Nell Scovell ’82 has been one of Hollywood’s funniest writers for more than 30 years, working on “The Simpsons,” “Monk,” (the original) “Murphy Brown,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and as the creator of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” She was almost always the only woman in the writers’ room, and recounts the good and the bad of those many moments in her recent memoir “Just the Funny Parts … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club.”Scovell returns to campus Friday to teach “Topical Joke Writing” as part of January Arts and Media Seminars (JAMS!). In an interview, Scovell talked about writing as a team sport and her place in the #MeToo movement.Q&ANell ScovellGAZETTE: How did this joke workshop come about?SCOVELL: What Jack Megan (of the Office for the Arts) does for Harvard arts is incredible. There was nothing like these programs when I was a student. Three years ago, he invited me to speak to students, and pulling that talk together helped me get a handle on what I wanted to say in “Just the Funny Parts.” He reached out again this year and asked me to do a workshop. I thought of “Topical Joke Writing” because, thanks to social media, it’s something everyone’s doing now, and it might be interesting for students to develop these skills.For a late night talk show, you sit in a room with 12 other people, talking about topics, throwing out ideas, and honing them. The idea is to duplicate that process for a group of undergrads. We asked them to submit two to five jokes as an application for the class. One student sent one that was worthy of Seth Meyers: “Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver died last week at the age of 96. (Beat) I’m so sorry, I told myself I wouldn’t get choked up.”We’ll talk about voice and brevity. One thing I noticed in a lot of the submitted jokes was there’s too much wind-up. Part of the point of topical jokes is that they are based on this common knowledge of our culture and politics, so you can shorthand. I also hope that there is some learning about the creative process and how it’s rarely just one person alone. It starts with a personal spark. But when you share with the group, the joke gets judged and often gets improved. Every student can learn from that joint endeavor. “Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver died last week at the age of 96. (Beat) I’m so sorry, I told myself I wouldn’t get choked up.” — Joke submitted by student applying for Scovell’s workshop GAZETTE: You had so many highs and lows in that space. Can you talk about being part of a writers’ room?SCOVELL: I want to introduce the students to writing as a team sport, which can be so satisfying. People come at comedy from different perspectives, which is why you want diversity in your writers’ room and why the joke you never thought of is part of the work you’re making.My favorite time at Letterman was when we would get our topic for the top 10 list and go back to our offices for 45 minutes and grind out all the jokes we could think of. It was “Joke Writing 101.” We had to hand our page to the head writer, and he would rifle through the pages and select various jokes to read out loud. It was just delightful.GAZETTE: “Just The Funny Parts” just came out in paperback, but was originally published last March, a few months after the #MeToo movement swept Hollywood.SCOVELL: When writing the book, I shared a #MeToo story from early in my career when I was sexually assaulted by a head writer. I was very nervous about sharing it publicly. Then the October before my book came out, #MeToo breaks, and so many women were telling their stories. I shifted from being nervous to not being able to wait to add my voice.In 2018, the Writers Guild of America West conducted a study about sexual assault and harassment. Sixty-four percent of women said they had experienced it. That’s two-thirds! I had already been part of the harassment part of the discussion in 2009 when I wrote about the hostile work environment for women at Letterman, but I shifted focus to adding diversity to the writers’ room.All these issues fall under general misogyny, but obviously there’s a range of behaviors that hold women back in the workplace. It’s not one or the other, and they often get thrown at you. Just talking about it is a huge step to changing the system.This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.
View Comments Les Miserables The marquee lights of the Imperial Theatre, the home of Les Miserables on Broadway, will be dimmed on September 1 at approximately 10:15 pm, following the evening performance, in memory of cast member Kyle Jean-Baptiste. He passed away early Saturday morning at age 21, having made history at the Imperial on July 23 when he became the first African-American actor, and the youngest person ever, to play the lead role of Jean Valjean on the Great White Way.A native of Brooklyn and a graduate of the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, Baptiste attended Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio where he starred in numerous productions. The day after his graduation, he was hired to join the ensemble of Les Miserables and understudy the role of Jean Valjean, beginning performances on June 23. Baptiste had been scheduled to depart Les Miserables on September 6 to board the new Broadway production of The Color Purple.“The tragic loss of Kyle to our company, just as he was on the threshold of a brilliant career, is a numbing reminder of how precious life is,” said producer Cameron Mackintosh in a statement. “His spirit was infinite and his voice from God—we are all so sad not to have spent more time with him, for he truly was a rare talent and a special person. Our loss is heaven’s gain and our prayers are with his family and friends.””We mourn the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle Jean-Baptiste, an immensely talented actor who followed his dreams that led to playing the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway. He was a rising star who graced our stage for too short a time, but his historic achievements and what he represents for the future will be remembered and honored when the Imperial Theatre dims its lights on Tuesday evening following the show,” added Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League. “Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans.”The Kyle Jean-Baptiste ’15 Music Theatre Scholarship has been established at his alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University, to carry forward Kyle’s legacy and benefit music theater students. To make a gift in memory of Kyle, please make your check payable to Baldwin Wallace University, note “Kyle Jean-Baptiste MT Scholarship” on the memo line and send to Baldwin Wallace University, c/o Advancement Services, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017. To make an electronic gift, go to https://www.b-wcommunity.net/give, in the designation dropdown, select Kyle Jean-Baptiste, and follow the prompts. For more information, please call 440-826-2750. Related Shows Show Closed This production ended its run on Sept. 4, 2016
0Shares0000Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes (front) and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari crashed on the first lap at Monza © AFP / GIUSEPPE CACACEMONZA, Italy, Sep 2 – Sebastian Vettel blamed the victorious Lewis Hamilton for causing the first lap collision that wrecked his hopes of winning Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari.The four-time champion German said he felt championship leader Hamilton did not leave him enough room when the pair clashed at the second chicane. The collision resulted in Vettel spinning his Ferrari and damaging the front wing while Hamilton’s car survived undamaged and he went on to win the race and increase his championship lead to 30 points.“Lewis saw a little bit around the outside, but he didn’t leave me any space,” said Vettel. “I had no other chance, but to run into him and make contact.“It is a bit ironic that it was that way. I tried to pass Kimi and then he came. I left him space, but it was me who was the one who spun around.“He didn’t leave me any space. There was no option. I made contact and I was spun around. Then we were at the back and had to come back.”After calling into the pits, Vettel fought back through the field to finish fourth, partly thanks to Max Verstappen of Red Bull taking a five-second time penalty for a brush with Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes.The result leaves Vettel trailing Hamilton by 30 points in the drivers’ championship with seven races remaining.He said the result was a blow to morale and was especially tough for the fans.But he added: “It’s not like I won’t wake up tomorrow. It’s deflating, but we couldn’t do it.”The race stewards investigated and ruled the crash a normal “racing incident” that merited no further action.Experienced paddock observers and media pundits agreed that Hamilton was not to blame.His former team-mate, 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, said it was entirely Vettel’s fault.“I think it was 100 percent Sebastian’s fault,” Rosberg told Sky F1. “Lewis left him enough room.“Over and over, he keeps making these mistakes and that’s not how you are going to beat Lewis Hamilton to a world championship.”The 1996 champion Damon Hill said the German had “cracked under pressure.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)