munchman reads “Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV” by Joe Toplyn

by munchman


  • This is a serious and very well-intended book packed with useful tips
  • It breaks the late-night TV genre down to its basic elements and tells the reader exactly what to prepare for when writing monologues, desk bits, sketches, parodies, audience bits, remotes and the like – the staples of late-night TV
  • In other words, you won’t find anything anywhere that’s more complete

The Not So Good:

  • This thing is so serious and well-intended that it’s only available as a paperback. That’s right – no Kindle version yet, which means it’s kind of expensive ($20.69 at Amazon as ze munchedman writes this)
  • Joe spends a lot of time telling us what he’s going to tell us until he finally gets around to actually telling it, which if you’re a ADHD kinda person can getcha kinda…restless


Buy this book. It’ll go down easy with some legal recreational pot in Colorado, say, or Washington State. And, almost as importantly, it’ll give you the best grounding you can get in short comedy. At least until Mel Sherer (look him up) gets around to writing his own tome.



About James Garner

A lot has been written in the past week about James Garner and his illustrious career. But probably the most complete – and completely entertaining – obit/bio the TVWriter™ minions have seen appeared last weekend from the sometimes hemorrhagic but always magical keyboard of Our Favorite Brit Blogger, Keef Telly Topping Himself:

by Keith Telly Topping

The TopsterThe film and TV legend James Garner has died at age eighty six, TMZ has reported. The star of The Rockford Files and The Great Escape was found dead when an ambulance arrived at his Los Angeles home around 8pm on Saturday evening. Amiable and handsome, James Garner obtained success in both films and television, often playing variations of the same charming anti-hero or conman persona he first developed inMaverick, the offbeat Western series which shot him to stardom in the late 1950s. ‘I’m a Spencer Tracy-type actor,’ he once noted. ‘His idea was to be on time, know your words, hit your marks and tell the truth. Most every actor tries to make it something it isn’t looks for the easy way out. I don’t think acting is that difficult if you can put yourself aside and do what the writer wrote.’ Born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma in April 1928, James was the youngest of three children. His two older brothers were the actor Jack Garner (1926 to 2011) and Charles Bumgarner, a school administrator who died in 1984. Their mother, who was said to be of part Cherokee descent, died when James was five years old and James grew to hate his stepmother, Wilma, who allegedly beat all three boys. When he was fourteen, Garner had finally had enough and after a particularly heated battle, she left for good. James’ brother Jack commented, ‘She was a damn no-good woman.’ Shortly after the break-up of the marriage, James’s father, Weldon, a carpet layer, moved to Los Angeles, while Garner and his brothers remained in Norman with relatives. After working at several jobs he disliked, at sixteen Garner joined the Merchant Marine near the end of World War II. In 1995, he received an honorary doctorate from The University of Oklahoma, in his home town. When speaking at the event he took the opportunity to remind the officials who had invited him to speak, of the circumstances of his original departure. ‘It’s nice to be invited back as a VIP after being run out of town on a rail!’ At seventeen, he joined his father in LA and enrolled at Hollywood High School where a gym teacher recommended him for a job modelling bathing suits. ‘I made twenty five bucks an hour,’ James recalled. ‘That’s why I quit school. I was making more money than the teachers. I never finished the ninth grade!’ He never did graduate, explaining in a 1976 Good Housekeeping magazine interview: ‘I was a terrible student, but I got my diploma in the Army.’ He served in Korea for fourteen months with the Fifth Regimental Combat Team. He was wounded twice, firstly in the face and hand from shrapnel fire from a mortar round and secondly in the buttocks due to ‘friendly fire’ from US fighter jets as he dived head first into a foxhole. James was awarded the Purple Heart for the first injury (and not, as often inaccurately reported, for ‘getting shot in the arse’, a story which James himself reportedly enjoyed telling gullible journalists). Jim Rockford AKA the Rockman (or not)He did, finally, receive a second Purple Heart in 1983, thirty two years after his injury. Garner was a self-described ‘scrounger’ for his company in Korea, a role which he later played in The Great Escape and The Americanisation of Emily. In 1954 a friend, Paul Gregory, whom James had met while attending school, persuaded Garner to take a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, where he was able to closely study Henry Fonda in the lead role. Garner subsequently moved to television commercials and eventually to TV drama roles. His first movie appearances were in The Girl He Left Behindand Toward The Unknown both in 1956. After several further minor movie roles, includingSayonara with Marlon Brando, Garner got his big break on TV playing the part of the professional gambler Bret Maverick in the comedy Western series Maverick. James was earlier considered for the lead role in another Warner Brothers Western series,Cheyenne, but that role went to Clint Walker because the casting director reportedly couldn’t reach Garner in time (this, according to Garner’s autobiography).

For more about James Garner in what may be the interweb’s longest paragraph, ya gotta go HERE.

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 7/24/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Lesley Livingston‘s young adult Wondrous Strange trilogy has been sold to Shaftesbury Films to be adapted into a TV series, so probably they’re looking for, heh, a writer to develop the project further. (Cuz as a Shaftesbury spokesperson said, Buffy the Vampire SlayerBitten and Orphan Black have shown us that television audiences are hungry for genre series featuring strong female protagonists who are dealing with extraordinary circumstances in the real world.” Yeppers, kids, yesterday’s edgy has already become today’s tried and true. And you know what that means for the future…. )
  • John Ridley (12 YEARS A SLAVE) has a new overall deal with ABC Studios (cuz the fact that he has one of the biggest “hard-to-get-along-with reps in Hollywood doesn’t scare those fearless execs. Nossiree, baby. Wonder if this means that the era of the spineless “Organization Man” TV writer is coming to a close?)
  • Aaron McGruder (BOONDOCKS) has a new Adult Swim deal. (And is creating/producing a live-action series called HOOLIGAN SQUAD there. I’d want to write for that one just cuz of the name alone. Hey, anybody know Aaron’s private number?)
  • David Franzoni (GLADIATOR) and Michael Finch (PREDATORS) are writing THE CRUSADERS, a mini-series for Spike TV. (Cuz Spike is more macho than any gladiator or predator or crusader, for that matter. Just ask his mama.)

LB: 2014 PEOPLE’S PILOT Update

Good news for about all the entrants in the 23rd People’s Pilot. I’ve finished and sent out all the free Feedback for entries in both the One Hour and Half-Hour categories.

Entrants, please check your email, including your spam box, to see what the judges – and I – thought were the strengths and weaknesses of your work and how I think it can be improved. And if you discover that you haven’t received your Feedback, let me know HERE so I can feel guilty.

Oh no, wait, that’s not it. I mean let me know so I can find out what went wrong and fix it. Absolutely gonna fix it and get you the Feedback you’ve been pining for!

And, FWIW, I’m also gonna write about what I learned from reading all this material because I’m really exhausted energized by what our TVWriter™ contests are all about and can’t wait to share it.






Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

directingChapter 68 – The Directing Workshop
by Leeza Dean

Last Sunday I attended an intense twelve hour workshop on directing motion here in NYC. It was a part of a nationwide tour featuring a well-known commercial director, Vincent Laforet, and since I’m gearing up to finally buy a camera in by the end of the year and start shooting I thought it would be be really worthwhile and fun.

It was and, in part, wasn’t. It was a looooonnnggg day. I was up at 5:30 am because the people who ran the workshop suggested everyone arrive at 8:15 am to get situated, get a seat, etc.

I got there and it was packed, about 200 people. Some even flew in from Europe to attend. It appeared to be a mix of producers, crew people and directors. And given the recent publicity about how few women directors there were, it was kind of depressing to be one of, probably, 20 women there.

The workshop focused on directing motion in film and episodic tv. There were sliders, dollies, movis and tricked out cameras. Canon was one of the sponsors so there were high end bodies (C 300?s) and great monitors, focus pullers, rigs and lights. The seminar went back and forth between lectures and shoots where “crew members” were picked from the audience. To his credit, Laforet made an effort to pick women for the shoots.

Some of the big take-aways:

–90% of the work involved in any project (film, tv, commercials) is prep. And the prep I’m referring to is, adjusting the budget, storyboarding, making a shot list, casting, location scouting, etc.

–Always have a Plan B that’s well-thought out cause sh*t happens. The director, Vincent Laforet mentioned a shoot he was on where a celebrity had been hired and two days before filming he broke his foot.

–Gear is great–and believe me, everybody in that audience was salivating over all the high end stuff there including me–but it doesn’t make good quality work. Preparation and something that’s directed and written well does.

–Regardless of what I just wrote, I want a Movi!!!! And I don’t even have a camera yet.

While I knew a lot that going in, it’s another thing to really see it play out with concrete examples in film.

He talked about the types of camera moves and when to use them, with examples. Pointed out wins and misses from films and showed us, essentially how to re-look at movies/tv, whether good or bad, to really analyze and learn from it.

In all, pretty worthwhile. The part that wasn’t mostly had to do with the length. Twelve hours is a long time to sit in a class. I knew how long it was going it. They actually had two sections, day and evening, and I signed up for both cause I got a discount and they threw in a free HD download of the entire seminar, which will really be worthwhile. But it was pretty intense to experience. That said, I can’t wait to dig back into the downloads.