A panel of comics essentially told TV industry executives to back off and give them room to infuse shows with elements that make a performer’s standup act unique during a luncheon Thursday.
The Hollywood Radio and Television Society event, titled “Everybody’s Got a Deal,” featured standup comics working on comedy pilots flanking a panel composed of sitcom stars Brett Butler, Tom Arnold and Sinbad. Aside from cracking wise, the trio talked about the tension between keeping a comic’s point of view alive in crafting sitcoms around talent.
Arnold took a few jabs at the producers of “Roseanne,” the Carsey-Werner Co., but also made several remarks at his own expense regarding the drubbing his CBS series, “Tom,” took Wednesday opposite ABC’s powerhouse lineup.
Asked by moderator Jay Thomas whether comics should get more than one crack at TV — a sly reference to “The Jackie Thomas Show”– Arnold said, “It might be harder (to get a show) next year because we’re not renegotiating the ‘Roseanne’ show.”
Later, Arnold quipped of “Grace’s” success, “Hey, anybody can make it with a big lead-in. Well, almost anybody.” He also dismissed Butler’s “executive consultant” credit, in lieu of an exec producer role, on her show, saying, “I’ve heard that one before. My wife wrote a book about that one, I think.”
Sinbad, whose own Fox Broadcasting show is struggling, lamented that all comics feel compelled to make the move to TV. “Now, it’s not enough to be a comedian,” he said.
Butler also maintained that while there are too many shows featuring comedians now, before standups started being put front and center, sitcoms “were getting to the point where you could sing along at home.”
Rita Rudner, meanwhile, seemed to speak for those still in the pilot phase when she deadpanned, “I don’t have any complaints. I don’t have a show (yet).”