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3. Be Funny, Biting, Sweet, Ironic, and Just This Short of Sappy


3d. Don’t be afraid to dive deeper into emotions

On his night out with his father, Mitchell feels bullied, since his 10-year-old stepbrother keeps “zinging” him with jokes, egged on by Mitchell’s father, who insists this is “how brothers express love.” Eventually, Jay explains why he brought Manny along: He was getting picked on at school. Jay apologizes to Mitchell and then Mitchell and Manny have a bonding moment over being the two “weird” kids.

Jay: If you’re going to be mad, be mad at me.
Mitchell: Done.

CL: The story about Manny zinging Mitchell was much larger in the script.

JW: Some of it felt anachronistic, like Manny was an old comedian instead of a 10-year-old kid.

DZ: Then we wound up cutting a scene I was in favor of—but it worked better without it. They’re setting up their telescopes and Mitchell was like, “Hey Dad, remember Orion? You probably don’t remember this but that was the first constellation you ever showed me.” And Jay said, “You’re right, I don’t remember that.” We knew what our intention was—to establish Mitchell’s disappointment—but it didn’t feel funny.

There was also a joke that came from my own dad, about what’s below Orion’s Belt: “Orion’s dick.” As a kid, I thought it was the funniest thing ever, but it wasn’t funny onscreen. And we don’t generally do crass.

CL: There’s nothing that’s been more overdone on TV than sex jokes. In sitcoms, who can be the raciest, most disgusting? But we also added to the scene, at the last minute: We had a speech for Mitchell that we’d cut from the script, and during filming I wanted to go back to the original.

DZ: We sat there out in Laurel Canyon with a flashlight and we started just jotting it down, what could we expand? And Chris had the great line that I love, about how when you’re an adult, everybody wants to be different: “And that is where we win.”

JW: This is an example of a creative difference that yields options. When we were filming, I felt that a longer, more emotional monologue came out of nowhere. We filmed it both ways. But in retrospect, what I didn’t understand is that our viewers have gotten to know these characters. They understand that Mitchell is an outsider, that Manny has been ostracized. So when these two characters suddenly start talking about feeling weird, it connects with the audience’s experience of the characters not just in this episode but throughout the season.

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