or Skit Happens
We had to write a book report on it (naturally) but something in me was stirred. I couldn't just write the same old type of book report. I actually decided I was going to honor the book by mimicking it. I was going to use the style and logic of the book to make my point. What that point was is long forgotten, but I do remember one line that summed up the style of that report: "Yes, Captain John Yossarian would fight the army, but he couldn't expect beat it, after all, if the whole Nazi army couldn't, how could he?" Snappy, right?
I am a comedy nerd. Granted, I haven't kept up with some of the latest stuff as I am also a prude. There's so much more effort put into to being "outrageous" or "gross" or "scatological" instead of just, you know, funny. I'm old fashion that way. However, my failings include leaning too far into clever over funny. Anyway, I loved comedy enough that I decided I wanted to do it. It was a matter of getting up the nerve.
What finally gave me the nerve to try it "out loud," so to speak, was an assignment in my High School English class. My teacher, Mr. Dowling, included the book "Catch-22" as part of the class curriculum. Holy mackerel! That was some amazing book. Deep, meaningful and funny as all get out. Absurdist and anti-establishment. And it seem to channel the comedy stylings of the Marx Brothers or Abbott & Costello like I'd never seen before and certainly not in school. This was a real eye-opener.
So I've been in an out of the "comedy biz" (as no one calls it) for years. I've written articles, screenplays, stage plays, TV pilots and specs. And sketches, so many sketches.
I was submitting material to two different radio outlets for a time, if one rejected it, I still had a chance the other might accept.
I wrote a game show sketch (unique, right?). The first place passed on it. The second company, however, gave me a maybe. He liked it well enough, but wasn't sure. He essentially said, "We'll see." This is one of those sketches I fell in love with as soon as I wrote it; a silly idea followed through to a logical conclusion, staying true to the game show premise but having fun with it. It wasn't a string of joke-jokes, but a mix of jokes, concepts and a rhythm of language and pace that carried it along. The game show was called "Homonyms!". Needless to say, not long after I submitted the skit to the radio people, "30 Rock" introduced its new game show "Homonyms." It was a 30 second black out/cut away bit from the main plot, but still. It was meaner than my version and the logic was reversed from my bit; where their contestant could never be able to win, my contestants seem to struggle to correctly respond to what was an obviously easy set up.
I wrote to the radio producer and said "See, this could have been yours!" But I held the skit in my back pocket. After all, "30 Rock" used it as a 30 second black out sketch, what's the harm, right? Who's gonna remember that?
So, remember, it's not even a matter of who thinks of it first these days. It's about who has the bigger audience for the bit. But, yeah, if All Star Radio had done "Homonyms" when I first submitted it, I would still be an unknown, but I'd be an unknown with bragging rights!