Just the Funny Parts…And A Few Hard Truths About Sneaking Into the Hollywood Boys’ Club by Nell Scovell
Published by Dey Street Books, 316 pages, $28
Nell Scovell worked nearly a million Hollywood jobs, directing, producing and writing TV shows, which the Newton native recounts in her new memoir, Just the Funny Parts. The shows include her creation Sabrina the Teenage Witch as well as The Bob Newhart Show, NCIS, Murphy Brown and The Muppets. Oh, and she put some mischievous words in the mouth of President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ dinner.
An outlier in a man’s world, Scovell has stormed into exciting venues, and readers get that sparkly flavor throughout her irreverent writing. While writers on The Simpsons work together on a storyline about Homer’s alleged upcoming death, Scovell takes us backstage through the scene’s many mini-iterations. Clearly, comedy writing has the same trudging deliberations as any group effort, but it’s fun to see the many suggestions traveling toward a laugh.
However, Scovell’s time working for Late Night With David Letterman brings a darker story. The host was oddly remote from the writers who dropped their wit on him from the heavens. And female interns got his attention, sparking some early #MeToo indiscretions of which he later confessed. An article Scovell later wrote criticizing Letterman in Vanity Fair brings her notoriety. This shifts the book’s tone, and she eventually describes writing Lean In with Sheryl Sandberg. Scovell, bothered by her male-dominated world, ultimately pushes for more women in comedy writing. This memoir is her latest plea—blending her sharp wit with a social conscience.
From Page 296: Rejection and failure are the bread and butter of this gluten-free, nondairy town. Over a decade ago, I bumped into a talented comedy writer who had recently turned forty. Work was not coming as easily, and his agent was no longer responding quickly to his calls. My friend was shifting into the “Get me a younger, cheaper” phase of his career. I was struggling too. We commiserated.
“I need a new paradigm for success,” he sighed. ◆