Servant Leadership and Comedy: Light Weighs The Crown
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
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
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)
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:
…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:
Collaborative Writing: A Humbling Experience
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:
- Talk to the actor/actress
- Generate a premise and probe for details
- Write the monologue
- 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?
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?!