https://youtu.be/PxJ66v4xAyo?feature=shared

Were you a fan of the TV show Silicon Valley? If so, make sure to watch this podcast episode featuring John Altschuler, one of the show’s creators.

Show Notes

John Altschuler IMDB – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1014365/

John Altschuler Wikipedia –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Altschuler

John Schuler Emmys – https://www.emmys.com/bios/john-altschuler

Michael’s Online Screenwriting Course – https://michaeljamin.com/course

Free Screenwriting Lesson – https://michaeljamin.com/free

Join My Watchlist – https://michaeljamin.com/watchlist

Autogenerated Transcript

John Altschuler (00:00:00):
And I got back from delivering pizzas. And this is like, we didn’t even have an answering machine. Okay? This is like we had no money or whatever. I get back, my phone’s ringing and I, I remember it was about four in the afternoon and I, I pick it up and I can I speak to John Altschuler and I go, this is, this is he? And he goes, this is Mad Simmons. No, his rats. I think this rats, you know, this is rats of Soman. And he goes, money talks. What have you got? <Laugh>. Okay. I’ll be like, what is, I got your dollar beer bill right here. What have you got?

Michael Jamin (00:00:33):
You’re listening to Screenwriters. Need to hear this with Michael. Janet.

(00:00:41):
Hello everyone. Welcome back to Screenwriters. Need to hear this. I’m Michael Jamin, and I have another great guest today that I don’t know how many people are listening. I have thousands and thousands of listeners. And I’m telling you, not one of them is deserving to hear this man speak because this guy, the credits, his credits. And I’m gonna start off by saying, say, welcome to my show. It’s John Altschuler. I’m gonna give him the proper introduction. He’s my friend, but also many times he’s been my boss and this guy, he, he was the, he ran, he and his partner, Dave Krinsky, ran King of the Hill for many years. They created Silicon Court, co-created Silicon Valley, their movie credits, or they also created The Good Family. Do you remember that show? They, they ran Beavers and Butthead for a while. They, they’re in credits in they created, wait, did I say Silicon Valley? Yes. Their movie credits are included. Well geez,

John Altschuler (00:01:31):
John Henry, I’ll tell you, blades of Glory,

Michael Jamin (00:01:34):
My Tongue, blades of Glory. But also produced X Track. And and they ran Lopez on I think that was tbs. Where was that? Tb?

John Altschuler (00:01:44):
That was Viacom, yeah,

Michael Jamin (00:01:46):
<Laugh>. And, and I worked on it. I don’t remember what, but never <laugh>. But John, thank you so much for the coming to the show. This is a go, this is gonna be a great one because John is one of, first of all, lemme start from the beginning cause I’m not even sure if I know all this. Like, when did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

John Altschuler (00:02:03):
You know it’s interesting because I think, I would say when I was 10 or 12, Uhhuh <affirmative>, I was one of those kids from our age that comedy was everything. Okay. And back then you had three networks and you were just like, oh my God. You know, the, you know George Carlin is going to be on this show and you just get 10 minutes of it, you know? And so I always loved comedy and I always kind of loved the deep dive into comedy. And then, but so it, it always was kind of important to me. And then I went to the University of North Carolina and I majored my dad. You know, I come from an academic family, so I majored in anthropology and economics Uhhuh. But I was really interested in writing. Now my thing was, well, I didn’t think that I should major in, you know, writing for screen, whatever, you know, whatever.

(00:03:06):
Because I kind of thought you learned by doing Uhhuh <affirmative>, and I wanted an academic degree. But what happened in college is that at Carolina, at the time, we had an incredibly bad communications department. Okay. It was so bad that I’m not making this up. They had equipment in the basement that students weren’t allowed to use because they might break it. Yeah. Okay. Literally not allowed to use it. Okay. <laugh>. So, but this these people who I knew started S T V Student television using cable access cuz they have to provide it and da da and Dave and I and our friend David Palmer, were just vultures and like, all these guys did really hard work. They got the campus to, you know, the university put up money and they got cable. And we just showed up and took all the cameras and, and filmed our stupid comedy show. Know, probably you’re, you’re familiar with Friday the 13th, the stage musical, and Bonnie and Clyde and Ted and Alice and, and Point and Wave you.

Michael Jamin (00:04:12):
And so you, I, this is obviously, cause I, I don’t know this cause I haven’t visited the Library of Congress re recently

John Altschuler (00:04:18):
<Laugh> Yes. With the Smithsonian.

Michael Jamin (00:04:20):
But, so with these, like, these were a single camera show that you acted, did you act in as well?

John Altschuler (00:04:24):
Oh yeah, yeah. It was me, Dave, Dave Krinsky, and this guy David Palmer. And we did a half hour comedy show just while we were, you know, in school. And then when we graduated, it was, I, I was like, well, I had an econ degree, which means, and not a graduate degree. I didn’t. So it was kinda like, well, you go work as a teller in a bank, there’s not much you could do. And I was like, you know what? I want to, I want to, I think I’m interested in writing. And my mom, who is, she passed away, like going to 99 years old. I I was like, I think I wanna do it. She goes, well, why wouldn’t you? You know? And I was like, you know, go out to California. You’re, you’re young, you’re stupid. If it doesn’t work, you just come back.

(00:05:06):
There’s no, and Amazon was like, oh, she’s right. And so from North Carolina though, so graduated. Yeah. And what Dave and I did is we basically both worked service jobs in Chapel Hill to save up money to come to California. And in the interim, I had this idea, and actually it was a, it turned out to be a, a pretty important one is I was like, let’s get published. Okay? Now, back then they had these things called books. Okay. You know, you didn’t have the internet and you went to the library and it was a book called The Writer’s Market. And it was, yeah, it was every magazine and what they’re, you know, so we’re looking up, you know, well, where could we get comedy stuff published? And there were only, there weren’t many outlets. There was just, national Lampoon was the only national Humor magazine.

(00:05:59):
Playboy did humorous pieces. And then after that it was just porn because they were all trying to maintain First Amendment thread. So they would publish articles. So like, I remember there was like something called Nut Nugget and Smut in the Butt, <laugh>. And we were like, okay, let’s start with National Lampoon, and then when we get rejected, we’ll end up hopefully getting published by Smut in the butt. Okay. So what happened, <laugh> is that we start with National Lampoon. So I, I find them in the, the Writer’s Query, and I mean, and the writer’s market, and it says specifically National Lampoon does not accept any unsolicited material. Right? Okay. So now you probably know this about, I’m a little off the beaten path kinda guy. And so I’m like, well, you know, Dave and I had come up with a bunch of ideas. And so what I did was I put a letter together and explaining an incredibly snotty, sarcastic terms, how important you are at Nash Lampoon.

(00:07:02):
And, you know, your time is so valuable. So here I’m, I, I’m, I’m enclosing something for your time. And I enclosed a dollar bill with the letter Uhhuh <affirmative>. And, and I sent it to the managing editor Chris Simmons, and then his son Mad Simmons. No, mad Simmons was the, the managing editor. He, he invented the Diner’s card. Okay. He invented the credit card. Right. And then bought National Ha as a large Wow. Mad Simmons, Chris Simmons and Ratso Sloman. So I sent it out the, and I swear to God I was, I, I worked, I delivered pizzas and worked at a Chinese restaurant as a waiter, and I got back from delivering pizzas. And this is like, we didn’t even have an answering machine. Okay? This is like, we had no money or whatever. I get back my phones ring, and I, I remember it was about four in the afternoon, and I, I pick it up and I can I speak to John Altschuler and I go, this is, this is he?

(00:08:01):
And he goes, this is Matt Simmons? No, his rats, I think it was Rats told, you know, this is rats slow. And he goes, money talks <laugh>. What have you got? <Laugh>. Okay. I’m be like, what is, I got your dollar beer bill right here. What have you got? And so, right off the bat, I just started pitching. And he goes, okay, okay. We, we had one idea about, there was this woman named Kathy, Evelyn Smith, who went to jail. She was the one who was with John Belushi when he overdosed. Okay. Okay. Now, he was a freaking drug addict. He was gonna die. Okay? But they blamed her because she supplied some drugs and da da da. And so the thesis of the article is that all she was getting out of prison, and Hollywood was terrified because of her, her abilities to make them do things they don’t wanna do.

(00:08:52):
You know, like Richard Pryor says, she made me set fire to myself, freebasing. And they, and they’re all like, so they liked that. So wrote that and it got published. Now, back then, national Lampoon was a big deal. Yeah. Animal House had ju had come out just a few years before National was vacation and Stripes. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> all in a freaking row. So us being published by National Lampoon coming out Hollywood, it opened up huge doors. I mean, go ahead. No, I’m, I, I’m, I didn’t know. I’m surprised. So what kind of doors did it open? Well, like, for example okay. So you can’t be shy. Okay? It, it, it’s simply nobody’s gonna do it for you. As I sometimes tell kids, nobody wants you here. Nobody wants you to do, there’s plenty of people doing and nobody’s looking for. Let’s get one more. Okay.

(00:09:41):
But I’d gotten the name of an agent at C a a, Lance Tendler, and Lance Tener was in the music and of ca but I didn’t know anybody. Right? So I, I said, and you know, here’s the thing. If you show some manners and take a little bit of time, it’s a big, it’s a big deal. So I sent him nice letter, explained, well, this is what we’re trying to do. And he ended up giving it to a colleague, and the colleague said, well, I C A A was a, I mean, that’s who where I am now after, you know, 30 years. But at the time, I mean, they were the biggest deal. Like, you know, nobody could get ripped by and blah, blah. But they offered to pass our material on, and one of the people they passed it on to was a producer named Neil Maritz.

(00:10:26):
Now Neil, Neil Maritz ended up producing all the Fast and Furious movies. Right? Okay. And he had not gotten a movie made yet, and so he loved National Lamp and he jumped on it. So our first producer was this guy Neil Maritz. And our first agent, no, no, he was a producer. Okay. The agent sent our stuff to him. Oh, I see, okay. And so that was kind of an in, and he was a hustler and kind of new. And so, and he is actually a nice guy. He really is. Like, he’s, he’s very Hollywood, but kind of in a way that you miss. But he wasn’t, he wasn’t a, he wasn’t toxic. He was like a, a good sort that really wanted it to work out. And so that was our, our end. And then it’s kind of funny because we were trying, okay.

(00:11:18):
We moved to Burbank, California, and Dave and I, my part, we, we got a a two bedroom, one bath apartment in the Valley, $625 a month, no air conditioning. Okay. Right. And I mean, it was freaking brutal <laugh>, because, you know, you’d have Yes, I can imagine. Oh, yeah. You know, it’d be like a hundred degrees and a Yeah. You know and I worked room service up at Universal, and Dave was a bellman, and I finally got a connection after six months of being a PA on a movie. And that was like, huge, right? Like, oh my God. You know? So I’m a, I’m a pa and and what movie was that? It was called Miracle Mile. And the, it was not a good movie, but it was directed by a really nice guy, talented writer, g you know, actually some people like Miracle Mile, I don’t know.

(00:12:13):
Not me. But but he was a good guy. His name is Steve Dejak. And he he ended up being like, I, I just sort of worked. And he, he was a good sort. But that led to being a pa on a movie called Tort Song Trilogy, which was produced by Howard Gottfried. Right. And Howard Gottfried produced network and altered states. And so there’s something that Dave and I learned is that p I’m really cheap, okay? Because I came up with no money didn’t have Wealthy f <laugh>. It was all, I, I was on my own now, my parents were great, just didn’t have money. Okay? So what I found is that writing is expensive, because if you’re writing, you’re not making money. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. And I figured out that every day to write cost me back then about 60 to 80 bucks because I could live on nothing.

(00:13:11):
Right. But I needed about 60, 80 bucks a day to get, you know, to, to survive. That’s what I needed to make. And what I found is I would work these PA jobs, and I found that I could work for a month to write for a month. It was almost one to one. And it was interesting because when I was a interest, I’ve said that three times, it was interesting to me, you know, that when I was working as a pa I also tell the youngins this is that if you are a pa, just don’t be insane. If you’re an intern, don’t be out of your mind, okay? Because if you are not crazy, and you make your boss’s life that much easier, right? They love you. Yeah. I mean, they love you. And so all I did on Torch, on Trilogy is I made sure that Howard Gottfried always had a coffee cup in his hand.

(00:14:02):
I anything, if there was an errand there, be run, it was done like hours before it needed to be done. And I just did my job. And one time Howard was walking by and he goes, John, John, John, look, you don’t wanna be a pa. What do you, what do you wanna be? I go, well, I wanna be a writer. He’s like, well, I know something about writers, you know, because he was Patty CHAI’s producer. He goes, let me read what you got. Okay? So I gave him something that we were working on, and it was interesting. It was interesting. He, he, he says, this isn’t gonna sell Uhhuh. You write five, five scripts. He goes, if, if you write five scripts, you are going to sell it. And I swear to God, the fifth script sold, because you need to write, fail, write, fail, write, fail. And he read it and he goes, you know what? There’s some stuff here you need to, he goes five times.

Michael Jamin (00:14:56):
Right.

John Altschuler (00:14:57):
That’s what, that’s what it took. And so that was the break was a, an idea that I had, it’s something I’d read, read something in the, the Wall Street Journal, one of those things about like, you only use one-tenth of your brain power, right? And this idea was like, well, what if these scientists unlocked the other nine-tenths? But it didn’t make you smart, it just made you this throbbing biological mess. You can hear everything and it bef while you’re raining. And in’t that was called Brain Man, right? And we sold that, and that was our entree into Hollywood.

Michael Jamin (00:15:35):
You see, one thing I wanna interrupt is that for the most people who were listening, they don’t know this, but John is easily the most entrepreneurial writer that I know. Many writers. Like, he makes his own path. And so this is just, this is, okay. I’m not surprised at all that, I mean, but then, okay, so then you sold that. Then what, what happened after that?

John Altschuler (00:15:53):
Well, back then, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, you literally could only work either TV or features Uhhuh. <Affirmative>. Okay. Mo they were completely separate as a, and I just liked comedy. I liked it. Like I didn’t care if it was, but that made no sense to anybody. Okay. They were like, no, no. And to the point where agents would get into fights mm-hmm. <Affirmative> if a movie client did TV or Vice, because it was taking money out of their pocket. Right. You know, I gotta give, Ari was one of the early guys who was like, no, no, no, we gotta, we gotta, we need everybody. Everybody’s gotta be working to bring money to me, <laugh>. So, so we gotta share, you know? But it was very divided. So we started out with a, in the movie business, and, you know, we would, we would sell a pitch or every year, year and a half.

(00:16:51):
Yeah. You know, and just, we were just sort of hanging in there. And this was sort of odd. The phone again, is that I remember, okay. Got down to 92. Do, and this is about steering your own ship. Okay? Yeah. We got down to $92 and had a meeting with an a comedian called Pauly Shore. And Pauly Shore was a huge deal back then. He was a, you know, comedian and he had this character, the Weasel, and he was like and oddly enough, his manager was and his our manager now. Okay. So we go into this meeting and it was like, now if you knew Polly Shore, he is, this is Guy blah. And this is very eighties you know, it might have been 90, but whatever. So I had this idea, the Sound of Music, but instead of Julie Andrews, it’s Poll Shore is the nanny to all these kids.

(00:17:49):
Okay? Very simple. Okay. So I just said, well, here’s this idea. And the executive that knew I loved it, oh, go in. You gotta pitch, you gotta pitch Polly. Okay? So Dave and I go in to pitch Polly’s Shore, and you know, I’ve actually heard he is a good guy. This, this was not <laugh>. We, we go in and I, I, it was so vivid is that he kinda looks at it and he is like, well, I don’t know Michael Rotenberg, that these guys kind of greasy. And like, you know, okay, I have this thing. We’ve had a very rough ride, is that I do my job, okay. I’ve had an executive while we’re pitching, get up and leave the room. Mm-Hmm. I just keep pitching, okay. Because I’m gonna do my job. Okay. That’s all I can control is what I do. So these guys are kind of greasy and just hear what they have to say.

(00:18:39):
So I go, sound of Music. So I’ve done it, and he is like, what sound of, why would I want the sound of Music? I don’t know what that is. No, this I’m not doing a music video, man. I’m doing a movie. And, and I remember Rotenberg going, Polly, you know, sound of Music, okay, it’s on every year, you know? And he is like, oh no. He like, ah, man, this is all I want, man. Is it? So I’m gonna go like in England, I might say like, Cheerio chap. And then like, maybe you send me to Germany and I’ll maybe wear those funny leather pants and go, you know, Hey, hi. You know? And so we leave that meeting and it was just like, what the fuck? Yeah. It was just crazy <laugh>. And we get, I, I check on the agent and she goes, they wanna hire you.

(00:19:28):
And I’m like, what? Now here’s the thing. People have different views of careers. I’ve always believed that if I made one misstep my career’s over, because I’m kind of a snob. So I’m kind of like, you know, well, you know, and I was sitting there going like, well, I know who does Polish Shore movies, okay. I can’t be the guy who does Polys shore movies because I didn’t drive, you know, in my car, didn’t have air conditioning either, you know, across and work for three a three years as a pa break in to be that guy. Now I got nothing against it. There’s a place in it. But I knew that I would never ever get out of that. Yeah, okay. Some people can, some people can then, you know, have Academy Award-winning careers, you know, but not me. I knew it. So I said, well, call the agent.

(00:20:21):
I don’t wanna do it. And Agent turns, she says, don’t worry. Okay, so what do you mean? Okay, what do I do? She says, I’m gonna ask for so much money that they’ll pass. No problem. Cuz I, now, this was for New Line Cinema who, who I, and Dave and I literally moved the furniture into their offices. Okay. Wow. We were, when I was a PA for Georgetown Sure. It was for New Line. So we sort of know, knew these people, you know. And so we, I get, again, with the phone call, I get a phone call and I pick it up and it’s a guy just starts yelling, who the fuck do you think you are? <Laugh>? Who the fuck do you think? I’m like, well, wait, is this John? I’m like, yeah, who the fuck do you think you are passing on Polly Shore?

(00:21:08):
I’m like, we, we didn’t pass on Polly Shore. He goes, oh yeah. Like, we’re gonna pay you 400,000 fucking dollars. No fucking wait. You’re gonna do it and you’re gonna do it for what you should get paid. And I’m like we didn’t do it. Okay. And I’m glad that we didn’t do it because it would’ve been probably the end of who knows You, you, you make with whatever you, you do. But we ended up not doing it. And then <laugh> went back to being a pa and I never had any doubts about it. But then what happened is an executive at H B O named Carolyn Strauss, who actually was a producer of game of Thrones, and she was the, the head of H B O for a, for a little while. And the, she was the head of their scripted, and, and she really liked a, a, a screenplay that Dave and I wrote.

(00:22:01):
Mm-Hmm. and she, she said, you know, Hey, would you consider working in television? And David, I like, yeah, nobody will let us, you know? And, and she’s like, well, if you’ll consider it, can I, there’s a new show that H B O has with this writer, Adam Resnick. Now Adam Resnick, as I said, maybe the greatest guy I’ve ever met in Hollywood outside of Michael Jamin. He’s, he’s extremely funny, extremely talented, extremely nice. Okay. Everything you want. Okay. So we get on the phone with him and we basically talked about The Godfather for an hour, hour and 15. And we get off and, and you know, we only had one phone day. What do you think? He likes The Godfather. <Laugh> said, I like the Godfather. I think, you know, I don’t know. And then they say, we get a call, he wants to hire us, and will you guys move to New York?

(00:22:56):
Now, this is the good thing about living below your means or at your means, is that we’re like, well, yeah, we’ll move to New York. And then they go, will you move in three days? Okay. And it’s like, yeah. So literally locked the apartment in Burbank on the corner of Pass Avenue in Verdugo. And three days later we’re in the Ed Sullivan Theater. It was produced by David Letterman. Right. So we were in the Letterman offices with an o overlooking Broadway three days later. Wow. And, you know and that was interesting because writing for TV was such a huge win for us because we’d written screenplays and sold screenplays, but nothing had been made. Right. You don’t learn anything when things aren’t made. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So being, and also Adam was such a great, generous guy, and the staff was me, Dave, and this guy, Vince Calandra.

(00:23:53):
There was no staff. So we were allowed to do every, you know, everything, but you would see things that you think are written, well, not playing. And now it wasn’t, it wasn’t a com it was a con, it was comedic, but it wasn’t a joke driven show by any stretch. But you, that was the high life, right? That was the high life. Yeah. But you learned by doing, it’s all about doing. And I’ve told, you know, executive for years, if you wanna rewrite them, you don’t hire a movie. You guy, you gotta hire TV guys, because like Dave and I have rerun, rewritten, run, probably 300 rewrites. Okay. That means you, you, you put it up there, you keep what matters. You lose what’s screwing things up, and you gotta make it better. Okay. And I think we’re particularly good at it of some people, the only way they know how to rewrite is by throwing everything away, which is a waste.

(00:24:52):
Right. It’s, it’s a waste of time and you lose good things. But if you want to have your movies rewritten, higher TV writers, because what Dave and I learned through working and TV is you just see it again and again and again. And I always tell people like, the most remarkable thing about comedy is that there is something that you like, you know, Dave and I ran King of the Hill for eight years, you know, and there were, there’s both sides of it. Is that, you know, we’re, we are the last decision makers, okay? So they’re things that we are convinced are gonna kill. Okay. Thi this is so freaking funny, we can’t wait. And so the table read happens. Mm-Hmm. And everybody, and you’re, and you’re not laughing <laugh>. Okay. And you’re like, what? Because you can’t make yourself laugh. Yeah. You know, there, there’s one guy who worked on King of the Hill, and he had this trick, he, he sort of very nice guy, but very political in a way that he knew how to go <laugh> to make a laugh happen.

(00:26:01):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I think you learned that on SNL or something. You <laugh>, you know, and that would, but you can’t make yourself laugh. And then on the other hand, there’d be a joke that I would condescendingly agree to put on, you know, and Dave, shall We slum with this? And, and, and then the the roof comes off. Yeah. And you’re like, you just don’t know. It’s, it’s dark magic. I mean, that’s part of magic. But did, no, you joined King, who, was it season two or one, were you Oh, season one. We, we, we, we came in during the first, you know, the, the first run, they were just, they, they, they had broadcast one or two episodes, but, you know, in animation. So we worked on episode three for all, you know, all through. And we’re the <laugh>, this is awful. But Dave and I we’re the only ones who worked on that show, except for, I mean, the actors, 13 Seasons David are the only ones like beginning to, yeah. It’s it was a lot.

Michael Jamin (00:27:08):
And tell me about, cause I was, I was there for it. But when you got the, when you guys got the bump to run the show, I mean, what, that was a big, that’s a big step in any writer’s career.

John Altschuler (00:27:16):
Well, you know what, what it boils down to is you should always be ready. Uhhuh <affirmative>, you just gotta be ready. And what happened, the wheels had come off King of the Hill for various reasons. And the episodes simply weren’t the being delivered. It was, it was, they were gonna cancel the show. And w it was a very weird combination of we were working these incredibly long hours one time, like almost, I think we worked three days without going home one time, two and a half. And

Michael Jamin (00:27:47):
I remember there were jack hammering in the lobby while we were trying to sleep in on the fourth floor. Oh yeah. You remember that?

John Altschuler (00:27:54):
Oh my God. Yeah. So it was just awful. And what Dave and I, we just wanted to go home. Yeah. So we just on our own with a few writers, let’s go write an episode because there, it just wasn’t happening. And so we wrote an episode and what’s interesting is that the show was gonna be canceled and they had no choice because there was a script. We gotta do it. And it played great. Right? And so then, well, they needed another script and they needed another. And what happened, and this is because of Mike Judge, is that it, we were just doing it in the like, oh, let’s go, let’s go get it done. And it was so gratifying because we liked the show a lot. Yeah. We loved the show. And to see it go off the rails to get it moving again. And basically Mike Judge found out that we were writing all this scripts not by ourselves. Right. With all theri You were there, you know, with all the writers just putting, and they he just said, I’m not doing another year unless John and Dave are running the show. Now. We were very low on the totem pole. Okay. No,

Michael Jamin (00:29:02):
You were No, you were, you were, we

John Altschuler (00:29:04):
Were co-producers.

Michael Jamin (00:29:04):
You were co-producers at that point.

John Altschuler (00:29:06):
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Believe me, I know. It turned in, it turned into a big problem with Fox because we saved the show. All we asked to take over and run it was to get paid what other people have been paid. And they’re like, well, no, we’ll give you a 15% bump from no producer. And you’re just like, no.

Michael Jamin (00:29:29):
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 could, whenever you want, I’m not gonna spam you and it’s absolutely free. Just go to michaeljamin.com/watchlist.

John Altschuler (00:29:53):
There. Apparently there’s still animosity to us, cuz we were seen as arrogant mm-hmm. <Affirmative> for that.

Michael Jamin (00:29:58):
Right. Well, you got paid, you gotta get paid, paid this suck guy.

John Altschuler (00:30:02):
Yeah.

Michael Jamin (00:30:02):
Yeah. You guys did it for many years and then they canceled the show. Then they, they brought it back and then you were back in charge of it again for the final circum excuses.

John Altschuler (00:30:10):
Well, yeah, yeah. So they, they kept, Dave and I kept it, kept it alive, is that they, they tried to cancel it two more times. Right. But we kept the, like we just, we always delivered the show on time and the ratings kept going up so they literally couldn’t cancel it. They tried a total of three times. Yeah. And then it, there’s something kind of interesting to us that a lot of people don’t understand is that the last episode, one thing I always said, like, well you didn’t do this, you didn’t tie it up, you didn’t do that. You didn’t have, you know, these people there is that. I decided I’m not making the last episode. Okay. If this is the last episode, great. But we had been canceled. Right. The last two. So I’m like, I’m gonna make an episode. That could be the last episode, but I’m not the one putting the, I’m not gonna be the one who puts the, you know,

Michael Jamin (00:31:05):
Nail the coffin. Right. Because you wanna keep it going

John Altschuler (00:31:08):
<Laugh>. Well, but I also didn’t feel like that was the right thing to do is that, you know, we didn’t create it Uhhuh, you know, and I was just like, you know and Mike was good with that. He would’ve been, he was okay with killing it, you know, he was like, you know, he was, you know, done. But I’m, I’m, yeah. So anyway, that, that was the run of King of the Hill. But what’s great about doing that is by learning how to rewrite and also it was a three act show. It helped our movie writing dramatically. Yeah. And so while we were running King of the Hill, we wrote Blades of Glory and got that in production, which we, we simply wouldn’t have had the skills Yep. To do it without all of that. The foundations from all those rewrites.

Michael Jamin (00:31:57):
I was just, I used telling people just the other day, if you wanna be a feature writer starting TV, so you learn Yes. Three act structure, you learn how to do it. And I said exactly what you said, you know, five minutes ago, which was we, we did, we sold the movie a couple movies and the exec said I wish all feature writers were as easy as TV writers. You know, because nothing’s precious.

John Altschuler (00:32:17):
Nothing’s precious.

Michael Jamin (00:32:17):
Rewrite it. Well, fine. Yeah. As long as I can check I’ll rewrite it. You know. Well,

John Altschuler (00:32:21):
I always tell people like, it doesn’t disappear, appear, put it to the side, it can always come back. Yeah. You know, be because, and if it co if it makes its way back fine but you don’t care by then, you tend to like better. Cuz obstacles, you know how like people who don’t have obstacles, you’ll like, how’d that piece of shit get made? You know, or you know how it got made, but why is it so bad? It’s cause you didn’t have obstacles. Right. You always need people going, huh. What? Huh? Wait, because then you got to justify yourself and then you gotta bulletproof it and you gotta try harder. That’s how something gets, gets good.

Michael Jamin (00:32:59):
Yeah. And then what, how did, how did Silicon Valley come about?

John Altschuler (00:33:04):
Silicon Valley happened because I was reading a book about Steve Jobs by Howard Isaacson. Okay. And I remember reading this book about Steve Jobs and there was this paragraph just a, and it was about Bill Gates making fun of Steve Jobs because the asshole can’t even write code. And I’m sitting there, I was on a plane and I remember laughing, reading this going, that’s freaking funny. The guy created the biggest brand name in the history of the world. Right. And there’s some other guy going, what an asshole. You can’t write code. And I was just like, well that’s freaking funny. And so then I didn’t even know really what writing code meant. Right. So I was like asked my brother who’s an engineer and my brother-in-law is in an engineer. Everybody is engineers. And then, so I was like, well, there’s something here.

(00:33:58):
Okay. And then we went up to Silicon Valley to do a little r and d cuz it’s like, okay, there’s something important here. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And it was hilarious cuz I was able to get, we got meetings with these tech executives mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. Okay. And three out of three said they want, look, we’re not, we’re not trying to make money. We’re trying to make the world a better place. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> we’re just trying to make, and, and, and I was like, that’s freaking funny. I remember telling Mike, I was like, Mike, this is, this is a freaking gold mine <laugh> nobody. They just wanna make the world a better place. Yeah. One place that we, we we met with, they’re not there anymore. That’s when we, most of the things that you see through the first season, were just from that one trip because you’re like, there was a guy number seven and you’re like number seven.

(00:34:51):
And it turns out in Silicon Valley your importance was the lowest, how low your number was because that’s how the number you were hired. Right. He was number seven at Microsoft. You know, whatever the hell it was, I don’t, you know, so number sevens there. And then this company was, you know how, I can’t even remember. I got, I’m sure I got the Snapchat gives you 15 seconds. Okay. We’re gonna give you nine. Okay. And I remember going well, wait, so is less a proprietary concept? Absolutely. <laugh>. They’re like, okay, so your whole and these offices overlooked San Francisco Bay, they were fund on and they’re pick being, we give you less. Right. and so you’re like, well this is ripe for the taking. Yeah. Because self-important. You know, like the original pitch it was in there was like basically never a history of the world.

(00:35:49):
Have these guys been in charge? Yeah. You know, it’s like nerd, you know, nerds in, in charge and there’s an angry vibe, kind of an underlying insecurity, which is funny. You know, the, if, if you <laugh>, when we went into production, the, the, the name of the you always have to have a holding company for a production. Right. And if you look at the end, it says, you know, s b H productions, that’s the company that made Silicon Valley. It’s because we were flying in and I, I looked down and I turned to my, I go, ah, the ship Brown Hills of Silicon Valley. And so when they, they said, what’s the production name? I went, how about SB H productions and how funny. Yeah. So that was Silicon Valley. You know, one, one thing interesting about Silicon Valley I think was that we, we, Dave and I is, is, we met Thomas Middleditch, who was the star of it.

(00:36:50):
He had an animated show that we helped him with where he drew it and did all the voices. Oh, I good. Yeah. And so when we had this idea, I was like, well, let’s write it for him. Okay. Because he was the right age. He was really heavy into gaming and we didn’t know that age group, like kind of who, so we wrote it for him. As a matter of fact, the original name was Thomas Pecking of Richard’s character because pecking is Thomas Mill ditches. Ma mom’s maiden name pecking. Well, that’s kind of funny. And so we wanted him, but HBO o didn’t want him. Nobody wanted him. And I remember, you know, some thought, they thought, oh, he is too old or whatever. And I’m like, you know, I I tell you, you can’t, you don’t cast a 22 year old as a 22 year old these days.

(00:37:43):
He’s gotta be older. So I remember he had like a full beard and we had like, we were doing casting. I said, Thomas shave the goddamn beard and get down there. And we, we kept running him up the flagpole and then every he was the best. Yeah. So, you know, so that, you know, that that was, and Silicon Valley was good because what not to, you know, that aren’t we great? But we had done animated half hour, we had done live action features, you know, succeeded. This was live action tv. So we kind of like, okay guys, we’ve done it. You know, and which is, there aren’t a lot of people who have succeeded in various moments, which it’s inter to me, I often get asked like, well, what, what’s, what’s the, what’s the length of, you know, this project and I don’t care. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, if it’s a half hour, you go, you, you make adjustments. If it’s an hour, it, it’s just, it’s a, it’s dr it’s a dramatic concept. Right. If I got 15 minutes, I divide it up differently. Right. So we have the skills to do that if that from grinding it in these different arenas.

Michael Jamin (00:39:00):
Now how so, given that the industry’s changed so much, so, you know, even since we, since both of us started, like what do you tell, what do you tell new writers? Or what, how do you see, like, how do you see making it now?

John Altschuler (00:39:12):
Yeah. That, that’s tough because it’s so different. It used to be, I would say easy to tell. Like I went, you know, to N C and I would say, well, go to la Just go to LA and start working. Because once you’re working, you’re around other creative people, you kind of, you know, you get in the mix a bit. You, you, you learn who’s doing what. That’s not LA’s not LA anymore. You know, every people are in Atlanta, people are in New Mexico, PE every, everybody’s spread out. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So, and then the biggest difference is difference is that you would write a spec script just to show that like in TV or even in in features, you would write a feature script to sell. Right. For a million dollars. Okay. And there was such a hunger for the next big script that they were, oh my God, we were, nobody’s officer NK Krinsky have a new speck.

(00:40:08):
And it’s like, we haven’t even got anything made. Okay. But they, they were like all on it. And then, or in TV you would write from a hit show, cheers, Seinfeld, you know, whatever in episode just to show what you could do. Cause everybody knew those shows. Right. So now you really can’t write a spec because nobody sees any shows. I mean, I think Hill Silicon Valley’s a hit. Right. And people have written specs of it, but most people haven’t seen it. So you can’t, you can’t do that. You have to do original work. So the good and bad of the now is that you have to write an original pilot for tv. And actually, what I tell a lot of people starting to say, you gotta make something. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. And I, I’m not a fan of what, there are some really good examples of this, like insecure where Isa Ra makes her own stuff and then it transitions.

(00:41:12):
Okay. But what we’ve ended up with in general are, is a failure of craft, is that if everybody does, if you have to do everything mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, the writing’s not as good. The directing’s not as good, everything’s not as good. So there’s a little bit of a sloppiness to the media a bit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worse. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So I think now you gotta make something, you gotta either make a web series or do some pieces and put ’em out there. Yeah. So even if they’re not seen at, unless you at least you have them and you can compile them and send them to somebody because nobody cat, sorry. Nobody knows what anything is. So you go, well here’s my my pieces from my you know, reviewed on Collider or whatever. No. Nobody knows. Right. so, but you really gotta do it.

Michael Jamin (00:42:12):
Right. You gotta, you gotta put yourself on Hu Hustle. And, but I still think it’s important to come to LA Cause I still think that this is where people are and you know, this is your, this, you, you get involved, you get, you have a graduating class of people. Yes. Whoever, whatever group you’re in, that’s your, that’s the class you’re in.

John Altschuler (00:42:28):
Well, I, I think you’re right because now, but you’re talking about writing specifically. Yes. Because Hollywood is still the brain center. Right. And this is where all the improv groups are and all that. So it’s there for me, the MEU simply not there. Because what I always liked is that see, costume designers are talented and creative set designers are talented and creative. It, they used to all be around you. Now they can’t afford to live in la Wow. So they live in Atlanta and the entry jobs are not as plentiful as they used to be. Like, I mean, they always wanted somebody to feed the beasts. Like, you could get a job as a pa, you could be an assistant that you could do, you know what you want. So that’s a little different. But I do agree with you that if you’re gonna live somewhere and you wanna write, LA is probably the best place to be.

Michael Jamin (00:43:24):
One thing I wanna mention is that even now, like I said, you’re, you’re so entrepreneurial, even now, it’s like you don’t wait for projects. So many people are like, oh, well, they’re asking Hollywood for permission. Yeah. I make my script, read my script, you know, and even like now, you don’t ask any anybody for permission. You’re out there, you’re getting, I know you’re traveling to Europe to set some deals up. I’m like, you’re constantly hustling for your next job. And look what you’ve done. You’d think that it would all f you know, nothing falls on your plate. You have to hustle for it,

John Altschuler (00:43:53):
You know? Yes. And the, you know, well, first of all, I’m, I’m more entertained by, by this I’ve moved a lot of the things that I’m doing and that David and I are doing to Europe mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, like for example, the Gangsters Guide to Sobriety, which you can see backwards. Okay. It was an idea that we could have sold as a, a pitch. And I was like, well, we already cracked it. Let’s write it as a book. Because then everybody, ip ip, well then we own the ip. So now we, it’s about this gangster and Irish gangster moved to America total re re drug addict dealer charming guy. It’s very Scorsese like, but he basically got sober. And I liked all the stories of his horrid past, but I also liked his stories of getting clean. And so he kind of put those together.

(00:44:51):
It’s like you go through 12 steps in aa. This has 12 chapters, so now we’re long, we, we were going to do it in America. And then realize, you know what, he’s Irish. Let’s check out Ireland. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And it’s just a little bit fresher to have an Irish company backing us with Irish talent. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and doing it as a co-production. And so that’s what we’re doing in Italy. That’s what we’re doing in France. The I got the rights to this book, which you can see backwards burning down the house. Uhhuh <affirmative>, which is about the the pump movement in East Berlin before the fall of the wall. Right. And so I’m going to Germany in two weeks. Interesting. You know? Yeah. Because, you know, look, the fact is nobody’s gonna do it for you. And the what I like about Europe is that you can talk about the projects more here. Issue one is always race. Issue two is gender identification is, then it’s politic. And then, oh yeah. There’s an idea in there somewhere. And that gets a little bit grinding when you just wanna talk about what, how cool this project is.

Michael Jamin (00:46:06):
I wanna mention by the way that your, that first book, the Gangsters Guide is based on a true story. So you had that guy. Yeah. And then, and it’s like, that book is now available on Amazon. Everyone goes, check it out. Read it. It’s, it’s, it’s fascinating.

John Altschuler (00:46:18):
So he, it, it, it’s really great. And what’s nice is that it’s an elevating story, but it’s, it, it’s pretty damn harrowing. But it is, you know, you know, he survives. So there’s a positivity to it. Like he says, like, I just want people to know because Ri Richie Stevens, who it’s his life. Like I, I’m not telling anybody what to do. I don’t have the answers. I just want them to know if somebody’s fucked up as me, can survive and get clean and move on with his life. Anybody can,

Michael Jamin (00:46:50):
And these meetings in Europe, cuz you know, you’re a writer, producer, but you’re, you’re, you’re setting these up yourself. I mean, how are you reaching out to people?

John Altschuler (00:46:57):
You know what, here’s the thing, luck, but also you just take what you have is that during the pandemic, for an odd reason, we ended up in Rome mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And because we, my wife’s a psychologist. Our daughter was, hadn’t gotten accepted to the school in high school, which Oh, that was great. And everything went freaking haywire, obviously. And so we’re like, well, there’s nothing going on here. Let’s go to Rome. So we’re in Rome and it’s all locked down. Yeah. And somebody, oh, you should meet this woman Kissy Duggan. Now she was a standup comedian in la She’s lived in Rome for over 20 years. She’s married, has two kids. And and I connected with her and she started Women in film for Italy. Oh wow. And then I start kind of going, well wait, what’s missing here? And I’m looking at Italy as a marketplace and I’m in it. Yeah. And people like me usually aren’t there. Right. So people who go to Europe don’t tend to have credits. They recognize. Yes. So it’s, it it, well they

Michael Jamin (00:48:02):
Recognize you. I mean No, not you. They recognize your work.

John Altschuler (00:48:05):
They recognize my work. Right. Yes. That’s not who usually shows up. Right. Usually it’s, it’s people who have failed and are trying to go, oh. Whereas I’m going, you know what, what if we do this as an Italian American co-production? But Italy first, like I, these twins who I worked with a lot, one of them lived in bologna for seven years working in Tati. And his job was to come in and help turn Ducati. Right. Now, if you spend any time in Italy, it’s, it’s, it’s wonderful and ridiculous because they are the most inefficient society ever and the most blessed. So you sit there and you go like, well, they gotta change, but they don’t wanna change and they don’t know how to change. Right. And that conflict makes for a really good comedic stew.

Michael Jamin (00:48:58):
Interesting.

John Altschuler (00:48:59):
So, you know, like we, we took a biotech project that was really ripe for America and we’re like, you know what? We were, you know, while I was in Europe, went to London, met with this great company called Rough Cut. And he is like, it’s biotech do it in Cambridge. So we’re like, okay, let’s set it in Cambridge cuz it’s a little more, you know, sounds jaded, but we’ve kind of <laugh>. It’s not that we don’t love doing stuff here, but we’ve done it. Right. You know, so it’s kinda like, all right, well let’s do another TV show here. Eh, this is all like, kind of fresh and fun. And also there’s a real shortage of writers in Europe. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So you’re kinda like, okay. You know, it’s just, it’s just a fun vibe. Like why I like talking to students is why I like being in Europe is that there’s kind of a, you’re bringing people along for the ride. Is

Michael Jamin (00:49:54):
Krinsky going with you on this next trip?

John Altschuler (00:49:56):
He is not, you know, the, the, he, he is very tolerant of this is all just my crazy bo I get bored easily and Dave’s just real like, ah, that sounds great. So yeah. Cause I kinda, it’s sort of free moving, like, okay, I’m doing this, you know. But I would say that Dave is 105% supportive of my European adventures.

Michael Jamin (00:50:26):
So you have a lot of meetings set up then, basically.

John Altschuler (00:50:28):
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like, I’m gonna be in Berlin for a week and then what’s kind of nice about Europe is that the Italian company, they come to Berlin. There’s the Bur Berlin Alley. It’s a film, European film market in Berlin, then it’s Venice, then it’s Khan. Right. Rome and then the American Film Market. And so they just sort of, and that’s how business is done. Right. So I’m meet, I work with this Luxembourg producer, Bernard Micheaux. He has a mo, he, he got two Academy Award nominations for documentary called Collective. That was great. And he’s probably, there’s a good chance he’ll get an Academy Award nomination for his new movie Corsage Uhhuh <affirmative>. But it’s all fun. Yeah. I mean, I know it sounds stupid, but you know, I didn’t drive a car without air conditioning across the country and then work as a pa three years to be miserable. Right, right. And you know, we, we’ve, I don’t know if this is untoward, Michael, but I’ve had this conversation where you, you do everything possible to figure out how to break into the business and then everything possible, figure out how to get out

Michael Jamin (00:51:37):
<Laugh>. Yes. That’s, I mean, I’ve heard Yes, that’s, yes. There’s some truth to that <laugh>. That’s so funny. Wow. Wow. This is so interesting. So is there any other, any other advice you, you, you can share with people who are listening to this? I mean, I think you’re so, he’s such an interesting person to talk to. And like I said, you’ve been a great boss but a great friend over over the years. But it’s because you also, like I said, have this entrepreneurial spirit where you’re not doing it the way everyone else is doing necessarily. So,

John Altschuler (00:52:08):
Well, you know what, here’s the thing. On one hand, being off the grid in my outlook has sometimes hurt Dave and I. Cause I kind of, I kind of lead, you know, and Dave is okay with that, you know. But as Dave points out, we wouldn’t have anything if you didn’t kind of like, well here’s the even comedically you worked on King Hill with me. Everything has to be turned on its head. Okay. So if you, you, you got it. Everybody thinks this. Well no, let’s do that. Right. And to me, that’s the essence of comedy. That’s the epi essence of drama. One of the problems I have with entertainment now is that there’s this weird belief that everybody, that there’s a right and a wrong and <laugh>, I’m always go, everything’s wrong. You know, you think those, you think this is good. Guess what? Oh, you think it’s bad? Guess what? Throwing curve balls. Right. which is what I like to see. I like being surprised.

Michael Jamin (00:53:09):
Yeah.

John Altschuler (00:53:09):
So now, so the only advice I have is that it’s what you always hear. You go, well write, write what you know, what the hell is right. What you know me Well now more than ever, it has to be specific. It has to be your story. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> your journey. It’s the only thing that you own. Yeah. Is your mindset and your experience. So you mine that. Now Jeremy, you probably had to listen to, you know, I talk and like every, like one time my judge goes, we got 150 episodes outta what pisses John Al Schuler off. And it’s kinda true. He

Michael Jamin (00:53:49):
Say that <laugh>.

John Altschuler (00:53:50):
Yeah. He’s like, because I’d sit there and I’d go, you know what veterinarians, they piss me off. And so I funnel my experience of taking my cat and them going Well

Michael Jamin (00:54:03):
That’s so funny that he said that. But, but, but that was your, that’s always been your take. It’s your even on, even on Lopez, when we work together, it’s it’s like your, your take on what’s going on in society. It was like, and, and the absurdity and that,

John Altschuler (00:54:16):
Well, everything, everything absurd. Cuz people, like, sometimes the the tone of what we do doesn’t make sense to people. Because if you read just the synopsis of King Hill episodes, they’d sound, someone would sound pretty horrible. Uhhuh <affirmative>, they’d sound like offensive. But we’re not in the offensive business. Okay. We’re in the entertainment business. And so if there is a message, it’s gotta be at least two or three levels deep. Yeah. You know, that’s another problem is that people are coming out swinging with like, well this is my episode, this is my series about racism being bad. Uhhuh <affirmative>. Well that means that you’re under the impression that there is a large population that thinks racism is good. Right. Okay. Well that’s cuz you don’t know anything. Like I lived in a trailer park and actually I have a whole, we have a project to imagined based on when I was 15, I lived in a mobile home that I owned by myself.

(00:55:19):
And I didn’t see how the other half lived. I lived how the other half lived. And guess what, they’re not a bunch of racist, horrible people that are gonna shoot. Now, they may shoot you <laugh>, but there’s, but there’s a good and bad to them, <laugh> to them running around with guns is then you start going, you know what, there’s a human experience that is universal. And one of the problems is everybody these days has their team. And I don’t like teams. You know, I, I I really hate teams. I don’t think, you know, liberals like they drive me fucking nuts. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> right wing. Like I like And it’s, this used to be the job of comedy is that you’re supposed to make fun of power. Yeah. Okay. Right. Well, you know, it’s like, you know, the Matt and Trey from South Park, the, they’re really nice and they’re really great guys. Cause they’re like, yeah, you probably get asked a lot, what side are you on? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And it’s like, I’m on the side of comedy. Right. It’s not like comedy is a religion to me. I think it matters. I think it has to be cared for. And when I see people thinking that comedy means getting an applause line on a late night show, cuz you go Trump mad, that’s not comedy. Right. You know, you gotta work.

Michael Jamin (00:56:37):
Interesting. That’s wonderful. What? Yeah, I mean, I even Lopez, season two, it was, it was all about his quest for relevance. And we’re like, what does that even mean,

John Altschuler (00:56:47):
<Laugh>? Well you, but you know what it, what it meant to me was everybody’s trying, like, the world changed. Okay. Yeah. And he, he, there he is like 60 years old or whatever, and the world changed. And he was relevant because he existed. Right. Okay. And you were on tv, it was like, Seinfeld. Why did people watch? Cause it’s on tv. Okay. Then relevance. Relevance became this phrase where Well, okay, but what’s rel because there was no other metric. Right? There weren’t, there weren’t ratings, there weren’t, people weren’t, these companies weren’t trying to make money. It was all about relevance. Yeah. So, if you remember, that was part of the, the comedy of nobody knows what relevance means yet. That’s what was driving everybody.

Michael Jamin (00:57:31):
Yeah. We had fun that season. That was fun. Really was a great,

John Altschuler (00:57:34):
Okay. Well, well to your Michael Jamin is not only him and his partner Sievert, they’re pros. Okay. Now, what is a pro and a pro is somebody who has the skills to do whatever you want them to do. Okay. So if you want something hacky and crappy and they’re working for you, right. They’ll do it. They’ll do a really good version of it. But if you don’t want something hacking and crappy, they can do that. They have the skills to do what you want. So you guys have always been a delight to work with, but also specifically on the set because you, you’re, you know that you’re quick. Yeah. You’re quick. And it, the, the interesting thing, cuz I’m like, you guys, when I work for other people, they’re the boss. Yes. I have no problem with that. I have no problem. As a matter of fact, my wife is like, like if I could work for myself, I would a hundred percent do it.

(00:58:33):
Cause then I wouldn’t have the headaches of running things. But in our business, you often work for assholes who are unhappy and don’t wanna go home to their wives. So you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re stuck. But you guys are always great because, you know, you have the skills, you’re funniest shit. But we never, we always knew eight, you don’t, you’re not gonna try to e stab us in the back, but if it had to be done, you were gonna get it done. Yeah. So professionalism is key. But you, you guys wrote one of my favorite scripts ever, which was the

Michael Jamin (00:59:08):
What was

John Altschuler (00:59:08):
That? The of the, the the garden. Now if you read that, you should, you should reread it because you did not understand how good it was. I remember, I remember you turning it in like, and, and you know, everybody’s self-effacing when they turn something in. Right. But you were like, eh, you know, you and Steve were like, and if you reread that, you could be nothing but proud because it’s like Anir story. Yeah. And it just builds and builds to the point where Bobby and Hank have murdered this thing. They gotta cover it up, but it’s beautifully written.

Michael Jamin (00:59:48):
And Hank is selling out his son. <Laugh>.

John Altschuler (00:59:51):
<Laugh>. Exactly. You know, but you, you took him along for the ride. So yeah, no, you guys are, you, you’re, you’re truly, I don’t know, pros, I

Michael Jamin (01:00:02):
Say this, I say this a lot. It’s like the job of anybody who’s not the job of showrunners is the hardest job there is. And it’s stressful. And so everyone else is, my opinion of everyone else’s job is to make the best version of the show that the showrunner wants to make. Right. And everything else is subjective. But who’s to say it’s better or worse? It doesn’t matter. Your job is to serve the showman. They get to decide and, and great. It works out great if you can, as soon as you can accept that you’ll be happy.

John Altschuler (01:00:28):
Well, and, and that was one of the big problems in our industry, is that nobody knows how shows get on the air. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So they don’t realize that when you get right down to it, if you are gonna hire somebody, all that matters is the showrunner. Right. Cause there are great writers, but you don’t know how the script got there. So many people have gotten good jobs off of scripts that Dave and I had to write from beginning to end, but our name’s not on it.

Michael Jamin (01:01:01):
You know, I I’ve heard that complaint from other store runners on other shows as well. So you’re not, so

John Altschuler (01:01:05):
What happens is, like, remember everybody off of Seinfeld got these huge deals, but all that matters is Larry David, you know, and it was like, you know, the, and the the other thing that’s kind of funny is that we would be asked to do a lot of writers round tables. Okay. Where, you know, big, big comedians, a big movies. And they’d ask, and they’d get tables together where you go through the script and pitch jokes on ’em. Okay. And they, Hey, do you know some good people that you could bring in? I’d go, well, yeah. And I one, this was literally the, the, my response and the answers like, well, do you want the guys and the girls the every literally, cause we had a lot of women, they’re like, do you want the people who actually can deliver? Or do you want names? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Oh, we want names

Michael Jamin (01:01:51):
<Laugh>. He said that to you.

John Altschuler (01:01:54):
Yes. It’s like all they want is to go, whoa. Yeah, we got, we got Neil Simon. Yeah. We’ve got the ghost of William Faulkner. We’ve got, you know, they, they don’t want people to actually nail it because, so the inside of a staff is, it’s inside baseball that nobody really knows what’s going on.

Michael Jamin (01:02:15):
It’s funny you say that. Oh no. Oh, it’s so heartbreaking. <Laugh>

John Altschuler (01:02:20):
<Laugh>. It’s a tough, ugly business.

Michael Jamin (01:02:22):
It really is. Well, that’s a good place to end. John <laugh> it. Thank you so much. Let’s plug your book again so that people can go out and get it on Amazon. There it is Backwards.

John Altschuler (01:02:32):
The Gangsters Guide to Sobriety My Life in 12 Steps.

Michael Jamin (01:02:36):
Yep. Go out and run it. I gotta copy you in my house. Was great. So yeah, John, thank you again so much. It’s and I’ll see, you can tell k Crisco I’m gonna have from on next at some point just to, so we get the, the other version of the story.

John Altschuler (01:02:48):
Yeah, exactly. What, what he said. What?

Michael Jamin (01:02:50):
Yeah. <Laugh>. Why would he say that? <Laugh>. All right man. Thank you so much everyone. Thank you. It was a fun episode. Thank you for listening. And yeah, until the next week. Thanks so much. Bye-Bye.

Phil Hudson (01:03:02):
This has been an episode of Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin. 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 at @PhilAHudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

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.

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