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Who’s Running the Show?

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MY SHOWRUNNER PHILOSOPHY

Remain calm, no matter how desperately your brain is trying to convince you to freak out. —Mike Schur

Care deeply about your characters—so deeply that you delude yourself into thinking that they’re real human beings and quite possibly your best friends—does this sound as lonely and creepy as I’m hoping? If you don’t care that much, how can you expect an audience to? —Craig Thomas

Story first, jokes after. I often hear myself saying “Jack and the Beanstalk” in the writers’ room, in response to too much logic employed early in the story-making process. Community is story-driven, so in the early phases, I insist there be no wrong answers until they’re proven wrong. Later on you shore things up, to make sure your foot doesn’t fall through the deck. —Dan Harmon

You can always create more plot; you can’t create more audience. We heard of a showrunner who was holding on to his reveals; the first six episodes were set up, with all these surprises popping up in the season’s second half. The show was canceled after the first three episodes. In other words, don’t save a kiss between Will and Alicia until the fifth year; you’ll never make it. —Robert King

Listen to yourself at the end of the day, but listen to other people a lot. —Kevin Biegel

Hire as many different kinds of writers as possible. We’ve got a midwestern hick girl, a couple of Boston Harvard douchebags, including myself, a Southern California burnout genius, and an African-American standup comic. What makes it work is that we all speak the same comic shorthand. You can get the most talented people in a room, and they can spend the whole time butting heads. —Robert Carlock

When I was making the pilot for Grey’s Anatomy, the director said, “You answer questions so quickly. You don’t take any time to think, and you don’t obsess over the right or wrong answer.” I looked at him like he was crazy, because it had never occurred to me. I realized there’s no time for perfection. And that’s coming from a perfectionist. —Shonda Rhimes

Interviews by Joe Adalian, Kera Bolonik, Kyle Buchanan, Mike Flaherty, Willa Paskin, and Jada Yuan.


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