057 – Bob’s Burger’s Writer Greg Thompson

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Greg Thompson is a writer-producer known for Bob's Burgers, Glenn Martin D.D.S., and King of The Hill.

Show Notes

Greg Thompson on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0860188/

Greg Thompson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/gregthomp

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Autogenerated Transcriptions

Greg Thompson:
Try to pay attention to the voices of the show. Know the show. Watch, watch every episode. Um, you know, when we were hired on King of the Hill, I, I'd watched King of the Hill, but I hadn't seen everything. But, you know, I methodically started plowing through hundreds of episodes at that point. I think maybe 200 episodes had happened by the time we, we joined it. So, and that's just kind of an education and you internalize the voices of the characters and, and it, it helps you. It helps you know what to pitch. You're

Michael Jamin:
Listening to Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jen.
Hey everyone. Welcome to Screenwriters. Need to hear this. I'm Michael Jamin and I got another special guest today. This is my old friend. I'm gonna, this is my friend Greg Thompson, and I'm gonna give you a proper introduction, Greg. So sit down, just relax. Let me just talk to the people for a second. Um, so Greg is a very successful TV writer and he started on bunk, a show called Bunk Bread Brothers. We're gonna run through some of, through some of the credits. I'm heard of Bunk Bread Brothers, then fired up, which was interesting. This was the heyday of nbc. This was when, uh, the character she lived instead of a clock. She was, she was a church mouse, wasn't she? Greg

Greg Thompson:
<laugh>. Yeah, she was a church Mass

Michael Jamin:
Who

Greg Thompson:
Is second, second season. She moved into a shoe, uh,

Michael Jamin:
<laugh>.

Greg Thompson:
It was Sharon Lawrence with, uh, Leah Remedy.

Michael Jamin:
Ah, Sharon Lawrence with Leah Remedy. This was back in the heyday of NBC shows like, uh, musty tv. And then a show called, I'm gonna run through some of your credits. Maggie, big Wolf on campus, then one of your bigger credits. 30, uh, third Rock from the Sun. Great show, then Grounded for Life. Another great show. Everyone hates Chris. Everybody hates Chris. Everybody hates Chris. Another great show. I'm in Hell. We're gonna talk about that. King of the Hill. You were there for many years. Glen Martin, dds. I never heard of that one, but I was involved in it. <laugh> then Now, most recently you were writer, what are you executive, co-executive producer on Bob's Bergs.

Greg Thompson:
So I, I'm, I'm down to consulting producer. Technically I was we'll talk, I was co exec. I was actually executive, I was actually executive producer to be, to be most technical. Well, yeah, we all got promoted up to executive producer after a

Michael Jamin:
Certain And what happened? Why did you get bounced down to co exec? I mean, a consulting producer.

Greg Thompson:
I decided to rank fewer, fewer days a week. So I, I've, I've, am I, do you still want me on the show?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I'm, now I'm jealous of you. How many days a week are you working?

Greg Thompson:
I only work two days.

Michael Jamin:
Oh. And of those two days, how many days are you really working? <laugh>?

Greg Thompson:
I don't know. Probably four. Cuz it filters into other days and

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Greg Thompson:
It does over it also. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
We're gonna talk about that. But I wanna get into the beginning, Greg. Cause I, I, I, so we met in the Warner Brothers Writers Program, writers workshop, or whatever it was called. Yeah, we did. And you were, were supposed to be you and your partner. Our Abrams were supposed to be the competition that me and Seavert were facing. And, but very quickly we realized we weren't, we weren't gonna, we weren't gonna make good enemies, <laugh> friends and love.

But, but I gotta say, Greg, you've always been, and I know I've never, probably never said this to you personally, but you were, it may seem odd since we don't talk that often, but you were definitely one of my closer friends, closest friends in the industry, because I always feel like I, I feel like we're not in competition. I can always be, I can confide in you to tell you what's going on with my career. I never feel like I'm gonna get stabbed in the back. You always got my back. I got your back. So you, you've always been a great friend. And that's why as I thank, thank you for doing the show and helping everyone Oh, tell your story.

Greg Thompson:
You're, you're very welcome. You, of course, it's of course it's mutual. Um, and I'll just say at the Radcliffe or at the, uh, pardon me, the Writer's Warner Brothers Writer's Workshop, um, I was, uh, so intimidated by you and Seavert. I, uh, you like you, we were kind of sited. We were seated in kind of a big o and you were, you guys were like across the room and you already, you already had credit. You had a credit on Lois and Clark, which was like, you know, incredibly impressive. We didn't have credits.

Michael Jamin:
That's what you were, that's what you're, because there was no other reason to be intimidated by us. So we never said anything like, I

Greg Thompson:
Think, I don't know, you just, you looked, you looked the right part. Sea had this kind of scowl on his face all the time, which, which was very untrue to his personality. But he just looked, uh, super serious. Like, like he

Michael Jamin:
Was

Greg Thompson:
Interesting figuring it all out.

Michael Jamin:
Turns out neither of us. It was a prestigious program. And, and it didn't help either of us. It didn't help. It definitely didn't help. But it didn't help you did it

Greg Thompson:
Other than Well, it, it did get us, it did lead us to an agent, which then, which then led us to our first job. So it actually did help us, even though the Warner Brothers, the studio was not interested in hiring us,

Michael Jamin:
Right? So after,

Greg Thompson:
After watching us work,

Michael Jamin:
As I tell our audience to catch 'em up, um, so yeah, we worked together. So we never worked together. We were just, we became friends on that. And then later, then later we shared a bungalow. We both had overall deals at CBS Radford. And so we shared a bungalow. We'd have lunch together. Remember we'd hang out in your office and just talk about ideas. Bounce Yeah. Each other that think an overall deal's great. That was fun. And then later was, no, king Hill was before that.

Greg Thompson:
King Hill was before

Michael Jamin:
That. Right? And then later Radford, our overall deal. Then later we hired you guys on, on Glen Martin. And you guys saved our butts. You and your partner Aaron, saved our butts. And then how did I Thank you. I almost, I almost thanked you by destroying your career. <laugh>. I only remember you guys, you guys came in, was it, it was season two, right? Of Glen Martin.

Greg Thompson:
Yeah. Season two. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
We, we brought you in. We had the money. We wanted very, we wanted season writers. And you guys came in, you always delivered great drafts, which is, is, I always say, this is all you want from a writer. Can you turn in a good draft? And you guys always did. And then there was talk of spinning off Glen Martin to a spinoff. And I remember we were like, Hey, we'll do this show. And then you could run the other show or which one, one or the other you guys could run. And you're like, eh, we got this other offer to go to this cartoon called Bob's Burgers. You don't wanna go to Bob's Burgers,

Greg Thompson:
<laugh>,

Michael Jamin:
You wanna stay here? <laugh>. And then, and thank God you took that offer, cuz I would've felt terrible like ruining your career. Cause that they spinoff never happened. <laugh>. And then Glen Martin was canceled and it jumped off just in time to go to,

Greg Thompson:
There was an idea that Glen Martin was gonna jump to Fox or something, and

Michael Jamin:
There was a lot of lies floating <laugh>.

Greg Thompson:
Yeah. It was probably Michael Eisner was planning these thoughts.

Michael Jamin:
Um, right. I forgot Fox. Fox didn't, Fox had no, had no knowledge of that. They weren't on <inaudible>

Greg Thompson:
<laugh>. But, uh, yeah. But yeah, I think we all thought the puppet animation genre was gonna explode. And, and I have to say, it's really funny. It's still, when I look at, I've dug up some old Glen Martin's. It is really funny. I mean, it is, it was an underrated show under watched certainly, but also underrated.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. It was, we did some good stuff. You guys wrote some great episodes. But then, so you got the offer because Bob's Burgers co-create by Jim Dore. We both work with on King of the Hill. So he reached out to you guys. How did you have this Bob about, and why didn't he reach out to us? <laugh>?

Greg Thompson:
I didn't probably You were working. You, you're busy. Um, we

Michael Jamin:
Were busy

Greg Thompson:
Developed by Jim DotR. I should make sure I say that properly. Created by Lauren Bouchard, developed by Jim DotR. Um, yeah, he was just staffing up. And actually he, he had hired two other guys, uh, before us. And then there, um, and gosh, I'm blanking blanket on their names. Sorry. Um, but they had a pilot going, and their pilot got picked up to production. So they had to drop out of Bob's burger's mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and then that opened up a slot and Jim, Jim called us to, to come interview for it. And we saw the That's been, and, and you guys, you guys let us out of our Glen Martin deal early by the way. You, you did us a favor that not everybody would've done.

Michael Jamin:
That's that is true. Now some people wouldn't. But, but I think most,

Greg Thompson:
I most, I think most would good, good people would,

Michael Jamin:
Good people let you out. Our contract. Um, and so, and how many that was 2008, you've been on that? Oh, no,

Greg Thompson:
That was 2000, 2010. We went over there, 10, I think we, we went over to Glen Martin. We were there for actually second half of the first season through most of the second season.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, that's what it was

Greg Thompson:
Like Glen Martin. Yeah. So I think we wrote It's

Michael Jamin:
A amazing song. You've been on Bob's Burgers. It's crazy. Like that's, that's job security.

Greg Thompson:
Yeah, I was thinking, yeah, it's, it's 12 over 12 years now. And I, I'm wearing, um, I'm wearing the first piece of swag we ever got on Bob's. I don't know if it's visible on camera or not. This, this, uh, old hoodie, which is now just in taters. It's 12 years old. And

Michael Jamin:
Do you, is it hard coming up with stories that at the, for 12 years?

Greg Thompson:
Yes. Yes. Very hard. Um, also because unlike The Simpsons, which is kind of branched off into the peripheral characters, they'll do a episode about APU or whatever they used to. Anyway. Um, Bob's stays with the, the family. Right. And, and do

Michael Jamin:
You, how, how does the musical numbers work? How do you guys produce, you know, how do you write and produce that?

Greg Thompson:
Uh, well, I, Lauren is extremely musical. Lauren Bouchard very musical. So he always had, you know, a big interest in that. And he can, he can write and play. And then there are, you know, there are, uh, musical people, you know, uh, uh, on the show.

Michael Jamin:
Who writing the lyrics for that? Do you write some script or what?

Greg Thompson:
Well, we do, yeah. Yeah. Most of the writers will write some lyrics. I've written. Yeah, I've written some lyrics. And that's, you know, don't write the music occasionally. You might like take a stab at a tune for something silly, but yeah. And that's, that's like, and that's, that's like fun

Michael Jamin:
For the music as well

Greg Thompson:
Then. Yeah. Yeah. You do like the, um, yeah, we're like members of ASCAP or BMI or something. Yeah. And, um, yeah, there's actually been, um, two Bobs Burgers record albums that have come out. Didn't that sub pop?

Michael Jamin:
Were you with the movie as well,

Greg Thompson:
Though? Yeah, I mean, to a limited degree. It was, the movie was, was really written by, by Lauren and Nora Smith, who's also the, you know, his number two, she's also Show Runner. Um, and then, but all the other writers pitched in on Story and, and jokes and, you know, we looked at lots of cuts. And so we, we were, we were part of it. Uh, we're, we have credit, but, um, but they did the, uh, heavy lifting for sure.

Michael Jamin:
And, you know, you're kind of like the last writer, Guild of America. Cartoon <laugh>, one of the last, right. I mean, you're covered by the writer Guild, right? It's not ascap. I mean, not

Greg Thompson:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's, it's a, yeah, it's a, it's a writer's guilded show. Yeah. And I guess, like, I don't know, not to tell Tales Outta School. I think Disney is still trying to, you know, put shows on the air on, you know, Disney now owns 20th Century Fox Television. Um, still try to get, you know, II covered shows, which that's a, a guild with fewer, bene fewer benefits for your, your viewers.

Michael Jamin:
It's nonstarter now. It's like, it's, I, it's, it's the animation.

Greg Thompson:
Oh, is it really? Yeah. Okay. Things are tough. Okay. I didn't realize that.

Michael Jamin:
How did you, now you didn't start you, what was your career for the, for people who are listening, what was your career before you got into writing? I'll start from the

Greg Thompson:
Beginning. Um,

Michael Jamin:
Year was 1948.

Greg Thompson:
<laugh>. I was, I was 12. The, uh, that was
The, I I would just say in brief that like, I always loved television growing up. I loved movies and television. Uh, and I, I became a writing major in college, uh, creative writing major, which wasn't, wasn't a good idea. Uh, but at all that time, it never occurred to me that there were people that wrote television <laugh>. I never looked at the credits. And so it never occurred to me that there would be a career doing screenwriting. Um, and so after I got outta college, I went into, I moved to New York and I got into, uh, book publishing and was a, worked in marketing for a few different publishers. Uh, book and magazine publishing. And that was go, that was my career. That was what I was doing. I was gonna be kind of a business person. And, you know, in, I wore a suit, uh, took the subway.

Um, and then I went to business school to get an MBA thinking, well, that's the next step of my, my, uh, tremendous business career. And that brought me out to LA afterwards to work at the LA Times. Um, and, uh, uh, Aaron Abrams. So you bet you, before my friend, uh, had split up with his wife, he'd moved out to LA to be a screenwriter, and then his marriage had blown up. Um, so he had an empty bedroom. And I moved in with him to begin my job at the LA Times. And Aaron was trying to be a screenwriter. And so for the,

Michael Jamin:
From college,

Greg Thompson:
Uh, yeah, we kind of, we did an equivalent of the, uh, we, we did a little, uh, summer school publishing bootcamp kind of thing. Um, interesting. One summer after college, like a six week program, a little like the, the sitcom writing workshop in a way, but for people interested in publishing. Um, and so just like a summer school thing. So I met him doing that. We, we hit it off. We had, you know, kind of this instant, instant rapport. Um, and, uh, I thought he was hilarious and everything. And so I wasn't surprised when he eventually decided that he was gonna try to be a screenwriter. So then I move into the, I move into his, uh, terrible, messy apartment. Um, and, and I see like he is got a bunch of scripts. I'd never seen a script before. Uh, you know, it's kind of, it was pre-internet.
You couldn't like, download scripts. It's like, oh, wow, this is weird. So that led me to reading scripts, talking to Aaron about what he was doing. Uh, you know, he very generously would ask me to read things he was working on and ask if I had any ideas or thoughts. Uh, and, and then, and then, and then Aaron suggested we were, we were having some conversation about the, uh, actually the NFL player's strike, uh, of the eighties. And he said, I always thought that would be an interesting movie. Um, so, uh, then he said, do you wanna try to write a movie about that with me? So together, we basically hammered out this, um, comedy that did not become the, was it a Keanu Reeves movie, but was The Replacements. Ours was called Substitute Heroes. And it was much like The Replacements. And, and that was the first thing we wrote together. And that ended up, um, we ended up selling that for a guild minimum to some place.

Michael Jamin:
Hey, it's Michael Jamin. If you like my videos and you want me to email them to you for free, join my watch list. Every Friday I send out my top three videos. These are for writers, actors, creative types. You can unsubscribe whenever you want. I'm not gonna spam you, and it's absolutely free. Just go to michael jamin.com/watchlist.

Greg Thompson:
The substitution Heroes, where did you sell it? Football comedy. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
And

Greg Thompson:
Where did you want? And it ended up selling to like, uh, some producers for Guild minimum, um, low budget minimum, which was I think like $26,000 or something like that. Or maybe, maybe more. Uh, but that was, I, you know, obviously that would be thrilling even now to sell a movie for, you know, a little bit of money. So it was very thrilling to, to me and, um, and Aaron. And so, and then at the same time, like I'm working my LA Times job, and I wasn't enjoying that a ton. You know, I was in like this, I don't know, weird little group called Market Planning. And we'd do these like analyses of like Orange County advertising market and stuff that no one would ever look at. Um, and, uh, and the LA Times was a place, I always remember this. They would do casual Friday, one day a month.

So you had to, you had to remember what Friday remember? Casual. Casual. That was before we were casual all the time. Yeah. Right. So you had to remember what Friday of the month was, casual Friday. So you could not wear your suit. Um, and then for our, uh, Christmas party, we had a, like an annual Christmas party. You'd have to come in an hour early that morning. And the, the Christmas party would be like, between the hours of 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM <laugh>, or 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM I, I forget when work started <laugh>, at least in my department, that's,

Michael Jamin:
You have to get up to your party. Some party.

Greg Thompson:
It wasn't <laugh>. Yeah, no, it wasn't, it wasn't festive

Michael Jamin:
<laugh>.

Greg Thompson:
So it was that there was that kind of, it was that kind of play. So meanwhile, you know, then I'm like, you know, thinking, oh, well this, this screenwriting thing's working out great. I'll do that instead. Um, you know, and I think, you know, like, you know, we are getting a lot of meetings and I think, you know, in Hollywood, like a meeting sounds exciting. Yeah. It'll almost inevitably lead to nothing. But still for a moment you feel like, you know, you're driving on a lot, you have a pass, they're waiting for you, you sit down, someone brings you out water, you feel important. And, and it's, the people you're meeting with are almost always just filling their schedule to feel important. Yes. So you go in there and together, all of you feel important, and then you leave. It

Michael Jamin:
Sounds like you're, you've listened to my podcast. Cause I've said these words many times.

Greg Thompson:
Oh

Michael Jamin:
Yes, <laugh> go important, but go on. Right. Then go. What happened?

Greg Thompson:
Uh, so then, um, I, I remember Aaron was like, he had this, um, he played like beach volleyball, uh, in this like league or something like that, even though he was terrible. But

Michael Jamin:
I don't, I don't believe that part of his story,

Greg Thompson:
But, well, I'll say he was on a beach volleyball team. Whether you could describe it as playing, I don't know. But I think he was trying to beat girls. And so, but he, but there were a couple like TV writers in his, in the beach volleyball group, and he said, these guys are all doing great. They all have like, big houses. Uh, they're so successful. We should like, let's forget movies. Let's try to write television. So we started working on, uh, some spec scripts, as you know, I'm sure you've probably talked about that at different times. And, uh, you know, we wrote an Ellen, you know, and a spec is your sample to get hired onto a show. We wrote an Ellen that I thought was great, uh, that I still remember what it was about. It was about Ellen dates her assertiveness instructor and then can't break up with him because she's not assertive enough. Which,

Michael Jamin:
Funny.

Greg Thompson:
Well, <laugh> well, for one thing, I, I don't know if there is such a thing as an assertive assertiveness instructor <laugh>, I think it felt, it felt right to us in 1994 or so. Um, but, you know, but we thought, okay, we've nailed it. We've written one spec, now we're gonna, now our career will begin in television. And everybody hated it. And I mean, you've probably experienced this, or people experienced people who've felt this way. They fall in love with their spec. They think their spec is great. It's really the, the first spec they've written. And they become very, very attached to it. Not attached to every part of it. Every, every element. They're not receptive to notes. And I, I think I was certainly that way about this, this one, but the, uh, the feedback was so uniformly negative. It was like, okay, well let's <laugh>, I think we have to write another one. So we wrote a Larry Sanders uhhuh, uh, a Larry Sanders spec, which went much better. It was just a much better show for us. It was more in our sensibility. It was. So, uh, that's the one that, uh, we ended up using to get into the, uh, Warner Brothers sitcom writing workshop.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And that, the rest, now Aaron, Aaron Abras was this, you know, we were both friends. One of the sweetest guys you ever met. And then he tragically died halfway through your career. And then I remember, I mean, it was just awful, but I remember either calling you or writing to you, and I was like, listen, cuz you had to reinvent your career at that point. You were, you had a writing partner that you relied on and you bounced things off. And then you had to become a solo writer. And I remember reaching out to you saying, listen, if, like, if you wanna, if you might need to write new samples, if you want help breaking a story or anything, like just call me receiver. Well, happy. But, but you never did. What was

Greg Thompson:
That like? I re I re I I, I, I do remember that, and I still grateful for that. Uh, but you and Stever both reached out and were were terrific during that time. Um, it was, it was fortunate for me that I was on Bob's burgers. We had done, Aaron and I had done a season on Bob's, so, uh, it hadn't even aired yet. Um, but it was, I'm trying to think when it got it. Season two order, I guess it didn't get that until it had aired for a few, a few weeks. Um, once Bob's began airing and the show got picked up for another season, which was a little nip and tuck, cuz the ratings were a little, um, or touch and go rather, uh, uh, the Lauren and Jim offered me, you know, the opportunity to come back as a solo writer. Uh, so I, I did not have to produce those other specs. I did have to write a pilot that Aaron and I had been contracted to write. So I had to, I did have to finish the pilot. We'd outlined it, but we hadn't written it yet. And, um, I had to, I had to write it. But when you, that was, so that was the first thing I wrote.

Michael Jamin:
And was it like, even now, do you hear his voice? Like, do you think, what would Aaron do here? Or, or are you like, you know, now this is, are you, you know, are

Greg Thompson:
You Yeah, no, I I I, I still totally do. Uh, I mean, he was, he's such a funny guy and, you know, it was, you know, he used to say like, you know, the, unfortunately the funny person of the writing team died. So the, the, the guy who's like, does little, I don't even know what my specialty was, kind of doing things Aaron did, but a little less well founded. Uh, and, um, but yeah, no, I'll, I'll sometimes if I'm, if I'm writing and if a, a joke will occur to me, and I'll think that is an Aaron kind of joke, right. You know, that that's, that's his sensibility. So as much as I can cha uh, channel, uh, Aaron's voice, I, I I try to, um, he was, you know, just a unique voice.

Michael Jamin:
I imagine it would be honestly be a little paralyzing that first, at least the first couple of scripts you're like, I'm, I'm, I'm flying solo here.

Greg Thompson:
Yeah. Uh, and I, you know, I don't know how it is with you and Seaver, I think, you know, you, you do work separately at times. I know. Um, but, uh, every, everything Aaron and I had written, we'd written together in the same room. You know, we might go off and work on a scene by ourselves for a while and then share it, but mostly it was like kind of taking turns at a keyboard while the other guy was there in the room. Yeah. Uh, looking, you know, looking over the shoulder. So it was, uh, it was, you know, a pretty, um, uh, uh, close writing situation. So yeah, I just, um, I, I, I would do a couple tricks of, I would, I remember the, when I was writing the pilot, uh, it was like, okay, I'm gonna write the scenes that I think are easier to write first.

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I wrote scenes out of order just to make progress. Right. Uh, and so then when you make a little progress, you begin to feel better, you begin to feel more confident. Um, right. And, and I also, and I still do this, I'll, I'll write a scene maybe with some, some of the dialogue at all caps, which is my way of saying this is not the dialogue. This is an approximation of what has to be said here in this moment. Uh, just to get through it, just to get through it so I don't get stuck. Um, yeah. Uh, because yeah, I mean, Erin and I would, we'd, we would try to do as little rewriting as possible, just maybe outta laziness. So we would kind of get a lot of consensus on everything before we wrote, uh, or as, you know, as we worked our way down the page. But as a, as a solo writer, I just couldn't do that. It was like, Nope, I'm, I'm gonna have to do more revisions, I'll have to do more passes. Um mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that's what, that's what I started doing.

Michael Jamin:
And now does it just feel comfortable on your own or, you know, I, it's interesting,

Greg Thompson:
You know, I know it, it, it does and it doesn't, it always feels a little in like, you know, right now I'm, you know, trying to come up with story ideas to write one and looking at the calendar and looking at how much time I have, and I think, oh God, am I gonna have enough time to break it? And, uh, you know, holidays are coming up that's gonna cut into time. Uh, so I, I always have a little bit of panic, and I think I'm known for this on the show of being fairly neurotic about scripts, worried I won't put it together. Uh, cuz you know, there's so many, so many, Michael, you know, there's so many jokes in the script, it's like several hundred by the time you're done. And it's like, oh, how will I think of all those jokes?

Michael Jamin:
It's that, that's the part that's intimidating to me. It's the getting the story out. Well,

Greg Thompson:
Yeah, no, I mean, the story, you know, obviously the most important part. Um, but, you know, every element is hard. And so it's what

Michael Jamin:
Now how mu like how is it run, how is it differently working on Bob's workers than it was either at Glen Martin or Kim King of the Hill for you? You know, the process.

Greg Thompson:
Uh, I'd say Bob's Berger's, it's much more, uh, you kind of become your own little executive producer of your episode all the way through production, you know, and basically, most of the times you will be coming up with the idea of your episode. You will be pitching it, you will be running the room, uh mm-hmm. <affirmative> as you, you know, put, uh, break the story. Uh, you know, then you're updating, you know, Lauren, the, and Laura, the showrunners. But you're, it's, it's kind of on you. It's, it's not, it's not like, and there will be people breaking stories simultaneously, which I guess was what we had at King of the Hill too. Yeah. Uh, a a few small rooms, um, but it isn't like probably most of television today still where it's everybody around a table, the whole staff breaking one story at a time. Right. With, you know, walking through the beats on a, on a board, kind of assembling it all, everybody, the staff, everybody together. It's, it's more individual. Uh, you, you, we kind of have more rope to, you know, make magic or get in trouble.

Michael Jamin:
And now you're doing, you're consulting, which is so interesting, just a couple days a week. Um, yeah. What, how's that for you working out? Everyone talks about what?

Greg Thompson:
It's,

Michael Jamin:
It's

Greg Thompson:
Perfect. It's simultaneous with, it's simultaneous with C so it's, it's, it's hard to separate the two in a way. So it's, so far it's been people are beginning to come back to the office, but for the last two and a half years, it's been all Zoom.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Uh,

Greg Thompson:
And uh, I would say like, if I didn't have to like write scripts occasionally, it would be fent it would be so easy. I mean, not easy, but, but it's always like, you know, if you could sit back and give people pitches on their episode all day, and it's like, well, here's my idea. If it works, terrific. If it doesn't work, well <laugh>, you know, it's not my problem. It it is. But

Michael Jamin:
Do you think you'll stay there for, for a, for a while longer? What do you, what are your plans? Do you have any?

Greg Thompson:
I I, I, you know, I've just kind of taken it year by year. Uh, the, um, we'll see, um, I don't know. It's, it's still been a fun thing and, and most of the staff is the same staff as when we first grouped up 12 years ago.

Michael Jamin:
No one's, no one's leaving back, back when we started, um, uh, you know, we, you could jump shows, you might work on a show for a couple years, then jumped to another show. But now with the market, you'd be crazy to leave any show if you're on a show, you stay there and you hang on for dear life.

Greg Thompson:
I think so. I think so. I think that's been true of Bob's and, you know, uh, Wendy and Lizzie Molino, two of to have really, you know, very funny writers on, on Bob's. They did, they left only because they developed their own show, uh, the Great North. So, but despite that, they still have a hand in Bob's and write an episode a year. So nobody really wants to let go of Bob's.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And then, uh, yeah. Do you, are you developing at all? Have you tried to develop in recent years or,

Greg Thompson:
You know, I, past the first year, no, I haven't, I haven't tried to develop, and that's, you know, I have to say that's a little bit of laziness on my part. Like, you know, why do I wanna develop myself out of a job, this great job on Bob's? Uh, yeah. And, and also it was like, you know, we, Aaron and I, Aaron and I think did like eight or nine pilots, only one produced, but it was always really hard and, uh, a distressing experience. You'd, you'd, you know, we'd go in full of, full of ambition and hopes and dreams of how this next pilot was gonna be great. And then, and then you'd get so ground down by the process, we'd be miserable and hate, and hate our pilot by the end of it. <laugh>

Michael Jamin:
People don't under no understanding, uh, of how the industry actually works. That's what I'm trying to educate them. But like we say the same things, like if we didn't have, if we were on full time staff, we, we wouldn't have to develop, we wouldn't run out to develop. It's only because staffs, the orders are so much shorter that you kind of have to, if you wanna make a living, you gotta sell what you gotta,

Greg Thompson:
Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, tell provision's changed, changed it that way. So <laugh> so, you know, I'm a little embarrassed. I haven't, you know, tried to develop in the last decade, but I don't know, I'm just,

Michael Jamin:
So what, what advice do you have? Do you, I mean, are you bringing on any young writers or what advice do you have when you see a young writer join the show?

Greg Thompson:
Uh, well, boy, I don't know. I guess it would be the advice. Uh, I'd give any young writer, you know, just try to, try to pay attention to the voices of the show. Know the show, watch, watch every episode. You know, when we were hired on King of the Hill, I, I'd watched King of the Hill, but I hadn't seen everything. But, you know, I methodically started plowing through hundreds of episodes at that point. I think maybe 200 episodes had happened by the time we, we joined it. So, and that's just kind of an education and you internalize the voices of the characters and, and it, it helps you, it helps you know what to pitch. So, you know, we'll, we'll have, obviously, like a new writer will often like, pitch an episode idea that we've kind of already done. And, you know, it's hard to catch up with everything, but you have to try.

Michael Jamin:
Right.

Greg Thompson:
And just, I guess trust that you're, trust that you're there for a reason and that your ideas are good and, you know, do your best.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Right. But it's a pretty supportive environment there, it sounds like.

Greg Thompson:
Oh, it's great. Yeah. No, it's, it's really a nice group of people. Um, you know, you've been on many staffs and I was on many staffs, and I think my experience was almost always good. Uh, I hope yours was too. But you know, the, I think we probably all have both had the experience of being in a room where you're sitting in the same, you're around a table, same table every day. You're not only that, but you're seated in the same seat every day. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, same person to the left, same person to the right. And, and sometimes there will be people who will make a point of only laughing at, uh, somebody's, somebody several people's pitches, but never several other people's pitches.

Interesting. Trying to, right. Yeah. I mean, uh, and, uh, it, it is a little bit of a, and this is, you know, it was rare to have this experience, but, you know, maybe did once or twice, um, pe writers are trying to get their jokes in. Uh, they would rather have their joke in than a funnier joke from somebody else. So there is that, there is that bit of competition. And I'm not saying I would have the funnier joke that no one would want in or anything like that, but, uh, uh, it's, it's this natural, um, selfishness, self-preservation, I guess. Yeah. Of like, right. I must, I must have a certain number of jokes in the, in the episode, or I'm not, I'm not earning my, my morsel of meat Yeah. Today. Yeah. So, um, so there, you know, there is a competitiveness. And I think, I think some shows, I think very could be bad miserable places. Um, Bob's was a fantastic place. Everybody was great. Right. Everybody was supportive. Uh, everybody was funny. Uh, everybody is funny. So many great writers. So it's been a, a fantastic situation.

Michael Jamin:
And how, and you say you were, you're involved heavily in the production. So you'll watch the animatics, you'll give notes on the air, or do you watch all the automatics or just the ones you, you produce?

Greg Thompson:
Uh, we watch all thematics and colors. Uh, but the animat, you know, for your own episode, you, you will be, you know, more involved in notes and revisionism

Michael Jamin:
Just for

Greg Thompson:
People. And the,

Michael Jamin:
The a animat are the rough, uh, before like crude sketches of the, uh, cartoon, the animation. And then you give notes on that. And then, then it's more like for blocking, which before the character should do and what kind of shot you have. And then later they color it in and, you know, that's, then you, you give notes on that as well. But you, are you also at the record? Are you, um, recording the actors?

Greg Thompson:
Yeah. Yeah. And, uh, we've done that a few different ways. In the beginning of the show, it was the, uh, Bob's was unique in this, in that they, you'd have multiple actors in, you know, on, on Mike, uh, at the same time. And it would be a simultaneous recording, so you'd have overlap mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, and improv. And that was kind of a hallmark of Bob's. And then in, uh, as c happened, we had to kind of break that apart and actors were recording in their homes, and so we were getting them one at a time. Right. Um, and so now it's, it's kind of a little combination of,

Michael Jamin:
But are you direct in a way, the actress yourselves or someone else? One of the store runners directing

Greg Thompson:
Lauren, Lauren was the director for like the first 10 years mm-hmm. <affirmative> every episode. And then during Covid we began to direct our own episodes. Right. Uh, but now we're actually in the process of having one writer direct all the episodes, uh, uh, with the, uh, a writer producer will direct all of them. And just so there's kind of a, a unified voice coming from the directing booth. Right. Um, and then Theri, the writer is also there to give notes and suggestions.

Michael Jamin:
Roll their eyes. You're doing it wrong.

Greg Thompson:
Yeah. I'd say, no, that's not, that's not, it's goes. So, yeah. And uh, I'd say Lauren is kind of constantly tinkering with the process, trying to improve it, even after like 12 years you think it would, things would be, okay, this is how we do it, this is how we'll always do it. But no, it's still being, aspects of production are being reinvented and tinkered with all the time.

Michael Jamin:
It's a great show. Cause it has such a sweetness to it, such an earnestness to, uh, who knew, who knew it was gonna be sort of giant.

Greg Thompson:
It does. It does. Uh, and I know early on, like, um, you know, Aaron and I would pitch, uh, coming from a, well, I guess working on every other show, we pitched a lot of, like, stories that involved conflict between the family, you know, uh, that was a little maybe sharper than Lauren wanted to do. Yeah. He didn't want, you know, his thing is he doesn't ever want the characters being mean to each other. Right. Anything perceived as mean. And so, like, you know, like, oh, if you're watching most sitcoms, it's like, oh, I don't know, everybody's, everybody does this all the time. You know what, so, but he wanted something sweetie.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And it's a good instinct. When we, we, when we worked for, uh, Chris Lloyd who, you know, he ran Frazier for many years, and then later we worked for Man Practice. He used to say the same things. He, he would say Velvet Gloves. So when the characters slapped each other, they had to be wearing velvet gloves. So you never wanna hit too hard. Everyone saw too hard, you know, I was like, oh, that's, that's smart. I'll start using that word

Greg Thompson:
<laugh>. I won't do it, but I'll use the word. Yeah. Um, yeah. And, and, and certainly like, you know, one thing with the internet, now, you can see what everybody thinks of every episode and on Reddit. And do you guys

Michael Jamin:
Do that?

Greg Thompson:
Uh, Twitter? Do you go? Yeah. Yeah. Does

Michael Jamin:
That change the way you write future episodes?

Greg Thompson:
I think a little, um, like we did an episode once where the family was on a game show, which is kind of an unusual episode for us. It was pretty early. And they end up kind of getting cheated out of their prize at the end of the game show. It's kind of a, they're kind of ripped off. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and the ending, we thought, no, it's a great ending. It's, you know, it's, it's perfect. It's funny, it's, uh, it's television viewers hated the bels that that had happened to the Belchers that they'd been, it, it felt like an unsatisfying ending to many, many, many viewers. And they would keep bringing it up. In fact, they still bring it up, uh, online as, as a, an episode ending. They don't like, uh, and you know, I think maybe because it was an unearned, they hadn't really done anything wrong and they ended up being, you know, kind of robbed. So I think we, we avoid, we try to avoid lessons where they, or episodes where they just have complete egg on their face by the end. Right. There has to be some kind of little, little victory or something learned, something positive that comes out

Michael Jamin:
It. Yeah. That's interesting. It's interesting you take that few, cuz I never sire kind of does. I, I'm really kind, I stay away from, I don't want to hear about the reviews. I don't want to hear about what the viewers think, just wanna, you know, do my thing and cross my fingers. But it's, you know, different.

Greg Thompson:
I mean, that's probably healthier. But if it's an episode that I wrote that's airing, um, I just devour Twitter.

Michael Jamin:
Do you really?

Greg Thompson:
Trying to, trying to, uh, oh, yeah. No, I, I I definitely try to cherry pick <laugh>, you know, any positive comments.

Michael Jamin:
We went on, geez, this is about a year ago, Sierra and I went on, I don't know when we went on YouTube to like, see what people were saying about Glen Martin. We hadn't watched the show in years. And, and then there's some guy from his basement, some young guy talking about the show and he nailed it. He, he was as if he was in the writer's room. Like he understood the show better, better than we did. And it was just hilarious to hear him take it apart. I was like, man, this guy,

Greg Thompson:
I think, did you send that around? Did you send that around to the writers? I kind of remember reading something that I thought, yeah, this guy's, this guy's good, this

Michael Jamin:
Guy's, he was like a spy me. So much Funny <laugh>.

Greg Thompson:
Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Greg Thompson:
That, oh, it was a funny, it was a funny show. Does that air, I mean, does that, how does that, as a quick aside, is Glen Martin accessible on any

Michael Jamin:
Platform? I think, yeah, I think it's on YouTube where you can watch it all for free. So we don't get any, I mean, we have some points and we don't get any of it. I don't think you make money by showing,

Greg Thompson:
But it's

Michael Jamin:
For free.

Greg Thompson:
Did some, I mean, did some kid upload it or is it, is it like they're all this, whoever owns it, put it, put

Michael Jamin:
It on Michael Eisner there as a whole, like maybe we get enough used, like he can even sell it again somewhere. I'm like, you know, yeah. Sell it somewhere. Let's, let's bring it back. But I don't think we've pushed band to bring it back. I can't, we reboot Glen Martin. I don't think there's anything there. Oh, that's funny.

Greg Thompson:
Oh. Oh,

Michael Jamin:
Well,

Greg Thompson:
Uh,

Michael Jamin:
Greg, is there any place, is there anything you wanna plug? Do you wanna talk about your next season? Should people follow you anywhere? Is there anything you wanna get off your chest before eight?

Greg Thompson:
Oh, well, God, I'm not really on Twitter. No. I mean, I can't, it's, I'm unfollowable on social media cuz um, I don't know. Just, uh, I guess keep watching. Uh, uh, I kind of forget where we are production-wise. I never know what episodes about to air. Yeah. Cause as you know, the, the production schedule in in animation is very long. It's almost don't

Michael Jamin:
Without nine months with you guys in almost a year.

Greg Thompson:
Well, it can be, you know, if, especially if you know, the order changes. Right. And, and

Michael Jamin:
How many

Greg Thompson:
Episodes do you get, you know, after production. But it's a long

Michael Jamin:
Time. What, what is your order this year? Like 22?

Greg Thompson:
Uh, I think it's 22. I think it's, yeah, Bob's is one of the last, you know, shows that still gets a 22 order. Uh, and it does less so now, but it did, you know, repeat a lot too. So there was residuals involved. Um, so, but fortunate

Michael Jamin:
It worked out.

Greg Thompson:
Um,

Michael Jamin:
<laugh>,

Greg Thompson:
No. Let's see what I, I, I, uh, I would merely plug, uh, your,

Michael Jamin:
My Plus this in my Pod <laugh>. All right. Everyone that well,

Greg Thompson:
Are you still doing the videos as uh, what? Oh, I was just asking if you're doing the video, the video, uh, podcast things as well. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
These will air, yeah, they air they'll be on YouTube as well, and we run clips across media. Okay. People can, you know, they can get it everywhere. They can. Yeah. Continue following.

Greg Thompson:
Okay. It's

Michael Jamin:
All part of that. Yeah. It's all, but that's, yeah. I, I, I, this has been fascinating hearing your story as far as I'm concerned, but <laugh>,

Greg Thompson:
But Greg,

Michael Jamin:
Thank you for

Greg Thompson:
I, I, uh, well, thank you. I hope

Michael Jamin:
You're a good dude.

Greg Thompson:
Uh, thank, thank you for having me, Michael. I, you know, I'm a, I'm a huge fan of yours, uh, and, uh, yeah, honored.

Michael Jamin:
Oh God, this is my honor. But alright, everybody, thank you so much to great comic comedian, writer Greg Thompson. And, uh, yeah. So what, let me tell you what else is going on over here. So keep, if you guys wanna sign up for my watch list, that's my free newsletter where I send out daily tips for screenwriters and creative types at Michael jam.com/watchlist and keep following us here. And, uh, yeah, we have different content on YouTube. Our YouTubes at Michael Jam, writer and, uh, Instagram. Keep follow My Instagram, the TikTok Act. Michael Jam writer. All right, everyone. Thank you so much, Greg. Thank you. Until next week for more people. All right. Be good.

Phil Hudson:
This has been an episode of Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you'd like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing, leaving your review and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today's subject. For free daily screenwriting tips, follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @PhilAHudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.

Author Details
For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.