Pat Proft [Interview]

Happy Monday Folks! It is another legendary day here at Trainwreck’d Society, as we have a man on the site today that is so legendary I dare use the same word in the same sentence like the clown that I am. It’s the great Pat Proft! First off, this is a guy who just KNOWS what it means to be funny. For as long as I can remember, I knew this man’s name to be in the beginning credits of so many of the movies I knew and loved, especially when I was “coming of age”, or of the “age when you’re always coming”. Seriously Folks, the term “spoof” would be meaningless if this guy wasn’t around to keep the genre going over the last 30+ years. He’s one of the best in the game.

I feel it is only right to say that Pat has actually brought so much more joy into my life than I can truly express. Just last week we had an interview go up with the brilliant actress Brenda Bakke, who was one of the stars of a film that Pat help create that was entitled Hot Shots! Part Deux. This film, and so many others that he has done have always been very special to me for a couple of reasons. One: because they are funny as hell. Which is a term I will never understand, but I like it. Two: My Dad. My father has always been one of the most hilarious people I have ever known. And since I was old enough to actually even remember timelines of events, I have trusted his judgement on what was funny. And as the years progressed and I started to become a fully formed human being, I would learn that he was always right on with what I thought would be hilarious. It was because of my dad that I saw films like Hot Shots and The Naked Gun and Kentucky Fried Movie and knew that THIS was what it means to be funny. And Folks, it was Pat Proft who managed to write these amazing stories that built the bond that I have with my father.

That’s some deep shit, right? I promise you it is all true. So believe me when I say that I am very excited to share with you all these words from the brilliant Pat Proft that I am so damn excited to have grace our digital pages. And I don’t know why I didn’t expect it, but I learned prior to doing this interview that Pat was actually a stand up comedian prior to becoming one of the greatest comedy screenwriters in the world. Fuck yeah, right? So let’s get into it!

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Pat Proft!

What was your experience like the first time you heard your words/ideas brought to a screen, be it television or film? Was it eventful to you? Do you remember the first time you saw your work almost literally come to life?

Neal Isreal and I pitched Police Academy to Alan Ladd Jr. at Warners. Alan took us into the head of the studio, “We’re making this movie!”  No script yet. But he wanted it. In fact he put it on the calendar and gave it a release date. My first screen credit was amazing to see. Comedy is all I ever wanted to do…ever. And here my name was on a film. A world wide hit. Cool times 100.  I am a comedian who writes comedy. At the opening of Naked Gun the laughs were amazing. They rolled over the audience. It felt like I was up there saying those words. Weird, but wonderful feeling.

An extremely reliable source (Wikipedia) has told me that you began working at The Comedy Store in the early 70’s. For comedy fans, we all know this the Mecca of west coast based comedy, but was it always so? What was your experience like working there during the club’s early stages?

The Comedy Store was a great place..wonderful be seen showcasing comedy.  In the beginning the room was raw, raucous, fabulous. I was on stage three times a night. Doing my solo stand up. A double act. And improvise with the Comedy Store Players. And on several nights I’d MC. This place was a test for me. Scope out if I’m as funny in LA as I was back in Minneapolis. And I was.  So this boasted my confidence big time.  I miss those days.  Made a lot of good friends. And so nice to see so many of them go on to mountains of success. Huge thanks to Sammy and Mitzi Shore. And Rudy DeLuca.

You were also involved very early with the Zucker Brothers and Kentucky Fried Theater. How did you become involved with them? And what were those days like? Any good stories to tell?

Met ZAZ at the Comedy Store. A fourth member had quit the group. They were scouting comics to see who could join Kentucky Friend Theater. They liked me. I joined the theater.  KFT was one of the hottest comedy tickets in town. Revue comedy is what I did at the Dudley Rigg’s Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis. It was an easy fit. We worked together a lot over the years. Same senses of humor. Midwestern humans not tainted by either coast. Working with them as ZAZ or David and Jim on scripts was a shit load of laughs. At the end of the script I felt great that now the director, Jerry, Jim, or David, would be someone who could put this on the screen.

The masterpiece of a comedy Bachelor Party, which you co-wrote with the Israel Brothers, is absolutely astoundingly funny  and it was actually my first interaction with sexuality in any way as a young child. That last bit has nothing to do with the question, I just felt you should know that….anyway, what are you thoughts on the impact that this film has had on the world of comedy? And what were your thoughts on the final outcome of the film brought to the screen?

I wrote Bachelor Party with Neal Isreal. Bob Isreal didn’t write. He was given story credit.  And produced it. The film has a nice spine, “am I really ready to marry?”  The stuff we hung on it were incidents that attack Rick’s I really mature?  That was kinda cool Neal and I went after as many situations as we could that would give us laughs. But stay within the lines scratched out for each character. Tom Hanks!  Two words that made the movie work. He legitimized the plot, and outrageous moments in the film.  I’m always taken aback a bit when someone says a moment in a, or the movie I’ve written changed them in some way.  I get that a lot for another script I wrote with Neal Isreal, Real Genius.  The time the film came out it was a “young time”  MTV had just come out.  New music. Uninhibited behavior.  The film speaks to that time.  And it’s funny. You got to be funny or none of this means jack.

You are also obviously a one of the great knights of the round table when it comes to film spoofs with your work on franchises like The Naked Gun, Hot Shots!, and Scary Movie (Not to mention High School High, which is another amazing masterpiece that doesn’t receive enough credit, I believe), so how do you do it? How do you decide what is going to work in a “spoof” film? Basically how do you know that you have some golden hilarious mockery on your hands when you are writing a film like these?

It’s hard not to see an action genre without coming up with jokes for it.  Naked Gun was cops. Tons of cop films. Tons of cop TV shows. It first was a 6 and out tv series, Police Squad. Which was a take on the detective shows all over the place on tv. Iconic scenes in all of these shows. That lured us in with comedy bits. The tough talk. The loner cop who needs love. I always wrote Frank Drebin as if her were Bogart.  A great character. Played by the great Leslie Neilson.  This show was better suited for movie screens. Naked Gun had the same feel plus a bit of Bullitt. And Eastwood’s tough assed Dirty Harry series of films. And always one step behind falling in love. Finding the right woman. Hot Shots! After seeing Top Gun was a comedy no brainer.  That movie was perfect to spoof. Jets. Pilots. Love triangle. Sadam Hussein. Ships.  Every joke we ever had watching any of the war films. Loved these two films.  High School High was in response to an abundance of teens in trouble movies. Several set in High Schools. Interesting world to tackle comedically.  It always easier to spoof a film that takes its self way too seriously.

Given the expertise and experience you have garnered over the years, how do you feel the business of film and television writing has changed? Is it mostly positive or negative? 

I don’t worry about what’s being written. I write everyday. I focus on my ideas, and scripts. I work on many things at once. I just love to write comedy. Been a huge admirer of Rowan Atkinson. And others in the UK, French and Saunders. Shows like The Young Ones. Monty Python. Physical humor. And done to perfection.  Silly, funny, belly laughs.  Nothing wrong with silly. Silly is missing. As is physical humor. So there to that.

What do you have coming up in the near future that we should definitely be wetting ourselves with excitement over?

David Zucker, Mike McManus and I are trying to get another Naked Gun going. Script is in the works.  It has the world of silly, belly laughs, and physical humor. I wrote a tv idea for myself. I’m going to pursue that. More comedy stuff on the way.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Alot of things make me smile. Right now I’m listening to the Beatles…I’m smiling.  Waiting for the Stand Ollie movie, makes me smile. My wife. My son.  Grandsons.  A residual in the mail.

So there to that.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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