Top 10 Programs of the Year” (2008, 2010, 2011).”
Here at TVWriter™ we’re definitely on AMC’s side in this fight. We mean, how can you not take up arms for people who can use the word “garnered” in an announcement and still take themselves seriously?