×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Comedy, Drama Scribes Cut Loose at Variety’s Night in the Writers Room

Showrunners talk shop and swap stories at Writers Guild Theater sesh

At Variety‘s annual “Night in the Writers Room” event held Tuesday  Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, scribes from an eclectic mix of cable and broadcast series gathered to talk about their craft and the craziness behind it during panel seshes moderated by TV editor-in-chief Cynthia Littleton.

During the comedy panel, chemistry among the writers — many of whom had worked together in the past — was palpable…and laughable.

(Pictured above from left: Michael Schur, Mindy Kaling, Dan Goor, Fred Armisen, Michael Patrick King.)

“Don’t address me directly,” “Parks and Recreation” creator/exec producer Michael Schur jokingly snapped at his former “Office” mate, Mindy Kaling. “I can address you, and you can address your responses to Cynthia Littleton.”

Kaling, now the auteur behind Fox’s “The Mindy Project,” recalled that if she “would show up a minute late” to the 10 a.m. writer’s room call, Schur would lay into her.

“Usually in my defense it wasn’t one minute later,” Schur joked. “You would stroll in at like 11:30 and then leave in 20 minutes and be like, ‘I have to get a manicure…'”

(As the duo playfully sparred back and forth, “2 Broke Girls'” Michael Patrick King remarked, “Luckily my father drank so I’m completely in denial that this family dynamic just happened.”)

Monday mornings in the writer’s room for “Parks & Rec” and Fox’s forthcoming “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” according to Dan Goor, had little to do with the broadcast shows.

“First, we’d talk about ‘Game of Thrones’ for quite sometime,” he quipped. “Then, the writers would show up around 10:30, and we’d talk about ‘Game of Thrones’ again.”

Schur and King worked together on HBO’s “The Comeback” several years back, and Schur recalled referring to King as “kind of a gay Greg Daniels.”

“Michael said, ‘We should have a document that’s for all the extra jokes we don’t need,'” Schur reminisced. “And I was about to say, ‘Oh we have it at the office, it’s called the Candy Bag.’ And before I could, Michael said, ‘We’ll call it the Whipped Cream File!'”

King responded, “I was about to say, there’s nothing gayer I’ve ever heard than ‘candy bag.’ I completely forgot I’d trumped candy bag with not only ‘cream,’ but ‘whipped,’ and tied it up in a clerical moment with ‘file,’ which is just so me.”

As Goor explained how he “pitches alts, which stands for alternate versions,” “Portlandia” creator and scribe Fred Armisen interrupted with, “That’s actually not what it is. There was a German writer, Altz, and that was his practice. He was here at Paramount for many years,” Armisen rattled off, the aud chuckling.

At the drama panel that followed, “Bates Motel’s” Carlton Cuse couldn’t help but ask, “Whose idea was it to have us follow the comedy panel?”

(Pictured above: Rob Doherty, Joel Fields, Carlton Cuse, Kevin Williamson and Aaron Korsh.)

Aaron Korsh, creator of USA Network’s “Suits,” noted that he began his career as an assistant to comedy scribes, so he took the same room-writing approach to crafting his hourlong series.

“I was raised in a writer’s room with 10 people working on a screen,” Korsh said. “We don’t exactly do that on ‘Suits,’ but it’s the only thing I knew. … We do a rewrite process that’s like a miniroom — me and another writer do another pass at it.”

The drama gang also discussed how social media has reshaped the landscape of television.

“We came to call it the megabrain,” said Joel Fields of FX’s “The Americans.” “Before social media, you’d get the ratings, but they’re cold and calculus and today obviously means a lot less. You’d get the megabrain the day after an episode airs, though, and it’d be really smart interesting comments and thoughts about character and plot.”

“The Following’s” Kevin Williamson knows that the web can be a double-edged sword, however.

“Sometimes you’re like, ‘This guy is a real blowhard…get out of your basement and go get a job.’ But then you’re like, ‘Okaaay, they’re saying something that must have really hurt you…what is it?'”

With several series on the panel completing frosh runs, the scribes and showrunners discussed the pressures of plowing through a first season.

“I liken the first year of a show to putting out an apartment building fire with a garden hose,” remarked Cuse. “You’re just trying to survive.”

Williamson now enforces a 6 p.m. cut off time in the “Following’s” writer’s room, after a difficult time on the CW’s “Vampire Diaries.”

“That first year of ‘Vampire Diaries’ almost killed me,” he recalled. “3 a.m., and the writers are saying ‘Can we go home? We have children.'”

“Elementary” creator Rob Doherty not only faced the pressure to fashion a successful first season for the Sherlock Holmes drama, but also to produce a great show to follow one of the biggest TV events of the year.

“We were lucky enough to get the spot after the Super Bowl. Because that real estate is as valuable as it is, it’s sort of like doing the pilot again,” he said.

More TV

  • Caroll Spinney & The Grouch36th Annual

    Caroll Spinney: Henson Family, 'Sesame Street' Colleagues Salute Muppet Performer

    Caroll Spinney, the puppet performer behind “Sesame Street’s” indelible Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, was remembered by friends and colleagues as a gifted artist who dedicated his professional life to the show’s mission of educating pre-schoolers. Spinney died Sunday at his home in Connecticut at the age of 85. He limned the Big Bird [...]

  • Rene Auberjonois at the International Myeloma

    René Auberjonois, 'Star Trek' and 'Boston Legal' Actor, Dies at 79

    René Auberjonois, best known for his roles in “Boston Legal” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” died at his home in Los Angeles due to metastatic lung cancer. He was 79. His son Rèmy-Luc confirmed the news to the Associated Press. Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of [...]

  • Caroll Spinney, with "Oscar the Grouch,"

    Caroll Spinney, Puppeteer Behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Dies at 85

    Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for 49 years at “Sesame Street,” died Sunday in Connecticut after living with dystonia. He was 85. Sesame Workshop announced his death, calling him an “artistic genius” whose “legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending.” Spinney’s death [...]

  • Stephen Colbert Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus Talks 'Seinfeld,' 'Sexist' Environment at 'SNL' in Q&A With Stephen Colbert

    Stephen Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus swapped stories about “Saturday Night Live,” Northwestern University, “Seinfeld” and the possibility of running for office during a Q&A held Saturday as part of Montclair Film Festival’s annual “Evening with Stephen Colbert” fundraiser. Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the festival, which is going into its [...]

  • SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Jennifer Lopez"

    'Saturday Night Live' Offers Prayers for Trump (Watch)

    “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon resumed her role as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in the Dec. 7 episode to offer a few prayers for Donald Trump. During the “Weekend Update” segment, co-anchor and “SNL” co-head writer Colin Jost first commented on Pelosi being asked if she hated President Trump during her [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content