I met Raf back when I was a fellow in the Nick program. He had taken a meeting with Karen Kirkland, and she introduced us. When I heard that NBC was starting a Late Night Writers Workshop, I thought Raf would be great for the program, and it was no surprise to me when he got in.
Congrats on having been chosen for the inaugural Late Night Writers Workshop! You seemed like the perfect candidate because you’ve been doing this for a while: you worked on the Tonight Show as a coordinator, submitted jokes, and you perform a late night talk show at Flappers Comedy Club. How did all that help you write the material you submitted?
Hey Kiyong, thank you so much for the nice words (please do not cash the check I gave you to say said nice things, it won’t clear until the end of the month).
For me, the Late Night Writers Workshop was the cumulation of all the little things I’ve tried to do for the past five years—including my time at The Tonight Show and the creation of my own late night talk show Early Late Night.
At The Tonight Show I learned the discipline needed for a successful writing schedule and the ability to persevere through constant rejection.
Writing monologue jokes is a pretty thankless job (even when you do get paid). You spend hours of your time researching, sifting through news articles trying to find the best takes on the day’s headlines. The minute my shift would end, I’d sit at my computer and force myself to write for at least another hour. After a full day of work, I’d be tired as hell—but sticking to that routine was something that I knew would one day pay off.
I didn’t get a ton of jokes on at the very beginning and would often get discouraged—until one day one of the most prolific writers at the show (an awesome writer named Jon Macks) shared the following statistic: for every 100 jokes you write, 1 will get on air.
Now just take a moment to really think about that number. 1. For Every 100.
I’m excited to share that my CAAM mentor is Kourtney Kang, Writer and Executive Producer of How I Met Your Mother! She was on the show for all 9 seasons, and wrote one of my favorite episodes, Slap Bet, which introduces the slap bet, and it’s where we first meet Robin Sparkles. Amazing!
I follow @MysteryTVWrtrAs on Twitter. Apparently we’ve met before, but I have no idea who it is, and I know nothing about this person’s gender/ethnicity/age. I’m not even sure whether this person works in comedy or drama. We got chatting one night on Twitter, and I asked to do an interview. This person’s anonymity allowed for some candid answers about being a writers’ assistant.
What’s a typical day like as a writers’ assistant?
Every day is different. But a typical day is keeping your ass in the seat and taking notes. All the other writers get up to pee, you stay in your seat. Have an important call/text, redirect it to your laptop. I now have carpal tunnel due to many hours over many months with an indecisive Showrunner. It sucks, but it’s the path I chose.
How should someone go about trying to get a job as writers’ assistant?
My story: I was a PA on a show (how did I get that?…there was a listing for a PA gig on the studio website). While the other PA’s would take the long runs for the mileage reimbursement, I would get to know the writers by doing the short runs. Eventually the writers’ assistant was let go, and they needed someone ASAP…ME!!
I finished my new pilot! It took longer than I wanted, and I’m sure it can use another polish, but I’m happy with how it came out. That’s a pretty different reaction compared to the last pilot I wrote, where I felt like I was able to salvage it a little at the end.
I sent it off to a few agents, and am waiting to hear back. I hope it’s not too late for staffing season! (assuming anyone even likes it)
Trying to decide my next project. Should I write a spec for fellowships? Or another pilot? Maybe a feature? I asked some friends, and am leaning to writing another pilot, though I may also whip up a quick spec script.
Last week I got to go to San Francisco for CAAM Fest, and got to meet the other fellows. Check out the bios and the work of my super talented, accomplished fellows!
Since getting accepted into the CAAM Fellowship, I’ve had several discussions in trying to decide which mentor to try to go after. Should we go after a writer, a producer, or an executive? If it’s an executive, should it be someone in current series or development? We ended up picking someone who is a writer and Executive Producer. We felt like that role was the best one that could help me. The person we picked is high up and it’s a stretch, but why not at least try, right? Karin reached out to contact the person on my behalf, and I’ve been waiting to hear back.
Jeanne from Script Magazine mentioned me in a post regarding a picture of my closet doors that I posted on Facebook, so I figured I should post the pic here. I recently moved into a new place and I hated the cheap mirrored sliding closet doors. Unrelated, I also wanted a giant whiteboard to use for breaking stories, but whiteboards are expensive.
To solve both problems, I got these frosted glass sliding closet doors. I was inspired by the floor to ceiling whiteboard walls in the conference room of the office my writing group was using. Because they’re glass, dry erase markers wipe right off.
I work out the beats for the A, B, and C stories in separate columns, take pictures with my phone, then transcribe everything into my computer.
I hear a lot of people say not to work on specs, only focus on pilots, because agents and showrunners don’t want to read specs. Well, I went to a panel the other night, and one of the panelists was an agent from CAA. First, she said when she’s considering new clients, she wants to see a body of work, not just one script. She wanted to see consistency.
Also, she said she wants to read specs of existing shows, not just pilots, because even if a showrunner doesn’t ask for specs, she wants to know her client has the ability to match the tone and voice of a show. Good to know.