The Hollywood Reporter put out a list today of “50 Power Showrunners,” the leading writer-producers in TV. Here’s the full roster of comedy showrunners who made the list:
Salim and Mara Brock Akil -The Game (BET)
Blake Anderson, Adam Devine, Anders Holm, Kyle Newachek and Kevin Etten – Workaholics (Comedy Central)
Carter Bays and Craig Thomas – How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
David Caspe, Jonathan Groff and Josh Bycel – Happy Endings (ABC)
Louis C.K. – Louie (FX)
David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik – Episodes (Showtime)
Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner – Girls (HBO)
Greg Garcia – Raising Hope (Fox)
Bruce Helford – Anger Management (FX)
Armando Iannucci – Veep (HBO)
Lauren Iungerich – Awkward. (MTV)
Al Jean – The Simpsons (Fox)
Emily Kapnek – Suburgatory (ABC)
Michael Patrick King – 2 Broke Girls (CBS)
Team Chuck Lorre – Don Reo & Jim Patterson (Two and a Half Men, CBS); Bill Prady & Steve Molaro (The Big Bang Theory, CBS); Mark Roberts (Mike & Molly, CBS)
Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd – Modern Family (ABC)
Team Seth MacFarlane – Steve Callahan and Mark Hentemann (Family Guy, Fox); Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman (American Dad!, Fox); Rich Appel (The Cleveland Show, Fox)
Liz Meriwether, Brett Baer and David Finkel – New Girl (Fox)
Mike Schur – Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Hollywood Reporter also conducted short surveys with all of the above showrunners. Here are some of the better responses, gathered together:
My big break:
Jonathan Groff, Happy Endings: My first job in television writing was The Jon Stewart Show, and I was fired after week. We all went out to dinner to celebrate the wrap of the first cycle of shows and then I was fired the next day.
Mike Schur, Parks and Rec: My first TV job was SNL in 1998. Before that I had done little dribs and drabs. Technically my first ever professional writing experience was John Stewart hired me to pitch some ideas for a book he was writing, and he probably used one-fourth of one of the ideas that I pitched him, butvery kindly paid me actual American money, which was a miracle to me at thetime because it meant that I could stay in New York and pay my rent. I was 21, right out of college and then I got hired at SNL about six months later.
The most absurd note I’ve ever gotten:
David Caspe, Happy Endings: The very first note I ever got in Hollywood, for a feature I won’t name, was “Is there any way there could be more kicks in the balls?”
Christopher Lloyd, Modern Family: Having worked for a year at the death-to-funny-things Fox network, space restrictions do not permit a full accounting here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: [Louis] C.K. was unavailable to participate in THR’s showrunners survey. Normally we’d be annoyed by this, but it’s Louis, and he just won two Emmys, so we’re going to let it slide. This time.
The show that inspired me to write:
Armando Iannucci, Veep: Monty Python's Flying Circus. It was, and still is, the most conclusive proof that comic writing can take you anywhere.
My preferred method for working through writer's block:
Chuck Lorre: What's writer's block?! You have to do 24 shows in 30 weeks, there's no time to sit and go, "Oh no!" You don't have that freedom — you can't go home until it's written, there has to be a second act to the script otherwise you get calls from all sorts of people and lawyers start to call! That's not available in television; that train keeps rolling and it rolls right over you. You don't have the freedom to be stumped and that's why you surround yourself with really smart writers. That's the key to my success: Surround yourself with smart, funny people. At any given moment, if you don't have the answer, they might. Everybody has days and moments when they have nothing to contribute but that's why we work as a group.
The three things I need in order to write:
Lorre: Fear of having not written and this ridiculous, obsessive idea that some day you're going to get it right — and that never happens. That belief that won't go away that you've just written the scene or a joke and it's perfect and beautiful and pristine and you're wrong, and it's not. But this ongoing belief that you've gotten it right. I don't know what that is, it's a delusion. The delusion that someday you might get it right would be the thing that keeps me going.
My TV mentor:
Schur: Lorne Michaels. He is probably arguably the greatest TV producer of all time and I still carry pieces of wisdom around that he gave me. There were other people at SNL: Steve Higgins who is now the announcer of the Jimmy Fallon Show. He was the producer of the show at the time and he was a big supporter and influence on me. In the sitcom world, it's Greg Daniels, who hired me on The Office. Everything that we do at Parks and Rec essentially is something I learned from him at some level.
Not just because it's the week of Cheers' 30th anniversary, there was a lot of high praise spoken of Cheers and its writing throughout most of the surveys:
The show that inspired me to write:
Anders Holm, Workaholics: …Cheers is the best show ever. The writers on that show created a relationship that writers today still fail to rip off successfully, the Sam and Diane.
Craig Thomas, How I Met Your Mother: Cheers and the old Late Night With David Lettermanon NBC.
Josh Bycel, Happy Endings: Cheers and MASH were both big, seminal shows for me, even as a little kid. Cheers was really the show for me that was my all time favorite show just in terms of character development and funny stories. There were like eight or nine funny people on that show.
Chuck Lorre: There's a long history of great writing on TV where the bar was set high and raised yet again in different ways… the Charles brothers with Cheers
Christopher Lloyd, Modern Family: Cheers. Deeply funny with warm, affecting characters – watching it I felt like a kid watching a magic trick for the first time and desperately wanting to know how it was done.
Liz Meriwether, New Girl: I love Cheers. I didn't watch it growing up, but I watched it getting ready to do the first season of New Girl. It bowls me over every time I see it. The romance, the comedy, the performances — every bit of it is just so compelling.
Mike Schur, Parks and Recreation: Cheers was probably the first show that I was ever was religious about. But there was also Saturday Night Live and The Late Show With DavidLetterman… Those made me want to be like a comedy writer and then Cheers made me want to writelongform TV and not just sketches.
If I could add any one writer to my staff, it would be:
Schur: Glen and Les Charles, who created Cheers.