Press Pass LA had the honor of attending the Writers Guild of America’s 101 Funniest Screenplays, an evening with panels and clips honoring outstanding screenwriting at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
Hosted by writer/director/actor Rob Reiner, the panel honored screenwriters including Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways), Jon Favreau (Swingers), Peter and Bobby Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber), David and Jerry Zucker (Airplane, The Naked Gun), Michael Elias and Carl Gottlieb (The Jerk), Karen McCullah & Kirsten Smith (Legally Blonde), Buck Henry (The Graduate, What’s Up, Doc?), Randi Mayem Singer (Mrs. Doubtfire), Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein), Daniel Petrie, Jr. (Beverly Hills Cop), George Gallo (Midnight Run) and many more!
While on the red carpet, we were able to speak with some of the most influential comedy writers of our time, and they had a lot of amazingly hilarious and interesting things to say. We first spoke to Karen McCullah, the writer of the smash hit Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon.
Her experience on Legally Blonde was one of the most influential experiences of her life, due to how well it was received and what ended up happening with her career after that huge success. McCullah said, “Since then we have done Ella Enchanted, She’s The Man, The Ugly Truth, The House Bunny, and right now we are doing a reboot of Sister Act and a female version of The Expendables called Expendabelles.” McCullah also said she’s been emailing Witherspoon about putting together Legally Blonde 3, you heard it here first!
Next, we had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Faber, the writer of Wedding Crashers. Faber talked about the long process of writing Wedding Crashers and how it all came to be. “I wrote 31 drafts, we were literally writing until the film wrapped. Wedding Crashers was a pitch, and New Line was really the only one that wanted it. It was a love story, but between 2 guys, it wasn’t about just chasing girls, it was about cementing friendships.” When asked about how he thinks the film has held up over the past decade, Faber’s response was, “I am told now from this new generation of millennials constantly how much they love it. They go around quoting the movie.”
We then got to speak with the writer of the Pitch Perfect films, Kay Cannon. Now this woman has had an amazing career in comedy writing, getting her big start in the writers room of 30 Rock, learning from the best of the best. “30 Rock was like going to grad school for writing. Learning story, joke structure, learning from the best, Tina Fey.” When asked about how Pitch Perfect came to be, Cannon told us about her journey of coming up with the idea, to then getting the green light.
“I sang in musicals, but knew nothing about the acapella world, until I was in the writers room at 30 rock and someone made a joke about it and I had no idea that even existed. I thought it would be a great idea to make a film about it, then I got the book “Pitch Perfect” in my hand, and Elizabeth Banks and her husband Max Handelman helped me get the rights to the book, and we sold it at Universal.” Cannon is now deep into writing Pitch Perfect 3, and is looking to direct in the near future.
After speaking with Cannon, we got to speak to Michael Elias, the writer of one of most epic family comedies of our time, The Jerk. When asked about how the film has transformed through time, Elias had a fantastic response. “It is a film adults like to show their children, children really enjoy watching this film with their parents. Kids discover their parents have a real sense of humor and they like that.” Next, Elias is shifting gears and is working on an elizabethan drama about Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright and poet who was also a spy for the english secret service.
Next, we spoke with Dale Launer, the writer of My Cousin Vinny and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. We asked Launer how he thinks his films have held up over time, especially My Cousin Vinny, he said, “I think the film has held up well through time because the story was kind of based on the real process of an actual procedure. It has actually held up as example in law school, and it shows up in at least one exam at Harvard. Though its a comedy, all of the court proceedings are more real than any other movie.”
We then had the amazing opportunity of talking to one of the biggest names in Hollywood today, Jon Favreau. He was being honored at the event for his work on Swingers, which he wrote and starred in early in his career.
“I always hoped I would be able to make movies, I kind of took advantage of whatever doors opened and I learned a lot reading scripts acting for auditions, then I tried to write my own. Then when Swingers came out I was seen as a writer, then was getting hired to do a lot of rewrites, and every step of the way making a living, you are learning, because you are working with people more experienced than you, and you are seeing projects develop, some fail, and some not get made, and so I think it is just a matter of how much time you spend. All of these skills are related to storytelling, and knowing how to tell a story is the basic skill of all of these art forms, how to tell a story and keep them interested,” he explained.
The list of amazing screenwriters we were able to speak with was astounding, as was the panel itself. Following the red carpet, the evening consisted of about six panels moderated by Rob Reiner, talking with screenwriters on the list of the 101 Funniest Screenplays.
Each panel focused on a different type of comedy; Buddy movie/Rom com, Classic Comedy, etc. The panel even recognized several films that did not make the list but were close, such as Legally Blonde, Pitch Perfect, and What Women Want. The full list is below, including each film’s rank and credited screenwriter.
Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman. 1977, UA
Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A. L. Diamond, Based on the German film Fanfare of Love by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan. 1959, UA
Screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, Story by Danny Rubin. 1993, Columbia
Written by James Abrahams & David Zucker & Jerry Zucker. 1980, Paramount
Screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal, Story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart. 1982, Columbia
Screenplay by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, Screen Story by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, Based on Characters in the Novel Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. 1974, 20th Century Fox
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern. 1964, Columbia
Screenplay by Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Alan Uger, Story by Andrew Bergman. 1974, Warner Bros.
Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. 1975, Cinema 5
Written by Harold Ramis & Douglas Kenney & Chris Miller. 1978, Universal
Written by Christopher Guest & Michael McKean & Rob Reiner & Harry Shearer. 1984, Embassy
Written by Mel Brooks. 1967, AVCO Embassy
Written by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen. 1998, Gramercy
Written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. 1984, Columbia
Written by Nora Ephron. 1989, Columbia
Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig. 2011, Universal
Story by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, Additional Dialogue by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin. 1933, Paramount
Screenplay by John J. Strauss & Ed Decter and Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly, Story by Ed Decter & John J. Strauss. 1998, 20th Century Fox
Screenplay by Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, Michael Elias, Story by Steve Martin & Carl Gottlieb. 1979, Universal.
Screenplay by John Cleese, Story by John Cleese & Charles Crichton. 1988, MGM
Screenplay by Charles Lederer, Based on the Play “The Front Page” by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur. 1940, Columbia
Screenplay by William Goldman, Based on Goldman’s Novel of the Same Name. 1987, 20th Century Fox
Written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. 1987, 20th Century Fox
Screenplay by Hagar Wilde and Dudley Nichols, Story by Hagar Wilde. 1938, RKO
Written by Brian Doyle-Murray & Harold Ramis & Douglas Kenney. 1980, Orion
Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. 1979, Orion
Screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, Based on the Novel by Charles Webb. 1967, Embassy
Written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond. 1960, UA
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer, Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Peter Baynham & Anthony Hines & Todd Phillips, Based on a Character Created by Sacha Baron Cohen. 2006, 20th Century Fox
Written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore. 2009, Warner Bros.
Written by Judd Apatow & Steve Carell. 2005, Universal
Screenplay by Preston Sturges, Story by Monckton Hoffe. 1941, Paramount
Written by John Hughes. 1986, Paramount
Trading Places *TIE
Written by Timothy Harris & Herschel Weingrod. 1983, Paramount
Written by Preston Sturges. 1941, Paramount
Written by John Hughes. 1987, Paramount
Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart, Based on the Play by Philip Barry. 1940, MGM
Screen Play by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, From a Story by James Kevin McGuinness. 1935, MGM
Written by Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson. 1998, Touchstone/BV
Written by Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy. 1996, Sony Pics Classics
Screenplay by Neil Simon, From the Play by Neil Simon as Produced on the Stage by Saint-Subber. 1968, Paramount
Written by Jerry Zucker & Jim Abrahams & David Zucker & Pat Proft, Based on the Television Series Police Squad! Created by Jim Abrahams & David Zucker & Jerry Zucker. 1988, Paramount
Written for the Screen by Mike Judge, Based on the “Milton” Animated Shorts by Mike Judge. 1999, 20th Century Fox
Written by Anne Spielberg & Gary Ross. 1988, 20th Century Fox
Screenplay by John Hughes. 1983, Warner Bros.
Written by George Gallo. 1988, Universal
Screenplay by Robert Riskin, Based on the Short Story by Samuel Hopkins Adams. 1934, Columbia
Screenplay by Ring Lardner, Jr., From the Novel by Richard Hooker. 1970, 20th Century Fox
Written by Colin Higgins. 1971, Paramount
Written by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright. 2004, Focus (Universal)
Written by James L. Brooks. 1987, 20th Century Fox
Written by Steven Gordon. 1981,Orion
Written by Richard Curtis. 1994,Gramercy
Written by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay. 2004, Dreamworks
Dumb and Dumber *TIE
Written by Peter Farrelly & Bennett Yellin & Bob Farrelly. 1994,New Line
Written by Mike Myers. 1997, New Line
Written by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman, Adapted by Al Boasberg and Charles Smith. 1926, United Artists
Screenplay by Buck Henry and David Newman & Robert Benton, Story by Peter Bogdanovich. 1972, Warner Bros.
Written by Steve Faber & Bob Fisher. 2005, New Line
Written by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman. 1973, United Artists
Screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon, Story by David Howard.1999, Dreamworks
Screenplay by William and Tania Rose, Story by William and Tania Rose. 1963, United Artists
Written by Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy. 2000, Warner Bros.
Written by Michael D. Arndt. 2006, Fox Searchlight
Written by Trey Parker & Matt Stone & Pam Brady. 1999, Paramount
Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski, Inspired by the Novel by Jerzy Kosinski. 1979, United Artists
Written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale. 1985, Universal
Written by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. 2007, Columbia
Written by Woody Allen, Mickey Rose. 1971,United Artists
Written by John Patrick Shanley. 1987, MGM
Written by Amy Heckerling. 1995, Paramount
Written by Preston Sturges. 1942, Paramount
Written by Maurice Richlin & Blake Edwards.1963, United Artists
Written by Dan Aykroyd and John Landis. 1980, Universal
Screenplay by David Sheffield & Barry W. Blaustein, Story by Eddie Murphy. 1988, Paramount
Screenplay by Woody Allen and Mickey Rose, Story by Jackson Beck. 1969, Cinerama
Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Based on the Novel by Tom Perrotta. 1999, Paramount
Written by Woody Allen. 1975, United Artists
Written by Dale Launer and Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning. 1988, Orion
Lost in America *TIE
Written by Albert Brooks & Monica Johnson. 1985, Warner Bros.
Written by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman. 1979, United Artists
Written by Charles Chaplin. 1936, United Artists
Written by Dale Launer. 1992, 20th Century Fox
Screenplay by Tina Fey, Based on the Book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. 2004, Paramount
Screenplay by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, Story by Greg Glienna & Mary Ruth Clarke. 2000, Universal
Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. 1996, Gramercy
Screenplay by Dennis Palumbo and Norman Steinberg, Story by Dennis Palumbo. 1982, MGM
Written by Len Blum & Dan Goldberg and Harold Ramis. 1981, Columbia
Screenplay by Daniel Petrie, Jr., Story by Danilo Bach and Daniel Petrie, Jr. 1984, Paramount
Written by Charles Chaplin. 1931, United Artists
Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Based on the Novel by Rex Pickett. 2004, Fox Searchlight
Written by Woody Allen. 1984, Orion
Written by Jon Favreau. 1996, Miramax
Written by Charles Chaplin. 1925, United Artists
Written by Preston Sturges. 1944, Paramount
Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Based on the Short Story and Radio Program “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr. 1950, 20th Century Fox
Screenplay by Julius Epstein & Philip G. Epstein, Based on the Play by Joseph Kesselring. 1944, Warner Bros.
Written by Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson. 2001, Touchstone/BV
Screenplay by Randi Mayem Singer and Leslie Dixon, Based on Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine. 1993, 20th Century Fox
Written by David O. Russell. 1996,Miramax
Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. 1998, Miramax
Written by: Samantha Davidson