Fitz of Laughter


Comedian Greg Fitzsimmons watched the stupid "Lost" finale and came up with a unique analogy for how scatterbrained the TV show was:

"It's like a bunch of vignettes from a masturbatory fantasy, but they don't all connect -- and they really shouldn't be shared with everybody."

Fittingly, he says "Lost" gave fans no real climax, leaving them frustrated "forever or until the movie comes out."

Fitzsimmons knows TV well enough to be an expert on "Lost's" dumb fantasy.

He wrote and produced episodes of "The Man Show" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." He wrote for the recently deceased Wanda Sykes show on Fox. He's producing a new game show on Nickelodeon.

And he's got a sitcom deal with 20th Century Fox. He turned in the script last Friday.

He will return to the topic of "Lost" shortly, but since you know Fitzsimmons' bona fides, let's find out: What are some of the secrets to his success?

1. He's a good writer, an unusual and desired trait in Hollywood.

A lot of other writers are copycats.

"That's why, from the top down, you get that mentality: 'Well, "Friends" worked, so let's develop 12 similar-type shows.' And none of those work."

Occasionally, a comedian such as Jerry Seinfeld or Ray Romano will write a TV script that combines actual humor with his own voice.

"There is a shortage of that. That comes from doing a lot of stand-up."

There are other brilliant writers in TV. But their shows, like "Arrested Development," don't take off, because viewers don't want to invest so many brain cells in watching them.

"Johnny Sixpack -- who's just worked two shifts, and he's got four kids, and he's trying to pay the bills, and get along with his wife -- he doesn't want to be challenged by a show for 22 minutes. He wants to watch something he can relate to emotionally."

So the TV world ends up with something like? "Lost."

"In the case of 'Lost,' you're pulling for these people to get off the island. And you're wondering what the island means."

The TV world also ends up with shows that beat you over the head with emotionality, he says.

"In 'Grey's Anatomy,' the soundtrack kicks in at the beginning of act three, and there's a bed of music telling you how to feel for the last 15 minutes of the show."

A good example of a broadcast show written brilliantly that was a hit: "24."

Fitzsimmons fondly recalls the "24" episode in season five when the U.S. president contemplated suicide in the Oval Office. There was no music. It was a quiet scene, packed with emotion and power. That's not the kind of scene or show you see much on stupid "Lost" TV.

2. "I'm good at meetings."

To sell a TV show in Hollywood, you have to pitch your show in meetings with studio executives.

"Coming from stand-up, I have the ability to perform when I'm pitching," Fitzsimmons says.

Since he's a voice writer and he can pitch, he's earned a good reputation among comics, and that reputation feeds his longevity in Hollywood as a go-to writer who can express a voice.

"That gets you through a lot of doors. That gets your scripts read very quickly. It keeps your (agent or manager) excited about you also."

3. Fitzsimmons is in the "in" crowd, largely due to having Howard Stern as a champion.

"Howard Stern is a mainline to people who make big decisions in L.A.," Fitzsimmons says. "He's got the (listeners) you want to hear you, if you're a writer or a performer in L.A."

Three weeks ago, Fitzsimmons was at a party at Jimmy Kimmel's house, chatting with the head of ABC/Disney ("one of the three most powerful people in L.A."), and Bill Lawrence, who created "Scrubs," "Cougar Town" and "Spin City."

He hung with both guys as they were fans of Fitzsimmons, having heard his show on Stern's Howard 101 channel on Sirius, and on Fitzsimmons' own podcast (one of the most popular comedy 'casts on iTunes; also available at GregFitzsimmons.com).

"That's a big part of it -- being in the 'in' crowd. And being on Stern is being in the 'in' crowd."

There is a hectic weirdness to being a successful writer in the "in" crowd. Fitzsimmons is busy with projects galore: He's touring his stand-up, doing the podcast and Sirius show, producing the Nickelodeon game show, writing the sitcom, and he's wrapping up a memoir set for fall release.

Yet, it's not like he has your job.

"It's not like I have to get up in the morning and rush to the car. It's all on my clock. In a way, it's for me to fail at, if I choose to."

Doug Elfman's column appears on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail delfman@reviewjournal. com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

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