Thursday Editor’s Pick: “Surreality TV” Pilots with Writer-Producer Alan Zweibel

by on June 2, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Thurs June 2 at 7:30 at 92YTribeca [Program & Tix]


The good people at Not Coming to a Theater Near You have roped the influential writer-producer Alan Zweibel into presenting three too-weird-for-broadcast-TV pilots, including one of his own, What Leonard Comes Home To.


Zweibel’s storied career includes a stint as head writer for the original Saturday Night Live troupe, co-creating the pioneering cable comedy It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, a Consulting Producer credit on Curb Your Enthusiasm, recurrent Shouts & Murmurs pieces for The New Yorker, and winning the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Zweibel also authored a well received memoir of Gilda Radner, and wrote the novel North along with the screenplay for the film adaptation, which is widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made.


Jill J Capuzzo details the comic’s origin story for the New York Times:

As the funny kid in the neighborhood, Mr. Zweibel – born in Brooklyn and reared in Woodmere, on Long Island – first tried his hand at writing jokes while at the University of Buffalo…Before long [he] was writing for many of the borscht belt comedians. Later he would sell jokes to Rodney Dangerfield, and even Johnny Carson. The biggest problem for Mr. Zweibel was the type of material he was expected to produce.


“I was 21 years old and these guys were 50,” he said. “I wanted to write about marijuana … and they wanted me to write about paving driveways. It was like writing for my parents’ friends.”


So he put together a racier repertory that he took to the clubs in New York City. This was around the time comics like Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Larry David and Billy Crystal were trying out their acts at Catch a Rising Star and the Improv.


Yada yada yada.


Mr. Zweibel has earned a place in the pantheon of American pop culture.


First up on tonight’s program is What’s Up, Peter Fuddy?, a comedy created by Jay Kogen, a television veteran who’s worked on The Simpsons, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, and many other shows, and starring Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall. What’s Up follows Peter Fuddy, an everyman whose every move is dissected by news analysts. As Foley describes it, “It was about a guy whose life is reviewed every week by a ‘Nightline’ news panel. Clips of his life are analyzed by experts.”


The centerpiece of the evening is What Leonard Comes Home To, a domestic drama created by Alan Zweibel. Not much is known about the show, save for the somewhat ominous description that it stars Griffin Dunne as “as Leonard, life-saving doctor by day, shrinking father and husband by night.” Zweibel will be present for a Q&A. Having worked on Saturday Night Live, Zweibel’s storied career includes helping to create the pioneering It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, serving as Consulting Producer on Curb Your Enthusiasm, writing for The New Yorker, and winning the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Zweibel also wrote the novel North, along with the screenplay for the film adaptation, which is widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made.


Also playing is World on a String, an early work by Simpsons writer and stand-up comedian Dana Gould, made in collaboration with Jay Kogen. Talking about his early career, Gould described the show: “I just got sick of sitting down with TV writers and explaining who I was. So I just wrote one on my own as a kind of ‘I can do this.’ It was a show called ‘World on a String’ that was basically a cross between ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse.’ It was like a traditional sitcom set in a hyper reality. It was made by Fox Alternative for FBC, and it got picked up and made. But it didn’t get on the air – it got close – and people still comment on it. People still tell me that they thought it was interesting – it wasn’t the typical pilot, it had different elements in it.”

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