Writers refuse to stay behind
the scenes in Boston. Visit the Comedy Studio in Cambridge,
and you might find Bill Braudis or Brendon Small taking
a break from working on the Cartoon Network's Home
Movies to try out new material. Drop by the Comedy
Connection in Boston and you might see Jeanine DiTullio,
former staff writer for the Conan O'Brien show, honing
a couple of routines.
Bill Braudis started out in
stand-up in 1981, getting in on the ground floor of
the Boston comedy boom that produced stars like Steven
Wright and Jay Leno. He had been taking writing courses
at continuing education centers in Boston and Cambridge
when he found he could showcase his talents onstage.
The stand-up wave would begin to wash out in the early
90s, leading Braudis back to his first love - writing.
"In the early 90s, I was doing a lot of traveling,
doing a lot of long drives," he says. "I had just
gotten married, and I thought, I don't want this kind
of life all the time."
The Braudis family moved out
to San Francisco, and Bill caught a break stand-ups
dream of, appearing in the Tonight Show three times
over the next couple of years. In 1995, Braudis got
his first job writing for television. "Through a friend
who was writing for the Dennis Miller Show, I started
faxing in jokes, and then they needed a writer's assistant
for their next season, so they hired me, and that
was my first writing gig," he remembers.
It wasn't long before he found
himself back in New England. Later in 1995, after
one season writing for Dennis Miller Live, Jonathan
Katz asked Braudis to write for Dr. Katz: Professional
Therapist. Braudis had first appeared on the show
playing himself, as a patient on Dr. Katz's couch.
Katz was impressed enough with Braudis to hire him
based on his stand-up. "Comedy Central picked up Dr.
Katz for a big chunk of episodes, I forget what it
was," he says. "But I started writing with [Katz]
on that. Which eventually led to working with Tom
Snyder directly on an educational show which became
the show we did on ABC on Saturday mornings called
Science Court, which we wrote for three years. And
that led to everything else I've done since then."
That also led to Home Movies
and Brendon Small, who hosts Friday night shows at
the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. Braudis and Small
work on the show for Soup to Nuts Productions in Watertown,
writing scripts together. Small got his break in comedy
writing before he even started looking for it. He
had been doing stand-up for less than a year he was
spotted onstage at the Comedy Studio by Soup to Nuts
producer Loren Bouchard. "He came to see a couple
of comics that night, and I had a pretty good set,"
Small says. "I was actually doing a character kind
of a thing. It wasn't really stand-up. I was just
screaming about ham, which sounds kind of stupid,
but with the right kind of delivery, it can be pretty
funny. So trust me on that one."
About a month after that performance,
Small got a call from Bouchard about a series he was
working on for UPN. The network was looking for a
family show, and Bouchard wanted to know if Small
had any ideas. "I just wrote as much as I could and
just beat him to the punch," says Small. "I knew how
busy he was because he was working on Dr. Katz, so
I tried to beat him to coming up with ideas. And I
did, so I got to create the show."
Not coincidentally, the show
wound up focusing on a character named Brendon Small,
a precocious 8-year-old who dreams of making movies,
and his divorced mother, originally voiced by Poundstone
but now played by Jeanine Ditullio. Small wears a
lot of hats on the show. He writes, acts, and even
puts his Berkelee degree to good use providing the
music for the soundtrack. "No one really wants to
be the guy who makes every decision, because ultimately,
it's like one point of view, and eventually that's
pretty boring," says Small. Small and Braudis have
found a rhythm writing the scripts together. "So it's
really fun to have it be a two-person team of writers,"
says Small. "You kind of sit down with the other guy
and do table reads, and just constantly listen to
suggestions and collaborate."
Like Braudis, DiTullio started
her stand-up career in Boston during the 80s boom,
and found work writing as the boom died down. She
had been working the college circuit with a friend,
John Gross, when Gross and another friend were hired
as writers on The Jon Stewart Show, which was then
on MTV. DiTullio had also opened for Stewart at Harvard
University. It wasn't long before events conspired
to bring her to the show, as well. "I called to talk
to my friend who was working there and I accidentally
got Jon Stewart's office, he answered the phone, and
he'd remembered working with me at Harvard and he
said, "Send me a writing sample, we're looking to
hire another writer. And they hired me."
It turned out to be a rough
start. After spending half a season splitting time
between Boston and New York, DiTullio finally moved
to New York City for her first full season. Paramount
then bought the show for syndication, and DiTullio
wasn't hired back on, initially. But halfway through
the season, they needed a writer again, and her phone
rang again. DiTullio spent another half-season there
before the show was cancelled, then moved to The Conan
O'Brien Show as a monologue writer. "It was literally
the day that Jon Stewart was cancelled, Conan called
me and offered me a job, so I went directly to Conan."
The Conan O'Brien Show turned
out to be a much more stable environment for DiTullio.
She spent five years as a writer there before leaving
this past September to write her own pilots and pursue
more performance work. She left with valuable experience
and her options wide open. "I'm doing the mom on Home
Movies. I'm studying acting in New York, I'm doing
a lot of performance workshops there. [It's] really
fun, to be able to go back and do stand-up more now,
and not have to be broke and doing it for fifty dollars.
I still do it for fifty dollars, but I don't have
to do it for fifty dollars."
None of these three writers
have lost their love for stand-up, and you can still
see them onstage. Check your local listings, and you
may find them performing near you soon.
A. Zaino III is a freelance writer, comedy nut, and
musician working in Boston. Contact: email@example.com