Get a group of your most sarcastic friends together in a room, preferably windowless, and try to make each other laugh by outdoing one another with a steady stream of the most offensive, sophomoric and vulgar set of jokes and set-ups that you can possibly imagine -- things that could never air on TV, not even pay cable. Add in lots of takeout food and soft drinks and repeat for a few weeks on end. If your heart soars and body tingles every time you make the room snicker, you just might be cut out to be a television writer.
At least that's the quick-and-easy career counseling that Selman (pictured right), an Emmy-winning scribe for "The Simpsons" and co-writer of "The Simpsons Movie," offered Tuesday night during the "Sublime Primetime" dish sesh with a clutch of Emmy-nommed scribes, hosted by the WGA West and Variety at the Writers Guild Theater in BevHills.
"Don't wait for the industry to give you money," Selman instructed. "Take any opportunity to (try writing). The joy of writing is just as fun to do ... if you're on the worst show on television or the best show...Find a group of friends and make each other laugh. Riff off each other. Go on super-offensive runs about degrading subjects."
Other panelists made a point of stressing the stick-to-it mantra. Once you start to get serious about something that might actually become the basis of an episode of television, make a point of finishing the damn thing.
"Even if it's completely crap, you are 90% there...once you finish something," advised Matthew Weiner, (pictured right) creator/exec producer of AMC's "Mad Men," who is Emmy nommed this year for co-writing "The Sopranos" seg "Heidi and Kennedy" seg (the one where Tony kills Christopher) with David Chase.
But don't be afraid to rewrite -- and again, and again. "No matter how good you think it is, in three more drafts it'll be that much better," added Greg Daniels (pictured left), the steward of NBC's "The Office," who's nommed for last season's "Gay Witch Hunt" seg.
In spite of their reputation for being highly annoying, creative notes from network and studio executives are not inherently evil, noted Josann McGibbon (pictured far right, speaking), who is up for movie/miniseries honors for USA Network's "The Starter Wife" along with her writing partner Sara Parriott (pictured at right). The scribe may not agree with suggested changes to a script but he or she should "always listen to what the problem is that they're pointing out," McGibbon said.
Most important, don't be thin-skinned about feedback, offered panel moderator Spike Feresten, who is a former "Seinfeld" and "Late Show with David Letterman" scribe who now hosts Fox's weekly late night skein "Talkshow with Spike Feresten."
"Keep improving it," said Feresten (pictured left), whose credits include the famed "Soup Nazi" seg of "Seinfeld. "Don't take (criticism) personally....Don't stop."
"Unless you're bad," retorted Selman. "Then give up."
Perhaps the most salient advice for aspiring writers came from the panelist with the least amount of scribe experience under her belt. Sheryl Zohn (pictured right), a writer and supervising producer on Showtime's "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!," offered a pearl of wisdom from her days, not so long ago, of doing script coverage.
"Have a point," she said. "Have something to say...Make sure you have a reason for writing what you're writing."