<i>Variety</i> speaks with comedy writers
James L. Brooks, Judd Apatow
Friday, Nov. 9 ended the first week of the 2007 WGA strike. It was also the night that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held the Jack Oakie Celebration of Comedy in Film featuring Judd Apatow, James L. Brooks and Larry Gelbart. Variety took the opportunity to barrage all three striking writers with questions, and a few of their friends besides (including actor Jonah Hill; he refused to comment).
Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Walk Hard”)
Are you writing? No, of course not.
Picketing? Fox and Sony.
New media? I’m on it all the time. When I fly, I download “The Office.”
Were you around for the ’88 strike? I wasn’t in the WGA.
How long do you think the strike will last? A long time, if people are childish in negotiating instead of being open – there’s some difficult math involved. They are trying to reduce the writer’s pay before a technology has a big windfall. People should get paid.
Bob Odenkirk (“Run Ronnie Run,” “Mr. Show,” “The Ben Stiller Show”)
Are you writing? Nothing, other than writing on spec. I have deals with NBC and HBO and I’m giving them nothing.
Picketing? The front of Paramount and the back of Raleigh Studios with two people for four hours. I got to meet a lady who wrote for “Captain Kangaroo” and now interactive games – also a guy who did “Diff’rent Strokes.”
New media? I’ve written for “Super Deluxe” a series called “Derrick and Simon.” It’s just media, it’s not new media. It’s only new to us. To all the 24-year-olds, it’s just TV.
Were you around for the ’88 strike? I was at “SNL” in ‘88. When the strike happened, myself, Conan (O’Brien) and Robert Smigel took material we were working on and did a theater show – it was kind of a hoot. That strike was five months.
How long do you think the strike will last? This is very serious. It’s all conjecture, but it should be a long time. Be ready for picketing in February and March.
James L. Brooks (“The Simpsons,” “As Good As It Gets,” “Broadcast News”)
Are you writing? It’s pencil-down time.
Picketing? 20 hours a week.
New media? Everybody acts like it’s wild – it’s current.
Were you around for the ’88 strike? Yes.
How long do you think the strike will last? I’m waiting for reason to pop its head out.
Garry Shandling (“The Larry Sanders Show”)
Are you writing? Not doing much.
Picketing? Probably this week.
New media? It seems impossible to divide it up. How can you divide up something in an evolutionary stage? I think somehow negotiation should remain open as the internet develops. When we don’t know exactly what’s of value, it should be open. It’s half gambling – which products, what’s going to be worth the most value? Very unpredictable. It should not be a set settlement, but react as the medium evolves.
Were you around for the ’88 strike? This strike would be very novel compared to ’88, when you knew what TV and movies were.
How do you think the strike will last? No idea. Everyone on MySpace and YouTube should be involved in the settlement.
Larry Gelbart (“Tootsie,” “M*A*S*H*”)
Are you writing? I’m writing on spec – I’ve agreed to all my own terms.
Picketing? Manning phone banks.
New media? It may be new media, but it’s old tactics.
Were you around for the ’88 strike? This is my fourth strike.
How do you think the strike will last? We are in the early days.