* By Dave Barry Miami Herald *
It’s a few days before the Academy Awards, and I’m deep in the bowels of the Kodak Theater (which has miles of bowels) in a cramped space temporarily named the Writers Room. The show writers, of whom I am one this year, are sitting around a conference table strewn with papers, Starbucks cups and the wrappers of long-deceased snacks. Also at the table are the co-hosts we’re writing for, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.
We’re going over the monologue they’ll deliver at the start of the show (which is actually a dialogue, but everybody calls it a “monologue”).
The monologue has been under construction for a couple of months now, via a process that’s both serious, because it’s for the Oscars, and funny, because it’s basically a bunch of comedy writers sitting around thinking up jokes. The early writers’ conferences took place in Los Angeles. I participated by phone from Miami, which was not ideal because (a) I could hear only about every third word, and (b) I was in a room with my dog, Lucy, who often barks violently to alert me if she sees something alarming outside the window such as a leaf. So from my perspective, the writers’ conferences went like this:
WRITERS IN CALIFORNIA: What if we did a joke about (garble garble) Woody Harrelson (garble garble) refrigerator (garble garble) kangaroo. (Laughter.)
STEVE MARTIN (into phone): Dave, what do you think?
ME: I didn’t really . . .
LUCY: Bark! Bark! Bark!
STEVE MARTIN: What?
The writers’ meetings produced several hundred ideas for jokes, bits, skits, etc., which got winnowed down to a few dozen and arranged into a rough draft of the monologue. Now Steve and Alec are going over the jokes in the Writers Room, trying them out, critiquing them, tweaking them. The hosts have very different styles. Steve is reserved, analytical, dry, almost professorial. He’s also a perfectionist who will spend 20 minutes dissecting a single element of a joke, trying to determine the absolute best way to word something. He’s a joke scientist.
Alec is more like a humor fullback. He’s a big, physical guy, charming and charismatic; wherever he goes, the men want him to like them, the women want him to make love to them, and the cattle want to provide him with steaks.
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