Stevie Ray Fromstein [Interview]

Today’s interview subject is just about as perfect of a fit for Trainwreck’d Society as we have ever had. Stevie Ray Fromstein is an absolutely amazing writer and producer in the world of television (which you all know we love and support) AND is a hilarious stand up comic! Over the last year alone we have spoken with dozens of comics and comedic writers, it is sort of becoming our thing. A lovely, lovely thing.

And today’s generous interview subject happens to have worked on three of my favorite sitcoms of all time. That’s right, not just a couple….THREE! And that is just in my personal opinion. He has worked on several other brilliant shows that definitely somebody’s favorite, but it was his work on shows like Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, and the severely under appreciated Two Guys A Girl and A Pizza Place. The last one was what really drew me to try and get some words from this great fella. When I was a teenager in the late 90’s and early 00’s, there was no one cooler than Ryan Reynolds to me. Obviously, he has become a massive star since then on a whole new level, but to me he will always be Berg! There was also my strange fascination with Suzanne Cryer, but lets not get into that.

Yes, Stevie Ray Fromstein is a man who has been making people laugh in different capacities for decades now, and he is showing no signs of slowing up. Whether he is on stage interacting directly with an audience, our putting his wit and wisdom of what is hilarious to the proverbial (or literal?) page to be acted out by others, this man is a god damned national treasure, and we are so happy that he was able to give us a few words and a bit of insight into the amazing world he has contributed so damn much to. So without further blabbering and bumbling, please allow me to introduce the great Stevie Ray Fromstein!

So how did you get into the world of comedy? Was stand up your first passion? Is it still so?

Growing up in the 60ʼs, about the only items I ever borrowed from the Public Library were comedy albums. Anytime a comedian was on television, I ran to the set. But becoming a comedian wasnʼt one of my dreams because I never thought it was a possibility. I was a class-clown throughout my childhood which concerned my father because my grades were also a joke. Beside himself, he told me my classmates werenʼt laughing with me, but at me. Perhaps it was the budding comic in me, but that lingered. Months later a kid I knew said to me, “Too bad youʼre not in my class

this year. You were so funny.” And I thought, they were laughing with me.

Your work in television has been amazing and stacked with greatness. My personal favorites were Grace Under Fire and Roseanne, but all of them have been amazing. So how did you get your start in the world of television writing?

The Roseanne show was my first sitcom writing job, all from a chance meeting with Tom Arnold & Roseanne, who recognized me from my appearances on Late Night with David Letterman. Writing on Roseanne was an incredible learning experience, and obviously, a career-making opportunity. But it was also intense and grueling. I went from working 50 minutes an evening to 14 hours a day. And there were never any women hanging outside the writerʼs room, waiting to compliment me on one of my pitches. But my first dream was to be a writer, and I took to it. (Although standup was always, and will always be, my first love). My first day on the job I got a joke in the show. Returning home from grocery shopping with her young son, Roseanne notices heʼd swiped a candy bar and says, “I told you, DJ, unless you finish it in the store itʼs stealing.”

You were also behind the amazing Two Guys, A Girl, & A Pizza Place that so many people agree was cut short to early, but not without creating a lot of flourishing careers. So, how did the concept for this show come around? And what do you think it was that made it unique from other somewhat similar show set ups?

I enjoyed writing on Two Guys and a Girl. As well as talented, it was one of the nicest casts Iʼd ever work with, second only to Reba McIntyre, who is in a class of niceness all by herself. “Nice” on a sitcom cast is something that has to happen from the top down. If the star never acts out, no one else dreams of doing so. Two Guys was a much better show than was given credit, I think partly because the original Pizza Place title became an easy one to mock. Weʼd even be mentioned in another showʼs bad reviews. But I liked that show and the cast quite a bit.

When you look back on your career as a comedian, writer, etc., what would you say you are most proud of?

I guess what Iʼm most proud of is my standup. A comedian is responsible for everything from conception to delivery. And no one has the authority to rewrite your act. If a joke bombs, at least it bombed the way you wanted it told. Youʼre not writing for someone elseʼs persona (even though doing so does have its own fulfilling challenges). Thereʼs no compromise in standup. I like the writerʼs room and the collaborative process. I enjoyed many fine hours with talented, funny writers. But thereʼs no more helpless feeling for a creative person than someone else making final decisions about your work. For all but a few, thatʼs the nature of film and television. A sitcom writerʼs room can be highly enjoyable, but there are times when youʼd like to strangle somebody.

Can you tell us a bit about The Holy Atheist? How did this come to life?

My original standup act was based on character humor, especially regarding under-assertiveness, especially regarding meeting women. After 12 years of writing sitcoms, I got back into standup because I was doing a lot of thinking about religion from a skeptics point of view. The challenge was to make a topic like that funny. The first time I tried it was a disaster. Normally if a joke bombs, itʼs the joke the audience didnʼt like. But a joke about religion goes flat and they donʼt like you. Youʼre a bad person. But one of the jokes that first night worked a little, and when I gave it one more try on another night, I opened with that one. That helped a lot, and I expanded from there. Eventually, I was able to do an entire act on religion. My favorite compliments were from traditionally religious people who enjoyed my act.

So what is next for you? Any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?

Now Iʼm bored with religion. And itʼs no longer controversial. Currently Iʼm obsessed with politics and race relations, and am writing a book on the subject. I seem to be creatively attracted to things which go against the grain. Thatʼs not what attracts me to a subject. I just like to write and talk about the things Iʼm interested in.

Trouble is, youʼre not likely get rich, for example, with a message such as “After you die, you rot.” Iʼm a life-long Liberal who voted for Trump. I tweet about it a lot (still under my @TheHolyAtheist handle — I need a new one), and all my Liberal friends, who are all my friends, hate me.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Iʼm writing this in a hotel room in Boston, opening for my old friend Norm Macdonald. One thing interesting thing about Norm, whoʼs a very interesting person, is that sometimes heʼs being Norm as a character, other times heʼs the same character Norm, but itʼs for real. After all these years Iʼm still often not sure in the moment if he means what heʼs saying, or if heʼs putting me on, but either way, he definitely keeps me smiling.

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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