Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Beth Einhorn on Working in Comedy

Beth Einhorn & friend
We contacted Beth Einhorn recently to ask about her experiences working as a writer, producer, and director in TV comedy. She’s worked on The Chris Rock Show, HBO’s George Carlin specials, and Saturday Night Live, to name a few. Beth is currently a writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She’s also written and directed independent films that screened at the VFF (Simple Roasted Chicken in 2009 and A 3 1/2 Foot Perspective in 2007). This year we’re screening 500 Days of Zankou. Here’s some of what she told us:

“I’ve always loved comedy. When I was young, I saw a lot of Woody Allen and Mel Brooks films, and would stay up late watching Johnny Carson. I never thought that someday I’d actually be a writer on The Tonight Show. That definitely wasn’t something I thought I would do when I first got out of college (Boston University) and moved back to the San Fernando Valley. I’m an 818 girl – I know it’s not cool to say that, but I don’t care.

“Shortly after graduating college, life was great, but I decided to move to New York where I didn’t know anyone. In those days before Facebook, I developed connections the old fashioned way, which led to a job at the Apollo Theater with a woman who, it turned out, worked on Saturday Night Live. Through her, I then got a job on SNL. And that’s kinda how my career has gone ever since. No rhyme or reason, just what sounded interesting and a lot of long hours and hard work.

“Some people do very well in life by getting a job and staying there until they retire or the show ends. I sort of had a different path. I was mostly a free lance person – going from show to show. I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with so many amazingly talented people. If I had stayed with one show, I probably wouldn’t have done so much, like directing 10 cameras in Japan, working with George Burns in Paris, or traveling the country on a tour bus with Genesis.

“I have been really lucky to work with the likes of George Carlin, Betty White, Paul McCartney, and Chris Rock. Actually, Chris Rock taught me most everything I know about directing, producing, and writing remotes. He also taught me that nothing becomes funnier after midnight. That is, you don’t have to work on a TV show twenty hours a day for it to be good; more hours don’t make a better show.

“People bring up, ‘What’s it like to be a woman in comedy production.’ Right now, I’m the only woman writer on The Tonight Show. It is odd sometimes, when I look around the room and there are nineteen men and me. But I got used to that a long time ago. I was the only woman director my season on The Man Show and I guess it was good that I was the only girl in my Hebrew school class for two years—it prepared me for show business.

“My first remote I directed on The Man Show was called ‘Jimmy and Adam Go to the Sperm Bank.’ I had just started and didn’t know Jimmy Kimmel or Adam Carolla at all. The piece was them at a fertility clinic to check their sperm count and mobility of the sperm. Of course, with them there was a twist – they wanted first to see who could masturbate the fastest to get the specimen to analyze. Ok, so I set it up like a race: they had to run down the hall and they each go into different rooms – it would have been gross if they were in the same room -- and do their thing. Trying to be professional, I told them, “Okay – Adam you’re going to go into that room and Jimmy you are going into that room and do your thing.” Adam kept teasing me—“Beth, exactly what are we doing?”—and I was like, “you know very well what you’re doing.” And he kept asking me. Well, they did do their thing and, for the record, Adam was faster, but Jimmy had the better sperm count. I went on to work on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Too Late with Adam Carolla.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences working in television, but one of my favorite professional experiences was in film. That’s when I got to see my short film, A 3 ½ Foot Perspective, shown at the Valley Film Festival. It was a passion project of mine, something I feel proud of. Going out and shooting something that you love, seeing it up on the big screen, and then having people come up to talk about it was all wonderful. I love working in the industry, but sometimes it’s also great to go out and do your own thing.

Edited by
James Latham

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