https://youtu.be/-CEjHYcsrS0?feature=shared

This week, for the 100th episode we have Writer/Actor/Executive Producer Steve Lemme (Super Troopers, Beer Fest, Tacoma FD and many many more) talk about his early career, his on-going collaboration with Kevin Heffernan and doing stand up.

Show Notes

Steve Lemme on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0501399/

Steve Lemme on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SteveLemme

Steve Lemme on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/steve_lemme/

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Autogenerated Transcript

Steve Lemme:
Some guys were psyched that I had gotten it out there and the studio was psyched because fucking, it was massive. It was a massive announcement that got all those views. And so it was like, then the guys that were kind of mad about it were like, but don’t feel like you did the right thing here. What you did was wrong. I was like, I know what I did was wrong. I’ll never do it again. They’re like, so don’t feel justified. I’m like, I know, but then guys are looking at each other. But it is pretty fucking sweet and I definitely did the wrong thing and I would not advise that to anybody.

Michael Jamin:
You’re listening to Screenwriters need to hear this with Michael lemin.
Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Screenwriters. Need to Hear this. I’m Michael and this is episode 100 of this podcast. And as an honor, I thought I would bestow this great honor onto the man. Yes. Yeah, I’m giving you the honor. It’s an honor for you Lemme onto the man who’s kept me employed for the past four years or more. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re listening to the podcast in your car, please pull over and give a warm round of applause to Mr. Steven Lemme. Lemme.
Lemme tell people who you are, just by the way, this is the in case they don’t know. So Lemme, as we call him, is the star and exec creator and executive producer showrunner of the show. I’m currently running on Tacoma fd, but you may know him. He’s got a long track record of indie movies. We’re going to talk about how he got these old made, including Super Troopers, bottle Cruiser Club, dread Beer Fest, lamb and Salmon, a bunch of stuff, including the latest one is quasi. I know I’m skipping over your complete filmography, but I want to give you a chance to talk. Let me thank you for being on my show here.

Steve Lemme:
I feel like you could just go on forever talking about me.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, that would be the ideal Pat podcast for you. Just tell me more about me.

Steve Lemme:
I would prefer that. I would prefer that.

Michael Jamin:
Why? Is that? Because you’re tired of telling your story over and over?

Steve Lemme:
No, I don’t really get tired speaking about myself, but what I get less tired of is like I’ve gone and done some publicity lately. For instance, I did watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. Do you know what that show is?

Michael Jamin:
No, I didn’t know that. Where is that?

Steve Lemme:
It’s on the Bravo Channel. All those shows.

Michael Jamin:
All the shows you don’t watch. Yeah. Yeah.

Steve Lemme:
I watch them. I watch because,

Michael Jamin:
Because your wife watches them.

Steve Lemme:
Well, that’s exactly how a lot of people get sucked into it. It’s because somebody else is watching and you walk through the room and you’re like, what stupid show are you watching? I started watching, it was Real Housewives of New Jersey, and I walked through, I was like, who are these fucking people? And my wife was like, it’s Real Housewives of New Jersey. They’re just, last week, this chick right here flipped up a table and called this other one a prostitution whore. And then they actually showed it on the tv. They replayed what happened last week in a flashback. I was like, wait a second, hold on. And I sat down and I was like, hold on a second. Hold on a second. What happened? Why would she flip up a table? What’s wrong with her? And she’s like, well, that’s the thing she’s on. And there was born another fan of these shows. And then you try to resist.

Michael Jamin:
But wait, I want to know, you got to answer the question though. Why is it you didn’t want to talk about yourself in the beginning? I asked you, is it because you do so much publicity?

Steve Lemme:
I got off track, I got off track, but it’s not that I don’t want to talk about myself because

Michael Jamin:
I think it must get hard answering the same thing over and

Steve Lemme:
Over again again. Well, sometimes I fascinate myself, Michael, and so I find great comfort in hearing myself speak while I’m saying it. I’m like, oh, this is nice. What I’m saying right now is good. And I’m enjoying my own company. I’m a big believer in actually my way into the arts was my mom saying, because I didn’t have a lot of money growing up. And actually that’s actually, it’s mostly true, but it’s more that my mom was a teacher at a really wealthy private school. And so whatever is the reality or not, and I suspect it actually is real. I didn’t have much money growing up. It felt less to maybe I was hanging out with people that had, it’s like the kind where after Christmas, or you go to their house before Christmas and there’s a million presents under the tree.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, that’s right. And

Steve Lemme:
You’re like, Jesus, I’ve got two. And even that’s better than a lot of people. That’s why I hesitate to complain about it and put myself in that place. But when I was a kid, I would complain about not having toys and my mom would hand me paper and crayons and pencil and pen and scissors and scotch tape and say, make something, entertain yourself. And she would say, if you can’t have fun with yourself, you’ll never be happy. And so, by the way, am I allowed to be dirty on this podcast?

Michael Jamin:
You can say whatever you want to say.

Steve Lemme:
I was about to make a masturbation joke, which I know you

Michael Jamin:
Would like. I was already there.

Steve Lemme:
But anyway, my point is, so now that’s totally off the market.

Michael Jamin:
You’re saying this. This is your introduction to the arts,

Steve Lemme:
Right? So anyway, oh, I was saying I enjoy spending time with myself, the arts, but the point is I went on Andy Cohen, watch What Happens Live. And this has happened so many times where the intro, the way they introduce you is dog shit. And he didn’t mention the movies, he didn’t mention Broken Lizard. He just said he’s on a new TV series on Hulu called Quasi

Michael Jamin:
Thanks for getting everything wrong,

Steve Lemme:
Which was not true either. And then it’s like, look, I’m aware that a lot of, there is a younger generation of people who aren’t familiar with Broken Lizard or those movies or Super Troopers or Beer Fest or anything like that, or they haven’t watched it, but there are fans there. And also a lot of times if I don’t know my mustache, people won’t recognize me, but if they say it, if you get a nice intro, at least it gives you some credibility. But in this case, I was some jackass at the bar, the celebrity bartender. And so anyway, I like a good intro. I like to get stroked.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Did I stroke you enough when I brought you on?

Steve Lemme:
You did. You did. But I could have listened to more. You

Michael Jamin:
Could to the thing about you, and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it publicly, there are one of the great joys of working with you is that you are an open book when you talk about stories from your past and you’re brutally honest. And the best comedians that I’ve worked with are the same way. Mark Merrim is the same way. He’d say things in the room, you’d be like, whoa, I can’t believe you’re telling me this. And you’re the same way. So it makes it so much easier to write for you because you’re just being vulnerable and you’re sharing yourself and there’s no judgment there. It’s just funny.

Steve Lemme:
Thank you for saying that. I know that about myself. Kevin will say, I have no filter. That’s what he will say, but I’ll tell him he’s too filtered.

Michael Jamin:
Right?

Steve Lemme:
I’ll say, Kevin, you need to open up a little bit and share of yourself. Interesting. But it also puts the other writers at ease and encourages them to tell stories. It’s like if I’m willing to tell the story about, again, it’s like a lot of these things tend to wind up being a little bit crass, but it’s like if I’m willing to tell a disgusting story about myself or a story where I embarrass myself horribly,

Michael Jamin:
Or a sex dream you had, for example,

Steve Lemme:
I’ve had several

Michael Jamin:
With one of your friends.

Steve Lemme:
Okay.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t want to say who, that’s a great example.

Steve Lemme:
No. So that’s a great example. So can you hear the noise? We’re

Michael Jamin:
Doing an interview here.

Steve Lemme:
My wife has come in with the children, so she doesn’t know, and I’m displaced. I don’t have an office with doors anymore, so I’m,

Michael Jamin:
There’s some damage to his house. So he’s got to do an impromptu

Steve Lemme:
Yeah, the whole, but go ahead side of the house is flooded. Okay. So the story is, so Michael and I have, I’ll even say the guy’s name.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, okay.

Steve Lemme:
It makes it better. We have a common friend named Eric Levy. You grew up with him in Fresh Chester?

Michael Jamin:
Yes, in high school. Yeah.

Steve Lemme:
He and I went to college together, and I don’t even know if this is proper improper to say, but I’m not gay and neither is he. But I had a dream about him where he showed up at my house with 50 bags of McDonald’s burgers and then it cuts to me fucking him in the ass. But he was on top of me.

Michael Jamin:
I still love this story and then go on.

Steve Lemme:
But I told the story because whatever we were riffing on, it was like, what about those? And then I told him about it.

Michael Jamin:
Yes. And how did he take videos? I

Steve Lemme:
Called him up laughing the next morning and was like, holy shit, this is so fucking funny. I had this dream about it. You’re never going to believe it. And there’s a lot of guys who would be like, I’m taking that one to the grave. But the additional joke for me is that when I have with Reba McIntyre, I had a sex dream about her. And to me, when you have a sex dream about somebody, what’s the difference between actually having sex with them? Because in real life, if you have sex with somebody afterwards, it’s just a memory and it lives longer in your memory. And so to me, it’s like if you have a vivid sex dream about Reeb McIntyre, which I did, and then it lives on in your memory, it kind of counts.

Michael Jamin:
But no, because no consent. She didn’t consent to that either. Did Levy,

Steve Lemme:
You’re saying

Michael Jamin:
I’m was a nonconsensual sex dream that you had with both of them?

Steve Lemme:
I don’t know. I feel like there’s a blurry line there.

Michael Jamin:
But this is just a good example. You told this story probably the first year to call him after you in the writer’s room. And I just remember laughing my ass off thinking, oh my God, this guy’s going to be game for pretty much everything we pitch. And this makes easier to write.

Steve Lemme:
Well, and that’s why you and I wound up sitting next to each other because you would always mutter filthy little offerings under your breath to me.

Michael Jamin:
You would enjoy them. Yeah,

Steve Lemme:
I didn’t. I enjoyed them quite a bit. I enjoyed,

Michael Jamin:
Lemme ask you that, because I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you this or maybe I forgot. We met you. The show had just gotten picked up and we met through, we had the same management company, right? Yeah, of course we

Steve Lemme:
Did. I used to be with them. I’m not with them anymore, but Kevin is still with them.

Michael Jamin:
And that’s how we had that meeting. And did you meet with other writers at our level or did you just laise out, say, fuck, we’ll just hire these guys. I don’t want to meet more people.

Steve Lemme:
Kevin and I get in trouble like that. We oftentimes do hire the first person we meet, which was you,

Michael Jamin:
Thank God.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. But I think we did. God, they’re really making a racket over there. I did. We did meet with one other set of showrunners, I believe. But then what happens anyway, if Kevin and I get past the first interview and make it to the second one by the second one, we’re definitely bored and we realize we’ve made a mistake by prolonging this process. So with us with timing is key. If you get in with us early, if you ever hear about a Lemme Heffernan gig, get your resume to us immediately because you

Michael Jamin:
Hire the first person you see

Steve Lemme:
You got the job. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
That’s so funny. I know you’re good that way. What is it like, I haven’t asked you this question, but you do most, you don’t do all your projects with Kevin, you do a lot of your projects with him or ever it now, is it everything?

Steve Lemme:
No, I have some side projects.

Michael Jamin:
How do you decide what you’re doing with him and what you’re not doing?

Steve Lemme:
Well, I try to do most things with Kevin, and I think Kevin would agree to this. For whatever reason, I sometimes find that Kevin is a little tougher to drag into things. I believe he will corroborate this. So I had the idea, we’ve kicked around the notion of firefighters for a while, but I said to him, let’s do it.
And then he said, what’s the hook going to be? And I came back with this rainiest city in the country hook because it was super troopers, the most asserted stretch of highway in the country. And even then I had to drag him and I want to be careful with this because we developed a show then together and really fleshed it out. So it’s like, and he has also had many ideas in those TV sessions. He also had some ideas that he wanted to do, but the animation thing now is another one I felt. I feel like it took me a long time to just get him to really be into it.

Michael Jamin:
I know it did.

Steve Lemme:
And actually I’m going to tell you, I think he’s only finally into it now. Today,

Michael Jamin:
Today, today

Steve Lemme:
For the last few weeks I We’ll tell the story. We’ll tell the story. But now and again, to be fair, it’s like I was bringing it up probably two years ago, maybe longer, and he would say, okay, sure. But then we’d be writing the series or then we went into pre-production on quasi, which he was directing, but I never just ever got the sense that he really wanted to do it.

Michael Jamin:
But do you get the sense that he ever wants to do anything?

Steve Lemme:
No, and that’s my point. That’s my point. And what I realized with Kevin, and it’s fine again, it’s like because we’re busy, but sometimes you just have to move the ball forward and he’ll tell me the same thing just in general about things, and I actually think this is true in Hollywood anyway, if you want to do something, you just have to move the ball forward on your own if you can’t get interest. And eventually at some point there’s like, okay, this is what I’ve got.

Michael Jamin:
Are you, you know what though? When I talk about you, I talk about you guys specifically when I talk about people who’ve done inspiring things, because when I describe what you broken lizard, I describe you as Hollywood outsiders. There are ways that you can call the traditional way and the way you guys came, you just did it. You didn’t ask for permission, you did it and you created a career from yourself and became so valuable that Hollywood now wants you as opposed to you begging Hollywood. It’s the other way around.

Steve Lemme:
I think we’re still begging Hollywood. I think with Supert Troopers three and our relationship with Searchlight has evolved to the point where the studio has said, we want to work with you. And that’s how we got quasi and that’s how we got Supert Troopers two, but Supert Troopers two, they were reluctant, but that’s the way the business works. Then that movie did well and there were new studio heads and it’s like, okay, this is a new relationship that this’s really healthy. I think that everything that Tevin has ever gotten and that I have ever gotten, we have gotten for ourselves. Even though we have agents and I have great agents and managers who bring me things Now

Michael Jamin:
Are they bringing you, what talent are they bringing you ideas? What are they bringing you?

Steve Lemme:
My management and my agency will bring me TV and movie ideas to potentially

Michael Jamin:
For who?

Steve Lemme:
My management company. They have a big lit department, a big book and division, and so does my agency. So my management is Gotham Group, and then my agency is c a a and that every Friday, c a a sends me books, the books that are out, the new books and it’s like, yeah, I mean I’ve never gone down that road. There was only one book I wanted to buy and then the rights to, and then my old manager poo-pooed the idea. And then I found out that three months later, Showtime bought that book and I was like, you son of a bitch. But

Michael Jamin:
Wait, when they’re sending are these best, these are, how are they getting the books? I don’t know anything about it. They’re getting bestsellers. These are the bestseller lists, these books.

Steve Lemme:
So my management company represents authors and c a A. They have a literature, a book literature division in New York City that represents writers and or publishers. I’m not sure really how it works, but I’m just telling you, every Friday I get a list of these things and how

Michael Jamin:
Interesting it is. It’s so funny because you’re getting an email list. I don’t get an email list of books from U T A, how hard is it to put me on an email list?

Steve Lemme:
And that’s the thing. And the thing is it’s been years now and I’ve never even responded to the email. Then I think that I’m on an automated list now, which is actually, it’s nice. I should actually look at the thing. I should look at the list.

Michael Jamin:
Are there PDFs attached or you request a book?

Steve Lemme:
I’ll forward it to you on the side.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Okay. I’m just curious how Hollywood works

Steve Lemme:
Well, but I think it works. It’s so funny. It works so differently in every way. In fact, the joke that Kevin and I have, and I’ll finish speaking about Kevin and the animation thing, but because kind of a funny story, but Kevin and I have always marveled at how Hollywood never has a shortage of original ways to screw you over.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, yes.

Steve Lemme:
And right now we’ve got another one going, which is that we’ve got the strike going and Kevin and I have a TV show that we can’t promote, and it’s like we worked really hard on it. We worked for over a year on it. We actually got pushed, the release got pushed six months or five months because that network in shambles. And then three weeks before it’s going to come out, they say it’s going to come out in July and then the strike happens. And we had been recording podcasts that would be accompany pieces with the episodes, and my older son acted in last week’s episode. I couldn’t promote it. My younger son is acting in this week’s episode, I can’t talk about it. And it’s like, that’s actually one of the most heartbreaking parts is that I got to act with one son in a scene. And where he was playing, me as a young boy, my character was a young boy and I was playing his grandfather. And then my other son, I got to direct in a scene where he gets to say dirty words and I can’t talk about it. And I’m like, Jesus, what a screw here.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. That’s so fun, by the way. I know I’m hopping around, but what’s it like when your comedy soup, broken lizard, is it weird to be acting against these same people over and over again and pretending, okay, now today we’re pretending to be one thing, and I’m yelling at you, but we’re actually friends on the side. Is that weird? Is there a moment when you’re acting like, wait a minute, we’re best friends?

Steve Lemme:
No, because funny, because Kevin and I, first of all with Kevin, he and I have now done so many, so much together and so many emotional scenes together. But we’d like to say it’s so emotion. We don’t deal with emotion. We deal with foam motion, as you know. And so it’s like if you watch quasi, he and I have a few big blowup scenes with voice cracking and Tacoma. We have plenty of scenes where we yell at each other and sometimes we get emotional with each other. And I always think it’s funny for us, it’s also like we’ve been friends so long and we’re so on each other’s nerves all the time that these things are therapy sessions. Because a lot of the time in the show we’re discussing things that bother him about me and me about him. And so

Michael Jamin:
Is there a moment where you’re in the scene, you’re supposed to be in character, and then suddenly you check, you go, wait a minute, he’s just doing his thing and I’m doing my thing. And we’re both doing make believe.

Steve Lemme:
The only time I ever feel that way is if we start improvising. And he starts, we had one, I can’t remember what the episode was, but he said, oh, I know it was the episode, the chili Cookoff where he’s fucked up on dental drugs. He had his wisdom teeth removed and he improvised a line like, oh, you must be, he’s like, are we on a rollercoaster? Are we on a rollercoaster? He’s like, oh, hey. Hey Eddie, you have to be this tall to ride this roller coaster. And I was like, well, and there’s a maximum weight limit as well. And I felt bad about that. I was like, it didn’t matter that he had made a short joke at me. At first, I felt bad that I had made a fat joke, and that happens periodically. I throw one out probably once every three months. So once a quarter I’ll make a heavy guy joke.

Michael Jamin:
Is it weird though hanging out with him outside of work though, when you see each other so much?

Steve Lemme:
I think I’m good for him. The other day, a couple of months ago, I was like, why don’t we just go out and hang out? And he’s like, I see you every day. And I was like, that’s exactly why we should hang out. We see each other every day because we are working together, but let’s go have some beers and some tacos and have some laughs and not work.

Michael Jamin:
And did you do that?

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. And it’s funny because one of my favorite pastimes is being right over a Kevin. I don’t mean in the collaborative sense, but when my point of view is correct and yours is incorrect, which it was in that case, he was like, okay,
Okay, fine. Alright, so let’s go back to the animation thing. I was saying, I don’t even think so with the animations, it took a while for me to get him. He would agree in theory, but then it was like there was never any, whenever he would talk about upcoming projects, I’d always be like, and we should talk about animation one of these days. He’d be like, yeah, okay. And I couldn’t get him to engage. And then even I said, finally, let’s just sit down. Just give me five minutes. I’m going to go through a list of animation ideas and let’s discuss them. He said, okay. And so I sent them to him in advance and literally it was one line. It was like the lumberjacks, it was whatever, and including the one that we’re working on. And he said, okay, I like these and that’s fine.
That’s all I needed. And so then I started to flesh those things out and I would show them to him. Now, see, Kevin is a machine. He’s a computer, and so if you really want to get his attention, you have to show him a piece of paper with something on it, and he puts it in his pile and he makes a list. And so then a week later I’ll be like, have you had a chance to read the thing? And so what Kevin respects is work, which a lot of people do, it’s in a creative process. It’s like, don’t tell me you don’t like a joke if you don’t have a replacement idea or don’t say like, Hey, let’s work on something and bother me about it if it’s not real, if you just want me to actually make the first step. And so it’s like if you give him the first step and it’s like, Hey, I’ve done this work.
He respects that, and so he’ll read it. So then it was funny then because he was doing, he was editing quasi and we were in the writer’s room for season four. You guys are busy. And I said, I’ll do all the work on the animation thing. And so it’s like I started to flesh it out and then I’d sent him this, the pitch document, here are the characters. And we started to get it together and what we were going to do, and the plan was that during a hiatus, we were going to wind up pitching these two producers who had been the president and vice president of True tv, and they were the ones who bought Tacoma FD and put us on the air, and they’d done everything that Thursday night with us in Practical Jokers. We were winning cable and they were beating t b s, their sister company, and then at t took over and they just got punted.
So they did everything and they got fired, but we always had a good relationship and we always said, Hey, we’ll work together again. At some point they approached me and they said, Hey, do you want to do some animated? We’ve got something going. So the idea then I told Kevin was like, we’re going to pitch this during the first hiatus. And the hiatus for people who don’t know is that after we shoot in blocks, so we shot the first three episodes in one block and Kevin directed all of them, and we took a week off to scout locations for the second block and prep, and that was the block I was directed. And so that was two more episodes, but in that first week, then we were ready to pitch Chris and Marissa. And so even the night before the pitch, I kept saying to Kevin, I was, so tomorrow we are pitching Chris and Marissa.
He’s like, but it’s not like a pitch though. It’s a conversation. I was like, well, it actually is a pitch. He’s like, but it’s not like a formal pitch. We’re just talking to ’em. I’m like, no, we’re actually pitching them. I’m pitching them the show, but don’t worry. I’ll do all the talking. And he said, fine. And so the next day we got on the Zoom with them. I pitched them the show, they seemed to love it, and we went our separate ways and they brought it to their studio that they’re involved with. And three days later, we found out that studio was going to make an offer, which they did. And then we negotiated that offer for several months, which a lot of people who are not in Hollywood don’t realize that sometimes negotiations can take nine months, sometimes a year. In this case, I think it was a six month thing. And in that period of time, we approached you guys, brought you guys in, and then we went to our first meeting with them after the deal. All the deal had been signed and everything. And you remember we were outside?

Michael Jamin:
Yes.

Steve Lemme:
Kevin asked me, he was like, have we,

Michael Jamin:
I asked Kevin, it started, I asked Kevin. Kevin didn’t have the answer, so he asked you.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah, and the question was,

Michael Jamin:
Have we sold this?

Steve Lemme:
Have we actually sold this then? And the reason you asked that for people who don’t know is most commonly, certainly before the streamers and the network time, there was something called an if come offer. And this was, I think the norm for most people who hadn’t done anything. I went to a studio and I said, I’ve got an idea for a TV show. They might say, Hey, we love it. We’re going to make you an if come offer. And what that is is we’ll pay you X amount of dollars if a network says they want to do the show. And if not, we’re not paying you anything. But because we’ve made you this offer, you’re with us. And that was the norm. And we took that and we would negotiate that. We would negotiate a deal that we’re not getting paid on unless somebody else says yes. And it’s called an if come offer. And so that was the nature of that question. Have we actually sold this thing? Are we getting paid? And Kevin asked me and I was like, yes, we’ve sold it. But he put so much doubt into me that it was like, I think we’re pitching again.
So then we went in and sat with our executive producers, the people who had bought it, the producers who had brought us to them and sold it for us. And I pitched it again, but now I was nervous. I didn’t do a great job pitching.

Michael Jamin:
No, you did great. You did great. And they loved it.

Steve Lemme:
But then it turns out, yes, we had sold it. We were going to get paid and we were moving forward. So then Kevin was very surprised. He’s like, oh, I gave shit about that. And even then, he wasn’t totally on board until we saw the animation. We were writing the script and he was like, yes, fine. It’s still abstract. But it wasn’t until we got into when they sent us potential sketches and artwork for all the characters and the locations and the scenes and settings that he said to me for the first time, this is really cool.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, good.

Steve Lemme:
There’s a whole other world in Hollywood that we’ve never been a part of that we’re a part of now. I was like, yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Steve Lemme:
So anyway.

Michael Jamin:
That’s hilarious. How would you decide what projects not to do with them then?

Steve Lemme:
Oh,

Michael Jamin:
I don’t think, do you have many? You’ve done some, but why would you not do a project with them?

Steve Lemme:
It just depends. And it’s funny. There are times where I actually think I’ve said to him, and I mean this, that even if I do something separately, we’ll still produce it with our production company. He’ll be involved. I have a TV script that I’ve been working on for a long time that I probably wrote it back in 2009, and it’s very much about that period, my high school years when I was at this elite private school and I was feeling like an outsider, but I wasn’t an outsider. I had a great group of friends, and I was actually, I hate to say it, but I was fairly popular, but I felt like I didn’t belong at this place. I almost felt like an imposter. And we were there, not because we were wealthy, which it was the school full of wealthy people because my mom had been a teacher there, and now she was gone there. So I didn’t, they had only given me a partial scholarship when I was three when I first went there. But that’s a

Michael Jamin:
Good idea. I think that could sell. That’s a good idea.

Steve Lemme:
Well, and there was more to it, which is that I also had this job, I worked as a back elevator man
Because one of my friends, his family was so wealthy, they owned all these buildings in New York City, and he got me a job. I made $10 an hour working as a back elevator man slash janitor, luxury high-rise building in New York City that some people from my high school lived at, which was really hard to have them see me. But more importantly, I worked with these guys down in the basement who were lifers. There was a murderer down there who had fled the Dominican Republic. He had decapitated a guy, and he is a great guy. He’s a great guy. He had decapitated a guy after a cock fight, he had a fighting bird. And by the way, he’s telling me this story with a thick Dominican accent. He keeps saying, and my cock defeated the other guy’s cock. And I’m like, whoa, I’m only 15 years old at this point in time. And the guy picked up his dead cock and the

Michael Jamin:
Cock

Steve Lemme:
His lifeless dead bloody cock. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Flacid cock.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. And the claw and the beaker sharpened on these creatures and this guy,

Michael Jamin:
Did they sharpen them for the fights? Yeah. Wow, that sounds awful. You just made something bad, even worse.

Steve Lemme:
I know. Well, so then this guy, the loser, picked up his dead bloody flacid, lifeless cock and slapped my coworker across the cheek with it, and the beak cut his cheek. My coworker told me this over lunch break. He was like, I went home and I calmly sharpened my machete and I went to his house and I knocked on the door. He opened the door and I cut his head off and he said, and that is when I came to America.

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. Wow. Yeah. So I was working down there with these guys, and the irony was that they would get taxes taken out of their paychecks. And I, I was a student, and so I was actually making more than these guys, but they also thought I was a rich kid. I was friends with the owner of the building and they knew that. And to them, I was the richest guy in the world, and I was going to a prep school. I had my whole future ahead of me. So I didn’t kind of belong in that world either.

Michael Jamin:
It’s a little flamingo kid.

Steve Lemme:
There was some flamingo kid there. Yeah. I was also a break dancer and a professional dancer.

Michael Jamin:
I know

Steve Lemme:
That. And I was not really welcome in that community. So anyway,

Michael Jamin:
Why are you sitting on this? You should get that. Well, there’s a strike. I wouldn’t wait much longer on it.

Steve Lemme:
I sent the script out back in 2009, and it was incredibly well received, but this is pre streamers, and I sent it to H B O in Showtime, and I had a meeting with the president of H B O who, she was like, I love your script. I love your script, but I can’t do a show about a 14 year old protagonist. And she said, but bring me everything you’ve got, and this is pre everything interesting. It’s pre this new golden age of television. And same at Showtime. I had the same conversation. She’s like, the lady was like, I love it. Absolutely love it.

Michael Jamin:
It was the 14 year old protagonist. That’s such an odd thing because everybody hates Chris and Wonder years. There’s plenty of shows about,

Steve Lemme:
But it was R-rated, it was an honest look. It was also part of the pitch was I see all these, when you see high school shows about in New York City, for instance, about a wealthy school, the rich kids are so fucked up
And so evil and so conniving, and that wasn’t my experience. And it was also like, or it’s incredibly, incredibly cliquey with the fucking bully rich kids or the scummy fucking drug using druggies. I was like, that wasn’t my experience at all, or it’s incredibly angst-ridden. And I was like, I feel like there were a lot of incredibly fun experimental times. Yes, there were painful times, but there were also a lot of incredible times, and I never saw a good mixture of those things. Anyway, so I have been, and also the funny thing, the honest part was I made masturbation a heavy part of the show, the Cold Open. My character is masturbating in the shower, and his dad’s trying to get in

Michael Jamin:
And

Steve Lemme:
It’s like a freeze frame. He’s looking at the doorknob and the whole thing is that irony and the hypocrisy of the fact that in high school, your hormones are going raging and you’re all masturbating, or the boys certainly were, can’t speak to the girls, but no one would talk about it. And so my friends and I would be like, one of my friends would be like, you whack off. I’d be like, fuck no, I don’t whack off. I’m not gay. And he’s like, no, I know. I’ve never even touched my dick. I’ve never even touched my dick. How about you? You whack off. I was like, no fucking way. Do I whack off? And then it’s like, but I know you whack off. He’s like, fuck you, I don’t whack off. And you’re like, yeah, you whack off. Everybody’s dying to get home and fucking beat off. I was a part of the

Michael Jamin:
Script dying to get home.

Steve Lemme:
So I’ve toned that part down in the script. I literally am revising it right now. I found a great thing that I wanted to include in it, a couple of new things. So I’m writing it. I’m using the strike to write.

Michael Jamin:
Well, sure. Everyone should be, I guess. But what about you guys also do a lot of standup, which is very different. Do you have a preference to how you spend your days?

Steve Lemme:
It makes me sad that I haven’t done standup in five years.

Michael Jamin:
Really? Well, what’s stopping you?

Steve Lemme:
Well, now, nothing. And I was thinking about it today, I am like, I should write a new set. Kevin and I filmed our third special right before we sold Tacoma. And when we sold Tacoma, it was when Super Troopers two was coming out. And so we did a few more live shows to promote Tacoma, but then we never had time because then it was like we were writing the season, we got renewed for season two, and then it’s like, it’s so much work. And even after we write and then we go right into shooting, and then after shooting, the hardest part of the show process is the six months of editing. And then it’s like, I

Michael Jamin:
Think that’s the best part. Because you’re not on set. It’s not as exhausting.

Steve Lemme:
Well, it’s not as physically exhausting. Correct. And I mean, look, now in the days of Zoom, I’m home. I actually, I love it, but there’s no time to, that’s a nine to 6:00 PM or 11:00 PM job depending on what day of the week it is and what time of the editing process. I’m here with my family. And so it’s like we’ve been fortunate enough to have four seasons where we have a week or two off, and then we have to start getting the writer’s room together again. I’m not complaining about at all. I’m not even grousing. The one thing I really enjoyed doing for 10 years before we got that show was standup comedy, which you’ve done,

Michael Jamin:
But I mean, I did in college, so I was never at your level where I was touring and booking rooms.

Steve Lemme:
Well, but you do tour with a one man show and you do.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, that’s a little different. Yeah, it’s not standup. Yeah,

Steve Lemme:
It’s a little different, but it’s still performing and getting out there and trying out material. I know if you have a story, I mean, I haven’t seen your show,

Michael Jamin:
You must come. But what I find about it is, and I was talking about this with Taylor Swift, she’s got this three hour concert, and when I was performing,

Steve Lemme:
Wait, wait, wait. You talked about this with Taylor

Michael Jamin:
Swift? No, I said this with my daughter about Taylor Swift’s show.

Steve Lemme:
That’s a

Michael Jamin:
Different big difference. Yeah. I got to clarify. So Taylor Swift’s performing in her show is three, three and a half hours long. And so when I was doing my show, it was an hour and a half long, but it’s the end of the day. It’s at eight o’clock or whatever. The whole day I’m exhausted because I’m nervous. I’m preparing myself. And then at eight o’clock I’m up, and for the next hour and a half I’m giving everything. And then you’re fricking then afterwards, you’re still on a high, but you’re exhausted. And then you got to do it again the next day where you’re like, you’re wringing your hands all day and you’re pacing and then it is exhausting. You don’t think

Steve Lemme:
I do. I do. Especially when you do Thursday, Friday, Saturday and the Friday and Saturday you’re doing two shows in the night

Michael Jamin:
And you’re traveling

Steve Lemme:
And you’re traveling. And also what Kevin and I would do is we would do meet and greets after every show, free ones, not like the ones where you pay extra and you get to come backstage. We would go, we’d tell people we’re going to do a meet and greet out here after the show, come by and say hi. And so you’re meeting half of the people that were at the show. Oftentimes that meet and greet would take an hour or more. She found that to be even more exhausting.

Michael Jamin:
Do you have a time limit with each person you’re meeting and greeting?

Steve Lemme:
No, not really. I mean, it depends on the club or the theater. Because the first show, there’s a natural out. You’ve got a second show, come on folks, and then you bang people through. And the second show, that’s the one where people come up and they want to chug.

Michael Jamin:
That’s kind of your brand, which is like, Hey, yeah, chug. And we’re all college bros. But I wonder what’s your thinking? You could do the other way. You could put a little separation between your audience and not do a meet and greet.

Steve Lemme:
You could, and I’m trying to think if there was ever a time where we came up with a reason or we had a reason not to, but I don’t think so. There’s something like we’ve always had this philosophy of meeting the fans and Jim Gaffigan once said it. He said, I’ll meet them until I can’t, meaning, and now he can’t. He’s just

Michael Jamin:
Too big.

Steve Lemme:
He’s too big. It’s impossible.

Michael Jamin:
Hey, it’s Michael lemin. 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 going to spam you and it’s absolutely free. Just go to michaeljamin.com/watchlist.
But how long? Is it 30 seconds or are you talking to the guy who doesn’t want to talk anymore? How do you know when it’s time to move on to the next person? There’s a line.

Steve Lemme:
There’s all different kinds of people. There’s some people who just want to come and take a picture. There’s some people who appreciate that there’s a line behind them and you got to keep things moving. There’s some people who are going to stay and talk to you until you have them move on. You’ll be like, Hey, okay, but I hate to do this. Or the club will have security guards and they’ll be like, all right, let’s move it along. Let’s go, let’s go. We got a lot of people there. But I think that’s something I’ve never really, I don’t know. I’ve always enjoyed meeting people, and a lot of times I know a lot of my friends are like, oh God, that person’s crazy. Don’t talk to them. And I’m like, no, that’s the person I want to

Michael Jamin:
Talk to. Really. Did you really, you’re not worried about them forming some kind of parasocial relationship with you and wanting to get really close to you?

Steve Lemme:
I’ve never had that happen. I mean, there’s absolutely, look, I am a man from the planet earth, and I lived here for a long time before any sort of recognition, fan recognition or celebrity, what’s happening for me. And so it’s like I can tell when I’m having a real connection with a person as opposed to when they’re connecting with me and I don’t feel it. And I could certainly, I know when mostly now because I’m skeptical and paranoid and cynical that I just assume it’s like if anybody tries too aggressively to be friends, it’s over for them.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, really? I see with you, you’re very gracious and you’re very social way more than me. So you could spend hours with people. I feel like even people you don’t like, and I’ve seen you do that. I’ve seen you do that actually.

Steve Lemme:
Well, it depends where we are, but it’s not like if you’re at a film festival and some producer is like laughing at everything you say, you’re like,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Steve Lemme:
Okay, we’re not friends. It’s people that you’re just hanging out with. It’s funny because have a friend named Champagne, Rob, who we met in Atlanta, and the reason he’s called Champagne Rob is because he and his girlfriend came to our show and they were sitting in the front row drinking champagne, and we just ragged on them. We were like, what the fuck is going on here drinking champagne at our show? They’re like, yeah, man, we’re having a good time drinking some champagne. It was like we had a great interaction with them. And then on the meet and greet line, afterwards, they came to either the late Friday show or the late Saturday show, the late Friday. If you really want to be friends with us, the late Friday show is the one that you might have a crack at it. We don’t go out Thursday night and we don’t go out Saturday night.
Friday night’s the one, you don’t have to wake up for anything in the morning. So Friday night’s the night we’d go after the late show, we’d go out and usually with people that we were friends with in our town and so on This particular night though, after that show, probably Friday night, then they were on the line and I had a joke about, I was talking about male grooming manscaping, and there was a poll given out to the people in the audience. Do you like it groomed or do you like it hairy? I’m like, it’s a standup comedy. It’s a set routine where I know that some women are going to be like you. It totally shaved. And you’re like, well, what’s wrong with a hairy one? And they’re like, you get hair in your throat. And then my thing would be like, how far down are you going on this thing?
And then basically I’m calling ’em the cookie monster of it was the Dick Gobbler is What and how. They’re like, mom, I’m just eating a shit out of this dick and getting all the way down there. And that was a routine I was doing. And so Champagne, Rob’s girlfriend happened to be that girl. And so then they came up afterwards and they were like, Hey, I’m the Dick Gobbler. And he’s like, I’m champagne rob. And we’re like, oh. And we had a good laugh on the line and the guy’s like, look. And I had some friends there and they were from Atlanta, and they’re like, we don’t really know where to go. And the guy was like, I know a speakeasy that’s literally across the street, literally across the street. Come with me, well have a great time. He’s like, I’m not creepy. Let’s just go. It’s going to be awesome. And we’re like, all right, fine. Fuck it. And we went outside and there was his car, and the license plate was Muff diver. It was the fucking,

Michael Jamin:
But I’m not creepy, I swear.

Steve Lemme:
And then we went to this speakeasy and had an awesome time, and of course we’re hanging out with the guy there because he’s gotten us in this place and we’re just having drinks. And it was a totally normal hang, and it was like there was no awkwardness and there was no, it was, a lot of times when you meet these people, sometimes they don’t then know what to say and they’ll just start to ask you about yourself and they’ll ask you questions, how did this happen? And how did this happen? And you’re like, well, if we can’t get past this stage, we’ll never be friends and it doesn’t get past that stage. So it’s like, but this guy’s like, yeah, we’re hanging out, we’re having a great time. And then it’s like, whatever. And then it turns out he was a Giants fan, like Kevin and I am, and he showed us a photo of his toilet that he has at home, and in the toilet down at the bottom where the poop hits the bottom of the toilet was a Dallas Cowboys star. And we’re like, this guy’s fucking hysterical. So anyway, and then it turned out he was a professional, what do you call it, jet skier
Sponsored by Hooters. And so the whole thing just made perfect sense. It was like,

Michael Jamin:
Be good friends in this guy. Let me ask though, if you decided you wanted to go on tour comedy wise, whatever, next week, how fast does that happen? Let’s say you already have a set let’s, you already have material. Do you call someone and it happens? Do you have a booker and it happens?

Steve Lemme:
Yeah, I would call at a a, I have my standup agent,
Which is actually how I got into C A A. I used to be with c a A, and then I went to U T A and I left U T A, and it was because I had a meeting with their standup agent who, I mean, I left U T A first and then I went to c a A, and it was the standup agent was the one who brought me in because at that point in time in 2009, we hadn’t done anything. And so he was the guy who was like, oh, I think I can make some money for our agency with this fellow. And so he brought me in there.

Michael Jamin:
He books, he pimps you out to the various clubs, basically. Is that how that works? I’m surprised. C A A does that. I thought there was a smaller thing that smaller agents did not. Well,

Steve Lemme:
No, I mean, but there are agents who are bigger than others, so it’s like he represents a lot of big people.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Steve Lemme:
Big standups.

Michael Jamin:
So you could just, alright, literally you made a call today in a week or two, you could start touring basically.

Steve Lemme:
Yes.

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. But it depends. It also depends on, now it’s been five years and we have the show. So the question would be what kind of places can we book? We know we can book the smaller places, we can sell those places out. We always were able to because of the movies that we had made. And so we enjoyed a success there that a lot of standup comedians, a luxury that a lot of that most standup comedians don’t have. Because most standup comedians certainly back then had to do the club circuit. And first they would be doing five minutes, and then they strangers to people. So they’d have to make people like them, which to me is like 90% of the battle. Once you’ve already got the fans, you actually it a little bit more like you’re giving a wedding toast. Not that your fans will accept subpar standup comedy, but they’re more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. And if you fuck up, you can just look at them and they’ll be like, yeah. And you’re like, I know I suck. And they’re like, yeah, fuck you. And you’re like, fuck you.

Michael Jamin:
Interesting. That’s what Jay is doing now. He’s on the road doing standup, right? I mean,

Steve Lemme:
Yeah, he’s in the UK right now. He’s actually breaking new ground in that. He’s going do a show, a couple shows in England, which is, it’s sort of like the logical next step for American standups. You go and do the uk, England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia.

Michael Jamin:
But you’re not really interested in doing that now. I mean, because first of all, it’s hard family. How long do you want to be on the road for? Or is that your thinking or No,

Steve Lemme:
I mean, I love doing standup comedy. I don’t love touring. I only liked it because I was with Kevin and I wasn’t alone. I did a couple of solo dates, and I found it to be very lonely

Michael Jamin:
Because the entire day, you’re lonely,

Steve Lemme:
You’re alone. And then at night after the show, it’s like if Kevin and I were sort of wired, we could at least go back to the hotel bar and have a beer, or we could go to one of our rooms and smoke a joint or something like that. Whereas when you’re alone, it’s like you might hang out with the other comedians just fine. People want to make new friends. Or you go out with a staff or you meet a fan or something. Somebody’s at the show, I don’t know. Or you go out by yourself or you go back to the hotel room, but you’re wired and it’s a really weird thing to just get in bed and watch TV or something like that. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
It’s so interesting to be talking about. I don’t know, all this is so new to me. The life of a performer for you. It’s fascinating to me.

Steve Lemme:
Well, I think that is, it’s funny. The worst standup experience I ever had was I was booked to do a solo weekend in Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. That

Michael Jamin:
Was lovely in the fall. It’s perfect.

Steve Lemme:
It was perfect. And I’ll tell you, it was probably, yeah, it was the fall. And what happened was to promote the show, I was interviewed by a Vermont free newspaper,
And the journalist asked me all these questions. And so Super Troopers two had been finished, and the studio said, we’re going to wait a year to release it, because next year, on April 20th, April 20th Falls on Friday, so we can release the movie on Friday, April 20th on four 20. And so we’re waiting for that day, the time to do it. We’re like, okay. But they didn’t announce the day, and they kept being like, they didn’t know when they were going to announce it. And they kept it off, kept putting it off. They kept saying, soon, soon, soon, soon, soon. And it was killing everybody. And so I was doing this interview with this free newspaper, and the guy said, do you know the release date of Super Troopers two? I said, I do, but I can’t tell you. And he said, come on, what is it? I was like, I honestly can’t tell you. And he’s like, come on, please tell me. And I was like, I can’t tell you. I’m not going to tell you. And he said, okay. And so then we kept doing the interview, and then the interview was over, and he said, okay, the interview is over. And he said, now, as a fan, can you just tell me? And I said, I can’t, I’m not going to, but I’ll give you a hint. Oh

Michael Jamin:
No,

Steve Lemme:
There’s a very popular stoner holiday that falls on a Friday next year. And he said, okay. And he was like, that’s awesome. I was like, yeah. So then I was flying the next day to Vermont, and when I landed, there was messages, a text message from Heman like, you’re in trouble.

Michael Jamin:
You guys are big mouth. What a puts, what

Steve Lemme:
A puts. And then the guy had an even kind of made fun of me. He’s like, he wouldn’t tell me the release date, but I pushed him and pushed him, and finally he told me it’s four 20. And so that Jay was pissed off and my producer was pissed off. The studio was fucking furious. They wanted to announce it make best, but they had all the materials. They just weren’t doing it. And so they were like, it was still this little teeny newspaper, a free newspaper, and it was like less week’s.

Michael Jamin:
And you gave them the scoop, this free fucking Vermont maple

Steve Lemme:
Syrup. You get in a pizzeria, you just fucking,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I don’t, you throw away, you wipe the table with,

Steve Lemme:
Yeah, get the

Michael Jamin:
Scoop.

Steve Lemme:
I was really fucking, this is Thursday. I did a show that night and I was fucking devastated. So I went out there and did a half-hearted show. My heart was heavy, and it was wait and see if anybody picks us up. And then Friday morning it got fucking picked up and was everywhere. And meanwhile, there were email threads with all the studio, the president of the studio and a hundred people from Searchlight, and then all the broken lizard, not me. And even my producer, I was like, dude, I’m suffering over here. You got to tell me what’s going on. He just wrote back. He was fucking pissed off. Oh

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah, no, it hurt. And I was like, I went jogging that day. And then they released it that day. They did the official release of the trailer and the date, and it got 8 million views in the first fucking 24 hours alone. But nobody was talking to me that whole weekend. I didn’t know any of that, but I knew it was out there. But I knew I had rushed the process, but like I said, they had it and

Michael Jamin:
They just wanted to punish you.

Steve Lemme:
But then the next week there was a meeting at Searchlight on Wednesday to now game plan, and it was like the big question was, so that weekend fucking sucked. I did press on Friday morning and I did two shows on Friday night and Saturday night, and I had friends coming to the shows and I was so sad. I was sad Steve and I was alone. And the one guy who was kind of forgiving, who was actually totally forgiving was Kevin. And I also say Paul Soder, who you worked on Tacoma. Those guys were not so secretly they were like, you know what? I’m fucking glad you did it. Now it’s out there finally. And they were psyched because now we could finally fucking talk about it. We were getting ass about all the time. So those guys were cool about it. The other guys weren’t as happy with me. And then the big question was, was I going to go to that studio meeting? And I fucking went. I was like, I’m going to take my poison.

Michael Jamin:
Let’s

Steve Lemme:
Go.

Michael Jamin:
Did they give you shit there?

Steve Lemme:
I went in and I made the saving Grace was that the trailer got 8 million views in the first 24 hours, and it was like, holy shit. It exceeded, it far exceeded and was now on pace at that moment in time. It was like that actually might have been the actual trailer. This was just a teaser and the announcement and it was huge. And so they were happy about that. That’s the only thing that saved me because a couple of ’em, the head of marketing and the president were not that fucking psyched with me.

Michael Jamin:
It’s so interesting because usually they’ll try to keep, you’re the star of this movie. Usually they try to keep that, they try to hide their disdain from actors. They don’t say it in front of their face. It was

Steve Lemme:
A big deal and it caused massive shock waves and a shit storm then people had to fucking deal with while I sat there telling jokes. In Vermont,

Michael Jamin:
That’s always the worst when you’re, yeah, you have to wait through something. I know that feeling terrible. I’ve been there before. I

Steve Lemme:
Was sick. I was sick about

Michael Jamin:
It. Yeah, sick. Yeah, exactly.

Steve Lemme:
And mad at myself. How could I be so stupid? The whole thing?

Michael Jamin:
Did you confront that guy and say, Hey, you’re a dick.

Steve Lemme:
No, I wanted to fucking die. I wanted the whole thing to die.
But the funny thing was is that then the next internal broken lizard conversation was that because some guys were psyched that I had gotten it out there and the studio was psyched because fucking, it was massive. It was a massive announcement that got all those views and so was then the guys that were kind of mad about it were like, well, don’t feel like you did the right thing here. What you did was wrong was like, I know what I did was wrong. I’ll never do it again. They’re like, so don’t feel justified. I’m like, I know, but then guys are looking at each other. But it is pretty fucking sweet. And I definitely did the wrong thing and I would not advise that to anybody.

Michael Jamin:
Funny. Well, that’s so interesting.

Steve Lemme:
It was an accident. It was an accident.

Michael Jamin:
Happy accident.

Steve Lemme:
It was a stupid mistake.

Michael Jamin:
I have to, this whole thing is that’s what I love about you. You’re just this open book and you tell, I feel like I get an education at the Hollywood from what you guys do. But tell me this though, as I’ve taken an hour of your time and you’ve been very gracious, but as you’re, now that you’re a showrunner for four Seasons now, and you obviously do a lot of hiring, I got a lot of people who listening to this podcast, sparring writers, what do you look for in a script? What do you look for in a new writer? All that stuff.

Steve Lemme:
So it’s an interesting question for right now, because over the last, when we started with Tacoma, it was really at the beginning. Maybe it wasn’t the beginning, but for me as a show runner, when we were putting together the writer’s room, diversity was the first and most important thing that we were being told that we had to

Michael Jamin:
From the studio,

Steve Lemme:
The network in the studio to incorporate into the writer’s room. And it was women, people of color across the board, everything
You need to do this, which was fine. What I found was that then it used to be that I could, when we had a production deal at Warner Brothers for many years, and it’s like you receive these movie scripts that were R-rated comedies and you were looking at, because that’s what we were doing and we were going to be producing for other people. So it was like you just get every R-rated comedy sent your way. And so now, because of the diversity thing, we were receiving all kinds of scripts from all kinds of writers, from all kinds of backgrounds. And so it’s like I couldn’t receive a script from a Korean American woman, girl, young lady, of either whatever her sexuality was, and that experience would be reflected in the script,
Which is not something I could relate to. So what I began to look for was the jokes inside the script, where before I didn’t really, I could tell jokes and stuff, but I was just looking at the whole thing. Do I like the whole idea and stuff in terms of the scripts I started being sent, they weren’t ideas that I could particularly relate to unless it was like, okay, you’re the son of an immigrant who’s going to a private school where they are out of their element. Okay, that I can relate to. But it was in any script I started to look for what’s the type of joke they’re telling? Is it a more highbrow joke? Are there a bunch of some dumb jokes? Is it word play? What’s the type of humor here? And so that’s what I started to look for in terms of the writing material.
And then I found when I focused on that actually, but the plot of the script didn’t matter at all. It was like, can they tell a story and are the jokes that they’re setting up and paying off the type of jokes that I think will work for our show type of jokes, I will. Because it or not, everybody’s got a style of humor. And if you’re not telling the kind of jokes that I like to tell, it’s I’m just not going to funny. And I can’t hire you because in the writer’s room, everything you’re saying, I’m going to be like, it’s dead air between us. I don’t know. We’re not on the same page. So I started to realize I could just look for the type of sense of humor and then nothing else really mattered. So I look for the type of jokes. I like to know that they can tell a story from beginning, middle, and end.
And then the other thing is bring the person in. You find those scripts that you like. And then now we’re going to do the zoom meeting. And I’ll tell you what, if you’re the first person I meet, you got the job, got the job. No, but in this case, and as we proceeded through each season, you started to realize that you actually, you do want to meet everybody, but then it becomes a personality thing. Can we riff with each other? And again, it’s like it’s not so much where you’re from or who you are, what you represent. Can you and I have a conversation and have a funny conversation? That’s what we look for too. Because as you know, it’s like we’re 17 weeks in a writer’s room together. And the first few seasons we were in the room, and then the last couple of seasons we’ve been on Zoom. But in collaboration, sometimes there are disagreements and it’s like we have to each other. We have to live with each other for 17 weeks, and I have to read your material and you have to accept my criticisms and ideas. And you have to my ideas. Because the truth is, if we’re having a disagreement on something, I know who’s going to win the argument.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. People don’t realize that.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Young writers often don’t realize that the winner of the argument has already been decided. And that person sitting at the end of the table,

Steve Lemme:
I want to hear you defend your idea, but what I don’t want, number one, what I don’t want is for you to interrupt me a lot. What I don’t want is for you to get mad. If I’m not taking your idea. Also, it’s my show. Forget that it’s my show. I’m the one whose responsibility is, if my joke sucks, that’s my fucking problem.

Michael Jamin:
Yours.

Steve Lemme:
Nobody’s going to say, wait a second, that joke sucked. Lemme see who wrote this episode. Oh, it’s that person. I’m not going to hire them. Doesn’t work that way. So like the personality is important,

Michael Jamin:
Right? Sure.

Steve Lemme:
And that’s it for us. It’s also like we want to grow the family, and we’ve always wanted to grow the family since

Michael Jamin:
What does that mean?

Steve Lemme:
It means, since we made Puddle Cruiser, our first movie that we made before Super Troopers, we have people that worked on that crew. And if you do a good job and you’re cool, you’re getting the job the next time. And we’re going to also certainly getting our start in the movies, we were always on location, so we’d hang out afterwards and socialize,
And that’s important. And you’re having laughs. And then it’s like, fuck, I love you. I love you too. And then you’re hanging out socially outside of work. And then it’s like we’re friends. And it’s like, because I actually believe that if think I think about my best friends, it’s my friends from high school, I went to two high schools. So it’s my friends from both those high schools and then it’s my friends from college and then my friends from waiting tables. And then it’s the people that you, I think friendships are made when you have to hang out with people because left to my own devices, I’m not fucking hanging out with anybody. I want to be with my family, but if I have to hang out, if you call me up or let’s go get a beer, I’m in.

Michael Jamin:
Right? You’re in. Problem is you live too far away.

Steve Lemme:
The problem is you live too far away.

Michael Jamin:
No, honestly, you live far away. You both live very far away. So I, that’s not say no, we’re closer to Hollywood than you are. You’re not. You’re closer to Oxnard.

Steve Lemme:
I know. I know. We’re so far out. We’re so

Michael Jamin:
Far. If Hollywood were an Oxnard, then yeah, then I would live farther. You live far.

Steve Lemme:
I accept it. I accept it. But anyway, it’s like what’s with our Tacoma family? That’s why I say it’s like if you’re cool and you can get the job done, then the relationship will just continue. And then when the relationship continues, then people become friends and the family grows. And then it’s like, as you know, it’s like we sold this show and then we were like, well, we want some guys to be the showrunners who’ve worked in animation. And I’m like, we got the guys.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It’s funny when I tell that story and you guys, Hey, you want to do this project? I remember saying, yeah, absolutely. And then you’re like, do you want to hear the idea? It doesn’t matter. I just like working with you guys. It doesn’t matter. That’s what it was. Sure. I like working with you. It’s fun.

Steve Lemme:
Well, we do have a good time. And it’s funny because I’m always, I even remember those first two seasons where we were in the writer’s room together. I would always come, skulking you guys were, we had never done TV before or showrunner. So they were like, you do have to, your first hires have to be people with show running experience. You need to be mentored. And so that was you guys. And so I would always come pretty frequently. I feel like I came skulking around your offices after the writer’s day had finished, you actually were usually out the door.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, that’s the first rule that you never learned. When the boss says you’re free, you fucking run. You run. Because then they’ll come in with more work. You’re already at the elevator in the car,

Steve Lemme:
So you were always gone. But I would come back and talk to Seaver a lot, and I would give him more work, but I’d be like, what do you think about this? And pick his brain. Sometimes it’s like, and I’ve felt it with you guys before. The favorite one that Kevin and I sort of talk about is the pickleball episode that you guys were, you guys came with a pretty out there idea, which was,

Michael Jamin:
Is it our idea? I thought it was your idea. Pickleball.

Steve Lemme:
No, no. The pickleball was our idea. But you guys pitched and we outlined it, but you guys came back and pitched doing it like a 30 for 30.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, right. And

Steve Lemme:
Doing an alternative take on it where it was told in the frozen tundra, that kind of thing.
And I was the one who poo-pooed that and was like, I think we should just tell a straight story. It made me nervous and I just wanted to stick to the guns. And I even remember soda was like, because people really liked that original fresh take on it. But I was scared of it. I liked it too, but I was scared of it. And I always felt bad when I would shoot down. Somebody’s a big idea. Well see. And see was like, nah, fuck that. Who caress? We are here to do your, we don’t fucking care. Seabert made it very clear. You guys don’t fucking care.

Michael Jamin:
Well, it’s not that we don’t care. It’s not a we’re on a fight. We’re here to help you make your show. That’s it. Right.

Steve Lemme:
Which goes back to the young writers thing. We’ve had some young writers in the room that you’ve been by, and they can be difficult because they fight. They’re arguing with you, and we’re nice showrunners. You are for sure you showrunners who would fucking fire them or bite their head off at the very

Michael Jamin:
Least. Yes, yes. Yeah. And I say that to you all the time. You saw the show. It’s your vision. We’re here to help you make your vision. That’s it. It doesn’t make like I’m right or you’re wrong. It doesn’t your show. That’s it. And who’s to say that my version is better? I don’t know. It’s just the version. I think it’s better. It doesn’t mean anyone else thinks it’s better.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. Well, nobody really knows. And I remember seeing this thing, what was it? Was it talking, talking funny? Was it like Seinfeld and Chris Rock?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Steve Lemme:
And I’m doing my concentration phase and Ricky ve, I’m blanking on the fourth, but Seinfeld was like,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Steve Lemme:
It’s crazy. When you, was it Louis ck?

Michael Jamin:
It might’ve been Louis ck.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah, it was

Michael Jamin:
The biggest, right? Was it Dave Chappelle? Or if he was not in

Steve Lemme:
That? It wasn’t Chappelle. It wasn’t Chappelle. But Seinfeld was like, I go into these network meetings and he’s like, lemme tell you something about stand of comedy. You just stand a comedy. You don’t know if something is, you might think something is hysterical, but I’ll tell you what the audience is actually going to let you know if it’s funny.
And so the audience is half of it. And I think every comedian has that story of the joke that they thought was awesome, and they went out there and delivered it and it bombed. They’re like, well, it’s not funny. Or The way I did it isn’t funny. And maybe I can try to improve on it then It’s still not funny. But it’s like for them, the executives to be like, we don’t like this joke. We want you to do this is absurd. Like, well, I’m technically the funny one. And what you don’t realize is that you can’t tell me something is funny, right? Because nobody knows if something’s funny. So you might as well trust me. And so it’s the same way with running a show. It’s like I could be wrong. In fact, there’s a very good chance that I’m wrong, but it doesn’t matter in this case.

Michael Jamin:
But I’ll say as showrunners, you guys are very prepared. You come with your ideas and it was a pleasure. I mean, honestly, those four years, my complaint was more, I want to do more. That’s my only complaint.

Steve Lemme:
But I think that’s an interesting thing too, is that we learned that our way of doing things was actually not the norm.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It still wasn’t. Yeah, because even in the end, you still took, I’d say 90% of our advice and the other 10% did it your way, which is fine.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. But I always found it interesting, we try to do it that way, that you talked about on some of those shows where it’s like you have the

Michael Jamin:
Rewrite on the screen and the board

Steve Lemme:
Screen, the screen screen, and everybody’s going through the script, line by line and pitching things. And it’s like, to me and to Kevin, it was like, that’s an incredibly slow way of doing things.

Michael Jamin:
Well, it’s only so far as you decide this line doesn’t work for me. That’s all pitch on this line. So you decide what is working, what isn’t working

Steve Lemme:
Right, and

Michael Jamin:
Then I second guess you and I go, no, you’re wrong.

Steve Lemme:
And then

Michael Jamin:
It all falls apart.

Steve Lemme:
Yeah. Then it’s over. But I also wonder if that’s because we didn’t have the luxury of time ever.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Right. There’s definitely

Steve Lemme:
That, and part of that is because acting in the show. Yeah. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is, so network television, half hour shows are what, 23 episodes, and those are showrunners and writers that are just tucked away writing a show, and that writing is often going on while filming is happening and the season scripts aren’t even finished. Whereas with us, we’re acting in the show and we have to have total control over the script. So we have to be finished with the scripts before we start

Michael Jamin:
And directing exhausting. When I visit on set, I’m exhausted for all you guys here acting and memorizing and then directing Jesus.

Steve Lemme:
I get tired. My least favorite part is directing myself as an actor. It’s the only thing I don’t like about directing is acting at the same time.

Michael Jamin:
But you don’t mind directing if you’re not in the scene.

Steve Lemme:
I enjoy it. If I don’t have to act at all, then it’s pretty enjoyable to sit back and because then you can

Michael Jamin:
And direct really because just a prep and making sure you got the right cameras and the coverage, I don’t know. It’s very stressful,

Steve Lemme:
But that’s tiring. But then it’s as one of the lead characters in the show, it’s like I have to go home and I have to learn lines. You actually have to know your lines better because a lot of the other actors don’t know their lines very well. And they’re learning while we’re rehearsing. And that’s just an act of survival thing. You’re doing eight pages of dialogue a day. It’s hard to memorize that all each

Michael Jamin:
Day. Yeah, it’s very hard. It’s very

Steve Lemme:
Hard. But when you’re saying it and you’re up on your feet with the other actors, then it’s actually becomes really easy to remember. And then you’re getting so many wax at it. But after a day of shooting to go home and then sit down and study your lines is exhausting. As a director, you have to do that more because you don’t have time to rehearse. You just have to know

Michael Jamin:
You guys are hardworking, you really are. Or hardworking guys a hard

Steve Lemme:
Job.

Michael Jamin:
And if people don’t realize it, it’s very hard.

Steve Lemme:
But it’s a fun job and it’s the people around you that make it fun.

Michael Jamin:
You might be right. What advice do you have before we sign off for aspiring actors or writers today? This year? I don’t know, as opposed to 10 years ago.

Steve Lemme:
Well, it’s the same as it was 10 years ago. Stop. I think it can be depressing sometimes to hear, but if you look at Kevin and me, like I said early on, it’s like no one has ever handed us anything.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, right.

Steve Lemme:
Everything we’ve ever gotten, we’ve gotten for ourselves. Even now it’s like our TV show’s probably going to be canceled and not because we did anything wrong, we’ve actually crushed it and had great ratings. But the network

Michael Jamin:
Network is gone.

Steve Lemme:
It’s going away. They’re actually trying to kill the networks, so, which makes no sense, but it’s happening because everyone thinks streaming is where it’s at. No one wants free TV apparently, and they have 90 million viewers, but they want them all to go someplace else. And so it’s like take that as the example of how the industry works and it is you. It’s you against them, and you’re going to have to prove yourself. But also, none of the work goes to waste. Even if you write a script and it sucks. You’re learning how to write. Even if you write a script and it doesn’t sell, there might be some jokes in there that you can use for something else. Or if you look at quasi, we wrote that script 20 years ago, didn’t know when it would ever get made, and 20 years later, we got it made. The work is never wasted. Something about writing and acting and directing is that you’re always learning. I haven’t stopped learning my craft since I started it. And also the other piece of advice that I’ve given over the last 10 years is you should also, besides just sticking with it, you should actually make stuff. Because that’s essentially what we did. We were independent filmmakers and we just raised money and made it. And now that’s more easy than it ever was. That’s easier than it ever

Michael Jamin:
Was. Is it raising money because of the internet?

Steve Lemme:
Well, but no, but I mean, sure you could, but it’s like you used to pay for a camera, now you have cell phones and you have cheap phones, and you used to film used to be the most expensive thing there was. Now you can shoot on digital video and it’s like we didn’t even call cut anymore. And editing. You can edit on your computer and you can market can market on Instagram and TikTok, put little clips of your thing. People like it. Download the whole thing. It’s like just make stuff. Make stuff.

Michael Jamin:
Excellent advice. Steve Lemme, thank you for joining me here on episode 100. My pleasure. You’re a great guest. I got to say thank you. Way better than I thought you would turn out to be. I know you got me to say stuff. I don’t know how you did it. I didn’t get you to cry. I usually try to get people to cry. You try. Thank you so much. All right, everyone. Another great episode. I thought for more, keep following and that’s it. Keep listening. Thanks so much. Keep writing.

Phil Hudson:
This has been an episode of Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for Michael’s monthly webinar@michaeljamin.com slash webinar. If you found this podcast helpful, consider sharing it with a friend and leaving us a five star review on iTunes. For free screenwriting tips, follow Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminwriter. You can follow Phil Hudson on social media @PhilaHundson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It was edited by Dallas Crane Music by Ken Joseph. 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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