Exclusive Preview 3: The Write Environment with Phil Rosenthal (Everybody Loves Raymond)
For my third sneak peek at the DVD series The Write Environment, I was very entertained by the interview with television writer/producer Phil Rosenthal.
First…a little background about Rosenthal, who is best known as the creator, executive producer and writer of Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005). He was also a series writer on Coach, and has been a contributing writer on several charity events for television (America: A Tribute to Heroes, Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast). He is married to actress Monica Horan, who played Amy MacDougall Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond.
Rosenthal graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in theater; he originally wanted to be an actor, and makes occasional appearances in small roles and cameos on TV and in film. In addition, his autobiography (You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom) was released in 2006.
Given that he won 2 Emmy awards and received 12 total nominations for his work on Everybody Loves Raymond, I should not have been surprised to learn that Phil Rosenthal is damn funny; I found myself laughing out loud several times while watching the DVD. It is definitely a change of pace from the interviews with Lindelof and Whedon, and Rosenthal offers an enlightening perspective about the nuances between writing comedy and drama.
Although Everybody Loves Raymond was based on Ray Romano’s life, you can’t help but notice the similarities between Romano and Rosenthal; comedic timing, facial expressions, sense of humor. To a certain extent, the openly neurotic Rosenthal is Larry David to Romano’s Seinfeld.
His particular writing space is very different from the other writers thus far; Rosenthal prefers to write while on the couch or in bed, using a laptop and tray. His primary location to do so is a guest house that he had built for his parents, on whom he based the characters Marie and Frank Barone. But unlike Lindelof and Whedon, there is no pop culture memorabilia in that space; only the table and chairs that Marie and Frank used on the set of his show.
Rosenthal discusses his approach to writing jokes, his comedic influences and favorite contemporary series’ (30 Rock, The Office). He also emphasizes the importance of writing from personal experience and incidents from your own life.
He is quite an engaging interview subject, infectiously enthusiastic and sincere about his craft and sitcom history. The DVD is available now through the official site and Amazon, and it is a must-see for all writers who endeavor to work in comedy.
An for a good laugh, make sure to check out this great video that he wrote for some guy named Bill Clinton.