The thing about believing in dreams is that you have to learn to ignore all the people who keep telling you to wake up.
Last month, 20 dreamers arrived at the L.A. airport Hilton to attend The Sitcom Room, a two-day "sitcom writing fantasy camp" set up by Ken Levine, an Emmy-winning 30-year TV veteran who's worked on some of the best comedies ever ("M*A*S*H," "Cheers," "The Simpsons").
Richard Porter, 39, came from Phoenix, where he long ago lost any affection for his software engineering career. Isabel Gaddis, 46, came from Seattle, having recently decided it was time to do something she enjoyed, and why not sitcoms? Lizbeth Finn-Arnold, 39, came from Morganville, where she's been writing scripts while raising two kids. Jesse Allis, all of 16, didn't have to travel far; he was a child actor looking to become an adult writer.
All were fans of Levine's writing, both for sitcoms and on his blog (kenlevine.blogspot.com), where he shares old war stories and composes spoofs like the hilarious "Studio 60" takedown "If Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about baseball."
After some preliminary remarks and Q&A, Levine divided his 20 students into teams of five. He gave them a mediocre scene he had penned for a fictional sitcom and told them to rewrite it -- while factoring in "notes" from non-existent network and studio executives and other assorted mishaps straight out of Levine's own career. The teams worked furiously, and the next morning got to see their versions of the scene performed by a trio of actors. They critiqued each other and by all accounts, everyone learned a lot and had a great time.
Then came Sam Simon.
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