Lew Schneider inspired students at Kelly Writers House last evening, as he shared his experiences as a writer for the two-time Emmy award-winning sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond.
“Lew Schneider … hates introductions,” joked College junior Kelly Diamond, who introduced the writer. Diamond saw Schneider, a 1983 College graduate, as an inspiration for sharing his vision on “comedy as a real career.”
Schneider’s interest in comedy sparked when his mother encouraged him to join Mask & Wig. While Schneider did “trust” his mother’s taste for comedy, he said, he decided to be the Master of Ceremonies for Fling instead.
After three days of “bands and kids dropping acid,” he said, Schneider decided to pursue Mask & Wig as his outlet for comedic relief.
“It is very difficult to talk about comedy anywhere near a university class,” said Schneider, because people enjoy scrutinizing the text and script instead of appreciating the truthful humor.
He shared many of his unpleasant encounters with people who “dissect and analyze” comedic text.
“If I’m laughing then I say its funny,” said Schneider, comparing that philosophy to his father-in-law’s, which was all about the “technical puns.”
Schneider reiterated the importance of writing “what you know.” He told the aspiring writers in the room of the importance in believing in your writing.
Before playing scenes from one of the earlier seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond, Schneider emphasized the importance of writing about “good characters.”
He attributed his tastes for good comedy to his ability to analyze and “put [everyday] characters in position.” This allows him to find the one interesting quality that will define the character throughout the show.
Many of the scenes Schneider played reflected actual moments in his life. As he explained how dynamic brainstorming can be in the writing room, Schneider said they only included humor into their scripts after they had created redrafted outlines.
In order to be a successful writer, Schneider suggested that one needs to have “good characters” and a “desire to write.”
The first sitcom Schneider wrote for Mask & Wig, he said, was “aggressively not funny.” However, his writing skills developed tremendously as he refined his ability to choose good characters.
Schneider said you don’t need a performance background in order to succeed as a writer. In fact, he said most of the brilliant writers he knows would be too afraid to even speak in public.
Speculative screenplays, or spec scripts, are important in show writing. Aspiring show writers will write a spec script for an existing comedy, like The Simpsons or 30 Rock, and submit it as a writing sample.
While Schneider would not recommend writers to do their spec scripts on popular television shows, he strongly encouraged writers to write their own material.
Jessica Lowenthal, director of the Kelly Writers House, said they worked closely with Alumni Relations to get Schneider to speak at the Writers House.
Lowenthal enjoyed Schneider’s “educational and inspirational” approach to teaching students about the possibility to succeed at what they enjoy.
College seniors and Mask & Wig members Adam Savitt and Alon Gur were grateful for the opportunity to meet Schneider.
Schneider inspired Savitt because he is living proof of someone who was able to succeed by doing what he enjoys most, he said.
And Gur enjoyed Schneider’s humorous approach to educating students about becoming a successful writer.
Mingo Reynolds, director of administration at the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, co-organized the event. “He was genuinely interested to help,” Reynolds said. “He was funny to listen to.”
She also admired the way Schneider proved that there is “more than one line [or career] to success.”
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