Show business has often proven to be fertile ground for humor, and this year’s Emmy comedy series race is no different. Several of the shows up for the top TV prize in that genre this year offer a funny look inside different aspects of the industry. So what is it that makes entertainment so entertaining?
“The entertainment industry is filled with some wonderfully selfish people, a lot of whom happen to live on the Westside of Los Angeles,” says Jeff Schaffer, executive producer of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “That’s ‘Curb’s’ fountain of youth: Documenting the social missteps of the Westside is a completely evergreen business.”
But creators of other shows such as Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method” or Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” say that it was never their intention to make a show about show business.
In the case of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amy Sherman-Palladino says she wanted to make a show “about this woman’s journey and turning away from the life she thought was perfect.” Meanwhile for Chuck Lorre, “The Kominsky Method” is about aging and accepting the fact that your life has not turned out how you thought, set against the story of an acting coach.
“It’s coming to grips with what happens when your dreams aren’t realized and what replaces them can be greater than what you imagined,” Lorre says.
“Making fun of acting and amateur acting is kind of a cliché. I didn’t want to do that. When you watch the show, the scenes with the students doing scenes, they’re good actors. That was by design. I didn’t want to just make fun of people trying to do something. It’s a celebration of pursuing your dream against great odds. It’s an incredibly courageous and foolish endeavor.”
Still, all three shows do offer inside looks at life for artists at different points of their careers. HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” certainly pokes the most fun at those in the industry, as in the storyline this season in which “Mad Men” alum Jon Hamm begins shadowing Larry in preparation for a role.
“We really liked the idea of someone studying Larry to play a Larry David-type,” Schaffer says. “But it had to be a Hollywood version, so the Hollywood version is not to have someone like Larry playing a Larry David-type: it’s having a debonair, handsome guy like Jon Hamm playing him.”
For “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” this season of the show saw Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) moving into a new phase of her career that put her on the road as the opening act to singer Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain). And while plenty of her standup act makes it into the show, the Palladinos make it clear that the show must be about more than that if it is going to sustain itself.
“As all comedy writers know, usually from experience or having watched the business, is that people at home are not that fascinated by show business,” Daniel Palladino says. “It still has to be character first, then you put the show business in. I think some of the shows that have tried to do standup and all that stuff, I think they found out that people don’t want 30 minutes or 60 minutes about the standup world. ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ was the show that got it completely right. It had that perfect blend of showing you that funny, goofy side of show business but focusing on his marriage and his kids.”