On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is writer-director Sofia Coppola, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Lost in Translation. Her other writing credits include The Beguiled, Marie-Antoinette and her latest film, On the Rocks, which reteamed her with actor Bill Murray. She discusses her filmmaking process and more.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is Alan Ball who won an Oscar for writing American Beauty, created the HBO series Six Feet Under and True Blood, and wrote and directed the Miramax/Amazon film Uncle Frank. He talks about how coming home can be as complicated as coming out.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guests are screenwriters Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon who have written all three Bill & Ted movies, most recently Bill & Ted Face the Music. Separately, Ed Solomon has written Men in Black, as well as Now You See Me and its sequel, among others. franchise about what it takes to update a comedy franchise and deliver laughs in 2020. Chris Matheson’s credits include Mom and Dad Save the World, A Goofy Movie and Mr. Wrong. Together, they talk about what it takes to update a comedy franchise and also write comedy in a difficult year like 2020.
I was ready my pal Mark Evanier's website last night, and he wrote a lovely piece here about our mutual friend Mel Sherer who had just passed away. (It's well-worth checking out.) Mel was an absolutely wonderful guy with a long, deeply-admirable career in comedy writing. He also had gotten pummeled by illness 15-20 years ago, and it largely took him out of commission, but he held on for a long time. I last saw him about 10 years when I went over to his house for a visit, and it was tough, but a real pleasure. Because Mel was a real pleasure -- generous and kind. Though we hadn't seen each other since then, we did trade emails on occasion. Too rare.
Rather than go into more detail about Mel's work, instead I want to re-post an article I wrote about him back about eight years ago. Among all the other things, it goes into what was probably the most notable writing partnership he had, and reprehensibly the one he got the least-credit for -- working for years with Andy Kaufman. And just to clarify upfront, no, it wasn't Andy Kaufman responsible for the "reprehensible" part.
The point was to set the record straight. And to celebrate a great career and terrific guy. Which is quite appropriate today, well, when you get down to it.
From May 18, 2013.
There was a long, well-researched article yesterday in the Huffington Post that was sort of the opposite-Obama. The point of it wasn't that there are people who won't believe a birth certificate about where someone was born, but rather that there are people who won't believe a death certificate that says someone died. In this case, the someone is Andy Kaufman.
But this here isn't to convince the unconvincable of anything. I leave that to themselves. This is to address one minor thing in the article, where it talks about "Kaufman's longtime partner-in-crime," as the article puts it, Bob Zmuda. Every time you read an article about Andy Kaufman, it tends to quote Bob Zmuda. There are books that reference Bob Zmuda, as Andy Kaufman's partner. And all of that is true.
What isn't true is the impression all these articles and books give that Bob Zmuda was Andy Kaufman's sole writing partner. What they all leave out is Mel Sherer.
Mel Sherer is a friend (and a wonderful, generous guy, beyond the ordinary levels of generosity) who has a long career writing comedy, from sitcoms to variety to stand-up. He's been a collaborator with Kevin Nealon of Saturday Night Live for years. Look him up on the iMDB. Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Married with Children and a lot more. And the very first credit you'll see there is -- Andy's Funhouse.
There is a lot of other writing that Mel has done than what's listed in the iMDB, but he's just not taken credit for it. Because of his long, admired career in comedy, many people in the field have come to Mel for last-minute help or tweaks. You know that famous scene in Roxanne, Steve Martin's updating of Cyrano de Bergerac, when Martin's character, 'C.D. Bales,' humiliates an adversary in a bar by coming up with a couple dozen great, nose insults? Well...they needed a couple dozen great, nose insults. And finally, at the last minute, ready to shoot but not pleased with what they had, they came to Mel for help. Some of that scene is Mel. Uncredited. Mel has done a great deal of uncredited work because...that's Mel. He regularly has given away story ideas. "Here's a good one. You can have it."
And through all that, Mel was partners with Andy Kaufman. (And Bob Zmuda.) Not just writing, but occasionally performing. You may know there have been times when Kaufman appeared at the same time on stage as his obnoxious alter-ego Tony Clifton, and people couldn't figure out how that was possible. Usually that was Bob Zmuda made up as Clifton -- and so the word has spread that it was always Zmuda. But it wasn't. Occasionally it was Mel.
Bob Zmuda had a lot to do with Andy Kaufman's career. But so did Mel Sherer. It's worth noting that on the Andy Kaufman website (which appears to be fan-based), there is a review of Bob Zmuda's biography on Kaufman that praises the biography in part, but criticizes it a good deal for self-aggrandizement, and at one point states --
"Why did Mr. Zmuda conveniently forget the following individuals?
To be clear, it's not that Mel didn't get the full credit he deserves in the book. It's that he didn't get mentioned. It's bizarre and inexplicable. Mel tends to shrug things like this off all the time. He has a Buddha-like outlook on life. Or maybe he's just so used to it that he gave up being bothered long ago. I like the Buddha theory.
But at least he was discussed in Bill Zehme's biography of Kaufman, Lost in the Funhouse. And there have been things like the E! True Hollywood Story on Andy Kaufman where Mel Sherer was properly included.
By the way, just so you know, I embed these images so that it's clear this is not just a friend speaking up for another friend, but can't support it.
It can be supported. There's so much more. Mel Sherer and Andy Kaufman were writing partners for a very long time. Not Kaufman's only partner, but significant, and integral to his career. And for too long, he's put up with being much-too overlooked, and not saying a word about it. I just like the guy so much that every once in a while I like to point all this out, even if Mel is content being Buddha.
And this will not be the last time I point it out. I like saying it too much.
As a brief addendum to the above article, I want to mention that when it was originally posted, it received a terrific user comment. It's arguably one of the most meaningful I've received. Actually, no, there's nothing "arguably" about it. The person wrote -- "Thank you, Bob, more than I can say here. This is the greatest thing anyone has ever done for me outside of medicine and sex. And it's damn close to at least one of those two. Mel Sherer."
To which I replied -- "I had the easy part. You did the work."
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is writer-director Judd Apatow, co-screenwriter of The King of Staten Island as well as Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This is 40 and much more. He talks about his recent film, career, and creative process.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is Kevin J. Hynes who’s written for such series as HBO's Perry Mason, Scorpion, Dirty John, Boss and the U.S. version of Prime Suspect. He talks about writing crime dramas, his process and career.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guests are the screenwriters of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines (who together wrote Borat: Cultural Learnings of America, Bruno, Who is America?, and Da Ali G Show, among others). They talk about devising their stealth satire, early days in clown school, writing a full script based on what they think maybe the real people involved might possibly say, and also fascinating stories about dealing with the massive hurdle of making the film during the pandemic.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is screenwriter-playwright Kemp Powers. He talks about adapting his play for the new, acclaimed Amazon film One Night in Miami. Inspired by a true story, it deals with when four legends—Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke—came together for one legendary night.
As a bonus, here's the trailer for the movie --
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is writer-director Julie Taymor who is perhaps best-known for directing the adventurous Broadway musical of The Lion King. However, she has also written and directed such movies as The Tempest, Titus as well as the story for Across the Universe. Upcoming she co-wrote and directed The Glorias, about Gloria Steinem.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is Sam Boyd, who created the new HBO Max series, Love Life. He talks about the show, as well as his career with includes writing and directing the feature film, In a Relationship.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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