The original post for this episode can be found here.

Craig Mazin: Hi this is Craig. Today on this podcast there is one F-bomb that gets dropped, so if you do have some small kids around you in the car or at home just be aware that that’s going to happen at some point. You might want to put the ear muffs on.

Hello and welcome. My name is Craig Mazin and this is Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

John August will not be with us today. He is in Japan doing stuff. Later on in this episode we will have a “What is John doing in Japan?” lightning round because I honestly don’t know. But I have some guesses.

I will be your sole podcast host, but not alone as we bring back one of our favorite guests, or at least one of mine. I don’t really know what John thinks about him. But I love him. The writing master of not one but two – count ‘em two – hit comedies on HBO. Mr. Alec Berg. But first, say nothing Alec Berg. Say nothing. There’s some follow up.

We did an episode recently, you know what, go ahead. Say a little something, because you can join in on this part.

Alec Berg: Hello. Hello. Can anyone hear me?

Craig: You can see why he’s so, so successful. A couple of weeks ago we did a show about money. Money stuff that writers have to deal with. And got into some nitty gritty things about payroll and corporations. It was a laugh-a-minute, Alec. We have a follow up from Anonymous who writes the following.

“I work for an entertainment payroll company.” You know this is going to be good, right? You’re already excited?

Alec: My interest is piqued.

Craig: “So I finally have a correction for Craig. Loan out corporations generally can’t collect unemployment.” All right, so I had this whole thing. All right, so you get paid, you work at Starbucks, you get a paid a wage. And they take out unemployment insurance. It’s UI. It’s on your paystub. And then when you lose your job, if you should, then you can file for unemployment and you start to collect that money back. That’s how that works.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: I believed that when we pay ourselves from our corporation that a corporation does the same thing on our behalf. And then we could reclaim that money back if we stopped working.

Alec: And?

Craig: This guy basically says, “Shut up, idiot.” I’m not going to read his whole–

Alec: That’s a terse summary.

Craig: The whole email is much, much nicer than what I just said. But basically what he said is dumb-dumb you’re working for your “company” and you’re still working for them. You don’t stop working for them because they’re paying you a regular salary. So therefore it’s not really happening – you would have to basically fold your company for that to work that way.

He’s right. I’m wrong. Thank you, Anonymous.

We also have another question, Jeff from Seattle following up on the money topic. “I enjoyed the discussion in Episode 342.” That’s how many–

Alec: What?

Craig: I know. I know. Oh, I should say this is Episode 344. John usually handles that sort of thing. “I enjoyed the discussion in Episode 342 where you touched on the business side of screenwriting including agents, managers, lawyers, corporations, federal taxes, state taxes, etc. At the end of the day, how much is left? Let’s say you sell a screenplay for $100,000 or $1 million. After everyone is paid how much is left? Can you walk us through the math?”

Alec, do you want to take a shot at that? Let’s say you’ve been paid $1 million.

Alec: Yeah, I think the last time I did the math my take-home is about $0.47 on the dollar.

Craig: That’s not bad actually.

Alec: Well, I don’t pay taxes to the government. They’re not listening to this though, right?

Craig: You know who is? This guy from the payroll service. Anonymous is certainly going to report you. So you get paid $1 million. Let’s take off $100 for your agent. If you have a manager, I think a lot of writers do.

Alec: I do not. I have a lawyer. That’s 5%.

Craig: That’s 5%. And I’m going to presume that there is a manager in the mix because I think you and I are actually weirdly the exceptions now. So, we’re going to take off $250,000 of your million right there. Now you’re down to $750,000. And of that $750,000, what we’re saying is between taxes, maybe half of it goes away?

Alec: Pretty close.

Craig: Pretty close. At that point what you’re talking about is $375,000. $0.37 on the dollar.

Alec: Well, but that’s the manager. That’s the difference.

Craig: That’s the difference. Exactly. So, I think Jeff from Seattle what you’re looking at is somewhere between let’s call it $0.35 to $0.50 on the dollar, which is a bit sobering. And it’s particularly sobering – and this is a point we’ve made on behalf of the WGA to the companies – when you do sell your screenplay for $100,000, because now you’re talking about $37,000 for the year maybe.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: Your big dream of being a huge, wealthy Hollywood screenwriter has suddenly been a bit impinged.

Alec: And that’s if you work as a solo act. And I spent the vast majority of my career working with sometimes one and sometimes two other partners. So I was taking home $0.47 on one-third of a check.

Craig: Right. You were taking home $0.47 on a one-third dollar.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: So my first job, I had a writing partner, and I think we got paid $110,000. That was our deal. So I got $55,000, which meant really at the end of the day $20-something thousand dollars.

Alec: $27,000. Yeah.

Craig: You know, which was less than I was making at my other job. So, it’s a bit sobering, Jeff. And it kind of works out where to make – well, I guess to have a comfortable living as a screenwriter you need to do more than one thing a year. You need to sell more than one thing a year or you need to get the amount that you get paid up quite a bit.

Anyone who is out there thinking that this is a big lottery, well I guess it kind of is a lottery in that you’re probably not going to win. Well, and this has been Scriptnotes Podcast. OK.

Alec: The shortest and least satisfying Scriptnotes Podcast of all time.

Craig: Stop doing this job.

Today’s featured guest is the mighty Alec Berg. In his past collaborations with aforementioned partners, Dave Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, Alec wrote for and then ran Seinfeld. Lame. And he also wrote for and then ran Curb Your Enthusiasm. Not at all funny. And also wrote movies such Euro Trip and Bruno and the Dictator. Well, now this joke is getting a little awkward, isn’t it? I’m not going to continue the rub.

Alec: It’s no less true.

Craig: But lately, lately, he has been most prominent as the showrunner and head writer along with Mike Judge of Silicon Valley on HBO. And now as of literally this week or this past weekend–

Alec: Yep.

Craig: A new show, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say a new hit show that he is running with Bill Hader. Barry. So, yet another hit from the ha-ha money machine known as Alec whatever-your-middle-name-is Berg. Alec, welcome back to the show.

Alec: Well thank you. It’s lovely to be here. And by here I mean my home where we are right now.

Craig: It’s kind of weird right? Like you have to feed me. You have to give me a green room. You have to take care of me.

Alec: It’s lovely for you to be here.

Craig: I think it’s fantastic. So, let’s talk about Barry. I know that you’ve been doing a lot of this – this is what happens when you have a show come out. You have to do a lot of this chitchat.

Alec: It will be remarkable how bad I am at it still, having done–

Craig: It already is quite remarkable. I think everybody at home has noted that. Well, here’s what I want to know. You have a new creative partner in Bill Hader. How exactly is it that you came to find another creative partner and give birth to another project and then actually make it and produce it and I think probably direct a little bit of it?

Alec: Yeah. I directed the last two episodes.

Craig: You did all of that while you were running another television show. How did that happen?

Alec: Mistakes were made. Poor decisions were made.

Craig: Run it down for us.

Alec: I mean, the only way that I could really do it is when we do Silicon Valley and now Barry we don’t do that many episodes. You know, when you do a network show it’s 22 or 24 episodes a year. Silicon Valley’s order has always been 10. Well, not always. The first season we did eight. And actually this season we did eight. Part of the reason we’re doing eight is because of the load that Barry put on me that doing 10 was just—

Craig: Too much.

Alec: Too much. So we did eight Barrys this year and eight Silicon Valleys.

Craig: But even then the comparison isn’t quite perfect because you’re talking about 16 episodes of television, but you are serving so much more of a role on those 16 than you would say when you were doing Seinfeld. You had, you know, I would imagine a whole lot more writers.

Alec: Well, no, we have a staff on Silicon Valley and we have a staff on Barry.

Craig: So you are kind of lazy in a sense?

Alec: Yeah, no, I smiled and waved at them.

Craig: Why are you complaining? I’m not quite sure then.

Alec: Because I complain. That’s what I do.

Craig: Oh, OK.

Alec: No, it was – both had to be on the same lot because I was going back and forth. And so they were both on the Sony lot and I bought a bike. And I would go – we were writing both shows at the same time, so from 8am to like 1 or 2 I would work on one show.

Craig: Wow.

Alec: And then I would get on my bike or eat my lunch while I walked from one office to the other. And then I would work at the other office from 1 or 2 until 9 or 10 at night.

Craig: Was it just the bike ride and the lunch walk that gave you the opportunity to essentially reset your brain?

Alec: Yeah, I mean, oddly doing two different shows, they’re slightly different muscles and the tones are slightly different. So, it’s not – like if I had been doing double the work on one of those shows in a weird way it would have been more arduous than doing the same amount of work but splitting it between two shows, if that makes sense.

Craig: It does. But you still – the two shows have more of tonal overlap than for instance I’m able to say, “OK, I’m going to work on this, like Chernobyl, so there’s episodes about period piece/historical drama and then in the evening I’m spending a week on someone’s comedy and so it’s just two totally” – this is not totally different. Did you ever kind of have these moments where Barry popped up in your mind in a Silicon Valley episode?

Alec: There were definitely moments where — it was mostly like, “Wait, have we done that? We had a line about this. Wait, was that this show or the other show?”

Craig: Oh god.

Alec: It’s mostly like back catalog stuff where it’s just like wait a minute, did we already do something like this? Or was that the other thing?

Craig: Did you have two writing staffs that were sort of each jealous of your time or–?

Alec: You know, I have a running joke with the Silicon Valley cast that they’re wishing me success, but not that much success on Barry. I got a lovely call the other day from Zach Woods, you know, who said like, “Look, as much as I want to hate Barry, I watched it and I enjoyed it.”

Craig: I think that’s actually nice. I would be a little more concerned if they were like, “Go Barry! Take up all of your time.”

Alec: Yeah, you know, “If you don’t want to come back that’s fine.”

Craig: “Geez, we hear the folks at Barry could really use you.”

Alec: “Maybe you should do one show. Not this one.”

Craig: Right. Yeah. “If you’re here for us, that’s—“

Alec: But I also, you know, I have really good partners on both shows. You know, Bill Hader is an immensely capable and creatively prolific guy. And Mike Judge is not a slouch. So, if it were just me on both, sure, that would be trouble.

Craig: It would be trouble.

Alec: But I have a lot of – and I have a good writing staff on each show. And, you know, Silicon Valley has been on for five years so everybody knows what’s going on. And the production people are great and the crew is great.

Craig: So it works?

Alec: Yeah. So, you know.

Craig: No complaints.

Alec: What do I have to complain about?

Craig: Well, quite a bit.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: I want to talk a little bit about your work ethic because we are sort of joking about what do you have to complain about, but I really do believe that most people, including professional writers who even have a lot of experience, I think most people would have crumbled under the burden that you carried. You have an ability to carry a tremendous burden. And this is a bit of a philosophical question that I think will be applicable to everybody listening, not just people that have two shows on HBO, because obviously there are many people like that. There’s you…

Alec: Um…

Craig: Yeah.

Alec: There’s me. Yeah.

Craig: All right. So this has general application for all of the writers listening. There’s a balance that has to happen in your mind between work ethic and then kind of a just a need for rest to be creative. And I’m just kind of curious how you negotiate the difference in your mind between a work ethic, proper work ethic, versus a desire to please or fulfill what you have been told to do. And on the flip side how do you negotiate in your mind whether or not it is that you need a recharge and a rest for your own creativity or you’re just being a bit lazy that day. Can you even parse those out?

Alec: Yeah, you know what I’ve gotten much better at is there are days where it’s like, “OK, I have to write this episode or these six scenes.” And I sit down to start writing and immediately I just know my brain is not there. And it’s not going to happen. And what I will end up doing is spending four hours sitting at a computer farting around and not getting anything done. And at the end of four hours I will have nothing to show for it except that I spent four hours that I could have spent resting or thinking about something else.

So, that’s one sort of thing that I’ve gotten much better at is forgiving myself those moments where it’s like “It’s not happening right now. You know, for the next few hours my brain is garbage and I need to just listen to that and take a step away.” That said, you know, that is a luxury to be able to do that because there are a lot of times where it’s, like, I don’t have that time. Like it’s like whether my brain is there or not I need to be productive.

Craig: I actually think those are very dangerous times because what I have found when I don’t have it, my brain isn’t there, and I need a rest, I need a break, and then someone says, “Uh, yeah, too bad. You can’t have one.” The dangerous thing is then I say, “OK,” and I do it.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: And the lesson you learn from that is you can actually override temporarily at least. It’s like riding your car, you’re on fumes, or you’re riding on a donut, not a real tire. It’ll work for a while. But then it’s not a rest that’s coming, it’s just a collapse.

Alec: Yeah. I’ve gotten very close. Season two of Silicon Valley, Mike Judge and I directed all 10 episodes the two of us. So, he did five and I did five. And the combination of doing all of the writing and directing half of them, or supervising the writing and directing, that’s the closest I’ve come to – there were a couple of days where like I was walking to my car and I got so dizzy. I literally had to sit down. And I started laughing because it was just absurd. I was just like I’m honestly about to collapse.

Craig: This is the thing I don’t think people quite get. Mostly because their experience of writing is either the experience of watching a finished product, which has been designed to appear effortless. Massive amounts of work have gone into making it look like it took no work at all.

Alec: Ideally.

Craig: Ideally, correct.

Alec: If it works right, it seems like it–

Craig: It just squirted out of the sky like this.

Alec: It just emerged out of whole cloth.

Craig: Or if they’re writing something, they’re writing it on their own terms, in their time, in their own way, without any budgetary issues, meetings, actors calling and grousing, not that you’ve ever had to deal with anything like that.

Alec: No. Never.

Craig: The remarkable quantity of work at times is overwhelming.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: And I wonder sometimes how many people we’ve actually lost that would have done really, really good work if not for the fact that this business runs in a crucible-like fashion.

Alec: Yeah. And that’s kind of the complaint that most of the people who do what I do for a living that I talk to are like, “God, I wish there was a way to do it that was financially viable where you could just do it at three-quarters of that pace.

Craig: Exactly. Even looking at the shooting day. I mean, the hours that go on here. Interestingly, I was talking with – you know, we’re about to start shooting and so we’ve been having–

Alec: Congratulations on that, by the way.

Craig: Well, thank you very much. And we’ve been having a lot of sort of production-y meetings, organizational meetings now because we’re getting so close. And this is where they do – there are fascinating differences between the European model, because this is an entirely European production, and the US model. And one of them, at one point we were talking about a little bit of a scheduling issue. And, well, we can’t put that on this day because we have this on this day. So we’ve got a problem. And I and the director, we both said, “Well, maybe we just go long that day.” And they said, “Oh, no, no, we don’t do that.”

They don’t do it.

Alec: Really?

Craig: They don’t do it.

Alec: Wow.

Craig: It’s a 12-hour day and then you go home.

Alec: Huh.

Craig: And in the United States, I mean, yes, I’m sure there are occasionally bits of overtime, but it’s never planned that way.

Alec: No, but as much as you would like it to be a complicated and like, “Oh, we don’t do that,” it just becomes about money, right?

Craig: Right.

Alec: It’s just like, no, whatever you can end up doing – and this is why I think crews get abused, right?

Craig: Yes. Yes.

Alec: Because it’s just, “Oh, we need to do it and it’s money, so we’ll work a 19-hour day. And we’ll just pay them more.”

Craig: That’s right. And that’s the danger.

Alec: And knowing that you can do that I think leads to a lot of abuse where it’s like just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Craig: Precisely. And we have an epidemic in the United States of fatigue on sets. I don’t really know how anybody is doing any good work at that point anyway. It’s a bit tragic. So I’ve been sort of fascinated by that aspect, but I do think that there is a certain element of self-care that we ignore as writers because we’re actually not hauling cable, you know, or setting up flags, or driving a truck. We’re just sitting, right? Seems like–

Alec: Yeah, how hard could that be?

Craig: Turns out pretty f-ing hard.

Alec: Yeah. But the flip side of it I guess, and this is where I keep getting deeper into more and more work is like on the one hand, yeah, it’s hard, but on the other hand it’s like, you know, if people want to hire me I still do struggle a little bit with that thing of like but there’s an opportunity here and this could be good. And I want to work with that person. And I don’t want this to go away. You know, and as we all know nobody ever calls you in this business and says like, “OK, you’re done.”

Craig: Ever.

Alec: Like there’s no pink slips. You’re the last person to know that your career is over.

Craig: Yeah. When we go away we go away the way squirrels go away. Where do they go to die?

Alec: No idea.

Craig: Small pile leaves. Nestle under there. And you’re gone.

Alec: Where did that squirrel go with my career?

Craig: That’s basically right. One day you wake up and it’s all gone.

Alec: A squirrel has buried your career under an oak tree.

Craig: Well, that dilemma of when to say no versus a fear of not saying yes, that is a topic for another day, but it’s a good one we should do.

Alec: But it’s also – it sounds like such a whiney high class problem to have. “Oh no, I have too much work.”

Craig: Yes and no. Because the truth is it’s actually a huge problem I think when you’re starting out. Because when you’re starting out you’re desperate to do work, right? You’re desperate to start your career, to make money. And someone is going to come to you and say, “Do this absolute career-killing pile of crap.”

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: And you at that point have a choice to make. Actually more likely that is where you’re going to have the hardest of those choices I would imagine at the very beginning.

Alec: Yeah. But that also you’re factoring the quality of the offer. Right? I’m talking about just like at a certain point it’s just like you can do what you want to do, right?

Craig: Yes.

Alec: I find myself fortunately through an enormous series of good breaks to be in a position where–

Craig: Oh, is that what it was? Good breaks?

Alec: I’ve stood next to a lot of very talented people. But, you know, luckily enough I’m at a point where the issue I have is like, “OK, well what do you want to do?” Look at Barry. That really was, the whole thing was Bill and I sat down and it’s like, oh, “We’re fans of each other and we want to do something together. What do we want to do?”

Craig: And it just happened.

Alec: And it’s not because I’m in a contract year. And it’s not because I’m a corporate shill. I will tell you HBO is the best in the business, as you know. You’re working with them as well.

Craig: I am. They have been wonderful to me.

Alec: I’ve had nothing but great interactions with them and they genuinely believe in the quality of the product and they trust you and they leave you alone.

Craig: It’s actually quite – like I don’t quite believe it.

Alec: No. No, I find myself wondering what the hell is wrong with them. When are they going to wise up?

Craig: This is obviously a trap.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: But, well. That’s what working for the Weinsteins did to me. I’m now like, it doesn’t matter who I meet. I’m just like, “Where and when does the knife go in?”

Alec: Yeah. It’s obviously behind me somewhere.

Craig: Well speaking of knives going in, and this is where – John likes to do things like that, these segues.

Alec: Oh.

Craig: And I make fun of him.

Alec: Speaking of ham-fisted segues.

Craig: Segue Man. Knives going in. So, I want to talk a little bit about what your experience is now as somebody who is writing not one but two shows that are widely seen that are actually huge – they’re occupying spaces in pop culture. Barry is already doing it. I see it happening. And then there’s that interesting other side of that sword. When you occupy a space in pop culture suddenly people have quite a bit to say to you. You went through some storm clouds over Silicon Valley and gender representation.

Alec: Sure.

Craig: And then there was the departure of TJ Miller which was fascinating to watch from the outside.

Alec: Oh was it?

Craig: Probably not so much fun from the inside. [laughs] Just like your show, incredibly enjoyable for me and costing nothing. And for you–

Alec: Yeah. It’s lovely to parachute in and watch for half an hour, isn’t it?

Craig: For you you’re fainting and laughing. How have you come to deal with all of that? Do you have any advice, strategies, or thoughts on how we as writers should be dealing with pop culture as we occupy it and it starts to occupy us?

Alec: I just think you have to – all of that commentary – Bill Hader is friends with the writer George Saunders. And Bill was saying that he talked to George Saunders about critiques and reviews. And George Saunders said something I thought was really interesting which is the vast majority of all criticism is really about the person writing it, not about you or what your thing is.

You know, so I think you just have to take that all with a grain of salt. And it’s like if somebody is angry about something that’s going on on something you’re writing it has as much to do with what they’re going through in their life as it does what you’ve rendered.

Craig: I think that there’s truth to that.

Alec: And you just have to take that all with a grain of salt. And you just have to believe in what you’re doing, and also every once and a while somebody has something interesting to say and you go, “Oh, that’s actually an interesting point. I hadn’t thought about that.” But this idea of trying to write your way out of criticism is – it’s folly. Like if you don’t believe in it.

Craig: What about this other thing that is less I guess criticism and more of a kind of wave of feedback. Twitter in particular has a way of – well, it’s like the wave in a stadium. 12 people can start it.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: But within 10 minutes you have 50,000 people moving in unison, explaining to you that you’re terrible. Right?

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: So it’s like a wave of awfulness. And I don’t think you’ve experienced that.

Alec: But that’s fundamentally different than my everyday life, so.

Craig: Right. That’s sort of what it’s like when you wake up.

Alec: Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, I guess I’m used to writing that way.

Craig: Well, I also think that – I suspect that, given the way those things work, I believe that no matter what you do, if you were caught tomorrow cutting puppies up with scissors it would obviously be a big news story and people would be very angry at you. Twitter would just be up in arms with scissor emojis and puppies and how could you and you’re the worst person in the world.

And I do believe on that day if you got on a plane and went to Fiji and just waited two weeks when you got back no one would be talking about it anymore because something else would have happened.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: I think about two weeks. And then you’re kind of out of the woods on it.

Alec: Yeah, I mean, obviously depending on the degree of – I feel like cutting puppies up with scissors may be–

Craig: I don’t know. I actually think–

Alec: Maybe three weeks? Maybe a month?

Craig: The problem is you’d think that. But on Day 13 someone else does something insane. Or people just get bored. They just get bored.

Alec: Well, I do think, I mean, that’s the most interesting thing. To me there is this culture now of outrage as a recreational activity, right? Where people are just like, “Oh, what are you going to do for the next hour? You could watch TV or you could just go on the Internet and rage about things. Or I could go outside and shoot some hoops.” You know what I mean? It’s like one thing or another–

Craig: It is very satisfying. I understand it in the sense that maybe because I actually am not very good with being part of a group. I’ve never felt comfortable sort of sharing my identity with a group. So I get little snacks, like little tastes of it if I’m online. And everybody is teeing off on, well, let’s just say Ted Cruz just for the funsies of it.

Alec: Just for example.

Craig: It’s nice to be part of a group all of a sudden. Like, I’m so used to being the one in the corner going, “Wait everyone. Stop. Let’s think about this. You shouldn’t all just necessarily…”

Alec: Yeah, sure, it’s fine. But the fundamental problem with that is that as the firehose pans from left to right.

Craig: Ah yes.

Alec: Slowly. Eventually it pans back to you and you get blasted.

Craig: Voila. Yes.

Alec: You know what I mean?

Craig: Live by the mob, die by the mob. I completely agree with you. I want to ask you one final question, but it’s about what I call the Bergian machine.

Alec: Dear god.

Craig: Yes, the Bergian machine is a comedy engine by which small decisions in the beginning of a story loom larger and larger as the narrative unfolds and eventually emerge surprisingly in the final motions of a story to either save or completely upend our character. This is the Bergian machine. I have noticed this throughout all of your work, even as tones change and plots change and things change. Maybe it’s at its strongest in Seinfeld. But it is still there in Silicon Valley. And maybe to a lesser extent in Barry, but still there in Barry. I see it.

And it occurs to me that there’s a kind of life philosophy that’s being applied by this a little bit. Because I think funny things are funny for a reason. They reflect our reality. And it’s the idea that the more we try and control the world around us the more likely we are to sow chaos and undo ourselves. And I’m kind of curious like where you kind of instinctively get your hooks into the Bergian machine.

Alec: Well, first of all, please stop using that name.

Craig: Well, it’s Bergian. And it’s a machine. I’m talking about the Bergian machine now.

Alec: I understand. No. You’ve said that already.

Craig: So let’s discuss that.

Alec: I guess to me it’s just I learned – really I learned to write at Seinfeld. At that was my graduate school of comedy writing. And so much of what I do to this day is, you know, entirely due to what Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld taught me about, you know, that sometimes the satisfying connection between two stories is better than a satisfying beat. You know, if you’re kind of following one thread and it’s like this happens and because of that this happens, and then because of that this happens. But something coming from another story and intersecting one story. The fact that you’re getting this sort of two-for-one where it’s like a beat in two different stories but it’s one beat is sometimes the most satisfying beat of the story. And so – and that I learned entirely from Larry. Where the stories intersect. And when you’re outlining stuff and it’s like, you know, “Oh, our lead character is dating a guy and another one of our characters is buying a bike from a guy.” And you go, wait a minute, what if that’s the same guy? And now it’s like, oh, not only does the story have an economy and efficiency to it, but now you’ve got two of your main characters that have opinions about each other. And you’re always trying to get characters – you know, it’s all about conflict. So you’re always trying to get characters that have opposite opinions of something. And, oh, she likes this guy, but he hates this guy. So now he wants her to do something about this guy.

You know, and now you’ve got all this energy between your characters.

Craig: So, in short, there is nothing fancy about the Bergian machine. It’s actually quite practical.

Alec: Honestly, we called it Comedy Geometry. You know this from writing. I feel like there’s two fundamentally different types of writing when you’re outlining. One is inspiration where it’s just we need a great reason for this guy to go from here to there. Or a great way that she learns that her father is this guy. And that’s just sometimes you work for days and you don’t have it. And then you get in the car and as soon as you stop thinking about it you go, “Oh my god, this is it.”

Craig: You get it. Right.

Alec: Or sometimes you just have a weird thought of like an image in your head of like, oh, this is really funny. I just have this visual image of this thing. And then you go, oh wait, that could be that thing.

Craig: Right.

Alec: And that’s the inspiration part of it. But the honest answer is the vast majority of what we do in series TV is the other type of writing and that’s just elbow grease.

Craig: It’s math.

Alec: And it’s just working it, and working it, and working it. And what about this, what about this, what about this, what about this. And Bill Hader and I sort of liken it to two idiots standing at a piano going, “What about this note?” Ding. Nope. “What about this one?” Ding. No? “What about this one?” No. “Wait, wait, hold on, hit that one again.” Ding. Ding. Wait, that’s it.

Craig: Really, see, in a sense, let’s come full circle here, because it really does come back to work ethic in a sense. There is the talent part to me is knowing that when you do hit the right note that it’s the right note. But I think people without talent sometimes land on these things and they don’t know it.

Alec: Yeah. And, by the way, I will say that people always say, “Oh, you’ve been doing this for a while. You must have figured out how to do it. You must have a system. Must have gotten easier.” No. It’s not any easier. In fact, it’s harder because, one, I’ve done way more stories.

Craig: Right.

Alec: Right? So I have 25 years’ worth of stories I’ve done so that when somebody pitches me something and says, “What about this?” I go, oh yeah, season two. When I was at Seinfeld 20 years ago we did this thing with George so we can’t do that.

And the other thing that makes it harder is I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten any better at coming up with good material. But I’m much, much better at telling you whether something is good or not.

Craig: Well, that’s really important.

Alec: Whereas it used to take me, you know, whatever. I’d have to come up with five ideas before I’m like, oh, that’s a great one. Now it’s like it’s 50 or 60.

Craig: The experience of watching material go from page to screen is vital for you to start to hone that metric. You can’t – I don’t think until you’ve actually gone through production, a lot of production, you really can’t fine tune your sense of whether something is or is not a good idea. Because you actually haven’t seen all of it yet.

Alec: That’s right. And a lot of times people will be very excited about something we’re working on and I’m like, you know what, I’ve died on that hill.

Craig: Yeah.

Alec: I’ve died on that hill twice.

Craig: Exactly. I can assure you. And in fact I was you telling another me why I was wrong and that me tried to keep me from the hill.

Alec: Yeah. That other me warned me.

Craig: Right.

Alec: I didn’t listen.

Craig: I didn’t listen. And that’s why I only have eight fingers. No, it’s absolutely true. Ted Elliott once said that screenwriting/television writing is one of the few jobs where people can get paid quite a bit to only do half of the job. Because they never get to that second half. And there are people that do – most of the things that they’ve done they’ve been paid for have not been made.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: And that’s, well, I think less and less now with the rise of television.

Alec: I will say that’s the other thing that I love about TV is that in my years in the movie business the most frustrating thing, as you know, is you write a lot of things and then for whatever reason it’s like movies have this energy about them and they either come together and the wind is blowing in the right direction and for whatever reason they happen. And if they don’t happen in a brief amount of time then they just go into this purgatory. And it’s like, “Oh, well that idea has been kind of sitting around for a while, so–“

Craig: Yeah. It’s boring to us. Therefore it’s boring. Right.

Alec: Right and they just go away. Whereas TV, the great thing about it is it’s just about making the trains run week in and week out. And the great thing is when you make a deal to do a TV show when you get to a point where it’s on the air it’s like, “Oh, we’re picking you up. You’re making eight of these or 10 of these. And this is when you start shooting. And this is when they air.”

Craig: That’s right. It’s fascinating.

Alec: As opposed to when you’re pitching a movie where it’s like I have an idea and I want to get it made. This is the opposite. It’s like here’s when we’re putting 30 minutes of something on the air.

Craig: Right. Fill it.

Alec: Go figure out what the hell that is. But you’re backing into delivery, right? So it’s like–

Craig: Well, we do that in movies now, too. Unfortunately there are – some of the bigger movies – the ones that weirdly cost the most money, we are backing into those. It’s terrifying. In part because, well, you get one episode don’t you? I mean, that’s the issue with movies. You get one.

Alec: I never got those jobs when I was–

Craig: Well–

Alec: I don’t know that feeling.

Craig: It’s not a good feeling.

Alec: But there is something nice. Like it’s part of what I love about doing TV is that, I mean, look, I never thought of myself as an artist. I feel like I’m a craftsman. And there’s art in that, you know, when you make a chair or a table. There’s a tremendous amount of art in there, or there can be. But it also has to serve a function, like a chair has to support the weight of a human sitting on it.

Craig: I have to say every time I hear someone, a writer, say I consider myself more of a craftsman than an artist I think to myself that’s a real artist. And every time I hear someone say I’m more of an artist than a craftsman I think, nah, you’re a craftsman. [laughs] It really – like to me there is that aspect of kind of keeping yourself humble and your fingers on the keyboard and doing the work is necessary to actually be the thing that pretentious people pretend to be.

Alec: I suppose. I don’t know. I mean, I feel–

Craig: There you go again.

Alec: I’m hesitant to look inward–

Craig: Because you are a genius.

Alec: But, look, I make clocks. And sometimes you go “Oh my god this gear fits perfectly in that gear. That’s awesome.” And sometimes it’s like, “Dammit, I have this gear that’s a really cool shape. But I don’t know where to put it.”

Craig: That’s the worst feeling.

Alec: But ultimately like if the thing doesn’t keep time, doesn’t matter how much art is in it.

Craig: Well, absolutely.

Alec: You know, your watch is six minutes fast and it stinks.

Craig: But this is what comedy – comedy is a cruel task master because unlike drama comedy has accountability built in. When you say it doesn’t work meaning they’re not laughing at it.

Alec: Yeah, although, I will say – and I think Barry is I hope a prime example of that, your mileage may vary once you see it – that area is starting to get grey where it’s like, you know, I feel like – Barry I feel like is neither a drama nor a comedy. Like in the best possible way. And a lot of the reaction we’ve gotten to it, which thrills me, is people go, “What? What is this?” Which is awesome.

Craig: Well, it’s been received beautifully and I’ve seen quite a few of the episodes. I’m ahead of people just because I know you and it’s great. It’s fantastic. And I think actually the tone of Barry is – well, it’s the kind of tone where you are aware in a great way what the arrangement is between yourself and the show. The show is not saying to you, “Right, huh, yeah, funny?” It’s not doing that.

Alec: No.

Craig: It will sneak up on you and make you laugh really, really hard when it wants to. And there are a couple of characters that are – you know, they’re there more for laughs than others. Although I always think that those are the ones that are probably going to end up making me cry. But there is that arrangement. And so then really what’s fascinating to me is your understanding of whether or not the clock is working is your understanding of it. You basically are saying this tells time. I know it. Here it is everybody. And you’re not waiting to – like in movies, god, I mean, you have the experience of sitting in the test screening and finding out if you’re funny or not.

Alec: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s nothing sweatier than a movie or a TV show that’s like “Is this work?” Do you know what I mean? As opposed to, you know, I mean the comics who always kill are the ones who are like – there’s a confidence, right? I mean, it is just like I’m going to do this.

Craig: I don’t care if you–

Alec: If you don’t get it–

Craig: It’s your problem.

Alec: Then fuck you.

Craig: Right. Exactly.

Alec: And people go, whoa, what’s this guy got? I better figure out what this is as opposed to like somebody, “What about this? Do you like this?”

Craig: Precisely. Well, it’s begging. Begging is just–

Alec: It’s unseemly.

Craig: It’s pathetic. It is unseemly and pathetic. Shall we answer some listener questions?

Alec: Oh please.

Craig: All right. Emily in Los Angeles writes, “Somebody recently pointed out to me that the American film industry does not make tragedies. Their opinion is based on the theater terms for comedy and tragedy. Tragedy goes from order to chaos, versus comedy which goes from chaos to order. Most movies seem to tie up their stories with a pretty pink bow and don’t explore the cathartic value of tragedy. What are your thoughts and opinions on this idea?”

Alec Berg, Harvard graduate, what are your opinions on this?

Alec: Do I get one pass? Because I don’t even understand – my brain hurts. See, this is one of these things where I do feel like this is like cutting open the bird’s throat to see how it sings.

Craig: Let’s skip that question. It might not be – do I want to know this?

Alec: When I was at Seinfeld we got somebody’s graduate thesis on the storytelling of Seinfeld. And it was like this 100 and something page thing. And we used to joke when people would come in to like pitch ideas we’d be like, “Hold on, let me see here. Go away. Read this. This is really all you need to know.”

Craig: Exactly.

Alec: “And if you read this and really internalize it.”

Craig: But if you had read it, it probably would have ended the show.

Alec: Well, no, because it was just utter – it was like there are 11 main archetypical stories on Seinfeld. There’s the this story, and the that. And it’s like, what? No there aren’t.

Craig: I think Emily’s question is – there’s an interesting thing about American – I’ve been having this question a lot with Johan Renck, our Swedish director, on Chernobyl. Every now and then he’ll say, “You know, this one thing here, it’s a little American.” And I’ll say, “You mean successful?” [laughs]

Alec: [laughs]

Craig: And we go back and forth about this all the time. I’m like, “I know, this moment here where we’re given information we need to understand what comes next rather than two old men mumbling over a piece of pickled herring? Yes, this is an American” – but you know what, a lot of times when he says it I’m like, “Oh you know, that is a little American.” I’m starting to understand what it means.

Alec: That’s so funny. A friend of mine was making a movie years ago and he had a French cinematographer. And they did a couple of takes of something and the producer came over and said, “Hey, the studio is just going to want to make sure that we get one take where you cover this line a different way or something.” And he was like, “I don’t really like that.” And the producer is like, “Look, just do one more take. Just cover us.” And so he turns to his DP and he goes, “All right, we’re going to do one more take.” And the guy goes, “You are going to do that?” And he goes, “Yeah, they want us.” And he goes, “You are going to listen to that?”

And he goes, “Yeah, I just think we have to. I think it will be easier.” And the cinematographer just says, “This just became a job.”

Craig: Oh wow. That’s rather Francais.

Alec: Yeah.

Craig: “This just became a job.” Well, there is a balance between these things.

Alec: What was it before? You’re still getting paid the same. It was a job.

Craig: There is – everyone has different thresholds for their integrity.

Alec: By the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever worked on the John Ford stage at Fox.

Craig: Nope.

Alec: But if you’ve ever done a sound mix there, it’s where we did the sound mix for Euro Trip. There is a plaque on the wall of the John Ford sound mixing stage that has one of the quotes that makes me the happiest that I’ve ever seen in show business which is this long thing about, you know, I tried to do good work, I tried to be as artistic as I could and be true to stuff, but at the end of all my days I knew this: it was just a job.

Craig: Wow.

Alec: And it’s this thing where you’re there at four in the morning, tearing your hair out, trying to get this thing right. And then you pass by this plaque every time you go to the bathroom and you read it and you go, “Oh yeah, what?” Like ultimately this is not – we’re just trying to get this as good as we can.

Craig: It’s a job. It’s actually a great place to put it, too. When you’re in the sound mix it really is a job. Well, Emily, we didn’t really answer your question, but we gave it our best shot. Christina has sent in an audio question, so here it is.

Christina: I just wrote my first screenplay and I set out to write a comedy. I just read the first draft and realized that I started to write a thriller or a suspense movie. I think it’s really hard to do both of these things well, and I would like to hear your thoughts on how I should make the decision of whether I should just focus on making it a comedy or focus on making it a suspense movie.

Alec: I think the question is backwards. Like that implies that you’re trying to force it to be one thing or another thing and you’re pushing it in a direction. The analogy I always use is it’s like pushing a rope. You have to pull a rope. And a rope won’t go a certain direction.

And with Barry, Bill and I didn’t say we’re going to make a thing that’s exactly this. We just went “What’s interesting?”

Craig: Right.

Alec: And we started working on it. And it’s like, “Oh, it feels more like it should go this way.”

Craig: Followed your instincts.

Alec: Or it feels more like it should go this way. And ultimately we just felt like as long as what we were doing was interesting and true and was an observation of real human behavior it just was whatever it wanted to be. And, you know, it sounds very pretentious, but I always feel like you have to listen to the material. And it’s like if it starts to want to be one thing and not another thing–

Craig: Yeah. Let it be that.

Alec: Like, you know, when I was doing Curb, people would come in sometimes – actors would come in – and they’re “improving” a scene, but they clearly had a joke that they wanted to get to.

Craig: Yes.

Alec: And so in the middle of a scene it’s like, “Larry, do you ever go bowling?” And you just go, “What? Why are you – oh, because you have a joke about bowling you want to get to?” And it’s like this is not organic at all. It just felt like as soon as that happened you just go, no, no, don’t do that. That just doesn’t feel real.

Craig: I’m sorry, you’re fired. Yeah.

Alec: And let’s not do your joke.

Craig: So, I guess what we’re saying, and I completely agree with you. Christina, if you set out to write a comedy but you wrote a suspense movie instead–

Alec: Does it work?

Craig: You wrote a suspense movie. That’s the thing you wanted to do. I think you should focus probably on the one that you ended up writing. One movie by the way to look at, Christina, if you have not yet seen it is The Last of Sheila. Have you ever seen that one?

Alec: I have not.

Craig: Last of Sheila. Fascinating movie. 1970s. Murder mystery with some comedy overtones in it. Sort of like a modern whodunit, or a modern Agatha Christie for the ‘70s. Written by Tony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim.

Alec: What?

Craig: They wrote the screenplay. It’s really good. It’s a really good movie. Last of Sheila.

Alec: Wow. I never heard of this.

Craig: Yeah, Last of Sheila. Ted Griffin, the great Ted Griffin, he of all ‘70s movies, turned me onto that one.

Let’s do one more here. We’ve got Mike from Boston. Yo, Mike. He writes, “I’m currently working on some half-hour comedy pilots to send around to potential managers. My question is should these pilots feature explicit act breaks where I label act one and end act one and so on. Does it depend partly on the style of show? Neither of the pilots is very networky in the vein of say multicam sitcom, but at the same time I don’t think they’d only work as a streaming show. Does this apply even if the pilots are meant to be writing samples rather than actual pitches?”

Where do you fall on this whole act one da-da-da?

Alec: I think if it’s meant to be networky where you’re putting commercials into those breaks then you can write act breaks. If it helps you to organize your thoughts, I think you can think in terms of act breaks. I always did that when I was writing features. But even then you’d get into a discussion about like, “Well, I think the first act ends here.” And somebody else would go, “No, I think the first act ends here.” And it’s like it’s all subjective. And if it works it works.

I will say personally I haven’t written or thought about an act break in 20 years. That’s not how I write.

Craig: I mean, after Seinfeld you were kind of out of commercial interrupted television, right?

Alec: Yeah. Curb there were no, I mean, it was just – and it was interesting with Curb where we’d get to this point, and it was the same point on the board every time. And we almost joked that you could take a Sharpie and draw a red line on the board right where you get to it where it’s like that’s the barrier that you always have to jump over and we always get stuck right there.

Craig: Because that’s where the commercial would go?

Alec: Well, it’s because that’s where you’re turning for home, and if you hadn’t set up the stories correctly and if all the stories had sort of played their last beats at the same time, it’s kind of what I was talking about about connections. Like what you need right here is this story is kind of logically done and this story is logically done. What you need is some other story to come in and knock the pins over. So you go, oh my god, now we have to pick them all up again. But we never thought in terms of act breaks.

I think if it helps you to organize, but I don’t – you know, personally I don’t think any single camera show that isn’t for network, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an act break in any of those.

Craig: Well then, you know, it sounds like what we’re hearing, Mike, is it’s up to you. It’s totally up to you, buddy. Should we do one more? Should we do one more question?

Alec: Sure.

Craig: Oh, this is kind of a good psychological question for a tortured Swede like yourself. Christina from Malibu writes, “How can I tell if I’ve just been replaying this movie, a period biopic, in my head for too long and it all seems familiar, or if everything I’ve written is a horrible cliché?”

So this is sort of like the internal version of the studio saying, “Yeah, you know, it’s been sitting around here for a while therefore we’re bored of it, therefore it’s no good.” Or maybe it’s boring and no good. What do you do?

Alec: I think the answer a lot of times is you’ve got to show it to somebody.

Craig: Yeah.

Alec: Like I always felt like – even somebody who has no idea what they’re reading. Like sometimes people who have no “expertise” are the best audience because they can just go, “I don’t know how to read these things, but yeah, that’s just like that thing I saw in this.”

Craig: Right. Or it feels very cliché or it feels like I’ve seen all this before.

Alec: Yeah, that’s like that thing from this movie, or that’s like that thing. And you go, oh yeah, that is kind of familiar.

Craig: Well, I guess in that sense if you’re showing it to people with, I guess with that honestly in mind, that maybe you think it’s cliché that if they say, “Oh, this is cliché,” you won’t fall apart or lash out.

I always worry about people showing things to other people simply to hear applause. That’s a real syndrome. But it sounds like Christina would be the kind of person with a good work ethic.

Alec: Sure. Based on what?

Craig: We’ve known her for quite some time.

Alec: Oh, is that right?

Craig: She’s from Malibu.

Alec: Ah.

Craig: We know that much.

Alec: Oh that’s Christina. Oh, sure.

Craig: I said Christina. Did you not hear?

Alec: No, I guess I didn’t.

Craig: Anyway, Christina is pretty great. So, hopefully, Christina, that helps you. I agree with Alec completely. Show it to somebody and get somebody else’s perspective on it because a lot of times it is impossible to tell from your end.

A little bit of a lightning round here before we get to our finish. What is John doing in Japan? What is John August doing in Japan? Thoughts? Go.

Alec: You’re asking me?

Craig: That’s right. I have no idea what he’s doing. What do you – knowing him as you do – what do you think he’s doing?

Alec: I think he’s enjoying some sort of fish-based food substance.

Craig: Like a paste?

Alec: Perhaps with some noodles of some sort?

Craig: A substrate? A slurry?

Alec: Yeah. Maybe an Udon.

Craig: Oh, OK, an Udon. He went there for an Udon?

Alec: Yeah. Well, the Udon.

Craig: The Udon. I think he’s possibly getting some sort of parts upgrade.

Alec: Could be. Could be. And those parts generally are made in Japan?

Craig: I think they’re made in China but installed in Japan by one of their–

Alec: Oh, OK, like iPhones.

Craig: Precisely. A Xybotsu.

Alec: Sure. Either that or he’s inspecting a nuclear facility.

Craig: OK.

Alec: Just to make sure things are–

Craig: He’s impervious to radiation obviously. That’s the point. He can go in.

Alec: Yes, that’s correct.

Craig: Where humans could not.

Alec: No, I mean, even a helicopter would be irradiated immediately and crash into the sea.

Craig: Correct. But he can wander in and then wander back out. Just to report.

I think of the three scenarios we just mentioned that one does sound like the most likely. So we’re going to go with John is in Japan–

Alec: Inspecting a defective nuclear facility.

Craig: What else could it be?

Alec: Seems like the most likely.

Craig: Of course. So we like to end with One Cool Thing where you just literally toss out One Cool Thing. Do you have anything?

Alec: I do. And we just discovered it when we were starting this podcast. You tried to log onto my wifi.

Craig: Oh yes! That’s right.

Alec: And my phone buzzed and I went what is that? And it said, “Share your wifi password with Craig Mazin?”

Craig: Right.

Alec: And I clicked yes and you didn’t even have to type the password on your computer.

Craig: Freaking magic.

Alec: That’s the coolest thing ever.

Craig: So I didn’t even know that–

Alec: I didn’t know I had it.

Craig: No, neither did I. When did this happen?

Alec: I don’t know.

Craig: Oh, you know who would know? John.

Alec: Yes. Well, when he emerges from that defective nuclear facility.

Craig: From that glow pile?

Alec: Yeah. And his parts aren’t too irradiated to function.

Craig: Slowly decaying uranium, then he emerges. He’ll be able to come back–

Alec: Maybe he’ll be stronger and smarter.

Craig: Well, I don’t know how that’s possible. Well, stronger. I could see him getting stronger.

Alec: He’ll recharge.

Craig: Smarter, no.

Alec: He’ll internalize all of that radiation and emerge stronger and slightly taller.

Craig: Yeah. That’s right.

Alec: And even more articulate.

Craig: Like the Borg? You know the Borg? They assimilate. He’s going to assimilate this new–

Alec: Do I know the Borg? I’m Swedish. I know the Borg.

Craig: Of course, “Do I know the Borg?” Do I know the Borg?

Alec: Hey, I freaking invented the Borg?

Craig: It’s like if the Borg had gone through the universe and finally assimilated one Jew and that was all it took. “No, they’re all Gilbert Gottfried.”

All right, my One Cool Thing, I think I’m going to go with The Last of Shelia. I don’t know, maybe I’ve given that before as a One Cool Thing. But The Last of Sheila is a fantastic movie. It’s funny. It is tense. It’s scary. It’s got a great ending. Stephen Sondheim. Stephen Sondheim decided one day, “You know what, I’m going to write a movie.” And then he wrote a great movie. And then he’s like, “Nah, I’m done with that.”

Alec: “Too easy.”

Craig: “So easy.” You were talking earlier about laziness and it reminded me of one of the great, great, great stories of all time which occurred when you and I, along with our families, were on vacation together in the Bahamas. I would like you to tell this story.

Alec: Oh, yeah, yeah, of course.

Craig: We’ll finish off with this amazing story.

Alec: We were at the lovely Atlantis which one of us enjoyed more than the other one.

Craig: I’m the one that hated it. And just to preface, we had been kind of talking a lot when we were there about how many New Yorkers were there. I’m from New York. So, I naturally want to defend New Yorkers, but there were a lot of New Yorkers there. It was oppressive.

Alec: By the way, the next time I stopped into the Atlantis for a day I literally saw Joe Girardi walking around at Atlantis. I’m like the King of New York is here.

Craig: It’s amazing. Alec and I were at a bar and just talking in Atlantis and a fist fight broke out. It was just a New Yorky fist fight.

Alec: It’s like, oh, oh, those guys are going to go.

Craig: That’s right. And it reminded me of going to a Yankee game in 1979 and two people just suddenly beating the crap out of each other in the stands. So it was a very New Yorky place.

Alec: Super New Yorky. So, there’s a giant outdoor fish tank full of sharks. And this woman covered in – she’s outside in the sun. It’s 90 degrees. And she must be wearing 40 pounds of gold. These giant clip-on earrings and massive gold–

Craig: From New York would you say?

Alec: Yeah. So she walks by and she looks at this shark pond and she turns to her husband and her two kids and she just says, “What do they do all day? Just swim around? Lazy.”

Craig: [laughs]

Alec: And I think we said that phrase 50 times.

Craig: It’s so great.

Alec: And it was one of those things where as soon as I heard it I just went, “Oh my god, I have to find somebody and tell them this.”

Craig: This is why we came here. Because this – I’ve gone through this in my mind so many times. And I just love the implications, the layers of implications. These sharks should be starting businesses.

Alec: Yeah. What are they doing?

Craig: They should be studying.

Alec: It’s such a waste. Why aren’t any of them in medical school?

Craig: This is what she said, “What do they do all day?” The only thing they do all day. Lazy. That’s what they do.

Alec: She was so judgmental about sharks.

Craig: About sharks literally doing the thing sharks were designed to do.

Alec: And I can only imagine how much she must have ridden her own children to do more with their lives. If a shark isn’t living up to its potential.

Craig: That’s all it does is the only thing they have ever done. They’re no good. And neither are you.

Alec: Lazy.

Craig: Wherever she is, madam we love you.

Alec: Thank you. That was a gem.

Craig: All right. Well, Alec, that was a fantastic show. This show, Scriptnotes, is produced by Megan McDonnell. And it is edited by the great Matthew Chilelli. Oh yeah. Our outro this week is by Rajesh Naroth.

If you have an outro you can send us a link at That is also a place where you can send longer questions. For shorter questions, on Twitter I am @clmazin. John is @johnaugust. And Alec Berg is–

Alec: @realalecberg.

Craig: @realalecberg.

We are also on Facebook, which I am no longer on because apparently it’s a Russian platform for stealing our lives. You can search for Scriptnotes Podcast – are you still on Facebook?

Alec: No, I deleted it.

Craig: Yeah, deleted. Oh, felt so good. However, Scriptnotes is still there. You can search for Scriptnotes Podcast. You can also find us on Apple Podcasts under Scriptnotes. Just search for, get it, Scriptnotes. And while you’re there leave us a comment because John August loves comments.

You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at That’s also where you will find transcripts. We try to get them up about four days after the episode airs. You can find all the back episodes of the show at

Alec Berg, thank you so much for being a guest.

Alec: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Craig: You’re amazing. Folks at home, next week our wonderful John August shall return. Thank you for listening.


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