Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 101

Elijah Aron, Television Writer

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Show notes

As a student, Elijah Aron started writing plays, musicals, and making weird films with friends. After school, he moved to San Francisco and started a theater company with friends from college. They transformed an old shoe store into a theater, where Elijah worked and slept. He talks about the imaginative and adventurous shows, which included surrealist works and musical elements, and simulated carnival rides, but despite their creative success, he struggled financially and worked as a temp and at a bookstore to support himself where he met a wide assortment of interesting individuals.

 

Working in Television
Elijah initially pursued the idea theater, as he was drawn to weird art and unconventional ideas. He explains how he began to write scripts for a TV show called Black Scorpion and in 2000, Elijah moved to LA to try his hand at the TV business where he started working as a low-level executive at Disney Television Animation.

 

Tips on Pitching a Television Show
Elijah talks about his career at Disney where he became a development executive, helped produce cartoons and look for new shows. He shares tips on pitching that he learned from this experience, including which pitches sold and why. He emphasizes the importance of being relaxed and friendly in meetings, as well as summarizing the idea in a sentence to sell it. His job involved listening to pitches and working as a programming executive, reading every draft of the script, and looking at storyboards.
Elijah also developed and wrote television shows, and he wrote some TV movies. However, he wanted to move into adult TV and was hired on the show Drawn Together, which was an animated reality show with different characters from different cartoons.

 

100000 Jokes and Working in the Writer’s Room
Elijah talks about his experience in TV writers rooms and recalls the first joke that got him quoted in TV Guide. He spent a decade of writing for network sitcoms, including Better Off Ted and Raising Hope. Elijah’s work on these shows was characterized by stress, high-pressure work, and a focus on ratings. He enjoyed working with talented writers and developing sitcoms, but eventually changed course to work on Bojack Horseman, an animated show about a horse actor dealing with depression, and Undone, an animated show about a young woman who learns to move through time and space. He states that being a TV writer is challenging, as it involves collaboration, rewriting, and finding the right balance between being funny and not being offensive. He talks about writing jokes and how he combines inspiration and a method of thinking that helps him find the funny. He also mentions that most writers do not want to use AI for ideas and/or writing, but that it can be useful for research.

 

Influential Harvard Courses and Professors
Elijah discusses his lifelong career in the arts, focusing on his extracurricular activities such as creating weird plays and participating in a community of artists. He mentions his experiences with free speech and the creation of a zine called The Little Friend at Harvard, where anyone could publish opinions. He also shared a story about making white jumpsuits with numbers on the back, which led to a cultural education. He took animation classes with Derek Lamb and Janet Perlman, which provided him with a history of animation and allowed him to create his own films. He also mentioned that he is a fan of Helen Venders’ poetry classes.

 

Timestamps:

05:08: Creating and staging surreal, experimental plays in college
09:43: Career paths, including temping, writing, and TV production
16:58: TV show development and pitching, with insights on what sells and what doesn’t
22:07: Writing for TV shows, including jokes and animation experience
27:02: TV writing career, from sitcoms to animated shows
33:12: TV writing, comedy vs. drama, and joke-writing process
38:16: Using AI in TV writing, personal experiences, and career development

 

Links:
Undone: https://www.amazon.com/Undone-Season-1/dp/B0875GVR67
Instagram: @things_in_elijahs_house

 

Featured Non-profit:

The featured non-profit of this episode is Healthy Humor Inc., recommended by Reggie Williams who reports: “Hi, I’m Reggie Williams, class of 1992. The featured nonprofit of this episode of the 92 report is healthy humor. Healthy humor is an arts organization whose professional performers create moments of joy, wonder, laughter and comfort for hospitalized children and their families during some of their most difficult times. I’m proud to have served on the board for healthy humor for more than two years. Alongside our classmate Derek Horner, who’s the board’s chair. You can learn more about their work at healthyhumorinc.org. And now, here’s Will Bachman with this week’s episode.”

To learn more about their work visit: https://www.healthyhumorinc.org/

 

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Transcript

 

92-101 Elijah Aron

SPEAKERS

Elijah Aron, Will Bachman

 

Will Bachman  00:03

Hello, and welcome to the 90 T Report. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m excited to be here today with Elijah Aaron. Elijah, welcome to the show.

 

Elijah Aron  00:13

Thank you. Well, I’m excited to be on it maybe a little nervous.

 

Will Bachman  00:17

So Elijah, tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.

 

Elijah Aron  00:23

Um, all right. Well, I guess that kind of a tiny bit to Harvard, I, I, you know, I came from like an average public school hadn’t been what essays and I realized very quickly, I couldn’t compete academically. So I just started writing like plays and musicals with my friend, Paul gala Yunus, from our class, and also making weird films with my friend Helen Hill, who was this brilliant filmmaker who died tragically young that I know was an inspiration to many people in our class. Anyway, my point being I did a bunch of I did you know, tons of weird plays and art and came out of Harvard with my only skills really been to do weird plays. So I’ve moved to San Francisco and started a theatre company with a couple of friends from 93, Charles Guerrero and Andrea thumb and some other people I met. So just go Katie, Lisa Williams, who are these brilliant artists. And we just rented an old shoe store and transformed it into a theater we we upholstered all these old couches and chairs and this cool dude design. And I just slept in that theater. I had a closet lined with fur, and then we made a coffin for a show. So I slept in the coffin. And we just put on weird plays a lot of musicals about myself, Elijah and the Cave of villains, and cocktails with Elijah. And we could do anything with a space. So we did some amusement park rides, where, you know, we put people on little carts and they’d go through weird tunnels through the world of dreams. We had a simulator ride. So it was amazing, but I am very satisfying creatively, except that you know, we’d get 100 People see me shows and I was making no money. I would scrounge under the seats to get like enough change to buy ramen. And so I just was like, it was kind of I was tapping a lot I remember I worked at Bank of America I spent like a month just writing one sign one person’s name on 1000s of letters

 

Will Bachman  03:08

not not opening up credit cards for them. I’m sure you did. Fargo

 

Elijah Aron  03:16

and yeah, so it was it was tough and then but but I loved it and oh then I worked at a I support myself for a while working at a New Age bookstore in in the Castro district that was that was great. I just read books about conspiracies all day. And people would come in I kind of learned to read tarot cards enough just kind of just guessing what was going on with people was pretty good to tell who whose relationship was going well. Who’s doing well their job? And then yeah, and then different spiritualist and psychics would come in one time and my boss came in and I was hypnotized. But luckily nothing was stolen from the shop.

 

Will Bachman  04:10

I wait, wait someone came in literally and hypnotize you

 

Elijah Aron  04:14

like hey, hypnotize me because people would come in they were like authors or just people interested in the I was like a psychic hypnotist. And they were they were coming to sort of sell a book and I didn’t have any power don’t buy a book. So I was just but I was like, what would you do and they sort of relaxed me and talked to talked about like, I don’t even remember it was like very relaxing, rain falling and then I was just sort of out of it. Like my boss gave it and we’re like, what’s going on?

 

Will Bachman  04:51

So you were actually mining the register mining is store hypnotist.

 

Elijah Aron  04:59

I Oh, okay. Yeah, it would have been a great way to steal from the store, but they didn’t do it.

 

Will Bachman  05:08

Okay, that’s pretty cool. So, okay, before we move on, I just to set the scene a little bit. Can you give us an example of one of the weird plays that you staged? You know, either at Harvard, maybe you know, at Harvard? Where did you stage it? Just tell us a little bit about what we would have experienced if we had attended one of your weird plays.

 

Elijah Aron  05:33

Well, I’m at a at Harvard, I did. A number of weird musical plays. One of them, like ding dong, the sad circus of monkeys was this sort of surrealist circus, it wasn’t a giant circus tent in the low backs. I had, where everybody there was like a man with, you know, 10 foot arms, and a big headed man who was like, spoke from the sky. And then I I did a regular sitcom, sort of like, musical half hour, kind of sitcom soap opera that we would do every three weeks at Adams House. And then when I had the theater, yeah, we had, like, cocktails with Elijah was just somebody playing me, wanting all of these famous people to come to my parties, most of whom were like mythical kings and queens. And then instead, my annoying family came and I was upset. Um, and they encouraged me to be to be more of a communist, but didn’t really take and then all these kings and queens showed up. I had, there was, yeah, so when were these amusement park rides, one of them was a simulator ride, which was like a pod that like six people could get into. And there was a screen in the front. And there was like, a front window. And, but the whole thing was on springs, because I didn’t have money for technology. And so people behind curtains would move this whole pot up and down, while the things on the screen moved. And in that case, there had been moved. There was an epidemic of and they were being moved by the government into underground quarantine chambers, it was a sort of sci fi, sci fi piece. So it was the kind of odd odd shows I’d been doing.

 

Will Bachman  07:57

And what was the origin story of this way? I mean, at least my own background, and that would not have occurred to me to, you know, to create workplaces, did you grow up going to bed and puppets or one of these sorts of things? Or did you grow up in a, you know, going to theater in high school, or alternative experimental theater like what you had?

 

Elijah Aron  08:23

I don’t know. I was I definitely did. I definitely did theater in high school. But, and I liked and I liked weird art and I like being artsy I think and being like, being bohemian, and so things that seemed a little off center always appealed to me. And again, I think it was like making creating plays was something that I could control myself, I was really kind of a, I could get people to work with me, but like, I didn’t work well, like, working for other people. So so like, play was something I could completely create, right and direct and, and, you know, and make happen. And I really, I you know, I didn’t at the time, I really didn’t want to be part of any kind of corporate structure or, you know, I just I felt like society was conformist and I just want to I’d like this sort of do it yourself punk idea that we should create our own or entertainment.

 

Will Bachman  09:43

Okay, cool. Okay, so you are temping you’re signing hundreds of applications at Bank of America for some executive or something and, and eating ramen? What what happened next?

 

Elijah Aron  09:59

So I Um, what happened? Kind of got me into it. Our classmate Rachel Samuels was of 92 how she was working for Roger Corman who was famous for making the movies, tak of the crop, crab monsters, Slumber Party massacre, things like that. That would be a first in drivings. And then later and like, you know, in the, in the video stores and on cable. And they were making a TV show called Black Scorpion of Baghdad, a leather clad superhero. And they needed cheap writers and Rachel liked my plays. And so let me try my hand and I ended up writing a bunch of scripts for Roger Corman and I would make like $10,000 a script, which was more money than I could have imagined at the time. Wow. So that kind of made me think that I should that maybe there was a way to expand my horizons and not not just live in this in this theater. I tried moving to New York for a couple years. Didn’t I had a pretty good time I lived with another classmate from 92 Dan porch. on the Upper West Side and apartment that cost $300 A month. You know what I made art. I remember I painted my entire room and murals. But I didn’t. Didn’t really get a job did more tamping I had to make. I had a job making phone calls, sales calls. And I figured out to just do a southern accent to get over my shyness.

 

Will Bachman  12:02

But do it right now. Do it right now. It doesn’t.

 

Elijah Aron  12:07

Well, well, hello, I’m calling from Marcus travel. And we wondered if you would be interested in brochures. It’s pretty terrible. But nobody questions but you can do a southern accent you’re faking your accent. I actually still do what I do calls for elections.

 

Will Bachman  12:30

And somehow, somehow people would not hang up on a southern accent but they would hang up on a New Yorker accent or, um,

 

Elijah Aron  12:37

yeah, it put it made me have a more friendly character. I just became more of an extrovert. Okay, all right.

 

Will Bachman  12:52

I love that idea, you know, as a way to kind of play a character right? So you’re no longer is no longer Elijah myself. I’m embarrassed and making these sales calls. But no, it’s this character that I’m playing. It’s Elijah the southern salesperson. Right? Exactly.

 

Elijah Aron  13:08

Yeah. It was much more polite and likeable than.

 

Will Bachman  13:15

I love that idea. Okay, I’m gonna I’m gonna keep that idea. All right.

 

Elijah Aron  13:18

It’s really good when I’m trying to talk to swing voters in Wisconsin still.

 

Will Bachman  13:26

So, okay, well, so you’re making sales calls doing the southern accent? All you’re actually, by the way, all this musical stuff. Like you mentioned that you’re writing these musical plays weird plays. Did you play instruments? Did you have training as a composer or what? What was the background?

 

Elijah Aron  13:45

I had? In dorm crew, freshman year, I met Paul Gailius, who was this great songwriter. And we decided we’d wanted to write a rock opera, basically. And so that was my first two years at Harvard was just working with him. And we still write songs to this day. I just write the lyrics. I can’t do the music at

 

Will Bachman  14:06

all. So fun. Okay, so you are in New York, you’re painting your walls, and you’re doing some temping and keep going. Yeah. So

 

Elijah Aron  14:17

I was sort of thinking that I should try to get into the TV business. I didn’t really understand how to do it. But I had been writing I did try writing spec scripts, which is what you had to do at the time, right? These samples of existing shows. So when I have like three of those, I decided okay, I’ll move to LA see what I can do. Also, my, my, my girlfriend’s who I met at Harvard, and then with on and off. Zoe, Zoe Sarnia. We actually met at a play I’m at a play a surrealist play that another person from our class David Gammons was directing our toes jet of blood. And the audience was on swings. And there was a lot of lights. And my future wife played a sex dancer and I played a post apocalyptic night, through cheese and people. And that’s how we met. And then I cast her in, in one of my plays. And, and so we sort of sort of stuck together and she became a, she was going to medical school, UCLA, and is now a psychiatrist. But that was another thing drawn me to LA. And so I got there, I didn’t really know anybody. I, that is to say, I’d been on the Lampoon for years. So I sort of knew people but had not kept up with him at all, didn’t really have many real friends out there, just sort of vague acquaintances who were all very successful at that point. This is like 2000. I did have one person, though, that I was friendly with was from college, Adam lane, who’s in a different class. But he’s, he was working at Disney Television Animation. And they were looking for a low level executive. And so I walked in and a bright yellow suit and talked about how I love cartoons. And they hired me. And so I was helping produce cartoons for children. I was a development executive. For a while, which was trying to develop new shows, you’re reading lots of scripts, meeting with writers go into hundreds of pitch meetings, I learned a lot about what pitches sell, and why. Even though,

 

Will Bachman  17:18

well, share, I got to ask when someone says something like that, what are three or four of the reasons why scripts sell you?

 

Elijah Aron  17:27

The number one thing I learned was that over half of them, it’s clear before they walk in the door, because it’s if you are not very experienced, it’s very unlikely that someone’s going to buy a show from you. On the other hand, if you have had, if you’ve just come off of a hit show, there’s a very good chance that they will, there is a large group of people in the middle, which is often where I am these days, that they could, they we could imagine them running a show. But we’re better have a good idea. But then the ideas, they the most important thing is that they’re exactly what the corporation was looking for. At that time, if they’re looking for in our case, it was kids. So if you’re looking for some, you know, your audience’s 13 year old girls, and we don’t have enough action shows, if you walk in with an action show about a 13 year old girl, there’s a good chance we make it if not, there’s not a great chance that we make it the value of the idea as interesting or creative is pretty low. Now you want to have them a little bit different, you basically want to do something that’s exactly what they want maybe exactly like something that’s been made before with like one thing different. You know, now of course, there’s some just genius things that are amazing and sell but but and then the other one is just walking in there. And I’ve also not been good at this and just being relaxed and friendly. A lot of that is like oh, this is this somebody that I want to work with, that I want to basically be friends with and be in meetings with for for a while. And then oh, and then the other thing is, whoever’s in that meeting, even if they can by a pitch is going to have to be explaining this, this show to everybody in the corporation for a long time. So it better be something you can sum up in a sentence and sounds good, really in a sentence so that you can sell it to everybody else in your company. So anyway, so that was part of my job was listen to pitches. And then the other part was I was a current programming executive, which was sort of the all those shows that are currently on. I would read read every draft of the script because it was animated, I would look at storyboards. Nowadays, we don’t even give out storyboards everything’s done digitally. But we’d have storyboards, we’d have different stages of animation you could watch. And I was supposed to give notes on those. Mostly I pass on my boss’s notes. I learned the trick, which I wished executives would do to me, which is I would say, these are my notes that I think would be good for to improve your show. You don’t have to do that. I just think they’re good ideas. These are my boss’s notes. And if you don’t do that, and we’re gonna have a lot of phone calls, and it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a lot of drama. But so, yeah, so I was not great. Really, at being an executive i i didn’t know a lot of basic things like that you, you don’t fire writers, you call their agent to fire them. So I was always firing people, which was awful. I hadn’t, they gave me an assistant at one point. And I just didn’t know what to do with her. And it was and it’s kind of a nervous making her do things. So she ended up just like filing my random doodles I’d make every day. Or they had it was it was this building in Disney, where they had, where offices, they can move the walls and the offices so that the more you were promoted, you got a bigger and bigger office. And I had a very narrow office. Once I was promoted, other people’s offices would get smaller.

 

Will Bachman  21:50

Like Hunger Games, other people.

 

Elijah Aron  21:57

Yeah, in theory, you could be at a two foot wide office labs. Okay. So what I, I was I was coming up with a lot of my own ideas, because I knew what the corporation wanted. So we started sort of developing my own ideas there, some of which would become shows some of them not. And I got along better with the writers than any of the executives. So eventually, I got hired to write on the kid shows. My first one was Lloyd and space, which was a kid’s sci fi show, they were about an alien kid with a sort of annoying human best friend live in a space station. And I was already a big Star Trek sci fi fan, so I kind of knew every sci fi trope, and how about a fun writing for them, I wrote some TV movies, I, it was kind of my chance to write, I always say you have to write like at least a dozen scripts before you get any good. And it was my chance to write a lot of scripts that no one really will ever see. But was good. I had Oh, I had I wrote a a TV movie of that was based on Twas the Night Before Christmas. That was with you know, Disney, Mickey and Donald, but the whole text is like, you know, it’s, it’s was done in the style of the poem. So the same structures and stanzas and the same. I think it’s Anna pastic, Traminer. You know, unstressed, unstressed, stressed with the syllables. Everything was the right length. So it was very hard to write. And then when they gave me notes, like, Oh, can we add goofy to this scene? It threw off the whole script. So anyway, so I was I was, I was having fun doing that. But I really wanted to move into adult TV. And there was the show drawn together, which was, the premise was an animated reality show. In with sort of different people from characters from different cartoons, like a Disney princess, or a black and white Betty Boop character, a superhero all lived together in a house. And they liked my specs. They liked that I had animation experience, and so they hired me on the show. And that was my first TV writers room. And I was, it turned out to be a particularly tough one with a lot of teasing and and Gotta be mean to people. But then after about halfway through the season, they’d written all the scripts, and then they would just have us go off. They would take a script and divided into, like, there’d be 20 places, we’re like, we need a better line here, we need a better response here, we need a better in the scene. And so you take, so then we would just go to our, our separate offices and right, so for those 20 areas that need a jokes, we’d write like five possible jokes each. So I was writing like 100 jokes a day. But at the end of the day, we’d come we’d all get together and they would say what jokes they like and make fun of the bad jokes. And that I did well at and so it kind of was like a joke camp that got me good at jokes. I figured out that I’ve now written at least 100,000 jokes in my, in my career, probably more. Oh, wow.

 

Will Bachman  25:56

Well, any standout to you that you’re particularly proud of that?

 

Elijah Aron  26:01

Oh, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t think of one. They’re always not be funny out of context.

 

Will Bachman  26:06

All right. Okay. So 100,000 jokes, that’s a lot of

 

Elijah Aron  26:12

I remember the first joke that got him the TV Guide used to have like the funny quote lines. And it’s not by far not my best joke, but there was a bunch of people was on the show Better Off Ted, and people in the office, we’re going to try to they were going to try to steal something from another office. And it was like a caper. And so one character said, you could pull off a cape or if it was sitting on a LOX plate. And and so that got that was that was quoted in TV Guide. And I was proud of that. You anyway, so that, let’s see, I’m realizing that I should probably Speed up.

 

Will Bachman  26:57

Speed is fine. So okay, so you’re in the writers room right now.

 

Elijah Aron  27:01

So drawn together. After that, I, when that show ended, I was wanting to be I was looking for other shows. There was the show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but they were only hiring teams to save money, basically. So I teamed up with another writer, Jordan Young, who worked on drawing together with and we had a meeting, we pitched them a story about cannibalism. And they, they hired us. And that kind of kicked off almost a decade of writing for network sitcoms, I after that I wasn’t on the network. But after that, they hired me, I’m Better Off Ted. Because it’s always sunny was a good credit at the time. And I worked on Better Off Ted Raising Hope son of Zorn life and pieces of it along with you know, developing sitcoms and helping out in, you know, punching up sitcoms of other people’s. And that was, you know, everyone was very talented. And it was, it was fun. It’s a lot of stress. The network’s shows because there’s a huge amount of money thrown at them. And they no one knows how to make a hit. And they are the ones paying attention to ratings, which is no longer a thing in our streaming world very much. But at the time, it really mattered how much too much audience you get every week. So there were just tons of network notes and rewrites and there was always a lot of late nights. One show where I remember we’d stay up till two or three in the morning, almost every night. And at one point. My wife so he came with my six year old son to talk to my boss who was a friend of mine, it was like my my husband has not seen his children. They don’t know their fathers. And so he it was very embarrassing to me. He felt terrible. We got off at 10pm That night the but it was Yeah, so it was it was except for the stress. I enjoyed it. But um and most you know, most of them were were good. It wasn’t exactly. Always would have wanted to be writing. I love some of the shows. And then I eventually, we had enough success that we we we became separate writers, so I stopped having a partner. And then I got on this show Bojack Horseman which is this animated show about a a horse actor in Hollywood dealing with depression. And that was a great experience we didn’t care about Anything but making a great show. I was trying to be emotional before being funny. Although we were also funny we did, we threw out structure, we throw out all these things that I had thought you needed for a show, I got to write a lot of really strange episodes, I wrote an episode that was completely silent. And executives didn’t give us much notes. And it was a really nice room. And so I stayed there five years. I love that. And then I went from that to the show called undone, which I like also recommend to everybody, it most people haven’t heard of it. But it was. It’s about a young woman who was depressed and gets an accident. And her father who died when she was young, and was a physicist, sort of appears to her as a ghost and starts teaching her how to move through time and space. And we’re not quite clear if that is happening, or if she is hallucinating and schizophrenic. So it’s a very cool trippy show. It was done. It was rotoscoped. So we’d film live live actors, and then an animators would would draw over them. So it was very time consuming and expensive. But but very cool show. And you know, there’s been a few other songs. I’m currently working on something that’s a top secret. But seems like it’ll be cool. And then let’s see. My in my yeah, I’ve I think I mentioned my wife, Zoe, who’s great. I’ve got two kids once gone off to college and as a radical environmental activists and the sunrise movement. So he’s always like sleeping on the streets in front of Senators houses or interrupting Trump rallies and getting manhandled by the secret police. So I worry about him a little bit. But he’s, he’s, he’s a great kid. My other kid is that Simon medicated Elliot is 14 and all about the sailing, you learn to sailing was 10. We got a boat at 11. And by 12, he was sailing to Catalina Island and back by himself. Yeah, so he’s this summer he is. He’s got a cool 18th century job, which is riggers apprentice. And he climbs up mass and helps and replaces rigging with this with this expert rigger, who is who was I think, a drunk, but very good at reading. So he’s living an interesting life. And yeah. Maybe I’ll let you ask some questions.

 

Will Bachman  33:18

How is being a TV writer different than what those of us outside the industry would expect?

 

Elijah Aron  33:33

Um, well, for the most part, it’s it’s hard to know what people expect. I know a lot of people have seen shows about TV writers now. But you know, it’s definitely very collaborative, a lot of rewriting for the comedy especially, it’s like every line that’s funny has had 10 or 15 tries of that line often for a lot of shows. A lot of times it’s finding the change in line of what’s inappropriate. So it’s you know, it’s sort of discovering what slightly shocking to people but not so shocking or surprising that that they’ll be offended Usually people are more offensive in a writers room and then we find a line in the show yeah, I’m trying to think what what else people would? Yeah.

 

Will Bachman  34:38

Do you watch much television that other people have made to kind of stay current with the latest shows and so forth? Or are you mainly producing it not consuming it?

 

Elijah Aron  34:48

I I enjoy dramas a lot more than comedies. Watching showdown right now. It’s, I think Yeah, a lot of comedy writers want to be drama writers and a lot of drama writers want to be comedy writers. It’s that’s, you know, you sort of see how the sausage is made when when you’re watching your own genre. It’s, you know, it’s just it’s harder to, to find them as funny or I’m just thinking, I know people on this show, or I could have done that better, or Oh, my God, how did they do that? I wish I could have done that. Yeah, I can’t just relax and get lost in a world. But I watched a little bit. You know, I watched curve, which was great. Girls, five others. Good. Comedy wise. Right now. I think you should leave. Tim Robinson is funny.

 

Will Bachman  35:47

Curious. When you you’ve written 100,000 jokes, when you’re writing jokes? Is it every time purely inspiration? Or is there a method to it? Do you have a framework? Okay, there’s one of seven different things I could do here. I could try to subvert the situation, I could try something that is, you know, like, is there some sort of go to framework where you kind of go through your checklist of ideas? Or how do you go about writing jokes?

 

Elijah Aron  36:15

For sure there is it is a combination of inspiration. And I find that comes more as I, as I’ve done it more because I’ve internalized what makes a joke work. But so some of its inspiration, just like whatever the first funny thing that comes to you is, but then there’s sort of, then there’s yeah, there’s various layers, you can look at it. What’s the worst thing someone could say at this moment? What’s the, if they’re, if they’re, you know, in a, you know, what is the worst thing that can happen to them, or the craziest thing that can happen to them? If they’re in a fire station, there’s a lot of callbacks, like what else has been done in this script that you can bring back and remind people about? So things like that. And then you’re like, Oh, this isn’t something the character would say, or this is too crazy for the show. And you there’s a lot of editing, you know, I only ended up pitching about a quarter the jokes that I think of, but there’s so yeah, so it is there’s there is a sort of a math side to it, to try to find jokes when inspiration doesn’t come. But a lot of it is inspiration. And I find everything I’ve ever read or seen in my life, I don’t realize it but ends up being a reference and a joke. Some somehow.

 

Will Bachman  37:49

Tell us what is going on in the writers room? Like, what what is an example of something that someone would be saying to you, in the writers room, either feedback you’d be getting or encouragement or challenges or give us a little insight?

 

Elijah Aron  38:08

I’m in the writers room. Trying to think about feedback. I mean, usually the feedback is, Are people laughing or not? Is your stuff getting in or not? It’s it’s rare, and I’ve done it when I’ve been more of a leadership position that you actually tell somebody, okay, you’re doing this wrong? The people who sort of have to figure it out for themselves? Yeah, I mean, you know, it’s a lot of trying to say, you know, sitting back to start with a blank board, try to come up with bits of a story together as a group, usually, and then until someone goes off to an outline. And then we, we all come back and then decide if that outline works or not, and changes that we can make and give notes on it and give jokes on it. And then a couple drafts of the script like that. And yeah, it’s a lot of ideally, you’re in which I’m in now, and I’d have been since Bojack, in a group of people that are all just not thinking about their egos not worrying if they’re gonna get fired. Just trying to collaborate together on trying to make the best show possible. But that’s actually rare. Most of the time, people are like, oh, did my did my job God and oh, no, that person took my idea first, to the boss here that I had this idea. You know, it’s a very, it’s a bit of a tense industry because you’re always searching for the next job. But it’s very competitive. And so, you know, and often there’s, you know, there’s, there’s a funny, there’s some funny people can also have annoying personalities that are hard to be with for long periods of time, I’d say in TV. In general, there’s a little bit of a premium on getting being able to get along with people because you spend so much time together. Screenwriters don’t, not a requirement. So you’ll meet some great screenwriters. But some you’re like, Oh, it’s good to stay away from people.

 

Will Bachman  40:31

I recall vaguely I wasn’t paying super close attention. But in the last contract negotiation, there was some stuff around AI. AI, give me an inside scoop. are writers using chat GPT on their phone to come up with ideas? Or is that entering the place? How are our writers using these new tools?

 

Elijah Aron  40:56

So I definitely, sometimes we’re not supposed to use them on the show. And then I try not to. But if I’m like doing my own thing, I definitely like I was writing some that took place in the 50s. And I will use chat GPT. Just a check like is this swing they would use in the 50s? What are some examples of car companies that were big in the 50s, or whatever. So it’s, so I found it very useful, just as a quick reference tool. They’re also graded pawns feel. But generally, people the writers are very upset about AI, don’t want it used. They’re not good at making. At least the version that we the public are seeing are not good at making an interesting, surprising adult scripts yet. But some of the kids stuff that I worked on early in my career, especially like preschool stuff, where you’re not worried about being a little cliched and obvious. The church, he could probably be writing all those scripts now. Wow, that’s

 

Will Bachman  42:03

kind of scary for the writer.

 

Elijah Aron  42:06

It is everybody’s, everybody else probably on the picket lines, the thing people were talking about and worried about the most.

 

Will Bachman  42:15

Let’s turn back to school. So were there any professors or courses that you had in college, they continue to resonate with you? It sounds like your extracurricular of, you know, creating weird plays has led on to a lifelong career. Yeah,

 

Elijah Aron  42:34

it was far more. Yeah, I was far more affected by the community of artists that I hung out with and just being able to, to do weird projects. I had a I had a zine for a while at Harvard called the little friend, which was just anybody could publish. It was free speech. Anyone could publish any opinions. So it’d be like a pro smoking or anti recycling. And we did another thing we had everybody. We found all these white jumpsuits $1 A pound and spray painted numbers on the back of them. And so some people in our class might remember there were people walking around 25 people walking around with white jumpsuits with numbers on the back for a week. There was sociology classes talking about it, because if you didn’t have the white jumpsuit people are jealous. There’s just like, friends who happen to be near us and we were making the jumpsuits but then it was like the sneetches like if you had one you felt if you did but yeah, I mean, I definitely got a cultural education. I was an English Lit major Helen venders poetry classes. You know, reading the Bible and Robert, Kylie’s English Bible was great animation, I took animation with Derek Lam and Jenna Proman. And they kind of gave me a history of animation. Plus, let us create our own films. On this old Roxbury camera, they had the basement we were still like cutting and splicing film, and I didn’t know I’d be working as much in animation, but it definitely ended up being useful to me. For sure, and, and really fun to be able to just to just make things I’m still friends with people from that class. That’s probably the one.

 

Will Bachman  44:32

That’s very cool. Elijah, for listeners that want to follow you or find out what you’re working on. Where’s the best place to go? IMDB or website or how can people find out?

 

Elijah Aron  44:46

So we go to the website there. I mean, I don’t post much on Instagram, but I do if there’s a show or something that’s things that Elijah’s house Let’s see. Yeah, I don’t know. People want to email me the people put email addresses in this. If

 

Will Bachman  45:08

you like or if you if you know Elijah, you’ll probably have his email if you don’t know if you can reach out to me and I’ll afford you on. Elijah, this was so much fun hearing about how your weird plays led to meeting your wife and a career in TV. This was this was a lot of fun hearing your stories. Thank you for joining today. Oh,

 

Elijah Aron  45:35

it was fun. Thank you. Thank you for doing this.