- 1 show writer
- 1.1 Stay in the Know: Sign Up With Jeopardy!
- 1.2 How to Become a Writer for a TV Show
- 1.3 Exclusive – ‘Tonight Show’ Writer Remembers ‘Mr. Warmth’
- 1.4 Before guests appear on late-night talk shows, talent coordinators pre-interview them. Out of that comes several pages of notes on whatever they’re promoting. Host asks question. Guest responds with funny story. Host understands that guest brought a clip of latest film. There are no surprises in late-night.
- 1.5 ‘Daily Show’ Writer Recalls Heated Dispute With Jon Stewart
- 1.6 Comedy writer for ‘It’s Garry Shandling’s Show’ recalls vulgar office incident that cost her a job
- 1.7 Janis Hirsch detailed her uncomfortable experience while working as a writer on the “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” in the ’80s.
Without this talented group of writers, there would be no Jeopardy! After more than 7,000 episodes, our writers are more inspired than ever to bring the best clues to our contestants.
- CAST & CREW
- ALEX TREBEK
- THE CLUE CREW
- JIMMY MCGUIRE
- KELLY MIYAHARA
- SARAH WHITCOMB FOSS
- HARRY FRIEDMAN
- JOHNNY GILBERT
- SHOW WRITERS
- FULL CREW
After serving 12 years as a member of the research staff, Matt Caruso is the first former Jeopardy! contestant to become a writer on the show. Of his three wins in 2003 totaling in nearly $80,000, all anyone in the office seems to remember is how he misspelled the name of a certain operatic Valkyrie as “Brumhilde.” Yes. Very funny. For the record, he won it anyway. His interests include movies, world travel, gadgets and avoiding social interaction.
Born in Raleigh, but raised in the Big Easy, John left the South in search of authentic burritos and inauthentic architecture. Luckily, he found both in numerous L.A. strip malls. John's passions include poker, Tolkien, the New Orleans Saints, complicated MMORPGs and the seediest of dive bars. He's perfected the art of becoming a lifelong bachelor and hopes to one day write a children's book on the subject. His beard has been described as a "national treasure" or "in serious need of some work." The jury is still out.
Born in New York City, Mark has co-written five episodes of “Star Trek: Voyager.” He’s also found time in between crafting clues to write a book, The Completely Guilty Bystander . When not riding the rails in search of the true America, cliff diving in Acapulco or saving whales off the coast of Australia, he enjoys the tranquil setting of small town Los Angeles with his wife, son and dog.
Debbie describes her tenure at Jeopardy! as the best job in the world! A lot has changed since 1989 when Debbie joined the writing staff, most noticeably, the typewriters, Wite-Out® and frequent trips to the library which are now a thing of the past, replaced by computers and this nifty thing called the Internet.
A graduate of Cal State University, Northridge, Debbie began her career in game shows as a researcher for "Tic Tac Dough". Other jobs followed, including a five-year stint as a writer for "Sale of the Century" and finally Jeopardy! Debbie says she's blessed to be part of such an amazing and enduring show, and the Writers Guild Award, Peabody Awards and 10 Emmys® that fill her corner curio cabinet are just the icing on the cake!
The product of an oppressively supportive family, Michele grew up quickly on the mean streets of Studio City, California, before heading back east to college. A graduate of Tufts University, Michele returned to Southern California and was gainfully employed at a magazine when Jeopardy! came calling. It was with great pleasure that she was able to give her editor a two-week notice, saying she'd been hired as a researcher for America's Favorite Quiz Show®. In the over 20 years that she's been with Jeopardy!, Michele has had the pleasure of writing for all of the flavors of the show: JEP! (a kids version of the show), Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, and most recently, Sports Jeopardy!
The “newbie,” Robert joined the Jeopardy! writing staff in 2008 following careers in academia, publishing and street chess. He left behind an upbringing in the dank wilds of Oregon's Willamette Valley for the drier climes of Southern California. There, he whiles away his spare time as an enthusiast of baseball, punk rock, English poetry, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, German beer, American whiskey and extreme pedantry.
A Florida native, Jim has worked in many different aspects of Hollywood from actor to crew member to Jeopardy! writer. His years here on the show have allowed him the great honor and pleasure to share his explorations and discoveries of the world and the universe with the wider public at large. A true bibliophile, when Jim isn’t crafting fun new answers and questions for Jeopardy! and Sports Jeopardy!, he can usually be found haunting antiquarian bookstores around Southern California., or just grillin’ and chillin’ in his backyard.
The afternoon sun was low yet colorless in the sky and the ice had melted into a drowning archipelago in the bourbon, but two sentences were still all that sat on the screen. Billy grew up in Montreal, Canada, and received a B.A. and an M.A. in English from McGill University there. In 1989, he sought a career in screenwriting in Los Angeles, where a fortuitous Variety ad led him to Jeopardy! Can that really be a life, he wondered, taking a barely burning sip? What about the friendships sealed on canyon hikes, the unsold books of poetry, the wife and children faintly audible through the off-center oak door? What about the laughter over daily double choices and medieval Bulgarian royal sobriquets? All fading like the day. He inhaled and hit send.
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How to Become a Writer for a TV Show
Write a few spec scripts to showcase your talents.
If you love watching TV and are always dreaming of great new ideas for your favorite shows, then becoming a writer for a TV show might be a great job for you. But these jobs are in high demand and getting one isn't easy. You'll have to do a lot of networking because finding a job as a TV writer isn't something you can apply for through an Internet job board.
The first step to becoming a TV writer is knowing all the ins and outs of writing for television. You don't need a specific degree to be a TV writer, although having a journalism, English or creative writing degree will help by giving you a strong command of the English language. You should also take TV writing classes-- where you can also develop contacts, read books about TV writing and, if possible, find a mentor who knows the business and can critique your work.
Write a spec script, and then write more spec scripts. You need to showcase your TV writing ability, and the only way to do this is by writing scripts for TV shows. Pick your favorite shows, the genres you would most want to write for, and write teleplays for episodes of each show. If you can get a copy of a script from an aired show, that will help you know the preferred style. Sample scripts can usually be bought on eBay or through other online sites. You'll also want to watch many episodes of the show you're writing for so you are familiar with the pacing of the dialogue and the storyline. Don't write a script that strays from the show's typical format or solves a big mystery that is central to the show. Write a simple script that showcases your ability to capture characters and continue plots. To show your depth and skill, you should also write at least one spec script for an original TV pilot.
Your next step is to shop your script around. Whether you want to be a freelance writer for a TV show or a staff writer, you'll need to get your spec scripts read. If you have any connections in the industry, use them. If you don't, start attending workshops, conferences and any other networking opportunity where you can make those connections. Look up names of showrunners and executive producers of TV shows and submit your spec scripts to them, keeping in mind that many of them can't accept scripts for the shows they're working on due to copyright concerns. You can also try to find an agent to represent your work. The Writers Guild of America West lists all the agents that represent TV writers on its website. Go through the list, read the directions for submitting scripts carefully, and submit your teleplay to the ones that fit your genre. Remember that whether you're submitting to an agent or a showrunner, you'll need to send a query letter first before you send your actual scripts.
Another tactic for becoming a TV writer is by getting an entry-level television job that exposes you to the industry and will help you find more contacts who might want to read your spec scripts. Apply for jobs as a writer's assistant or producer's assistant for a TV show. The pay isn't great, but the contacts you'll make can be invaluable.
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.
Exclusive – ‘Tonight Show’ Writer Remembers ‘Mr. Warmth’
7 Apr, 2017 7 Apr, 2017
Before guests appear on late-night talk shows, talent coordinators pre-interview them. Out of that comes several pages of notes on whatever they’re promoting. Host asks question. Guest responds with funny story. Host understands that guest brought a clip of latest film. There are no surprises in late-night.
On the rare occasion when a star does an unannounced walk-on, it’s always choreographed in advance. The reason they aren’t billboarded at the top is because they hadn’t been pre-interviewed, so there are no notes. A brief sit-down with plug is followed by “Hey, I know you gotta run”, and guest gets kissed off.
In October ‘75, Don Rickles was guest-hosting for Johnny Carson. Across the hall, Bob Hope was taping a special with Bing Crosby and John Wayne. At the last minute, they negotiated a walk-on. Backstage, a concerned Duke Wayne asked if I had a line for him. “Rickles is gonna kill me out there.”
Prophetic, but too late. Seconds later they were cued for their entrances. As Don schmoozed at home base with Ed, the curtains opened and Bing, Bob, and the Duke took bows center stage to a standing ovation. Don feigned surprise, then did a shooting gallery takedown of all three, one by one.
After the show, Don crossed over to Studio 4, where they were rehearsing, to thank the trio. Don was a genuinely sweet guy, but hadn’t yet come down from his killer persona and Bing was in his crosshairs. Long before oldest son Gary’s tell-all, it was known in the business that Crosby would never be named father of the year.
“Bing, do yourself a favor. Phone the kids.”
Rickles attributed his 100 appearances on Carson for making him a star. When Don guest-hosted, he never asked us writers for help with material. He’d just wing it. One night he wandered into the audience, lobbing killer barbs. He asked a young man to stand up.
“Are you Mexican?”
“Just a bad looking kid. Sit down.”
It was a treat to watch him hilariously ply his trade without having to grease a maître d’ for a front-row seat. When Don worked the big rooms in Vegas, standard procedure was having the maître d’ seat certain customers in the front row. These represented every available ethnic group as well as fat slobs with unattractive wives. Unbeknownst to them, they were his destined targets. Part of Don’s wizardry was making the objects of his venom exit the venue thrilled to have been the centerpiece of the act.
One night in his dressing room, I asked how he knew to take his material to the cliff’s edge and not plunge into the abyss. He introduced me to his man Friday, personal assistant Harry Goins, and said he runs lines by him. Goins was his one-man standards and practices department, at least for the black insults.
It’s been said that the Rickles personality was different offstage, where he was warm and gentle. Not always. In ’91, I attended a dinner at Jerry Weintraub’s Malibu home honoring President George H. W Bush. It was akin to being in a rush hour subway car packed with A-listers. Weintraub had it catered by Chasen’s and hired a band to play. President Bush danced with Goldie Hawn while First Lady Barbara tripped the light fantastic with John Travolta. At the end of the evening, while we awaited our cars to be pulled up in the driveway, Don effortlessly savaged Sidney Poitier, Sly Stallone, Angie Dickinson, Norman Lear, Tom Hanks, Sally Field, and Tony Danza. For them to be mocked by the master was akin to winning a lifetime achievement award. For me, it was the perfect nightcap.
One night, Bob Newhart was guest-hosting for Carson. During his segment, Don, his guest and best friend, accidentally broke Carson’s wooden cigarette box. It had been a staple on the desk from the 30 Rock days in New York. When Johnny returned from vacation the next day, he was told Don had broken it. Johnny decided to capitalize on this.
He was informed that later that night Rickles would be taping his sitcom, CPO Sharkey, across the hall. During his own taping, Doc Severinsen, sitting in for Ed McMahon, “informed” Johnny that Don had broken his box. Carson pretended to be crushed, and announced he would do something about it. He had earlier choreographed the crossover from his set to Don’s, but Rickles had no idea this was in the works. So when Johnny confronted Don, it may have been the one time he rendered him speechless. If you don’t believe me, check it out on YouTube.
He’s been honored by his peers, won an Emmy, performed in England before royalty. But though Don was a lifetime Democrat, he considered the career highlight his appearance at President Reagan’s 1984 Inaugural Gala, where he gently skewered Reagan and Vice President Bush.
Now he’s gone, and there’s nobody around quite like him, no fearless antidote to the p.c. bores who inhabit the universities, politics, and media with their tedious talking points.
Somewhere, and I mean way up there, St. Peter is at this very moment scratching his halo, wondering why for heaven’s sake the new arrival, this bald gnome, is sweating profusely, pacing like a panther and calling him a hockey puck.
“Pearly gates? Couldn’t pop for gold? My wife has bigger pearls hanging from her neck.”
And why is Sinatra over on the next cloud laughing his ass off and shouting “See? Told ya so.”
Raymond Siller was the longtime head writer on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
‘Daily Show’ Writer Recalls Heated Dispute With Jon Stewart
A former correspondent and writer for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” has disclosed that he and its host, Jon Stewart, engaged in a heated argument about a segment perceived as racially insensitive. In his recounting, the correspondent, Wyatt Cenac, who is black, said Mr. Stewart became defensive and frequently shouted expletives.
The dispute, which Mr. Cenac detailed this week in a podcast interview, is more than just a behind-the-scenes blowup at a popular TV program. It is in jarring contrast to the reputation of “The Daily Show,” a news satire that has had a wide berth to address matters of race, and of Mr. Stewart, who is one of the few white performers to have tackled these issues frequently and unsparingly.
Producers at “The Daily Show” say that they are constantly re-examining how they create their comedy segments and that they are aware of “blind spots” in their process.
But Mr. Cenac’s account has nonetheless surfaced at an especially awkward time as Mr. Stewart prepares to step down as its host on Aug. 6 after a 16-year run.
Mr. Cenac, who worked on “The Daily Show” from 2008 to 2012, recounted the fight with Mr. Stewart in an episode of Marc Maron’s podcast that was posted on Thursday.
In the podcast, Mr. Cenac described events at “The Daily Show” in 2011, after Mr. Stewart did an on-air impression of Herman Cain, a black business executive who was seeking the 2012 Republican nomination for president.
Mr. Cenac compared Mr. Stewart’s impersonation to the Kingfish, a racially stereotyped character from “The Amos ’n’ Andy Show,” and said it struck him as “a little weird.”
For days afterward, the Fox News Channel, a frequent target of “The Daily Show,” seized on Mr. Stewart’s imitation and criticized it as racist.
When Mr. Cenac later tried to discourage Mr. Stewart in a staff meeting from pursuing a further segment that would take up the Fox News criticism and catalog all the stereotypes he had exploited in his impressions of politicians, Mr. Cenac said the host “kept shutting me down.”
“And then he got upset and he stood up,” Mr. Cenac said, adding that Mr. Stewart shouted expletives at him several times. The argument continued as Mr. Cenac followed Mr. Stewart into the host’s office and could be heard throughout the building.
Mr. Stewart later apologized to his staff, but Mr. Cenac, who was at the time the only black writer on “The Daily Show,” said he felt disrespected. Though Mr. Cenac remained with the program for one more year, he said he was alienated and miserable and “never felt comfortable” during the remainder of his time there.
“I represent my community and I represent my people,” he said in the podcast. “And I’ve got to be honest if something seems questionable.”
“The Daily Show” is generally not shy about discussing the racial dimensions of news events. In June, after the Charleston, S.C., church shootings, Mr. Stewart delivered an impassioned and largely joke-free monologue in which he lamented that the country had a “gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist.”
Producers at “The Daily Show” said on Friday that the argument between Mr. Stewart and Mr. Cenac went well beyond the usual disagreements that can flare up in preparing the show.
Steve Bodow, an executive producer, acknowledged in an interview that there were “blind spots” at the program when Mr. Cenac worked there, “and I’m sure there still are now,” he said.
“One of the reasons that these topics are generally good fodder for us to deal with at the show is because they’re difficult to talk about,” Mr. Bodow said. “There’s tension around them.”
“But I would never say that we were perfect or without fault on any of that stuff,” he added. “And the incident with Wyatt was a real reminder of that.”
Jen Flanz, another executive producer, said that when the program takes up topics of race, sexuality, gender or religion, it can lead to “sometimes uncomfortable debates.”
“Nobody wants it to get out of control the way that particular discussion did,” she said. “And I’ve been here for 16 years, and I can count on my hands the times that it even got close to that. But they are healthy debates.”
In recent years, “The Daily Show” has sought to dispel its reputation for homogeneity on its staff, adding correspondents and contributors like Jessica Williams, Hasan Minhaj and Trevor Noah, who will succeed Mr. Stewart as its host in September.
Employees like these have “evolved the show beyond what it was years ago,” Ms. Flanz said. “What it will be in years from now is hopefully even more evolved than that.”
The show still has only one black writer, but, Mr. Bodow said, “That’s going to change.”
Through a publicist, Mr. Cenac declined to comment on Friday. In the podcast interview, Mr. Cenac said that he and Mr. Stewart had recently exchanged emails in which Mr. Stewart “kind of apologized as much as he could, for if I felt hurt.”
“He said, ‘I’d love for you to be at the last show,’ ” Mr. Cenac added.
Asked if he planned to attend Mr. Stewart’s final program, he answered, “Probably, yeah.”
Comedy writer for ‘It’s Garry Shandling’s Show’ recalls vulgar office incident that cost her a job
A female comedy writer on "It's Garry Shandling's Show" revealed the repulsive in-office incident of sexual harassment that left her without a job.
Janis Hirsch penned a piece for The Hollywood Reporter where she recalled the mistreatment she received as the only female writer on the comedy show's staff — and a particular disturbing incident where she became subject of an inappropriate joke.
"One day, I was sitting in Garry's (Shandling) office across the desk from him. A few of the writers and one of the actors were in the room, too," she wrote.
"I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned, and there was that actor's flaccid penis draped on it like a pirate's dead parrot. Riotous laughter ensued from all but one of us."
The "joke9quot; did not have Hirsch laughing, of course, and was the end of a troubling time on the sitcom, which ran from 1986 to 1990, where she was shoved off projects not because of her lack of talent — but because she is a woman.
"The guys started excluding me from meetings. Then they started excluding me from the table. " she wrote.
Janis Hirsch detailed her uncomfortable experience while working as a writer on the “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” in the ’80s.
"My mantra became, 'I won't cry until I get home.' It was amended to 'I won't cry until I get into the parking lot,' which became 'I won't cry until I get into the stairwell,' which morphed into "F--k, I'm crying.'"
One of the show's producers, Brad Grey, confronted her about what had happened in the office.
"I understand we have a problem," Hirsch recalled him saying, but shockingly he felt she was the problem.
"So I think you should quit," Grey told her.
Hirsch questioned why he wouldn't just fire her so she could get paid — but he wanted her to quit that day.
Despite briefly considering the option to sue, Hirsch knew she didn't have the funds and would be blacklisted from the industry if she were to do that, so instead, she followed Grey's suggestions.
"Karma's a way bigger b---h:," she wrote. "The actor with the dead-parrot penis? In two of his latest credits, he doesn't even have a name; he's listed as 'father' and 'judge.'"
Hirsch — who would share the story of the incident in every writer’s room for years to come — also said that women that she met in the business have thanked her for experiencing that incident so that they didn't have to go through the same thing.
The New Jersey native also has writing and producing credits on “The Nanny” and “Frasier.”
Shandling died in March 2016 of a blood clot after suffering a heart attack.