As the showrunner of Fox’s new animated sitcom Allen Gregory, I’m often asked many of same questions repeatedly, so I thought it might be helpful to take the opportunity to cover some of the most common areas of interest in an open, uncritical forum.
When you’re writing for Allen Gregory, do you write for a specific character?
All right, that’s a stupid question. Television sitcom writers get this question all the time. If you’re talking to a writer, and think to yourself, “I’m going to ask this question,” stop. They will politely answer it, but secretly think you’re a moron. Especially if you’re a relative of the writer but were never that interested in him until he got a TV job, which feels important to you even if you were hoping your son would get a PhD in something. Anyway, the answer to the question is no. It’s necessary for every writer to try to write for all the characters, because you’re telling a story. The dialogue you write for one character plays off the dialogue you write for the other characters, and moves the story along. Most shows couldn’t succeed if the head writer said, “Okay, writer No. 1, you’re writing for the star today, and you, writer No. 2, you’re writing for his buddy. Go!” I say “most shows” because I’m guessing this is how they did Entourage.
How long does it take to make an episode of Allen Gregory?
Nine months?! I heard they can make an episode of South Park in two weeks. How come it takes you guys nine months?
Because the South Park guys are brilliant and we suck. This isn’t actually why, but it’s what you’re thinking when you ask this question, so trying to explain the actual reasons seems pointless.
On South Park they do very topical jokes. If it takes you guys nine months, how can you possibly be current with your topical jokes?
There are a few answers to this. One answer is that we don’t do topical jokes. Not every successful show does. On I Love Lucy, Lucy never made a joke about Vice President Nixon; on The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney never joked about how much fun it was hosing down those pesky civil rights marchers. Another answer is: “You’d be surprised how long topical references can stay current.” In 2004 when I was a writer on Family Guy, we wrote a script about Stewie and Brian joining the army and going to Iraq, but we were worried the U.S. might be out of Iraq by the time it aired. Fortunately the episode, and the jokes in it, stayed current for a very long time, and only at the cost of a few thousand lives. But the answer you’re probably looking for is, “The South Park guys are brilliant, they wrote The Book of Mormon.”
Who do you like working with better: Seth MacFarlane or Jonah Hill?
Well, when I started working with Seth, he was 27 years old, much younger than I was, wildly talented, and incredibly successful. And now I’m working with Jonah, who is 27 years old, much younger than I am, wildly talented, and incredibly successful. So I guess you could say I hate them both equally.
I’ve written a really funny script. Would you read it?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I’m sure without reading it that your script isn’t funny. I hope you prove me wrong and sell it, and one day when you’re 27 and wildly successful, I have to ask you for a job, and you’ll hire me because you’ll remember the whole reason for your drive to succeed was because I insulted you.
Hi, I’m married to your cousin, we’ve never met, but for her 50th birthday I wanted to give her a special present — could you give her a voice part on “Allen Gregory”?
To be honest, this isn’t a “Frequently Asked Question,” I was only asked it once. (I said “no.”)