Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comedy Writers Fantasy Camp

When we left our intrepid reporter he was preparing to fly off to Los Angeles in pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge pertaining to the arcane arts of story, character and the ever so important punch-line. Okay, so that doesn’t really make me very intrepid. The only genuine danger I faced was leg cramps due to being shoe-horned into an airplane seat for hours.
Traveling is full of interesting moments. Airports contain a diverse collection of people. One of my favorite individuals from this trip was found in the boarding area of my connecting flight in Dallas. This guy was amazing. If he had shown up on the set of The Sopranos they would have sent him back to wardrobe to tone it down. His hair was lacquered into perfect swoops and curves doubling as a helmet in case someone wanted to hit him with a blunt object. His pinkie ring was large enough to conceal a pastrami sandwich. The diamond bracelet on his right arm matched well with the sparkling necklace he wore on the outside of his multi-colored open at the neck untucked shirt. When the attendant called over the intercom for a Mr. Dino Gianetti I am pretty sure mine was not the only pair of eyes to immediately swing in his direction. Yes, it was him. (Author’s note: the name was changed not to protect the innocent, but to protect me in case he was being moved into witness protection and I run the risk of being whacked for having seen him) He paused to shrug into his purple velveteen sport coat and ambled over to the desk to pursue his upgrade to first class. I was sorely tempted to approach him and ask, “Please say it. Just once. Can you please say baa-da-bing?”
Another unusual aspect of my travels actually made me feel safer. Some sort of military or law enforcement dog was on the plane with me. At least if we crashed were carrying our own survivor sniffing dog. I lingered close to the dog for a while before boarding so he cold get a good clean hit off the Classic Club Sandwich I’d eaten for lunch. If the worst came to pass I wanted the highly trained olfactory senses on that animal tuned in but good. I need him tearing around with just one thought in his canine brain… “bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon.”
The design of the weekend was to have us work as if we were really staff on a sitcom. A small group of actors performed a single scene. It was pretty bad. But it was bad on purpose so we had more of a task ahead of us as we re-wrote it. The guy running the seminar wrote it. He is very adept at writing good scenes as he has written for “MASH”, “Cheers”, and “Frasier” among other highly popular shows. He gave us this stink burger in order to hone our own skills.
Each group adjourned to their writer’s room complete with cookies and Diet Coke. My group worked with few breaks from around three in the afternoon to a little after midnight discussing story, character and sprinkling in funny bits. I have to admit it did not feel like nine hours dedicated to one task. If I’d spent that same time frame doing my real job it would have ended in an emergency room visit, either for the victim of my unhinged tirade or my own need for psychotropic meds to avoid attempts at self-immolation.
It was a great experience and since it is the Thanksgiving weekend I wish to thank some people. First, Mom, the original supporter of my odd hobbies and dreams, who helped with the financial burden and a forty-six year old man asking his mommy for money adds an embarrassment price to the monetary one. Next, I thank my wife for being the continuous support system for my inexplicable desire to be a writer which so far contributes $40 a month to our family budget. I thank Ken Levine and Dan O’Day for creating the experience worthy of the cash and self-esteem expenditures. I thank my group of fellow writers for teaching me things and causing frequent fits of laughter. Finally, I thank the staff at the Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant a couple blocks from my hotel who made it possible for me to eat without having to sell my plasma to afford the hotel restaurant food.

Christopher Pyle was amazed to receive something akin to a fan letter from a genuine comedy writer, a guy who wrote for The Simpsons, after he read my blog post about the weekend. If you wish to deflate Chris’s ego please write to

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