Part Eight: The Writer
Shortly after Austin, it was determined The Screen Savers needed a full time writer. To this point I’d been handling almost all of the writing for the show, including bump outs (“After the break, Patrick takes a sledgehammer to a computer monitor!”), opens (“Welcome back to The Screen Savers. Today we’re doing what many of you at home only wish you could do, and we’re doing it because we can: Taking a sledgehammer to a computer monitor!”) and all the various scripted moments that help a live television show keep time and flow as smoothly as possible. But in addition, I wrote jokes.
At the beginning of each show the hosts would deliver a monologue of technology-related jokes, riffing off the daily news, just like the late night talk show hosts do. To write this monologue each day, I’d start scanning the daily tech news each morning, and then periodically pen a joke throughout the day as they occurred to me. Mr. George, reminding us of his experience on the Tonight Show, told us he wanted someone working on these jokes all day, every day, because that’s how Johnny did it. Johnny had a room full of writers writing jokes for him, according to Mr. George, and out of the dozens of jokes written for him each day, he’d always take the absolute worst ones so he could put his “edge” on them. That was what Mr. George wanted for The Screen Savers: someone to write bad jokes Leo and Pat could put an “edge” on. Apparently, mine weren’t bad enough.
It was suggested I may be able to move into the writer position full time and spend all of my day writing jokes instead of the few minutes I had between other duties. I wasn’t sure how spending more time on something would make it worse, but I went with it. It was, after all, how Johnny did it. It would also allow me to hand off the line producing and running of the live production to someone else, which would have been fine with me. My stomach lining was already starting to rue the decision to go into live television production. Getting back to writing full time sounded like a fine idea.
After a few weeks of repeatedly asking when I could transition to my new job, I was told to expect an announcement “soon.” The next day I met Larson, the new writer.