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Daily Show,’ ‘Entourage,’ ‘American Dad’ writers tell OSU about funny world of TV

An Inside Look into What Makes America Laugh,' also featuring Kenny Schwartz of 'American Dad' and David Javerbaum of 'The Daily Show,' Wednesday in the Ohio Union Performance Hall.

David Javerbaum, Kenny Schwartz and Doug Ellin share more in common than being Jewish. Each has separately played a major role in the inner workings of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “American Dad” or “Entourage,” respectively.

The “Funny Men” spoke about their struggles making their way in the television industry in the Ohio Union Performance Hall Wednesday in an event sponsored by the Ohio Union Activities Board and the OSU Hillel.

Kenny Schwartz, one of the executive producers and writers of “American Dad!,” started off as a production assistant in the early 1990s.  

Schwartz said he went to Hollywood after film school, hoping to make a name for himself. He said he didn’t have much trouble talking to creators and writers of TV shows he had admired for years, including Garry Marshall, creator and executive producer of “Laverne and Shirley” and “Happy Days.”

“For me it wasn’t (hard) — you have absolutely nothing to lose. I mean, he could’ve just said ‘Get away from me, kid,’ and just walked away,” Schwartz said. “You gotta do this stuff — you have to just sort of put yourself out there … You have to be persistent.”

Starting at the bottom and working your way up is one of the best ways to gain experience and get your foot in the door, Schwartz said.

“Become a production assistant,” Schwartz said. “Get people lunch and do all the s— that nobody wants to do.”

As for “American Dad!,” Schwartz said it’s hard to find ideas someone else hasn’t already taken.

“In our room, it’s what ‘The Simpsons’ hasn’t done before, which is near impossible because they’re on 400 episodes,” Schwartz said.

Getting started in the television industry usually takes time. Writers get chances to show their potential through spec scripts (screenplays written for shows already on the air) and taking on new roles in their companies, but there are a lot of setbacks, as Doug Ellin, creator and writer of “Entourage,” experienced.

“What I try to show on ‘Entourage’ is the ups and downs of it. Everyone I know has gone through the roof and then back down to earth. You know, you gotta be able to stick with it. It’s gotta be something you really love,” Ellin said.

Ellin experienced some of those lows with the release of his film, “Kissing a Fool,” which he directed in 1998. He said after it tanked at the box office, he couldn’t even get a job at Subway.

“Roger Ebert was talking about how I needed to go back to film school,” Ellin said. “I remember waking up that next day going, ‘You think this is a joke — what they tell you about how Hollywood can be.'”

On the days when writing doesn’t come easy, one should still write, said David Javerbaum, former head writer and executive producer of “The Daily Show.”    

“There are days when I write good stuff and days when I write bad stuff, but I always write something,” Javerbaum said.

Though the event was sponsored by the OSU Hillel, the speakers spoke about how little a role their Jewish faith plays in their lives anymore.

“Jewish faith is a strong statement,” Javerbaum said. “I was born Jewish, that is correct. I have little faith.”

The same goes for Ellin.

“We were Jews, but only on like two holidays a year,” Ellin said.

Nicole Bosse, a first-year in exploration and fan of “The Daily Show,” said she is unsure what career path she will pursue, but Schwartz’ story gave her an idea of the work she’ll have to put in, she said.

“I thought it was really interesting, especially the way they obtained their careers,” Bosse said. “I don’t think it’ll influence a career, but more of a hobby.”

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