Comedy showrunners Sarah Gubbins, Jonathan Krisel, Joshua Michael Stern, Prentice Penny, Mike Royce, and Justin Spitzer sat down together for Variety’s Night in the Writers Room event Tuesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
For Gubbins, writer for Amazon’s “I Love Dick,” it started with a character. That character specifically, is Chris Kraus, from the novel of the same name.
“The idea that what she was doing was just so bombastically, kind of letting her sexuality and her desire run out, I thought that would be something that we might want to see,” she said. “It really was an emotional both admiration and repulsion that brought me to want to think about how to possibly maybe some day make this into a television show.”
FX’s “Baskets,” which follows follows an unsuccessful aspiring professional clown working at a local rodeo in Bakersfield, California, formed around showcasing the show’s star Zach Galifianakis.
“It really came from actors and trying to put people together into a pot and stir it around and see what you get, okay bring in Louie Anderson as the mother, then we start writing and figuring out what is this show,” Krisel said, adding, “It was a messy process.”
Penny, however, chased the script of Issa Rae’s HBO comedy “Insecure.” He went as far as to write Rae a letter explaining why he would be a good showrunner.
“That was another thing, of being humble enough to recognize, this is special,” he said. “Being like, this is awesome, and I want to help make it even more awesome. I just gotta go after something that speaks to me.”
Spitzer, creator of NBC’s “Superstore,” said his show started with the idea that a big box retail store would be a good setting for a lot of colorful characters. Stern, creator of Epix’s “Graves,” wrote the lead character specifically for star Nick Nolte.
Mike Royce, whose long resume includes “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Men of a Certain Age,” jumped at the chance to work on the remake of Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” with co-creator Gloria Calderon Kellett and the sitcom’s legendary original producer Norman Lear.
The writers also referenced their shows an an escape from the modern world.
“The world got really scary,” Krisel said. “There’s some moments in your life where you’re just like, ‘I need something just funny.’ That’s the noble thing you can do. Make someone forget about their life for 22 minutes.”
Gubbins agreed, adding “forget about their Twitter, forget about checking their tweets for 27 minutes at any given day would be great.”
The panel was moderated by Cynthia Littleton, Variety‘s managing editor of TV.