Alison Bennett- Writer: You’re The Worst
When did you realize you wanted to work in television?
My dumb toddler self looked at a TV and thought, “I want to do that.” Basically, I’m pursuing a goal I formulated before my brain was developed. Terrifying!
For many years, I wanted to be an actress, and I majored in drama at Syracuse University. I always liked punching up jokes in my term papers better than rehearsing Shakespeare, but it took me a few years to figure that out. It sounds insane, but I think I was almost twenty-one when I realized that writing for sitcoms was an actual profession. I switched gears pretty quickly after that.
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?
If you’re interested in comedy, join or create a sketch or improv group. Start a separate writing group for TV samples. Read a lot of scripts. Watch a lot of television (old and new — learn your television history). Be prepared to move to Los Angeles after graduation.
But most importantly, study abroad and make out with randos and go to crazy parties. Even now on “You’re the Worst,” our showrunner Stephen Falk is always encouraging us to go out and be in the world. Go get in trouble. You’re not going to get story ideas from doing your homework and watching Netflix.
First job in the industry? What you learned from it?
My first job in the industry, although unpaid, was working as a theater intern at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. Interns run the box office and clean the theater in exchange for free classes. Sadly, my shift manager figured out very early on that I was the only Saturday night intern who would clean up bodily fluids. I ended up cleaning up a surprising amount of poop for an internship that did not take place in a hospital. (I don’t know what the hell New Yorkers were doing before going to comedy shows in 2009.)
That internship taught me that comedy is the best job in the world, but it also requires a ton of hard work. I earned those free classes, and those free classes led to me getting on a UCB house sketch team and finding a manager and agent. You have to be willing to do what others aren’t willing to do. Like clean up poop in a grocery store basement.
What is something you wish someone would have told you about writing for television?
Be patient. Aspects of the job that seemed SO HARD when I first started out come very easily now. Instead of beating yourself up, use that energy to listen and learn.
What is your writing process like?
I’m very reliant on Freedom (the app that blocks your Internet), outlines and La Croix (flavored carbonated water). I meet with a writers group every other week — my current group is all women that work on shows like “Black-ish” and “Silicon Valley.” They have very excellent notes and good taste in snacks.
I love to work. I come from a long line of Central Pennsylvania farm people, so culturally, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Or naps. Or showing human weakness.
How has your time been on You’re the Worst?
“You’re the Worst” is the best job I’ve ever had. Stephen Falk, the show’s creator, is an amazing boss. He’s insanely smart and decisive and has a clear vision for the show. He’s also a great teacher — I’ve learned so much from him about writing and producing and editing. He’s very generous about letting the writers in on the entire process.
Our room is tiny — four writers, a script coordinator, and Stephen — and we’re all very close. We spend a lot of time together outside of work, and we’re also good friends with the actors. The whole scene is kind of disgusting. I was at a meeting recently and the person interviewing me said, with obvious disgust, “You really love the people you work with, huh?”
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written that has made it into an episode?
Our show is a team effort, led by Stephen, so I can’t take credit for any one specific thing. But one of my favorite moments of last season is the episode six montage of all the people Gretchen and Jimmy wronged during their sex contest. As a room, we had so much fun working on the end of that episode — we called it “Mad World” at the time, because we’d sing that fucked-up Gary Jules song and laugh about Aiden packing up his minivan. I’m really proud of how it turned out.
There are some season two things coming up that I looooooove, but obviously can’t talk about yet. Keep watching!
What show made you fall in love with television? What show are you currently loving?
As a kid, I was a huge fan of “Pete & Pete,” a live-action Nickelodeon comedy about two brothers with the same name living in the suburbs of New Jersey. It was very weird and funny and had a lot of heart and it’s very much part of my comedy DNA.
Right now, I’m loving “Bojack Horseman.” Some of my favorite jokes on TV and it’s made me cry about fourteen times. Get it together, Bojack.