SxSW: TV Comedy of Today

by March 13, 2007

The TV Comedy of Today panel at South by Southwest 2007 featured writers from the Family Guy and The Simpsons discussing the state of humor on televisions and their processes for creating animated comedies.

  • The Simpsons Movie is somewhere between Sergeant Pepper’s album and Sergeant Pepper’s film.
  • All shows push political correctness. If it is funny, they try to include it. If the censors don’t want us to do it, it’s probably a good idea to do it. Just try and if it gets on, it gets on.
  • Censors are worried about the crackpot group that will voice concerns. Political correctness is getting worse year over year. Network: “we get it but other won’t.” Networks are frightened entities.
  • Television so many people you have to answer to. So easy to say no. So hard to say yes.
  • Writer’s room is a hot house. Full range of ages. Absolutely rip each other apart. Everyone has to have a really thick skin.
  • Comedy writers room = sports locker room with geeks.
  • Comedy writers tend to be very self-loathing.
  • Weekly shows give you more time to stew in your creative juices. Most productive day is 80% goofing off. Have to have that level of process to be creative.
  • Turn around for Simpsons & Family Guy is 10 months per show.
  • How to get into comedy writing: be obsessed and follow a dream. Have talent and stick to it and something will happen. If you are well adjusted, it’s not for you.
  • Tension between new writers and old writers keeps stories interesting. New writers adapt to room not the other way around.
  • A lot of the funniest stuff does not make it into the show –it degrades into nonsense.
  • Will TV shows ever go to DVD directly? Family Guy movie did that.
  • Characters will ebb and flow.
  • Established rule that Homer can’t be dumber than a dog. But then had a weeklong debate about what kind of dog.
  • In Family Guy, if Seth laughs –it gets in.
  • People don’t mind jokes that they don’t understand. Like that some things are beyond them.
  • Begin with naïve optimism.
  • Bootlegging: can’t control it. Think it spreads the show to viewers on DVD & TV.