Monday, June 12, 2017

The Hollywood Reporter's Comedy Showrunner Roundtable

The Hollywood Reporter recently gathered Judd Apatow, David Mandel, Kenya Barris, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Pheobe Waller-Bridge, and Scott Silveri for a comedy showrunner's roundtable interview. Here are some of the highlights:

Many of you have multiple projects right now. How much industry pressure is there to build an empire?

KENYA BARRIS (Black-ish, ABC) As a writer, there's always that feeling of fraud — that you're going to be found out, so get it out before you are. I wanted to be the black Judd Apatow because I wanted to be able to jump around, but this year [I found out that] it was unbelievably hard to multitask in that way. Because as a writer, you get passionate and you know that your best work comes from something that you're really focused on, and whether you like it or not, when you start taking on more things, it becomes a bit of a filtered-down process.

JUDD APATOW (Crashing and Girls, HBO; Love, Netflix) Only if you're better than your writers, but everyone that I work with is better than me. So when I'm not around, things improve. (Laughs.)

Do the rest of you have the confidence to say no to projects?

BARRIS I have the confidence and a little bit more money. (Laughs.)

APATOW I never think things will go, that's my problem. Paul Rust and I were working on the Pee-wee Herman movie for Netflix, and I would kick around this TV show [Love] with him and his wife, Lesley Arfin. But I thought, "This is a great idea, no one is ever going to do this!" (Laughter.) And then when we got a two-season order from Netflix, I was like, "Wait a second — why? I've got another show; this seems complicated."

A few of you have written shows that are based on your own lives. Where do you draw the line?

SCOTT SILVERI (Speechless, ABC) They tell you to write what you know — they don't say it will kill you when you try to do it. The first draft of the script for Speechless was very close to my actual experience growing up [Silveri's brother has cerebral palsy], and it was just suffocating. It's hard enough to make one of these things entertaining, but when you're walking that line between therapy and comedy writing … and there's also the added burden of, "What in this script is going to piss off my uncle at Thanksgiving?" (Laughter.) So being able to take a little bit of license just takes a lot of pressure off.

WALLER-BRIDGE People approach me thinking that I've been through all of [my character's experiences on Fleabag]. They're always really disappointed that I'm married. Like, "What? We thought you were f—ing everyone!" That humor and a lot of the anecdotal stuff I amplified from my own life, and then I weaved a dramatic story out of it.

Judd, you've said, "For a long time, TV was just the land of the handsome, beautiful people, and now it's the opposite." Is that true everywhere on the television dial?

ALL No. (Laughter.)

APATOW It seemed really weird when we did Freaks and Geeks [in 1999] that we said, "Let's do a high school show with these kids." NBC went for it but ultimately didn't seem that happy about it. It was the era of Dawson's Creek and a lot of fantasy-fulfillment TV. Now there are a ton of shows that are about the freaks and geeks of every age. When we did it, people looked at us like we were nuts.

DAVID MANDEL (Veep, HBO) We [Silveri and Mandel] had a pilot on one of the mainstream networks about two years ago, and there was definitely pressure when we were casting a mom. I can simply tell you there were the funny people we wanted and then the people who I can only assume they thought had a nice rack.

SILVERI Well, they did, objectively. (Laughter.)

WALLER-BRIDGE There's never a funny rack, is there?

Read the full interview at The Hollywood Reporter.

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