FRESH OFF THE BOAT Writer Serious About Humor

Success stories! We’re complete suckers for ’em. This one is about Rachna Fruchbom, an overnight success after only 17 years of working as hard as she can. So it goes, newbies. So it goes….

by Ciara Wardlow

rochnaWhen Rachna Fruchbom ’99 graduated from Wellesley with a degree in International Relations, her career goals were, in her own words, “I know I don’t want to be a doctor.”

Fast forward 17 years, and Fruchbom works as a writer and executive story editor for “Fresh off the Boat.”

“Executive story editor is mostly nothing even though it sounds kind of fancy,” Fruchbom said. “Creatively, all the writers in a writers’ room have essentially the same job, whatever their title might be.” The many titles writers can have, Fruchbom explained, largely indicate how long they have been a writer, or how long they have been working on the show. In other words, it’s “a way for people to know how much to pay you, based on Writers Guild standards.”

Before “Fresh off the Boat,” Fruchbom wrote for the final two seasons of “Parks and Recreation.” Though both comedy television series, Fruchbom noted some considerable differences between the two experiences. For one, she joined “Fresh off the Boat” in its second season, as opposed to its sixth. As a new writer for a show, Fruchbom noted the necessary balance of “on one hand, honoring the characters as they’d been developed, and on the other hand, finding new ideas so that I wasn’t just repeating the amazing jokes from earlier seasons.” With  “Parks and Recreation,” the challenges were different. Fruchbom acknowledged both the pros and cons of writing for such well-established and well-known characters: “the advantage is that you know exactly what you’re going for, but there’s also the challenge of making it feel fresh and not too one-note.”

“Fresh off the Boat” is a little bit of a different situation. “Since it’s still relatively early, there’s been more room to add to who the characters are, which is a lot of fun,” Fruchbom said. “But it’s still the push and pull of being true to the personalities of the characters as they are and then giving them room to evolve.”

Her relationship with the characters might vary, but it does not correspond, according to Fruchbom, to a difference in difficulty. “For me, it’s usually the story of an episode that can make writing for characters more or less tricky.”

While Fruchbom said that “good writing is good writing,” she also noted some things specific to the comedic writing process. “In comedy, as much as you’re thinking about story and character, you’re also thinking: what’s funny about this scene?  What’s the joke here?  And you really have to balance that with the story points you’re trying to get across in that scene.”…

Read it all at the Wellesley News