With more than 25 years of Hollywood experience, Jerome Perzigian has been a showrunner, writer, and producer on some of the most successful half-hour series in history, including “The Jeffersons,” “The Golden Girls,” “Frasier,” “The Nanny,” and “Married…with Children.” He’s been nominated for three Emmys and won one in 2004.
He has worked with, for, and alongside some of the biggest, most successful names in the the medium, in virtually every half-hour genre: smart shows, silly shows, black shows, white shows, kid shows, sports shows, sketch shows, and a couple that defy rational explication.
In addition to his position at Jacob Krueger Studio, Jerry has taught television-writing at The University of Chicago as a Visiting Professor three separate academic years. In 2010, he was dispatched by Sony Pictures Television to Moscow to supervise production of the Russian version of “Married…with Children.”
Q & A
What made you want to become a writer?
Truthfully, if there were such a profession as “Conversationalist at Large,” I’d rather be that. But so far, there’s no such profession. And we have to eat. So, starting from the assumption that every job other than doctor, nurse, or teacher is bullshit, I came to the conclusion as a young man that writing, although it can certainly sometimes be bullshit, too, can, when done right, borrow from at-large conversations, expand upon them, and, ideally, using real life as a kind of virtual toolbox, make some sense out of them. Often with jokes!
How did you end up ‘breaking in,’ as they say?
There’s only one way to start: simply by doing it. And doing it. And doing it. You have to generate material for free for a while, while knocking on doors and chatting up everybody and being as charming and agreeable as you can to as many potential conduits or gatekeepers as you can. In my case (as in everybody’s), it was an absolute fluke that somebody influential accidentally read one of my (half dozen) beginner spec-scripts and gave me a shot. For all of us, it truly is a matter of that age-old serendipitous pairing of luck and preparation. (Unless, of course, you’re gorgeous or promiscuous. Or, better yet, both!)
Growing up, what were your biggest influences?
More who than what. My father, Albert Brooks, and Philip Roth. Smart, funny guys.
Is writing the half-hour more a matter of giftedness and inspiration or grinding it out?
I would say that optimally, a new writer would want to bring both qualities to the enterprise. But if it came down to one or the other, the ability to grind is more valuable and will take you farther.
What currently airing sitcom, in your opinion, is the best?
This will sound like a copout, but it’s a fact: there are too many to choose from. We’re truly living in a golden age of TV. So much of the half-hour material currently being broadcast is smarter, funnier, more nuanced, more innovative and more imaginative than anything we were doing when I was actively involved. Am I saying that the programming is better now? I’m absolutely saying that. It always bugs me to have to admit that my era’s stuff was lesser. But it was. I ask myself why. I worked with smart, capable, interesting people. What I think is that the myriad new platforms that comprise the present communications spectrum allow for a more specifically attuned kind of humor. The niche HBO or Netflix strives to reach is narrower than what the networks had–and still have–to appeal to. And when your broadcast doesn’t have to broadcast as broadly, when you’re not required to appeal to the lowest common denominator, you generate a smarter, subtler, more audience-specific kind of comedy. I realize that one doesn’t have to stand on a pillar in the desert to come up with that insight, but this, I believe, is why so much of TV is so good today.
What’s the difference between writing Situational Comedy and teaching Situational Comedy?
Nothing. We do in each of our weekly classes exactly what a writing staff does every day. And guess what? Sometimes we do it better.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
“I first began as an artist with no writing experience. I was extremely nervous. I hadn’t watched TV for 15 years so I had no idea what I was doing but I knew I had a story to tell. Jerry was AMAZING! In addition to attending Jerry’s Workshops, he coached me for 2 years. Thanks to him, I completed 3 episodes of my TV Pilot entitled “Flourish” and won “Best TV Script Award” at the LA Film Awards.”