Sitcom Writer

Sitcom Writer

SitcomWriter

Los Angeles, CA

Female, 33

For over ten years, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of being staffed on several half-hour network sitcoms, rising in the ranks from Staff Writer to Co-Executive producer. My writing partner and I are now developing our own material.

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Last Answer on December 19, 2012

Best Rated

What do you think was the most underrated sitcom of the past 10 years?

Asked by Trevor over 6 years ago

This is tough. I think Strangers with Candy, an old Amy Sedaris show on Comedy Central should have gotten the audience of a 2 and 1/2 Men. I think Spaced a British show starring Simon Pegg is close to perfect. Actual American Network Sitcoms? Right now not enough people watch Community (perhaps too insider?). And not enough people watch Cougar Town (perhaps they still think it's a show about an old woman humping young boys?) in my humble opinion.

Do fights about jokes in the writer's room get heated?

Asked by Sue over 5 years ago

OMG yes. Hours are long. Deadlines are fast approaching. You're tired. You're stressed. What's the best way to take it out? Argue with someone over which dick joke is funnier. It happens all. the. time.

Do most showrunners or producers prefer to hire writing partners or teams as opposed to one writer? Is it true if you write with a partner you still get paid the same amount per script as a solo writer?

Asked by ColeD over 6 years ago

If you are in a partnership you get paid as if you were one writer. You split the salaries, the script fees, the residuals. I am a co-executive producer (the second most senior position on staff). There have been occasions when I take home less than the story editors (the second lowest position). That is a huge chunk of change people. Why do I do it? I have a built in joke beater. A therapist (I was horrible today - no you were great). A friend on those awkward first days. Pitching is easier/more fun with a partner to share the floor. Showrunning with someone you 100% trust is a freaking blessing. But above all I think she's an amazingly talented writer and I think she feels the same about me. As good as our writing is individually, together we're even better. As for your first question - I've never been on a show with more than one other writing team. There aren't a lot of us. (they don't last long. See: splitting paychecks above). I know some showrunners love having them. My partner and I can each run our own rooms so they really are getting two for the price of one. But I know others don't like having a pair that are more loyal to each other than the show. So I guess I wouldn't team up just to make myself more marketable. Only team up if you truly feel like the other person makes your writing exponentially better (once again see: splitting paychecks above)

How much room do actors have to improvise lines or give input on their character's plotline?

Asked by jojo over 6 years ago

It depends on the show and the clout/fame of the actor. Speaking for the shows I've worked on - we want the actors to do the lines as written. If you want to pitch a joke/change a word you can do it for a take - if it's funny we'll use it. But do the lines as written at least once. 99% of actors are not as good at improv as Steve Carrell but a big percent of actors think they are. As for plotlines - if the star of the show is a big name they usually will come in and talk to the writers about where they see their characters going. Everyone else usually finds out what's happening when the scripts come out.

What's one current sitcom that you think is really pushing the envelope in ignoring typical formulas and breaking new ground?

Asked by francine over 6 years ago

This is a hard one. Maybe I've been doing this too long, but everything feels done. Some do it better than others (30 Rock comes to mind), but no one is breaking any new ground.

Charlie Sheen chaos aside, what on EARTH is so special about "Two-and-a-Half Men" that's made it as successful as it's been? Seems just as by-the-numbers as the next sitcom, what is it that's created such a huge audience?

Asked by JP over 6 years ago

Sometimes I like to be the bigger person and think why do I get to decide what sitcom is funny/original/worth the ratings? I mean if millions -MILLIONS- of people love Two and a Half Men they can't all be wrong. Then I watch Two and a Half Men - and I'm as stumped as you are. My best guess is that it's easy. You get home from a hard day at the office and sometimes it's nice to not have to think. The characters are basic. You know what they're going to do. The plot lines are easy to follow. You know what's going to happen. And it's chock full of extremely dirty jokes that we're not allowed to do on other shows so it send those "They went there" shivers down your spine. Also there are fart jokes.

Do most of your writing colleagues come from stand-up? What other disciplines tend to produce TV comedy writers?

Asked by GorgeousGeorge over 6 years ago

There is the occasional stand-up on a writing staff, but it's far from the majority. I would say there are a lot more people with improv backgrounds.