12 5 / 2014

Norm sent off this missive last night on Twitter (edited together and for clarity):

"It is sad to me that so many great comics are not working because they are dismissed as being ‘difficult’ or ‘crazy.’ I worked with 2 of them. 

The first I worked for was Roseanne Barr and she taught me how to write stuff that was real and fine and true. And I remember in the writer’s room, the boys from Harvard would write a script and send it over to Roseanne. And an hour would pass and the script would come back from Rosie and she would always have the same note: too many jokes. Too many fucking jokes. The Harvard boys thought Roseanne was crazy, but they deferred because they had to, and took out the jokes they loved so much. And the episode would be great. 

And the next week, don’t you know, the Harvard boys would write a script and Roseanne would have the same note: too many jokes. So the Harvard boys had to kill their babies and denude the script. And that week the episode would kill. And so it went, week after week after week. The Harvard boys saw the show killing but boy, it would kill a lot harder if those jokes were in. It became clear to me early that Roseanne was onto something, that she wasn’t interested in a standard sitcom. Roseanne was more interested in the sit than the com. She knew the situation should create the comedy. Fuck the jokes. But the Harvard boys never quite got it. Just thought Roseanne was lucky, that the casting was responsible. They never saw that Roseanne was creating something never seen on TV before. Something ultra-real, sad, rough, funny as hell. What Roseanne was creating, with the help of the typists from Harvard, was a beautiful, tragic, funny show. Like life. A lot like life. And the show resonated in this nation. And there was never a more lovable, effective feminist than Roseanne. 

When the show ended, the Harvard boys went to other shows and were paid millions. After all, they had written ‘Roseanne.’ Sort of. And Roseanne went away. She may have wanted to. I don’t know. But I do know what she was called. ‘Difficult.’ ‘Crazy’ even. These are words that are dismissive and can torpedo careers. Orson Welles was difficult when he tried to make a canned pea ad literate. And he was mocked for that. And so, the genius who made the best movie ever made couldn’t work. He’s crazy, you know, very difficult. Code words, these. Meant the guy or gal in creative has some ideas, maybe ideas much better than yours. That can be very difficult indeed. 

Once I had a sitcom and I wanted to cast a legendary actor. ‘No,’ said the director. ‘You don’t want him, he’s crazy.’ ‘I don’t want you,’ I said. I was looking for a writer once for Weekend Update and they said, I hear he’s crazy, and I read his jokes and they were great and he was hired. I’m sure people have said I’m crazy because when I’m on a show, I stay late into the night writing and people want to go home. I’m crazy. I know Roseanne has tried a couple of times to do something and I know for fact she could create another masterpiece. I know for a fact that Roseanne is a true feminist in a world of false ones, and I know she has greatness in her. And I know Roseanne is a genius who is being wasted. If only she was less crazy, less difficult. If only she were an easygoing dolt. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the other comic that’s too ‘crazy’ to work.”

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