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TV’s funniest writers, creators kick back to get ahead

David Javerbaum, former head writer and executive producer for ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ Doug Ellin, creator of ‘Entourage,’ and Kenny Schwartz, writer and executive producer of ‘American Dad!,’ appeared in the Ohio Union Performance Hall Jan. 25.

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It seems obvious that anyone at the top of the professional food chain means a lot of hard work, but goofing off is the key to success for at least three comedy writers at the apex of their field.

A day in the life of a comedy writer consists of a lot of wasted time, said Doug Ellin, creator of “Entourage.”

“If you work a 10-hour day, there’s an hour-and-a-half to two hours of productivity,” Ellin said.

Ellin, as well as Kenny Schwartz, writer and executive producer of “American Dad!,” and David Javerbaum, former head writer and executive producer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” spoke to The Lantern after appearing in the Ohio Union Performance Hall Wednesday in an event the Ohio Union Activities Board and OSU Hillel co-sponsored.

Schwartz said while working, he and his fellow staff spend most of their time acting like eighth graders.

“It’s exactly what you would think it is,” Schwartz said. “I sit in a room with 15 other guys, mostly my friends and we come up with d— jokes and vagina jokes and all kind of terrible things you shouldn’t put on TV, but they do.”

“When you were in eighth grade making d— and vagina jokes, the teachers and parents said ‘What are you doing? You’ll never make a living from that,'” Javerbaum said.

“Yeah, now they pay me for it,” Schwartz said.

Working with funny people is what makes the job worthwhile, Javerbaum said.

“Work often didn’t feel like work, it felt like fun,” Javerbaum said.

Ellin said for him, having the ability to shoot wherever or with whomever was part of what made working on “Entourage” special.

“It was such a wish-fulfillment thing,” Ellin said. “I could be a fan of the Yankees and say ‘OK, maybe we’ll shoot with Alex Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium.’ We could make it happen.”

It’s easy to get distracted from the show with office poker tournaments and talk of the night before, but when it’s time to get back to work, it’s a serious matter. When the deadlines are close and the show must get back on track, it requires focus. But a lack of inspiration isn’t usually the issue when you’re an artist, Ellin said, but said it’s still work.

“When you’re doing television, it’s a job,” Ellin said.

Still, it’s not easy coming up with original ideas and characters. Often, the best ideas come from the lives of real people.

“Entourage” is based on real-life situations that happened to Ellin or his friend, actor Mark Wahlberg. Schwartz and his partner also used their lives as the basis for the sitcom “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.”

“Basically we said, ‘Let’s write about ourselves,'” Schwartz said.

Working in the television industry has a lot of uncertainty, such as whether the show will get picked up. Ellin said when “Entourage” first aired, he didn’t think there would be any kind of following.

Javerbaum spent time writing for the satirical publication The Onion. He said it was some of the best time in his life.

Currently, Javerbaum is promoting his book, “The Last Testament: A Memoir By God,” Schwartz is rounding out the seventh season of “American Dad!” and Ellin has plans to write a script for a full-length “Entourage” movie.

Schwartz said even after seeing your name on TV every week has gotten old, it becomes special again when your kid sees it.

“It’s gratifying,” Ellin said.

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