Why even bother? (Creative crisis)

2-broke-girls-s1-poster-2

The life of anyone practicing an art form—whatever you do with passion is your art—is a continual balancing act between impassioned self-expression and self-questioning despair. For me, this duality revolves around my efforts in fiction writing (i.e., screen, novel, poetry, short stories, etc.).

Earlier today, I learned that the television series 2 Broke Girls ended its six-season run on CBS, and the news briefly shifted my balance toward despair.

On a couple of occasions, I tried to watch the sitcom about two broke girls plying their trade as diner waitresses while targeting a dream of opening a cupcake shop. But each time, I had to turn the show off after a few minutes because I found the comedy so excruciating.

Every 15 seconds, there was yet another wink-wink nudge-nudge one-liner that I felt lacked any art whatsoever, dialogue that but for an incessant laugh-track would likely have been met with complete silence in front of a live audience.

And yet, the series aired for six seasons. It had enough of an audience for CBS to keep it on the air.

I like broad comedy; truthfully, I do. I even write it on occasion.

I live for Mel Brooks’ comedies, for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, for Blackadder, for The Muppet Show, for SCTV, In Living Color and Kids in the Hall.

Anyone who has followed me for any period of time—especially on Twitter—knows I am up for any joke-opalyse.

But the appeal of 2 Broke Girls and its ilk—looking at you, Two-and-a-Half Men—simply eludes me. It feels like one-liners in search of a higher purpose.

But here’s the thing I constantly need to remind myself:

This difficulty rests entirely within me, and has nothing to do with the creators or writers of any of these shows.

 

Celebrate, don’t negate

Getting ANY television show to air, getting any screenplay turned into a movie is difficult, even in this era of seemingly limitless venues and diminishing equipment costs.

That any show manages more than a pilot episode is amazing. So, six seasons of broadcast should be celebrated from every mountain top.

As an artist, I applaud 2 Broke Girls creators Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings for getting their show on the air. I congratulate the people behind the Sharknado series for continuing to produce films.

To denigrate these efforts simply because they do not suit my tastes is not only unfair, it is also blatant hubris.

Who the hell am I—a writer who has one television special to his credit (thank you, SomeTV!)—to say that these efforts are unworthy of attention?

For that matter, even if I were more routinely lauded and vastly more accomplished, it would not be my place to dictate what should be valued as Art.

And as an artist, as someone exploring my passions:

Dwelling on this topic is useless. More importantly, it is detrimental to me and the craft as I exercise it.

 

Remembering why

It would be naïve to suggest that trends in comedy and writing have no influence on my career as a writer, but honestly, my career is secondary to my writing; a beneficial side effect, if you will.

Comparing my efforts to those of others is therefore unimportant.

My only true comparator is what I wrote yesterday and any internal sense of whether I am getting better at making the points I wish to make, telling the stories I want to tell.

I write because I have something to say.

I write because I don’t know how not to.

I write because it brings me joy.

Certainly, part of understanding my craft is seeing how others approach the same challenges and opportunities I face.

Just as I must choose my path forward, so too must they theirs. Although I may not see the merits in their choices, they are doing what is right for them and I must honour that.

There is room enough for all of us.

 

Disclosure:

I own complete series collections of Get Smart and Hogan’s Heroes, which I appreciate others might consider as insipid as I do 2 Broke Girls.

 

See also:

So, What’s Your Story? (web)

So, What’s Your Story? (Facebook)

Lives of love and beauty – Kevin

kevin

Kevin is the one on the left

Kevin Bruce Scott: son, actor, puppeteer, integrity trainer

The man I affectionately dubbed Sweetums on our first meeting in honour of his impressive size, hirsuteness and rolling voice has wondrously become a constant in my life, even despite his gregarious activities that see him crisscrossing the North American continent. I first met Kevin when he auditioned as a puppeteer and actor for a sketch comedy show I was helping another friend develop (Nicholas Lemon’s SomeTV!), and it was bromance at first blush.

To know Kevin even for a few moments is to experience an earthquake of enthusiasm and playfulness that has been rivalled by very few in my advancing lifetime. Quick of wit, clever of brain and charming of eyebrow (you have to see it), Kevin routinely explodes with volcanic laughter and excitedly joins any creative moment with love and insane bonhomie. To merely stand in Kevin’s presence is to experience unbridled love…but dive in for the amazing hug, if you get the chance.

I say without hyperbole that should Kevin reach out with any idea, I am an eager participant because I know that even if the idea amounts to nothing tangible, I will have had the best time working on it.

Thanks you, Sweetums, for going on that audition and making my face hurt with smiles.

 

See also:

12 Days of Gratitude – Kevin

Effortless Alpha (Kevin’s blog & mission)

SomeTV! spreads like herpes at Burning Man

Kevin Nic puppets

Nicholas Lemon (left) and Kevin Scott completely ignore the script…again.

After a successful run in the City of Toronto – success measured by lack of lawsuits – SomeTV! is spreading its infectious laughter into the suburbs…specifically Peel and York regions of the GTA.

Don’t know what SomeTV! is?

Imagine a short-armed tennis ball fluffer boxing with your uvula via your rectum. Got it? Well, SomeTV! is nothing like that (but now you have plans for the weekend).

Kevin chicken

Uvula boxing champion Kevin Scott (with Nicholas Lemon)

 

SomeTV! is what happens when fans of The Muppet Show and Monty Python’s Flying Circus don’t listen to reason, and go all Andy Hardy with puppets and Canadian actors.

Or perhaps our God-head Nicholas Lemon explains it better in this clip from a Toronto talk show:

In any event, once we scab over and the blemishes stop itching, we are hoping to take this phenomenon worldwide – pending a CDC and WHO investigation. Wish us luck…and ointment.

Ignorance_timeless

See also:

Writing for puppets

Lemon Productions Inc.

 

SomeTV! is alive!

SomeTV! poster

As some of my ever-patient followers of long ago may remember, there was a time that I co-wrote a sketch comedy show called SomeTV!, that we essentially described as the love-child of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Muppet Show.

Like any good creative project, this was a labour of love and mass insecurity…and took for-freakin’-ever to see the light of day. Well, seems that day is next Friday (March 11) at 10 pm (ET).

Kevin Scott

In its inaugural run, SomeTV! will air as a one-hour special on Rogers Television in Toronto (think Wayne’s World), but it should be available shortly thereafter online. So happy to see this project and all the hard work that went into it (not just mine) finally come to life.

Still waiting for my producer, director and Godhead Nicholas Lemon to post the teaser trailer…will update this post when he does!

See also:

Writing for puppets

SomeTV Pulse

And that’s the (mostly) truth – my new bio

Okay, so my producer for SomeTV!, the sketch comedy insanity currently in production in Toronto, asked me to provide him a short bio for the group’s web site.

Keeping in mind the sheer brilliance/stupidity of what we are attempting, I sent him this:

A born story-teller and punster, Randall told his first knock-knock joke in the Obstetrics Department of a Toronto hospital at the ripe old age of today. His early comedic repertoire consisted of poop jokes, fart jokes and snot jokes, but on learning that Vaudeville was dead, he learned how to write. After several failed attempts at living other people’s lives (scientist, journalist, press agent, ad man), he has more recently focused his energy on sketch comedy and screenwriting. In 2014, Randall won the Nashville Film Festival award for Best Animated Feature for his screenplay Tank’s. His influences are caffeine, Mel Brooks, sleep deprivation and human frailty.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Randy (the one in the middle)

Image

Unexpected surprises: Steve Allen autobiography

Steve Allen

So, as I was waiting to join my friends in a taping of our sketch comedy show SomeTV!, I decided to check out a nearby second-hand book store.

Under normal circumstances, this would be a complete love-fest for me, but as funds have been a tad tight lately, I was really only in the store to browse (yeah…that could happen). Well, as I moved through the section of film and television books, I happened across an autobiography of Steve Allen, who among other things was the first host of The Tonight Show.

As I had nothing but respect for Allen’s comedic timing and his ability to get amazing, ad-libbed comments out of pretty much anyone, I picked the book up only to see that they were only asking $2.99 for the book, entitled Mark It And Strike It.

Despite this price being five times the cover price of the book, I decided I could afford the few dollars and bought it.

Wow! Was I in for a surprise!

That Allen manages to include information about his childhood, marriages and early jobs is the only reason that this volume could ever be called an autobiography. The reality is that a full two-thirds of the book are dedicated to a vast range of subjects that reflect more Allen’s thoughts on and opinions about the world in which he lives in 1960 (yes, the book is three years older than me).

Allen discusses the vast gulf that separates Art from Science. The loss of spirituality, or perhaps more accurately, the misappropriation of spirituality in the United States. McCarthyism and anti-Communist terrors that permeated society. Issues of racism and sexism that were tearing the country apart. The nature of humour and comedy and its tortuous demise at the hands of populism.

Aside from my surprise at finding such topics in an autobiography and in the ideas being expressed within the pages, the greatest reflection came as I reached the end of the book and realized that almost 55 years later how little has changed.

The Arts still suffer in a school system fixated on the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

There is still rampant use of God and Jesus as weapons across the United States in defense of excluding other cultures.

Admittedly, anti-Communist sentiment has subsided as Communism itself has subsided, but it was quickly replaced by anti-Muslim sentiments.

One need only look at the leadership of the United States and the parasitic pundits to realize that racism and sexism still cling like so much fecal matter.

And the recent controversy over the Colbert Report shows that satire and wit remain under constant attack.

Yes, this was possibly the most effective $2.99 I have ever spent in my life as it gave me more than a few hours of entertainment…it gave me a never-ending stream of subjects to contemplate.

 

(PS This is not intended as a comment on the United States as we have more than our share of problems in Canada. I simply discussed the US as that was Steve Allen’s context.)

 

For more about Steve Allen, check out these links:

Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show

Steve Allen’s Man on the Street

Steve Allen Online (official web site)

Writing for puppets

Monty meets Muppets!

Monty meets Muppets!

As some of you may know, I am one of the comedy writers for a sketch show called SomeTV!, which is currently in production in Toronto. As our godhead Nic likes to describe it, the show takes the no-sacred-cows approach of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and combines it with the playful anarchy of The Muppet Show (no hubris here, eh?).

Now, for some, that may sound like the greatest writing gig ever. Those some have clearly never written for puppets.

Human actors—or as we call them, Fleshies—can be tricky enough to deal with. Prone to completely misunderstanding the point of a scene or sketch, they tend to have difficulty learning lines that make no sense to them.

Luckily, their natural insecurity, despite the outward facing ego, means that they can be molded into subservience, if only in two- to five-minute chunks, the longest most are willing to go without checking their make-up or cell phones for calls from their managers.

At their core, Fleshies are the rhesus monkeys of the performance world, clinging to each other for some semblance of affection but ultimately willing to give that up for warmth and sustenance.

Not so puppet actors, aka the Felts or Felties.

Flesh v Felt

These are the apex predators of the performance world and should always be treated as such. Sure, they look cute and cuddly, with their giant heads, bulging eyes and disarming colours, but that’s exactly what they want you to think.

You don’t write for Felties so much as start a sentence that is perpetually interrupted with ideas or lines the bastards think are smarter, funnier, crazier.

Fleshies forget their lines because they’re not too bright…Felties “forget” because they are malicious egotists.

Adding to the challenge is the near-impossibility of figuring out a Feltie. He, she or it is the poster-child for multiple personality disorder.

You think you’re writing a scene for a young Spanish girl, when out of nowhere a tall Jovian Codswadder shows up to take the scene in an entirely new direction. (To this day, the only thing I know about Codswadders is they come from Jupiter, where given the crushing gravity, their height makes no sense.)

Not the home of young Spanish girls

NOT the home of young Spanish girls

It’s like dealing with someone with hyperactive comedic Tourettes, and trust me, I’ve taken enough improv classes in Toronto to know what that looks like.

Felties are also astoundingly lazy creatures. Sure, they look frenetic on the television screens, but in reality, these buggers will literally not lift a finger without someone doing it for them. Our show has an entire team of Feltie fluffers whose entire job is to see to the every-last needs of these freaks. We’re talking major OCD: obsessive-compulsive demands.

Trust me, the dictionary writers of the world have the concept of “puppet master” completely backwards.

Masterclass

To be fair, the Felties do sometimes come up with lines that are funnier than the stuff I wrote. But on the flip side, they get away with lines that no intelligent Fleshie could ever hope to pull off.

This has two impacts: 1) the Feltie doesn’t have to try very hard to get a laugh, and 2) they can be as crude, rude and insulting as they want, knowing everyone just thinks “awwww, how cute”.

There’s a reason you don’t hear a lot of puppet radio programs…the shit they come up with is repugnant.

NPR = Nasty Puppet Radio

NPR = Nasty Puppet Radio

So, why do I stay? Why do I continue to write for these self-glorified hand-warmers?

Most days, I don’t know.

But then the rent comes due and I realize that my best chances at succeeding as a “comedy writer” is to have my words (or some semblance thereof) come out of a Feltie’s mouth…and those lint-sucking leeches know it, too.

 

SomeTV! is being produced by Lemon Productions Inc.

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