How To Lead From Behind: Servant Leadership and Writing for TV

Servant Leadership and Comedy: Light Weighs The Crown

Servant Leadership and Writing Comedy for TV

So I’m the head writer guy for a TV show that’s going to blow up da’ spot. If you don’t know, now you know

David Landrum, a millionaire from a company called Primerica, is the first person that I heard use the term Servant Leadership. It rejected the idea that you needed to rule with an iron fist in order to be a leader. Instead, it promoted working collaboratively with your team to guide the ship in the right direction, eventually letting them take the reins and run the show.

So how does this apply to writing for television?

The Task: Write Opinion Pieces with Punchlines

how to write monologues for tv

One of the recurring segments we have on the show are these one-minute opinion pieces; think oral editorial infused with punchlines a la Maher, Stewart, Carlin, etc. Seems easy enough, right?

You’re kinda right. But I’m trying to do more than just write an episode or two; I’m trying to create a easily repeatable process that I can use to generate ideas, script, and produce these monologues (see Business Process Optimization).

The Challenge: Water Runs Dry

don't be alone when writing

There are only so many opinions that I have in a given week. In addition, my voice is male, and it’s also important to have a female perspective when it comes to opinion pieces, ya’ feel me? Equal rights and all and that ish…

There’s also a implicit challenge to writing opinion pieces: if the actor/actress on camera doesn’t truly believe what they’re saying, it’s going to be hard for them to come off as genuine. For example, their mouths might say one thing, but their facial expression might wikileak their cognitive dissonance. Smell me?

The Solution: Encouraging Collabo’s (Collaboration)

writing collaboratively

An example to illustrate.

I asked one of the actors what he was passionate about and he replied, ‘Gold-diggers, man…’ Now, I’ve rarely come across gold-diggers myself, being that I’ve been in a relationship for the past 5+ years. That’s right, 5+. I don’t know exactly how long it’s been.

So I probed and probed until I got a few concrete examples of the money-hungry women he had come across.

Once that was down, I crafted the following opinion piece that, while still in construction, embodies the spirit of the message that the actor was trying to get across:

Can’t Knock The Hustle: Gold-Digging Women
gold diggers
Introduction: If we were honest with each other…I wonder if we’d still end up together?
Premise: Straight up, I want a one-night stand…that’s it.
Punchline: Ok, hold on, let’s be real – I want, like, a 20-minute stand. An entire night is way too much commitment.
Premise: You, on the other hand, are a gold-digger. You pretend that you wanna work, that you wanna be miss independent..
Punchline: …but you and me both know that if you found a guy to make your money problems go away, you’d put down those textbooks, put up your feet, and pretend that you like it.
Premise: Now, if we were honest with each other, society would call me a john and you a prostitute…and neither of us want that. So what ends up happening? We never meet. I never get to know you and you never get to know me.
Punchline: Instead, we play characters. Me: the interested, sweet guy. And you, the 22-year old virgin. Yeah, right…
Conclusion: But hey, at the end of the day, let’s call a truce: I won’t knock your hustle if you don’t knock mine.

…I need to talk to the female cast members to get their perspective, but I think the following response that I wrote is a good start:

Response to Gold-Digging Women
men don't know what they want
  • Yea, you call me a gold-digger, and yeah, I want money…but you also say you want a woman that you can respect.
  • So which is it? Huh?
  • Because if we have sex, then you’re going to try and label me a slut and talk to your friends about how you scored.
  • So what do we gotta do?
  • While you try to run game on us, we gotta run game on you.
  • And hey, no offense, but when it comes to head games, you ain’t got nothing on this…We invented head games.
  • The truth of the matter is…you don’t know what you want.
  • In one breath you want sex, in the other breath you want a respectable wifey…you’re confused.
  • So, while you make up your mind, I’ll be over here spending your dough…
  • …Call me :)
  • Collaborative Writing: A Humbling Experience

    Servant Leadership - Ultima IV NES Quest for the Avatar

    This process requires more time and energy on my part because, instead of just writing the script and giving it to the actor/actress to memorize, I have to:

    1. Talk to the actor/actress
    2. Generate a premise and probe for details
    3. Write the monologue
    4. Regroup with the actor/actress and rework the monologue so that the:
      • Spirit of the message has remained intact
      • Language fits the actor/actress’s natural speech patterns, etc.
      • Punchlines ring true (most of the time, new punchlines are also generated with fragile punchlines getting the chop)

    The process also requires humility on my part. If the actor/actress doesn’t take a liking to my punchlines, I have to take a step back and say to myself, ‘Maybe that wasn’t as funny as I thought it was…’

    Moving Forward: Why Act When You Don’t Have To?

    I feel that if the ideas/opinions/script spring from the brains of the people I have on screen, they won’t have to act: they’ll just have to be themselves. Does that idea work?

    I think it does. Ever see Method Man on the Wire?

    He wasn’t playing a character: he was playing M.E.T.H.O.D. MAN!

    After all, that’s what acting is really trying to do, isn’t it? Make people seem…believable?

    I’m Exeuntie

    Oh, and reading something like it’s the first time you’ve come across it is important too, yo…

    Whatchu know about John Barton, hater?!

    Michael Jagdeo

    About Michael Jagdeo

    My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
    This entry was posted in The Art & Science of Comedy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

    One Response to How To Lead From Behind: Servant Leadership and Writing for TV

    1. Pingback: Welcome | Diary of a Toronto Stand-Up Comedian

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