Writers’ Rooms: Naughty by Nature?

Filed Under Comedy Writers, Sitcom

Read the Sunday NY Times article (original link) (author’s archive), which details the possible ramifications of the sexual harassment suit against three Friends writers.

Though I was cautiously favoring the writers’ side when I first blogged the lawsuit, this article tipped me there completely when it noted that plaintiff had none of the sexual references directed at her. Even if the comments were lewd and immaterial to the matter at hand, they all could be part of the creative process. In fact, one anecdote about having oral sex with a prostitute who turned out to be a man inspired a joke actually used on the show. All grist for the mill. Even if you don’t like the humor used in the room, if it gets a usable result, it’s hard to argue it wasn’t necessary to get the job done. You can’t judge beforehand which smutty remark would finally break a joke, so as long as it doesn’t target anyone working on the show, it should be OK. Though it doesn’t excuse the comments on Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston or writer/creator Marta Kaufman... it’s clear that most of the “disgusting” language took place in regards to doing the work. 

Lindsay Robertson finds fault with the assistant for considering a field like comedy writing if she didn’t have the stomach for the writers’ room talk. I don’t really think that’s entirely fair, after all… at the bottom of any field you are essentially trying out the job and seeing if it’s right for you. (Obviously it wasn’t for the assistant, she’s now in the Air Force… pretty much the exact opposite of comedy writing.) You wouldn’t necessarily imagine the writers from Friends would be talking about Joey being a rapist from watching an episode of the show. But you could be told that when you applied.

I think for every writer and assistant there will need to be a waver which states that the employee acknowledges they will work in an environment where uncomfortable subject matter will come up in order to create material, don’t sue. Sign it if you want to make the funny. People should still have the option of suing if they feel they have been directly sexual harassed… like the Bill O’Reilly case.

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