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The Warren Bell Diaries

by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sitcom writer/producer and National Review contributor Warren Bell has been nominated by President Bush to sit on the Corporation of Public Broadcasting board. A future peek at his Blackberry reveals his random thoughts on the first day on the job at CPB)

Still in some shock that writing sitcoms has brought me to Washington and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I'm thrilled to find out that writing innocuous two-act, formula story-lines and re-writing someone else's gags 'till three AM, while dining on free food sent in from Arts Deli and the Daily Grill is a government career path. But the timing couldn't have been more perfect; being over forty and writing sitcoms, I could have been out on the street at any minute and at my age, you don't turn ever turn down a job that includes free medical.

POTUS (going to try and come up with some new acronyms for the table read) phoned to congratulate me. Called me The Funny Guy. People tell me he usually doesn't give anyone a nickname until he takes a fourth or fifth meeting. Asks me to work on some press conference nicknames for him. Helen Thomas - Shortstuff; David Gregory - Couric Light; Andrea Michaels - Greenspan's Chick. Nothing in stone.

To tell you the truth I would have thought the job would have gone to someone from the "Simpsons" - Harvard schooled, Jewish with a cunning sense of the absurd. You know, like Kissinger. I'm just pitching here but if I were writing the script, it would have been fun to see it go to South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I'm not sure they would turn PBS into a President Bush TVLand, but it's a cinch we wouldn't have to deal with Scientology wedging their way into programming.

Pelosi stopped by this morning's CPB meeting. Cuter in person. Shorter. Assume she read my National Review gag: "I could reach across the aisle and hug Nancy Pelosi, and I would, except this is a new shirt, and that sort of thing leaves a stain." Try to hug her. Spill her coffee. Get stain on my shirt. (Note: Don't forget to plug irony in spec Jim Carey script )

Some of my comedy writer friends on the Left are still having conniptions from me, a severe right-winger contributor to the conservative National Review, being selected to serve at CPB. It's not a partisan thing. They're just pissed that their agents didn't get them the gig. Oh, they're all calling to congratulate me, but that's only so I'll get them an interview to work in the show, er, um...the department. Still getting used to government terms.

The women on staff express their concerns about my blog dissing Disney for pressuring us to cast more minorities on "According to Jim." Push my "Ellen" credits.

I can still hear the call from the White House. I was sure it was one of the "Family Guy" writers working out one of their non-sequiturs that they think are so funny, but have no place in a quality network sitcom. Fox just doesn't get it. Kind of wish they were on public broadcasting so I could cut their funding.

Note to self : Copy and paste IMDB bio to Wikipedia

"Warren, we need you," said the voice calling from the White House. "Your country covets your twisted perspective and ability to set up witty situations that end with satisfying yet unpredictable resolves." Unpredictable? Didn't they know I wrote network sitcoms? But I tellya.

Notice that the office doesn't provide fresh fruit and granola bars. Secretary says we have to bring our own snacks. Not clear how that's done.

A lot of people might think that writing dialogue for a network sitcom is just about crafting funny jokes. Not necessarily. I worked for a Jim Belushi show. Note: Masterpiece Theater could use some see-it-coming-from-a-mile-away misdirection.

Run down to commissary for an Avian and bump into Rumsfeld. Reminds me of a taller William Frawley. Discover folksiness only a TV press conference thing. Tells me that the military has a long history of working with comedians and comedy writers. Reveals Bay Of Pigs was an Ernie Kovacs/Allan Funt pitch. Spitball idea for new defense strategy. DR says he will put a pin it for next war.

Thought: Is translating the art of comedy into a functional tool to fight terrorism so out of the realm of possibility? Humor is generated by a sudden deviation from expected patterns of behavior in a situation characterized by incongruous or inappropriate elements, right? In that way, comedy writers aren't that far apart from terrorists. The difference is that instead of weapons of mass destruction to kill, we use jokes.

Discuss increasing commercial appeal. I crumple "Larry David Live From Lincoln Center" idea in my lap. Pitch catchphrases. No one understands what "talk to the hand" means.

Ombudsman Ken A. Bode reminds us that PBS should be all about balance. Chairperson Cheryl Halpern leans over and whispers that means that "Science is okay, but in small doses." Pitch "Global Warming-Schmobal Warming" hosted by John Stossel. Not sure if they heard it, so I pitch it again. Halpern tells me that there is no need to repeat; that the new board members rarely get any ideas into programming. Start to feel I'm back at the network. Becoming comfortable with the process.

Contact WGA residuals to see if Writers Guild pays for PBS re-runs. If so, try to get my "Coach" scripts aired as some sort of sports segment on NOVA.

Punch ups: "Newshour With Jim Lehrer" could use a wacky next door neighbor. See if Gannon still works for the White House.

Got to get to sleep. Government business is hard work.

Note: Ask intern what channel PBS is on.

Steve Young was an award-winning sitcom writer who is open to a gig with the next administration. (

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Albion Monitor   July 11, 2006   (

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