Interview: Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller of "What We're Not Writing" by Rob Baedeker

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Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller are Emmy-nominated writers whose credits include CBS’s “Late Show With David Letterman,” Comedy Central’s “The Showbiz Show With David Spade,” and MTV’s “The Andy Dick Show.” When the Writers Guild went on strike in November, they launched a new website, “What We’re Not Writing." Rob Baedeker interviewed the pair this week.

Describe your site, “What We’re Not Writing,” and tell me how it got started.

GM: Every day we’ve been posting a description of the show or movie we’re not working on because we’re on strike. The idea was to bring the studios to their knees by letting them know the brilliance they’re missing out on.

JG: We know there are important issues at stake, but we felt like a lot of writers were starting to take themselves too seriously, as far as the contribution they’re making to society with “One Tree Hill” or whatever. So we decided to make fun of that a little.

These unwritten scripts are jokes, but have you come up with any that actually seem viable? For example, I would watch "Small Plates, Big Problems", a feature screenplay about a petty thief on the run from the mob who hides out by opening a tapas bar.

GM: Really? Do you want to buy it? 35 bucks.

JG: Most of the time, we try to play on some recognizable genre or premise or character, but we try to make the idea a little bit worse in some way. But it’s a fine line. We don’t want to get too wacky. We’d rather err on the side of “I could imagine them making that.”

GM: Sometimes we come up with the title first, usually a bad pun, and then figure out what the show or movie would be.

JG: In general, we’ve realized that it’s a lot easier to come up with ideas not to write than ideas to write.

Do you each have personal-favorite entries?

JG: Asking us to choose between these horrible ideas is like asking us to choose between our children. In that having children was also a horrible idea.

GM: I like anything where the story is set in motion by someone getting struck by lightning. So that’s been a recurring theme.

JG: But we do have a place on the site where other writers can post what they’re not writing, and some of those have been really funny. Like “Keepin’ It Zipped!”, a teen sex comedy about a bunch of guys trying not to lose their virginity.

GM: And I also liked the one-stop TV drama called “Detective Law, M.D.”

What’s the worst idea you’ve actually pitched (as non-striking writers)?

GM: We pitched a movie called “Mathletes,” which played all the conventions of a sports movie in the world of high school math. But we were told that for some reason audiences wouldn’t want to watch kids do math for an hour and a half.

JG: And we once put together a pitch for an idea a production company had, which was basically that a kid wakes up to find he has an alien penis. That was before we realized we were allowed to say no to things.

Is that true?

GM: Yes, unfortunately. The idea was something about how when you go through puberty, you feel like you’re an alien, and making that literal. But it pretty much boiled down to “alien penis.”

Has it been cathartic to step out of the industry and parody it?

JG: A lot of the writing we’ve done, especially on late-night shows, even though it’s done within the industry, has sort of a critical point of view, making fun of all the crap that’s out there. So it’s not new to us, but it’s definitely fun.

GM: Also, since back on The Andy Dick Show, we’ve loved writing characters who are overly confident idiots, and in a way, we get to be those guys on the blog.

JG: So, yes, it’s been nice to “step out of the industry” for a while, but we can’t wait to step in it again. We want to step in it so good that we can’t wipe it off, and it starts stinking up the place, and you try to take an old toothbrush to it, but at some point you realize you’re just going to have to throw out the shoes. Wait, what are we talking about?

There are rumors that the strike may be ending soon. Are you going to continue to do the blog? Has it been fun enough to keep it going, or was it just a way to kill time? Have you been getting a lot of good response to it?

JG: We’d like to keep some kind of Miller & Green website going. We don’t know exactly what it’ll be, but this has been fun to do, and a good way to make sure we write at least one joke every day. And it seems to be getting a good response, and even some press. Which is fun, too.

GM: I guess the first thing we’ll do on the blog is take a lot of credit for ending the strike. It took over 60 unwritten projects, but it worked. You’re welcome, America.

You can find What We're Not Writing online here. Rob Baedeker is a member of the comedy group Kasper Hauser and freelance writer.