Writing for a TV show is one of the greatest jobs in the world. You get to sit around all day trying to make your friends laugh. You get to tell attractive people what to say and do. And, look at that, you make a ton of money in the process. Not bad, right?
Well, it’s also an incredibly stressful job where you’re only as good as your last idea and you’re constantly trying to prove yourself to everyone around you. That’s why lunch in the writers’ room is so vital. It’s the first break in the day and a chance to recharge your batteries before you go back into the joke trenches and mine for comedy gold.
Since it’s Comedy Week here at Food Republic, we reached out to comedy writers on shows across the dial to find out about their lunchtime experiences.
Tim Saccardo (@TimSaccardo) is a staff writer on Community, NBC’s ode to community college and unlikely friendship. Here’s what he had to say about lunch:
Lunchtime at Community tends to have three distinct phases. Early in the season, before production begins, the writing staff is released for an actual lunch hour — which we can use however we please. Sometimes we’ll settle for mediocre Paramount commissary food, because it’s only a minute away from our writers room by foot. Other times we’ll venture off-lot and walk to nearby restaurants on Melrose like Osteria Mamma or Osteria la Buca.
I have no idea why the two closest Italian restaurants to Paramount both have “osteria” in their names, but I’m sure it can be explained by some old-timey Hollywood story. Perhaps Cecil B. DeMille had them both built to feed Italian extras on his first talkie, or Fatty Arbuckle used to eat lunch every day at both before he killed that girl.
The second phase of Community lunches is ordering in. With production comes hard script deadlines and we lose the luxury of leaving the office to eat. But we gain some great food options! Around 11 a.m. our writers’ PA comes in with a menu book and the writers politely argue over which of our favorite restaurants to order from. “Ammo!” “No, Joan’s on Third!” “How about Little Dom’s?!” There’s no official rule that dictates who wins the lunch debate, but generally the squeakiest wheel gets the grease, or the grilled wild salmon with sweet corn succotash, as the case may be.
Menus are passed out, filled out and phoned in, beginning an hour or two of everybody constantly checking the time and trying to ask where their food is without sounding like an ungrateful jerk. Lunch usually shows up around 1 p.m. and by 1:02 p.m. we find out which three orders were prepared wrong. But, hey, at least we get a 30-45 minute break to eat good food in our offices.
I’ll call Community lunch phase three “Shawshank” because at a certain point in the season, we’ve fallen far enough behind that we’re practically imprisoned in the writers room and eat our lunch in the same seats we’ve been sitting in for the last 24 hours. We’re also ordering dinner in. And sometimes breakfast. We’ve grown to hate every restaurant in the menu book and greet the Styrofoam take out containers with our names scrawled on top as if they’re plates of gruel being slid through bars into our cell.
This leads to a peculiar phenomenon known as “revenge ordering” in which we lash out at nobody in particular by ordering from more expensive restaurants like Katsuya or Jar. I’m not sure exactly who we’re getting our revenge on since it’s our own fault that we’re behind, but that doesn’t stop me from eating the hell out of some spicy tuna on crispy rice. And sautéed shishito peppers. And Kobe filet with foie gras.