Late Night Talk Show Comedy
Late Night Talk Show Comedy
Robert Morton (Current E.P. of Mind of Mencia) gives expert video advice on: What is the process for writing a late night talk show?; How is the opening monologue of a late night talk show developed?; What is a talk show 'remote'?
What is the process for writing a late night talk show?
There's generally a writer's room and a lot of ideas thrown around the table. Unlike a sitcom, the pieces aren't necessarily all written in the room. Writers go off usually in teams or individually. They go off on their own and they'll write the pieces and hand it into the head writer. The head writer does the initial reviewing of the piece, does whatever rewriting or sends it back to the writers to rewrite it. Ultimately, they bring it to the star of the show.
How is the opening monologue of a late night talk show developed?
Jay Leno takes his monologues every week, and on, I think it's Sunday nights, he goes down to Hermosa Beach and performs pretty much the week's material that he has. Obviously, there's stuff that happens topically, but he'll try a lot of material out in the nightclub. It's a great tool to use. They have to pick the jokes they're comfortable telling and they identify with themselves.
What is a talk show 'remote'?
You know, remotes are interesting because, remotes just by nature of what they are and that they're out in the open and you don't have the confines of four walls. I think you have to have some room for spontaneity in these pieces, and on most remote pieces that I've been involved in you go out with a script, you go out with bullet points and an idea of what you want to do. But then, when a good writer goes, and a good piece of talent, and a good director goes out, they'll find so much more. On the Letterman Show we did pieces that started out in one direction. I remember once, they did a piece, the writers came up with a piece, where Letterman had a piece of 'Your Mail'. This girl, I remember her name 'Colleen Boyle' wrote a letter to him, saying "I love him, and I love your show, and I don't miss it, blah, blah, blah". And that was a setup, and he said "You know what, let's surprise Colleen Boyle and go to her house". And that was the mission, was going to go to her house. So it started out with him going to Colleen Boyle's house, she wasn't home. So, at that point it was, "Okay, well what are we going to do? She's not home" and her brother was there, and it became "show us Colleens room, take us in the house." And the brother said "Do you want some eggs?" And Letterman said "Sure I want some eggs". And they sat and ate eggs together. So it went from one thing to, all of a sudden, just because of circumstances, it became something else. Ultimately they went to Colleen's workplace. She worked at Sears. They went to see her at Sears, and surprised her there, and it was hilarious and then even taking it further off course, it ended with the crew just having lunch. The last scene in the piece was all the crewmembers eating hotdogs at Nathan's, and just talking about the day. So, it was nothing like it was written in the writers room.