Tell us how you bring a diversity of story and humor to your work.
Sure, I'm no brash, punk kid any more. I've seen things. I've created people out of nothing and raised them and sent them on their way to the point they don't come back any more. I have a vocabulary and I'm not afraid to use it. I’ve dabbled in so many aspects of comedy (I always wanted to be Robin Williams, but I’m a Bob Newhart). I don't work blue, but that doesn't mean my stuff isn't often in poor taste. But funny is funny, even after the initial groaning. Plus, I seriously believe puns are due for a comeback. And I’m not a slave to pruf-reeding.
Who is your comedic inspiration & why?
Comedic inspiration-wise, I’d have to say Abbott & Costello and the Marx brothers for their word-play and dialogue. Then there’s Laurel & Hardy for their pacing and characterizations. Bob Newhart, and his delivery and rhythms have definitely bled into my real life speech patterns. Also, Monty Python for their touch of the absurd, their love of the silly and making it okay not to have to come up with endings for [~connection lost~]
Tell us whose humor you think is underrated. (Not yours, ok?) Why do you love their work?
JK Rowling and Harry Potter. Not that I’m about to go back to the books to cite examples (what is this, a thesis?), but I remember the books being wildly (and slyly) funny. From the opening scenes where the boy lives under the stairs (shades of the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and the ridiculous attempts to escape the Hogwarts letters, knew I wasn’t reading “kid’s lit.” The advertisements presented in various magical media venues all held a sassy sense of parody that, I believe, many readers missed and the movies only hinted at. The character Rita Skeeter, the reporter, was an outlandish person and a perfect send-up of the tabloid reporter. Author Gilderoy Lockhart was another brisk parody of the rapidly developing media whore and wonderful British fop. There were the back stories of the ghosts. Spell-o-phane tape, earwax-flavored candy, the misunderstandings between the wizarding and the muggle worlds, the dangerously helpful house elf, Dobby-classic comedy constructs. There is a real Monty Pythonsque feel to these things. Rowling’s shorter works, the Hogwarts’ textbooks she wrote, go much further into the silliness of the history and habits of the wizarding world, its creatures and sports. It’s not that the books aren’t beloved by all it’s just that when I read them, I feel like they exist on the same plane as “Hitchhiker’s Guide” or “Red Dwarf”.
Please share one paragraph from page 212 of your comedic autobiography. Be sure to include a funny personal story that tells something about you.
The deal; done. My script, “The Kringle Project;” optioned by Warner Brothers, the home of Bogey (which was perfect because I saw the lead character very much in the Humphrey Bogart-“Sam Spade” mold). The studio offered to fly the writer out to Hollywood, first class, put the writer up in a swanky hotel and take meetings with the writer! And I’m all excited because I’M THE WRITER! They needed just one little change…they saw the lead as…Pee-Wee Herman. Huh. I just had to re-write the whole thing into a Pee-Wee Herman vehicle. No prob, says I. They then sent it to the vacationing Paul Reubens.
When my payment arrived it was decided that we would splurge and take a long summer weekend to the Jersey Shore. While packing our bags, the news came on. After the lead story, for some reason, Paul Ruebens’ face was suddenly displayed. This didn’t look promising. I grabbed the remote and turned up the volume. Paul Ruebens, creator of the beloved children’s character Pee-Wee Herman, had just been arrested in Florida for, er, “dating” himself in a porn theater. Warners ceased to care about Pee-Wee’s next adventure.
Did my script drive him to self-abuse? Why would somebody with his bucks go to a porn theater anyway? He didn’t have a VCR? Afraid his parents would walk in? Would maybe Warners want renew the option for Arnold Schwarzenegger? Who knows the answer to these questions (except for the last one, which was “no”)?
What would the title of your autobiography be and why?
This has become family shorthand for things that I would typically like, do or share. It’s similar to “Dad Jokes” but covering a wider array of topics: I build a moving vampire display for Halloween; that’s so doozy. I tell people I want a certain Abbott & Costello book for Christmas; doozy. I play the Harold Lloyd movie “Safety Last” for my 4-year old grandson; classic doozy. Sing “The Monster Mash” at karaoke night; well…you get it, I do “doozy” things. I’m such a “dooze.” I’d like to think it had a positive effect on my kids, just being off-beat, thinking outside the box, finding the fun in anything. It’s kind of a goof on me, I know. But it’s said with love.
What unique perspective would you bring to writing for late night television?
You know what late night is missing? The voice of old white guys! Sure, we don’t stay up late to watch the shows, but thanks to the internet we can stream them any time. And we’re really good at being cranky at current events and it would nice to be able shout from the TV set instead of at it. Or iPhone. Or that watch-thingie. You know what I mean. I think that maybe it’s good to have someone around to remind people that you don’t have to re-invent the wall…er, wheel. And someone who has some non-showbiz life experience, someone who’s a bit beyond a communications-major post-grad lifestyle. Also, the extra money could help me pay down my kids’ student loans.