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

Any notable downsides to being a sitcom writer?

Asked by Jerry2011 over 12 years ago

I have my dream job and I still hate it about half the time. The hours suck. Plus it's very hard when you really love a joke or an idea and your boss says “no.”

What made you choose to become a writer? What would you reply with when people said it was too hard to make it as a writer?

Asked by Hunter almost 12 years ago

I always knew this is what I wanted to do. I assumed it's what everyone wanted to do. And since everyone can't be a sitcom writer they "settle" for being a doctor, lawyer, indian chief whatever. Imagine my surprise when I discovered people actually want to be things like doctors and save lives instead of writing dick jokes. Crazy. How would I reply to being told it was hard to make it as a writer? I guess I'd say I can't imagine doing anything else. This is my dream job. It's worth putting in the effort. Someone has to be the lucky one who gets to do it. Why not me? But I'd also say that I'm not under any illusions of this being a cake walk. I came to Los Angeles knowing that if I didn't find meaningful writing work in five years I'd go back to the East Coast and re-think my career choices. I wanted to be a writer. I didn't want a career as a want-to-be writer.

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 12 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 12 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.

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

Asked by Trevor over 12 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 most sitcom writers start by being a writer's room PA or Writer's assistant?

Asked by funnygirl over 12 years ago

Short answer -If not most at least a good chunk. If you're starting from scratch it is the easiest (not easy) way to get on a staff. Most of the shows I've been on the most senior writers' assistant gets to write a script. If it's good you might even get moved up to staff writer. At the least you learn the ins and outs of a writers' room. You meet all the writers and if you have any talent we are all dying to help you out. (that is 100% sarcasm free - we know how hard the assistants work and we want them to succeed) I would say the second most common way to get your foot in the door is through one of the fellowships or writing programs some of the networks and studios offer.

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

Asked by jojo over 12 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.