Sunday, January 28, 2007

Seriously?

Hey, here's a pointless product: the Screenwriter's Initial Draft Pad, a pad of paper with formatting guidelines, so you can hand-write the first draft of your script. The guidelines even disappear when you photocopy it! You know, for those times when you need to get the margins absolutely perfect, but don't need your script, you know, typed. Aspiring screenwriters are a gullible market, to be sure, but I sure hope they're not really this gullible. It never occurred to me that I might need special paper to help me indent things.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Let In Some Sunshine... Tonight



Presenting, at long last, the final cut of Sunshine Tonight, which Mike, Sarah, Troy and I wrote and produced together last fall.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Guitar Comic



Here is my latest stand-up appearance. To self-evaluate, it starts out a little lukewarm, but the response really picks up in the second half. So it's worth sticking out if you can stand the terrible audio quality.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Taxing

I am a businessman. Did you know that? Indeed, I am the vaunted small businessman of lore.

Being a freelance writer in LA, I discovered last year, is considered running a small business, at least inasmuch as it makes you eligible for the Los Angeles small business tax. At some point I received a strange letter saying that I was delinquent in paying my small business tax for 2003 or some such ridiculous year. Reading it over, I couldn't think of how it could possibly apply to me. It had to be a mistake.

The paper got lost in the ever-building pile on my desk, and I almost forgot about it. Finally, I found it again and called the number to clarify--and it was true. Even as an occasional one-man freelancer working out of my home, I was supposed to be paying this tax.

Taking a long lunch one day, I went down to the Office of Finance for West LA. After many, many questions, I learned that LA tends to be very far behind as far as looking up all the people who may owe business taxes for this sort of thing, but eventually they will find you, and they had finally found me for making some money a few years back.

Just now, I had to renew my small business tax for this year. I had to pay last year when I went in, since I hadn't filed for years and I had some late charges built up. Since I am filing on time this year, I see that there are exceptions for Creative Activities, particularly if you make as little freelancing as I do--in the case of last year, nothing. So that is nice.

As for the late fees, when I was at the Office of Financing getting this explanation several months back, the girl there said I could write a letter appealing the penalty, since I didn't know about the business tax or anything. She said that if the request was granted, I would hear back in a year or so. There's a backlog, you see. If it were denied, I would never hear of it again.

Being a small businessman is kind of a pain in the ass.

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Heaping Helping

Jaime Weinman has a post about stealth spinoffs, a once-common practice in which existing shows would do an episode, or "stealth pilot," about new peripheral characters for the sole purpose of setting up a potential spinoff series. This is taken from my comment on his blog, but I thought I'd cross-post it here since I haven't had much time to post myself lately:

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The only stealth pilot I remember seeing was the Married...With Children episode that was really a pilot for the Matt Leblanc show Top of the Heap. It aired on a night when Fox promoted back-to-back episodes of Married... but I remember being very annoyed that the second episode was obviously not an episode of Married... at all.

Top of the Heap was about a lower class father and son (Leblanc) who constantly tried to better themselves through ill-conceived get rich quick schemes. I think the stealth pilot involved them dressing up in tuxedoes and crashing some sort of rich peoples' event. The father was supposedly a friend of Al's, and Leblanc was dating Kelly Bundy for a while (and even appeared one or two more times on Married... after TOTH started running).

Al Bundy appears at the start of the episode, in which the new characters come by the Bundy house. The rest of the Bundys are absent, and the story soon abandons Al completely. At the episode's conclusion, Al breaks into the father and son's apartment and steals their TV set because the father owes Al money.

Right after that, I think Fox aired a commercial promoting the further adventures of these new characters we had ostensibly just fallen in love with. I remember thinking that was a terrible way to launch a pilot, since instead of enjoying the characters I was hating them for hijacking the show I had actually wanted to watch.

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The dirty little secret revealed by this post, is, of course, that I really enjoyed Married... With Children. I'm not going to claim that it was an unequivocally great show, or that it holds up today, but at the time it was wonderful in its own little way. Ed O'Neill and Katey Sagal were excellent in their roles, the insults never stopped, and the tone was mercilessly unsentimental in an era when sitcoms were more painfully saccharine than ever. Sure, it was frequently misogynistic, but in making Al the butt of the joke, it was often self-aware and tongue-in-cheek about it (even if the studio audience never realized it). Amazingly, it's still less crass than, say, Two and a Half Men.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Big Lesson

And that's why you don't shame somebody unless you're sure they're only passed out and not dying of alcohol poisoning. If only he'd lived, writing the word "fag" and drawing penises on him in permanent marker would have been tasteful and hilarious. Context is everything.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

True Tales Of The Writers Room and Blogging

No one at work reads this blog--at least, they don't admit to it--but they do know about it. Last week, one of the writers, who we'll call "Kevin,"* was joking about my blog and referred to me as "Kenny Bloggerly." Then, quite pleased with himself, enthused that "Kenny Bloggerly" ought to be the name of my blog. I informed him that it wasn't.

"But you're going to change it now, right?" he said eagerly.

"Mmm, no, not really," I replied, trying to be kind. "It's already linked in everyone's blogrolls as Herbie the Love Blog."

"But they would still link to you. They could change it eventually."

"Eh."

"So if you found a bag of gold on the ground, you wouldn't stop to pick it up?"

"Not if I have to put down a bigger bag of gold that I'm carrying."

Kevin suggested that I blog about the issue and put the choice forth to my readership. I shrugged it off. "Nah, I'm not going to do that," I said.

"Why?" he said. "Afraid of the deluge of support for Kenny Bloggerly in your comments?"

"I could see if your name was Herbie or something," said "Adam," one of the showrunners.

I held firm. "I don't think my name needs to be in the name of the blog."

Luckily, the other writer, "Sarah," supported me, simply because she agreed that Kenny Bloggerly was not such a great name for a blog.

"Are you going to blog about this incident now?" said Kevin.

"No," I said. "It's not really that interesting."

Kevin seemed hurt.

This week, he asked about it again. Clearly it is very important to him that he is mentioned here.

Wish granted, Kevin. Wish granted.

*his real name

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Identity

I'm sitting here watching Identity, the dumb NBC game show, not the dumb John Cusack thriller. It's awful, of course, but every awful new game show is fun once, as you're discovering each step of how stupid it is.

This episode's contestant is a little Filipino man who apparently has like five kids, and they're pretty old. It was surprising not only because he acts a little gay, but also because he appears to be no older than 15. Maybe it's because he has way more manic enthusiasm than any straight man over 30 ought to have. Maybe it's just because host Penn Jillette towers over him. Speaking of which, it's also hilarious seeing the supposedly edgy Jillette cashing a paycheck for doing the bland, cheesy game show host thing.

Plus, on TiVo, the show just flies by. Basically, the contestant has to guess which person has which job, and every time he guesses, Penn Jillette throws to commercial. When we come back, you learn the answer, the contestant guesses again, and--you guessed it--time for another break. Every time, every single time, the contestant, shaking with anticipation, is shocked that this has happened yet again.

The best part is the transparent milking of the tension. First of all, the stage is full of 20 people standing dead still on little pedestals for an hour. What a great gig--to stand there in a goofy dramatic pose and wait for someone to guess your job (wait a minute, doesn't that just make this show a new version of What's My Line?). Then, when it is time for the person to reveal whether the contestant is right (with a ridiculous catchphrase--the pilot says "You are cleared for takeoff," the football player says "It's good!" and the preacher's son says "It has been ordained...!" even though he's just the son), they pause for an excruciating, almost parodically contrived length of time. They literally have been instructed to wait around 15 seconds, without changing expression, before answering. On the final guess, the person waits nearly 30 seconds. How fast could game shows get played, I wonder, if you just did the parts that actually mattered, and cut out all the phony suspense bullshit? Ten minutes? Five minutes?

I'm waiting someone to answer, "Yeah, that's what I do, but I like to think I'm more than that, you know? It doesn't define my identity or anything..." The game seems pretty easy, at least for this contestant. Everyone pretty much is dressed exactly as you expect they would be, so you can totally judge people by their appearances and it will be reliable. Of course, if you couldn't, the show would be completely unfair.

The Filipino guy says that he will use his winnings to build a boarding school for poor children in the Philippines. Wow. That's hard to believe. But he won $500,000, so now those kids are set, I guess.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Buy The Book



As we've discussed, the holiday shopping season can be very stressful. Sometimes you just can't find the right gift. Did that happen to you last month? Well, in that case, it's too bad I didn't tell you about this sooner! That's right, for that extra special person in your life who wishes he or she could read some of my most memorable blog entries without a computer or electricity, now there's the handsome paperback book Best of the Love Blog: Real Life Adventures. Best of all, it's print-on-demand, so there was no need to spend thousands of dollars to print hundreds of books that friends and family don't want but would be forced to buy and pretend to have read, solely to fuel my gargantuan ego (in other words, the traditional self-publishing model). Perfect for birthdays or Valentine's Day. Especially Valentine's Day. If you think chocolate is an aphrodisiac, well, you've obviously never read this book. Buy this book and you'll get laid. That's all I'm saying.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Reveling In Past Glories



Working on the Heuristic Squelch at UC Berkeley, we were constantly seeking out new challenges. We grew interested in not only writing comedy, but living comedy. Some of the best platforms for this were the ASUC elections, during which Squelch staffers would run for student government under the banner of the officially unaffiliated Squelch! Party. The Squelch! Party often won actual senate seats, and the Squelch! senators would do their unaffiliated namesake proud with humorous legislation as well as serious advocacy of publications funding and serious defense of free speech from would-be student thought police. However, the executive offices were never within the Squelch! Party's grasp, which means that the executive campaigns offered free reign for candidates to make a mockery of the process. And there was no better audience for the mockery than that found at the Daily Cal's Candidates' Forum.

This showing was among our finest--or at least, the finest that we videotaped. You'll seldom find a better comedy audience than a roomful of people relieved to get a break from a parade of righteous speeches delivered by aspiring politicians full of bloated self-importance.

Oh, who am I kidding? Most people reading this were there in person.

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