Hey. I’m Matt Ruby (email@example.com). I live in Brooklyn and I'm a standup comedian and the creator of Vooza, a video comic strip about the tech world. This is Sandpaper Suit, a comedy blog about standup, filmmaking, and whatever else I feel like talking about. Established 2006. Phew, that's a while.
In this interview, Billy Wilder discusses his writing partner I.A.L. Diamond and how they came up with the final line of "Some Like it Hot."
We had a great deal of trust in each other. But sometimes with writing you just can’t tell, especially if you’re writing under pressure. Diamond and I were writing the final scene of Some Like It Hot the week before we shot it. We’d come to the situation where Lemmon tries to convince Joe B. Brown that he cannot marry him.
“Why?” Brown says.
“Because I smoke!”
“That’s all right as far as I’m concerned.”
Finally Lemmon rips his wig off and yells at him, “I’m a boy! Because I’m a boy!”
Diamond and I were in our room working together, waiting for the next line—Joe B. Brown’s response, the final line, the curtain line of the film—to come to us. Then I heard Diamond say, “Nobody’s perfect.” I thought about it and I said, Well, let’s put in “Nobody’s perfect” for now. But only for the time being. We have a whole week to think about it. We thought about it all week. Neither of us could come up with anything better, so we shot that line, still not entirely satisfied. When we screened the movie, that line got one of the biggest laughs I’ve ever heard in the theater. But we just hadn’t trusted it when we wrote it; we just didn’t see it. “Nobody’s perfect.” The line had come too easily, just popped out.
The easy stuff that just pops out seems like it's not worth as much. But sometimes it's the effortless stuff that's actually gold. And maybe it just seemed easy but your subconscious was grinding on it for a while.
I finished it all up in Cavendish and I was in the music room upstairs when John and Yoko came to visit and they were right behind me over my right shoulder, standing up, listening to it as I played it to them, and when I got to the line, 'The movement you need is on your shoulder,' I looked over my shoulder and I said, 'I'll change that, it's a bit crummy. I was just blocking it out,' and John said, 'You won't, you know. That's the best line in it!' That's collaboration. When someone's that firm about a line that you're going to junk, and he said, 'No, keep it in.' So of course you love that line twice as much because it's a little stray, it's a little mutt that you were about to put down and it was reprieved and so it's more beautiful than ever. I love those words now...
Time lends a little credence to things. You can't knock it, it just did so well. But when I'm singing it, that is when I think of John, when I hear myself singing that line; it's an emotional point in the song.
Comedy folks hate laugh tracks. Yet every highly rated (I'm talking Nielsen ratings, not indie cred) comedy throughout history has had a laugh track. (Remember how Chappelle show had Dave introducing sketches and playing 'em in front of a crowd?)
Finally, about a week before we went to air, and the night before our final sound mix on episode 201, they relented. I can’t say what exactly changed their minds, but I suspect it was mostly the collective passion on the subject from the creative team. While we were certainly not unanimous in how much we were opposed to the choice (I was ready to quit entirely, others were more willing to just make the network happy), we all agreed that is was not going to feel like the same show we had aired the first season...
for me, it was a lesson in standing up for what you feel is creatively the right decision. Would the show be getting better ratings with laughs on the sketches? Perhaps. But it would no longer have been the same show for me personally, and I would not have returned for our third season, which we’re currently in pre-production on.
I don't think Nick Griffin gets enough props. Soulful, honest, observational, personal. He does it all. And with immaculately crafted jokes too. Not a single wasted word. This Letterman set is a thing to behold. So tight.
Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan talks about putting humor in drama in this interview.
You need a much humour as possible in a show like this. That was something I leaned from working on the X-Files. I learned so much from Chris Carter, who was the creator of Millennium about serial killers. It was hard to watch, and depressingly dark and I knew for Breaking Bad - a bleak show with cancer and criminality - that it would need to be leavened with humour. So we go for moments of absurdest humour but the moments have to feel real and derive from behaviour that the characters would perform.
So Gilligan is saying that something really bleak needs to be leavened with humor and absurdity. Is the opposite true too? Does something really silly/absurd need to be brought down with some bleakness in order to be full-bodied?
Reminds me of an Apatow quote I mentioned recently: "All great drama has some comedy and all great comedy has some drama."
Amazing time last night at Caroline's. Thanks to everyone who came out and packed the place. It was a blast. Most fun I've ever had doing standup actually. And thanks to Jonathan, Kate, and Sagar for ripping it up before me. Comedy!
I'm fine with Lance Armstrong doing all those steroids.
My theory: Performance enhancing drugs should be fine in sports as long as the athlete is also doing performance worsening drugs. Go ahead, you can do steroids as long as you are ALSO on shrooms. That way it all evens out.
Is that version of Lance Armstrong really gonna win the Tour de France – or is he going to stare at his own shadow for 3 hours? Tough call.
Is a tripping Barry Bonds gonna jack all those home runs? It's pretty tough to hit a major league curveball thrown by a DRAGON. That's a real flamethrower.
Imagine Ray Lewis on SHROIDS. His coach is yelling at him and he's crying and saying, "Coach, I was gonna tackle that guy and then I realized: We're the SAME PERSON. There is no end zone...it just keeps beginning!"
Love. Death. Religion. Sex. Drugs. Diseases. Kids. The Internet.
Those are just a few of the things I'll discuss next Tuesday (Jan 15) when I HEADLINE at Caroline's on Broadway as part of the club's Breakout Artist Comedy Series. Gonna be a fun night.
I'm psyched to be able to do a full 45+ minute set there. I rarely get to do a set that long in NYC so if ya ever wanted to see me dive deep, here's your chance. Plus, it's only $5 if you use the promo code "BREAKOUT" at this link: http://tktwb.tw/Ypvd0F
In this You Made It Weird with Joe DeRosa, Joe explains some advice he got from Patton Oswalt (48min in to podcast) after running a bit by him in the green room at Caroline's a while back. The bit was about how much Joe hates people on reality shows. Joe paraphrases Patton's response:
I don't see what the purpose of the bit is...All your doing is just saying that to the audience. You know you think that. You know they think that. What's the point?...What I think you need to do in bits is – and what I try to do is – have a moment of discovery. I try to have that moment in the bit where I go, "I used to think this but now I realize it's that."
Derosa then comments:
Which if you watch Patton, he does that a lot. "When I was 35, I used to think..." and he hits the funny from that side and then he goes, "Now I'm 42 and let me tell you people, I was wrong!"...From that moment on, I realized that I don't want to be the guy who gets up and just barks at the audience...I have a lot of bits where I try to turn it on myself and ask why do I feel that way? Oh, it's because here's my flaw that makes me see the situation like this.
Here's a Patton bit about moving away from the world of drugs/alcohol.
This idea reminds me of Eddie Brill's advice to comics: "It's never 'you suck.' It's 'we suck.'" If you're discovering something, it puts you in the same boat as the audience as opposed to talking down to 'em.
“It just seemed right,” he suggests. “You go on instinct. I don’t know. As an artist, are you supposed to know every reason for every brush stroke? Do you have to know the reason behind every little tiny thing? It’s not a science; it’s an art. It comes from your emotions, from your unconscious, from your subconscious. I try not to argue with it too much. I mean, I do: I have a huge editor in my head who’s always making me miserable. But sometimes, I try to let my unconscious act out. So why did I do it that way? I thought everyone would feel it. That even if they couldn’t say what it meant, that they would feel it.”