On this week’s episode, I have Writer/Executive Producer, Jonathan Collier (Bones, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Monk, and many many more) and we dive into the origins of his career. We also talk about his side hustle and how that came about! Tune in as we have so much more.

Show Notes

Jonathan Collier on X: https://twitter.com/collierjonathan 

Jonathan Collier IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0171927/

Jonathan Collier on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Collier

A Paper Orchestra on Website: – https://michaeljamin.com/book

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Autogenerated Transcript

Jonathan Collier:
It was after season eight, and I thought they were trying to get me to go to King of the Hill, and I had whatever, I had the chance to stay at Simpson’s. And I thought, well, there’s no way it goes past season 10.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Or any show goes past season 10.

Jonathan Collier:
It just doesn’t happen. And so I left. I thought, I kind of felt badly leaving, but I thought, what’s much better? Do you want to show with some like in it

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about conversations in writing, art, and creativity. Today’s episode is brought to you by my debut collection of True Stories, a paper orchestra available in print, ebook and audiobook to purchase. And to support me in this podcast, please visit michael jamin.com/book and now on with the show.
All right, everyone, welcome back to What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? My next guest is an old colleague of mine, old friend from my days on King of the Hill before I let him talk his name’s John Coly or welcome to the show, but let me tell you what he’s done. The Sky’s credits are pretty incredible. So you sit back and relax. Lemme tell you what he’s done. So he wrote on The Simpsons. Okay, we’ve heard of that show and I’m only giving some of the highlights, some of the highlights, some Scooby dos, which I did not know. King of the Hill Monk, the Good Family Bones, the Good Cop Law and Order. I mean, this guy has done well. He’s done a lot. But thank you so much, man, for doing the show.

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, it’s a pleasure, Michael. Thank you for having me.

Michael Jamin:
Let me tell you about who you are because I remember very clearly walking to my, on my way to my office on King of the Hill. Yours was, I would always walk past you and I would often stop and say hello. Or sometimes I would just sit and you always had a big smile. You’re always so happy to greet me and have me there. And I never felt like I was getting in the way you Yeah, come on in. Come on. You’re always very kind.

Jonathan Collier:
I am endlessly in search of distractions.

Michael Jamin:
Well, I do remember walking past you on days when you’re on script and just looking miserable. I

Jonathan Collier:
Am. Thank you. Nope, that’s exactly it. Well observed. I am never more miserable than I am alone in writing.

Michael Jamin:
But why is that? Do you feel?

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, it’s a horrible thing to do. TV writing is one of the most fun, engaging, productive things you can do if you’re with other people. And I love that part of it. And the small portion of the job that relies on you being alone entails, I should say, you being alone and actually writing something without people around is misery for me.

Michael Jamin:
But is it the comedy part? You also do drama now? Which one is harder?

Jonathan Collier:
Comedy is harder.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. But yeah, I would agree with that as well. But is it miserable to write drama as well?

Jonathan Collier:
I find the process of keeping stuff alive and interesting and propulsive is really, really hard.

Michael Jamin:
And how do know? You know when it’s alive?

Jonathan Collier:
What, sorry?

Michael Jamin:
How do you know?

Jonathan Collier:
How do I know when it’s right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. How do you know?

Jonathan Collier:
Part of what makes it so miserable is you can always second guess yourself. And even more so when there’s jokes involved.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well, for jokes for sure. And what was that transition like for you? I’m amazed that anyone can do it.

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, I got very lucky. What happened was that King of the Hill was, we got canceled. You remember? It was time. The show got canceled. It was canceled two times.

Michael Jamin:
We left after the first time.

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah, left. So it got canceled. And I really realized it was for real when they started moving our furniture out of the office

Michael Jamin:
Because you were going to squat there.

Jonathan Collier:
I had every intention of squatting.

Michael Jamin:
You thought it was all Big bluff until they moved at the furniture.

Jonathan Collier:
And so that was happening. And I had done comedy for about 17 years at that point. And I didn’t love doing for camera comedy. I liked doing animation and there were no real single camera comics, comedies on the air at the time, and I didn’t quite know what to do, but I knew I stopped watching comedies. I kind of could feel the sweat on them and the work on them because I worked in so many comedy rooms. And I got really lucky, which is that Andy Breckman, who was running Monk at the time, who created the show, he used to have three guest writers come in every season. And he did that because he felt like he kept him on track. If you came in as a guest to the room in New York, it made him concentrate and work harder and make sure that in five days you would break a story.

Michael Jamin:
Why? Because people flew in, you mean?

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah, because the network would fly, the studio would fly you into New York and put you up and they would only keep you there for five days.

Michael Jamin:
Okay, that’s interesting.

Jonathan Collier:
I got one of those. So I got one of those guest shots. And the other thing I got way I got lucky was

Michael Jamin:
Wait, but how did you get that guest shot?

Jonathan Collier:
I got that guest shot because this is embarrassing. My agent at the time who I didn’t think was doing enough for me, got me a meeting with Andy Breckman, and I thought it was just one meeting with Andy Breckman, who’s a great guy, and I love the show, but who knows if it’s going to turn into anything. I fired my agent, moved on to another agent, and then Andy called me up and said, oh, we want you to do this episode a month.

Michael Jamin:
Right.

Jonathan Collier:
But there was no,

Michael Jamin:
But I’ve already fired my agent.

Jonathan Collier:
That was done. What happened was that, anyway, Andy used to only hire comedy writers to do guest episodes.

Michael Jamin:
Why?

Jonathan Collier:
Because his theory was that he could teach a comedy writer how to write a procedural. He could not teach a procedural writer how to be fun. So anyway, they flew into New York, I was in the room, we broke a story and I wrote it and it went well. The whole thing went well, and I got very lucky again because no one had ever really left the show or been added to it. This was the fourth season and one writer was leaving and Andy offered me the job. So I came in and went on staff the next season.

Michael Jamin:
How many seasons did you do there?

Jonathan Collier:
I did two more seasons and then the writer’s strike of 2007 happened. And when that happened, I didn’t know how long that would go on. Mike and the Good Family was starting up and they got what was called a strike waiver, and there were certain production companies and one was MRC, media Rights Capital, and they made a deal with the WGA, with the Writers Guild that they could do shows that were during the strike and it would not be strike breaking to work on those shows if they agreed to abide by the Wgas terms, the writer’s terms. The WGA was using that as a tactic to try to force the studios to,

Michael Jamin:
And it’s funny, they didn’t really do that this last strike.

Jonathan Collier:
No, I don’t think it really helped.

Michael Jamin:
You don’t think it helped?

Jonathan Collier:
I don’t know if it did or actually, no, I can’t say if it did or not. I thought all I can say is I think this last strike was better run than the first one. I think a lot was learned from the first one. Anyway, I left Monk because I got a job right away rather than being strike.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Let me ask you that. When you’re on Monk and you are with procedural writers who are not comedy writers, when they would pitch something that you and I would call a clam, or if you would pitch it in the room at the Simpson, the King of the Hill, someone would say, right? Was there a lot of that going on? Were you the guy who said, yeah, that’s not really a joke?

Jonathan Collier:
Well, no. At Mon though, you had, first of all, it was comedy writers. It was a small staff and it was four people whose background was comedy, including Andy Breckman, and then one High Conrad, who was just a terrific mystery writer. And he had written something like 200 mystery books. Oh,

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Jonathan Collier:
And the way he got on was that Andy met with him and took him out for lunch and said, look, I love your mystery books, and you have two choices. One is you come on staff or two was I’m just going to steal all your plots anyway.

Michael Jamin:
Oh wow.

Jonathan Collier:
Hi was on whatever came on staff, and he was on UNK for the whole run. And then he was on The Good Cop with Me Too. It was on, that was another Andy Breckman show.

Michael Jamin:
Right. It’s so interesting. And to what did you think of that world? I mean, compared to comedy?

Jonathan Collier:
Well, it was a really kind of easy, delicate transition because it was a mystery show once again, written by comedy writers.

Michael Jamin:
Writers. It was light. It was fun.

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah. A procedural written by non-com writers would’ve been a tougher adjustment for me.

Michael Jamin:
But even the procedural explain to me and everyone else, how do you write a procedural?

Jonathan Collier:
I think there’s many different ways to write a procedural. The way I write a procedural is what really happened comes first.

Michael Jamin:
What really happens comes first. What does that mean?

Jonathan Collier:
Okay. What you have to think of is what was our crime? What’s the procedure about? What are we investigating?

Michael Jamin:
Okay, so give me an example.

Jonathan Collier:
It’s not a medical procedural. This is a criminal procedural. I’m talking

Michael Jamin:
About, okay, so someone’s dead,

Jonathan Collier:
Someone is dead. And then you have all sorts of questions you can ask that can form the basis for an episode. You can say, oh, is it an accident? Is it a suicide? Is it a murder? If it is a murder, or who did it? Why did they do it? Who could have done it? There any number of, is it an open book where the audience knows what happened? Is it a closed book where the audience doesn’t know and learns along with our investigators?

Michael Jamin:
Did you basically do both?

Jonathan Collier:
Monk did both opened and closed book. And Monk also did a combination of who done, its who was the killer, why done, its, we know who the killer is, but why on earth would they kill someone? And that’s how we can prove they did it. And how done its, it’s an incredibly, it’s a locked room mystery, for instance, where someone was killed inside the locked room, how did the killer get in there and do

Michael Jamin:
It? Interesting. Had

Jonathan Collier:
To figure out how the crime was done.

Michael Jamin:
And so these words are so funny. So as you were breaking the story, you’d break ’em in the room with all the writers, I assume, right? And then throw out ideas, and then someone would say, okay, but let’s do this, make it a wide, let’s make it a wide done at this week. Is that what it is?

Jonathan Collier:
Well, I think we’d look at the killing and say, what’s a really, really ingenious killing? We could do?

Michael Jamin:
Okay.

Jonathan Collier:
Say, okay, let’s look at the motive. And then we’d say, last, you’d spend probably say you were breaking a story over the course. If it was just us, we probably spent seven to eight days breaking a story. We weren’t having a guest writer in. And the first three or four days probably spent just figuring out how the crime was done and why really getting

Michael Jamin:
It seems very hard to me. This seems very hard to me.

Jonathan Collier:
For me, it was somewhat natural way to do it because it was really fun. And for some, I feel like I was using my comedy muscles, even my plotting muscles to figure out why you did it. And then you work backwards once, and this is just us. Other shows do it different ways. There’s probably a million different ways to do it.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. But you start work backwards. So first you decide if it’s going to be a who, what or why is that what it’s,

Jonathan Collier:
First of all, first of all, you can’t figure out who kills who and why, who killed who, who kills who. How do they do it, why do they do it, where do they do it? All those things. Then you figure out how do we solve it? And for a show like Monk, he’d also say, well, I have someone who has OCD. I have someone who was painfully shy as someone who was any number of traumas in his life. Also a comic character who happens to be the saddest person on television, and he has a tragedy to his life. And what’s the world I can put him in to make him the most uncomfortable?

Michael Jamin:
Right? And that’s how you begin. That’s where you start. That’s

Jonathan Collier:
Often where, that’s often where the fun of it comes from. The comedy is from seeing him in the world where he’s uncomfortable, because comedy is all about discomfort. The emotional story would often come from how he will relate to the world and what it would bring up in his own life. And then the procedural story is how you solve the crime.

Michael Jamin:
You

Jonathan Collier:
Go ahead. Sorry.

Michael Jamin:
No, no, go ahead.

Jonathan Collier:
The way one could look at it is for us on that show, the procedural story was almost with the armature. It’s what you would call the plot, I guess. And the real story was the emotional story that was threaded through the plot.

Michael Jamin:
Right, of course.

Jonathan Collier:
And the two of them dovetail and one comment on the other, like a musical comedy, for instance, where songs are the twists, they provide the transition points in the story. You could say the emotional twists or the procedural twists would provide a transition point for each other.

Michael Jamin:
It still sounds very hard to me. Does it get easier?

Jonathan Collier:
Well, I think it probably sounds hard because I’m probably overcomplicating it.

Michael Jamin:
Well, not really, because you’re solving, because see, and I are thinking of writing a procedural, and so we’re watching some, and I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t think I know how to do this.

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, I’ll help you with it.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, good. You’re hired.

Jonathan Collier:
It is not that hard because it’s actually easier I found than writing an episode of King of a Hill where someone buys a new hat and it changes their life and life. You have to make a whole story out of that.

Michael Jamin:
Right. But you still have to figure out, it’s a mystery. You’re solving a crime and you have to make it so it’s smart. I mean, I’ve watched other ones where they throw in a clue just when you need it, oh good, I dug a new clue so I can figure out another scene.

Jonathan Collier:
And there’s shows that do that. And there’s shows that I like, if you don’t get a show like Merab Town,

Michael Jamin:
Right? I haven’t

Jonathan Collier:
Seen it. Okay. That’s real lies procedural. And what you realize is it is not about solving the crime. I mean, it’s all the crime, but it is really about the emotional drama that’s happening. And the crime is, once again, is almost the backdrop

Michael Jamin:
For it. But to me, that’s what makes it so that’s why I want to get rid of the crime. Can we just focus on the relationship between the mother and the daughter that I get?

Jonathan Collier:
And the one I thought does comment on the other, and they’re both of us family, and I felt like that show worked pretty well. It’s very much not a show that I would know how to do.

Michael Jamin:
Well, and that takes me to law and your latest, but Okay, bones, and let’s talk about what you’re doing now. That’s very different. Law and order.

Jonathan Collier:
Well, I’m not doing Law and Order now. I stopped after last season.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, you did? Okay. But that must be very procedural. I mean, procedural.

Jonathan Collier:
Procedural, very procedural, very different beast. I mean, it was a challenge to figure it out, but I think I’m much more comfortable in this space where there’s more character involved.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, right. I would think

Jonathan Collier:
The part I like best is where I’ve been most comfortable and enjoyed the most is character driven procedurals.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Which is kind of like what USA does, right?

Jonathan Collier:
Well, back when they existed,

Michael Jamin:
Back when they were doing it.

Jonathan Collier:
So no, in other shows, there’s been a lot of character-based procedurals on TV over the years, and that’s what Bones was. Keone was a character-based procedural.

Michael Jamin:
And you were the showrunner that you were the executive producer?

Jonathan Collier:
I was the showrunner for a while, yes.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And that was the first time. Was that the first time you ran a show or no?

Jonathan Collier:
No. I’ve run another show on the CW called As If

Michael Jamin:
Before. Oh. But this is the, I still would imagine now that you’re the boss of a procedural, I don’t know. I need help. So it seems so hard to me. Wellm hung up on that.

Jonathan Collier:
I took over a show that was already working very

Michael Jamin:
Well.

Jonathan Collier:
Har Hansen, who created, it was a hundred yards away on the Fox lot in his office. I could always go running to him for help if I needed

Michael Jamin:
It. Right. And you had the same staff,

Jonathan Collier:
Sorry.

Michael Jamin:
And you had the staff, the previous same staff.

Jonathan Collier:
We had much of the same staff. And I had a co-Ho Runner, Michael Peterson, who was terrific. And I had Steven Nathan, who I took over the show from and only left because I was still a very close friend, and I could call him up whenever I needed to.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Jonathan Collier:
I think starting from scratch is always much harder, or walking into a situation not immediately comfortable is always much harder too.

Michael Jamin:
But now that you’ve, I see this as opening a lot of doors for you. Has it? Because now you have two genres under your belt.

Jonathan Collier:
Yes and no. It’s always hard. I mean, you have to always be out there in whatever writing. And there’s a limited number of jobs that a lot of people want to do, and the people who want to do those jobs tend to be, when you think of it, just in terms of being practical, it’s a great profession when you’re doing it. But it’s one of the stupidest professions to try to do because your competition is really smart, really talented, really talented, really inspired, really wants to do it and works really hard. There’s a lot of businesses that aren’t like that

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to. What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Today’s episode is brought to you by my new book, A Paper Orchestra, A collection of True Stories. John Mayer says, it’s fantastic. It’s multi timbral. It runs all levels of the pyramid at the same time. His knockout punches are stinging, sincerity, and Kirks Review says, those who appreciate the power of simple stories to tell us about human nature or who are bewitched by a storyteller who has mastered his craft, will find a delightful collection of vignettes, a lovely anthology that strikes a perfect balance between humor and poignancy. So my podcast is not advertiser supported. I’m not running ads here. So if you’d like to support me or the podcast, come check out my book. Go get an ebook or a paperback, or if you really want to treat yourself, check out the audio book. Go to michael jamin.com/book. And now back to our show.
How do you know, were you in a lot of businesses?

Jonathan Collier:
I have a side business.

Michael Jamin:
What is your side business? Is it you rent folding shows for parties?

Jonathan Collier:
Well, no. I actually do multifamily housing.

Michael Jamin:
Wait. Oh, I knew about this. Right.

Jonathan Collier:
And believe me, my competition in multifamily housing will be damned if they want to spend 80 bucks to fix the toilet the right way.

Michael Jamin:
Now, do you build or you refurbish? What does that mean?

Jonathan Collier:
I do it with a partner who’s also a writer, and we refurbish and build and rent.

Michael Jamin:
And Is it in LA or all over the country?

Jonathan Collier:
It’s in Los Angeles.

Michael Jamin:
This is amazing. I remember, but I don’t know. That’s a whole different skillset. Who told you you were qualified to do that?

Jonathan Collier:
I think we always revert back to who we are,

Michael Jamin:
Which was, you were always a real estate mogul in the beginning.

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, I’m not a mogul by any means. We’re mom and pop level of multifamily housing, but whatever. My family had small family businesses probably going back to the Middle Ages and they were butchers and bakers and ran a little in, did all those things. And that’s where I immediately felt comfortable doing this.

Michael Jamin:
Really. Was it your idea to get into, how did that idea come up?

Jonathan Collier:
That came up during the 2007 strike also?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, everything comes up during the strike when you’re out of work.

Jonathan Collier:
So you’re out of work, you’re walking around with a picket sign. Yeah. I was thinking, wait a second. I’m walking around with a picket sign with a lot of angry, middle-aged guys. We’re all mad at their fathers and taking it out in the studio.

Michael Jamin:
Okay,

Jonathan Collier:
We are at the mercy. We’re putting yourself in a position where we’re walking around with a sign waiting for a giant multinational corporation to pay us a lot of money to do something that we frankly love to do. And I’m not really in control of my faith here.

Michael Jamin:
No, we’re not.

Jonathan Collier:
And so that’s where my partner and I decided to do it. And then fortunately for us, I know what happened. I talked about it and I started talking about it with one of my daughter’s, babysitters.

Michael Jamin:
How many babysitters does she have?

Jonathan Collier:
We had a hundred babysitters, a hundred best babysitters in all of Los

Michael Jamin:
Angeles. She required a lot of babysitters. Okay,

Jonathan Collier:
Whatever. When we go out, we’d have whatever, five people we call, whatever. And I’ve all come over at once. This woman was actually getting, I talked to her about it because while she was babysitting for us, she was getting her real estate license.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. Wow.

Jonathan Collier:
And so she called me up and said, I have a building for you, and it is a really good deal, and Washington Mutual Bank is trying to unload it really fast. This is now 2008 or so, and the whole real estate market’s falling apart.

Michael Jamin:
And how many units is this building approximately?

Jonathan Collier:
This building has five units.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. So it’s small. We

Jonathan Collier:
Did not know what we were doing, but we went and looked at it. We bought it.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. We had to make a company first. You had to do all the legal stuff.

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah. We formed what’s called an LLC. We talked to a lawyer who was a cousin of someone, and they told us what to do.

Michael Jamin:
Real estate. As it turned out, a brilliant idea. It was probably the best idea you’ve ever had in la.

Jonathan Collier:
It was a very, very lucky time to do it. And so people, I found once again, like I was saying earlier, my competition in real estate was not as talented or hardworking or smart as my competition in television writing, but they were a lot luckier. And just by the strange confluence of events where interest rates went down and the economy started to pick up eventually, we all just by good fortune, by luck, it worked out well. It worked. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
This is important because as you mentioned, nothing is guaranteed as a writer, nothing is guaranteed. And so to have something on the side is really helpful. Gives you some breathing. I highly

Jonathan Collier:
Recommend to people. I always tell whatever, when I talk to actors, I’m always thrilled when I hear that they’re writing, even though they tend to be very good writers, and I don’t like that. Or when they’re doing something, when they’re going to law school, when they’re doing anything else, it’s just nice to have a backup. It helps you sleep better at night.

Michael Jamin:
It does. Yeah, it really does. What’s that?

Jonathan Collier:
You have your podcast.

Michael Jamin:
This is my empire, as you see. There you

Jonathan Collier:
Go.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. My media empire. Now, you wrote an episode of King of the Hill, because when I talk about King of the Hill, and this is 20 years ago, we were doing it. One episode people often bring up to me is Bobby is the Pygmalion episode, which you wrote.

Jonathan Collier:
Oh,

Michael Jamin:
People want to know about that. And we were just joining the show at that time. I’m

Jonathan Collier:
Glad to hear that. I still think about that episode actually, when I said, I hate writing alone. I don’t hate all of writing alone. I love the last two or three days of writing alone, punching up. I feel like face with a blank page. And once I’ve kind of taken a sledgehammer and beaten that script into shape, actually turning it from serviceable to good is actually fun. That part of it. And I remember the last three days or so on that script were really fun.

Michael Jamin:
But how did it, I mean, that was a departure. I mean, everyone there said, this is the departure. This is the episode, which ended in a really dark place.

Jonathan Collier:
It was a gothic thriller.

Michael Jamin:
How did you sell it to Greg? To the staff? I dunno if he was running the show then How did you sell? It was there. It was a departure.

Jonathan Collier:
Greg was there, so Greg was still there. I don’t know if he was officially running the show, but he was there. Greg had to approve everything. He was basically, and Greg, God bless him. Not only did he embrace the gothic nature of it, but he pushed it even more. And some of the really strong gothic elements like killing.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. The guy died at the end

Jonathan Collier:
Who loved. I think that may have been Greg’s idea.

Michael Jamin:
Was there a moment though, when you go, wait a minute. Are you sure that this doesn’t seem like the tone of the show? I mean, it’s mostly Hank watering his lawn.

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, no. Once we were going to do it, I was off full speed ahead. I wanted to embrace it also. Now, there were other people there at the time. It was a big staff and whatever. Everyone had valid opinions or people who did not embrace it the way that they were entitled to that. But I think we pretty much got the episode we wanted up on the screen for

Michael Jamin:
Sure, man. I mean, that got some big, I remember watching the Color in the animation. We watched the color in the Room. That’s a big, it was like, whoa.

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah. There were very large twists and turns. Yeah. It is always really fun to push a genre.

Michael Jamin:
It is

Jonathan Collier:
Carefully, closely observed family comedy and turned it into a large scale gothic drill.

Michael Jamin:
I had a conversation with Dave Krinsky. He ran the show at one point that, and the funny thing is, because people on social media, they’re still watching King of the Hill. I haven’t watched it since we were on it, because that’s it. You leave it alone, you’re onto the next show, and people really remember it. They remember it. They want to talk about it. And I’m like, I’m sorry. I don’t really remember this episode. And Krinsky felt the same way, and he ran it. It’s like, I don’t really remember this. Do you remember everything? Oh, no. No. It’s interesting that I think people have this expectation of the writers that we should still be living in it and we can’t because we have to move on to whatever else we’re writing.

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah. No, you only have so much room in your

Michael Jamin:
Head. Yeah.

Jonathan Collier:
I mean, part of it is we’re too busy hanging on every grudge and slight and moment of shame in our lives to use in our comedy.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well, okay, so I know you don’t have too much time, but what do you writing? What do you want to write next? Do you want to write procedural comedy? What do you want to do? I

Jonathan Collier:
Really like the procedural space. I’m working on a procedural right now with a terrific writer who I was on bones with

Michael Jamin:
To sell as a pitch.

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that makes sense. I mean, and given your track record, I would assume it’d probably be easier for you to sell a procedural. I don’t know. There, no,

Jonathan Collier:
I have no idea. We are in an odd market, so we’ll see.

Michael Jamin:
What do you know about the market? I hear just from talking to other writers, I don’t think anybody really know. What do you know about the market?

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, nothing. I know what I read in the trades. I know what I read in Deadline Hollywood.

Michael Jamin:
And by that you mean what’s getting picked up?

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah, I know what everyone else knows. I have no information. I do know anecdotally, my friends at least have had trouble selling things.

Michael Jamin:
They’re having trouble selling right now. That’s what I’m telling them, because they don’t know how much money they have. Yeah.

Jonathan Collier:
It is an inflection point in the business, and there’s been periodic inflection points, whatever, where it’s pointed in one direction or another, but no one really knows what they mean while you’re in them.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah. It’s so, so smart about real estate. I’m still hung up on that, and I know this is not a podcast about that, but in a way it is. It’s a podcast about having your fingers in many whatever it is, pots or something. Pies. What is it? I don’t know what the expression is.

Jonathan Collier:
It is generally pies.

Michael Jamin:
Is it? What about a pot pie, like a chicken pot pie? It’s generally pies, you said, man. So, okay. So that’s kind of what you’re taking out there is you’re working on, and how often do you meet and do you work on it?

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, we meet every day really? More or less every day. I like to work for about three or four hours

Michael Jamin:
In person. You meet?

Jonathan Collier:
No, we work on Zoom. And I don’t like Zoom rooms, and I’ve been in some of those, but I like working with just one writer on Zoom, if you know them Well, it’s fun. I mean, I found that in a regular room, and I’m sure people have told you this on your podcast and otherwise that, especially when you’re No anything character based, any show, if it is not character based, the fun of it really is. And a lot of the creativity comes from what’s not going on in the room. It comes from walking to lunch. It comes from Brow Cup coffee. It comes from killing time doing something else on the lot or your office. And that’s when the ideas kind of come out of you. And you don’t get that on Zoom.

Michael Jamin:
No, you don’t. I wonder. Yeah. So was never Back. The rooms never got back. The last show I was on, it was still Zoom. Have you gone back in person?

Jonathan Collier:
No.

Michael Jamin:
No. Isn’t that weird?

Jonathan Collier:
Really? I mean, I helped out, I did some punch up on a movie, and that was in person and on some punch up on an HBO series. Really? That didn’t go, but that was whatever, a mini room. And those were both in person, but they were small and they were limited duration. So like a full functioning show in person. I have not done since the

Michael Jamin:
Pandemic. I wonder. Yeah, I wonder. They’re just trying to save money. I don’t think they’re about saving lives. I think it’s about saving money.

Jonathan Collier:
I think they’re saving money. I think that sometimes one thing they found during Zoom is you get to writers in different cities. And so if you have writers in different cities to even the playing field, whatever, everyone’s on Zoom rather than someone being in New York and someone being in Seattle and someone being in Los Angeles. But I certainly enjoy and benefit from the physical presence of other writers. It’s hard enough to do it much easier and more fun when you’re with other people.

Michael Jamin:
For me,

Jonathan Collier:
I have worked with writers who love being alone doing it. They have an entirely different experience and approach to it.

Michael Jamin:
Well, a lot of it’s about the commute to work. You’re probably central.

Jonathan Collier:
I’m fairly central, but I know people who actually, they don’t want to be in a room. I’ve worked with wonderful writers who would much prefer to be alone and knock it out.

Michael Jamin:
Do you like going, working on set? Do you like being on set?

Jonathan Collier:
Yeah, I do. I mean, I think it depends. Every set has its own character politics, and it’s not particularly fun being on set if you have a difficult lead or whatever, if there’s something going on there or if there’s tension between the stars or if there’s, there’s any number of ways you can have tension on the set. By and large, I’ve been very lucky. They’ve been good sets, and it’s been fun. And also, it’s the last step and whatever. One thing you realize on the set is when you spend significant time on the set, you realize how many people are really offering the show that you may have ridden,

Michael Jamin:
That you may have, I’m sorry, what?

Jonathan Collier:
Your name is on a script, but everyone on that set, hair and makeup, your whatever, your director, everyone has your camera operators. They’re all helping create that show.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Jonathan Collier:
Writers in their own way, and they’re adding elements to it.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And I know I have to ask this because we have so many fans of The Simpsons, but what was that whole experience like for you? Because you were there in the early days?

Jonathan Collier:
Fairly early days. It was really, first of all, it was a huge break in my career that was good for me. I didn’t have my first child until very late in my stay there. And that changed everything where suddenly, oh wait, sitting here with our comedy writers till 1130 at night might not be as energizing and fun when you have a baby to get home

Michael Jamin:
To

Jonathan Collier:
That you want to see. So the hours were fairly brutal back then, but I still wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Michael Jamin:
I can’t imagine, though, that the hours were like that now, right?

Jonathan Collier:
No, they’re fairly from what friends, were still there. And the hours are very sane now. And they’re generally home for dinner.

Michael Jamin:
I mean, that’s so interesting is that they’ve made a career that show’s been on 30, what, 35 years or something?

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, yeah. And they can still turn out some terrific episodes,

Michael Jamin:
But it’s a career. Your career, okay. You might as well be working at Exxon. That’s your career. You get a gold watch and then that’s you’re done.

Jonathan Collier:
When I left, it was after season eight, and I thought they were trying to get me to go to King of the Hill, and I had whatever, I had the chance to stay at Simpson’s. And I thought, well, there’s no way it goes past season 10

Michael Jamin:
Or any show goes past season 10.

Jonathan Collier:
It just doesn’t happen. And so I left. I thought I kind of felt badly leaving, but I thought, what much better do you want to show with some life in it?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But then again, it’s also these people that’s, they have job security, which is unheard of in Hollywood.

Jonathan Collier:
It is absolutely unheard of. And no, actually, that’s one of the great gigs to have right now.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah. For sure. For sure. I know you got to go. We talked about this earlier, but I want to thank you in person as we want to hang up and then briefly thank you, and then I’ll let you leave.

Jonathan Collier:
Oh, thank you for having me. This was really fun.

Michael Jamin:
This is, honestly, it was so interesting catching up and just hearing your perspective on all this. And yeah, you’re going to be our, if the show ever goes, you’re our first hire to make a procedural. I don’t know how to make, I don’t know how to do any of this. Oh, thank you. Yeah.

Jonathan Collier:
Are we on air now or are we recording

Michael Jamin:
Still? Not yet. I’ll sign off and I’ll stop recording. Okay. Okay, everyone, thank you so much. That was John Collier. Great guy. Okay,

Jonathan Collier:
Everyone. He promised me a job on air. You heard it.

Michael Jamin:
I did say that. Yeah, but there’s always got to go. That’s a bigger, so it’s an empty promise. So, all right, everyone, thank you so much. Go. Yeah. A paper orchestra dropped this week, my new collection of True stories@michaeljamin.com. Go check it out. Alright, everyone, thanks so much. Until next week. Keep writing.
Wow. I did it again. Another fantastic episode of, what the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? How do I do it week after week? Well, I don’t do it with advertiser supported money. I tell you how I do it. I do it with my book. If you’d like to support this show, if you’d like to support me, go check out my new book, A Paper Orchestra. It asks the question, what if it’s the smallest, almost forgotten moments that are the ones that shape us most? Laura Sanoma says, good storytelling also leads us to ourselves, our memories, our beliefs, personal and powerful. I loved The Journey, and Max Munic, who was on my show says, as the father of daughters, I found Michael’s understanding of parenting and the human condition to be spot on. This book is a fantastic read. Go check it out for yourself. Go to michael jamin.com/book. Thank you all and stay tuned. More. Great stuff coming next week.

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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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