Lorre, exec producer and co-creator of CBS' "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory," livened up the Brandon Tartikoff Awards ceremony at the NATPE confab on Monday evening with a few well-placed jabs as he accepted his kudo from the NATPE org and Tartikoff's widow, Lily Tartikoff.
Lorre (pictured left) recalled his salad days as a staff writer on the NBC sitcom "My Two Dads." One of the highlights of his time on the show were the occasions when Peacock programming chief Tartikoff would come in to the writers room to listen to jokes and scenarios from the scribes. Those moments always sent Lorre, who had only recently graduated from writing low-rent kidvid cartoons, into flop-sweats, until one day he got up the nerve to throw out a joke. Tartikoff laughed and told the "Dads" showrunner to make sure it went into the script. That didn't win Lorre any points with said showrunner, but it did wonders for his self-esteem as a writer.
Of course, Lorre didn't toil on the lower rungs for long. His experiences as a top writer and then showrunner on sitcoms fronted by high-maintenance femmes ("Cybill," "Grace Under Fire," "Roseanne") is now the stuff of biz legend. Lorre got in a barb at Cybill Shepherd and "Grace's" Brett Butler, but he admitted to still being too intimated by Roseanne to take aim at her.
The material that really got the aud in Ballroom F of the South Convention Center at the Mandalay Bay Resort going was Lorre's call-out to fellow Tartikoff award honoree, NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chairman Ben Silverman. Lorre took the big boss at NBC Entertainment to task for a remark that he made this time last year, at the height of the management-vs.-labor animus during the writers strike.
In a widely circulated quip captured by E! News, Silverman described the attitude of the striking writers as being akin to "the ugliest, nerdiest, meanest kids in high school" trying to cancel the prom. (That led to plans at the time for picketing scribes to hold a "Ben Silverman Winter Prom" outside NBC in Burbank, but the idea was tabled as a let's-get-serious gesture on the WGA's part.)
Lorre, who was a stalwart on the picket line during the WGA's three-month slog, noted Silverman's year-old comment and invited the exec to meet three writers who embodied "ugly, mean and nerdy." Sure enough, three guys at Lorre's table who would never be mistaken for Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman or Jon Hamm stood up as the aud roared. (It could not be immediately determined if they were in fact WGA members but they sure looked the part.)
To Silverman's credit, he was a good sport about the ribbing from Lorre during his turn at the podium. But there was an awkward moment as Silverman acknowledged Lily Tartikoff's presence but then struggled mightily with the semantics in referring to "your ex-husband, former husband -- I don't know how to say it." (Memo to Ben: "late husband" or "beloved husband.")
In between Lorre and Silverman, multihyphenate Tyler Perry showed off his storytelling skills in relating an incident from his not-so-distant past, when he was working in the housekeeping department of the Windsor Court hotel in New Orleans back in the days when NATPE was frequently held in the Crescent City. On the last day of the four-day confab, it was easy to find discarded NATPE badges in the guest rooms, so Perry helped himself to one and took a spin around NATPE convention floor, excited at the chance to soak up the TV biz atmosphere and shake hands with celebs.
"The day I meant Isaac from the 'Love Boat,' I was blown away," Perry confessed.
But as he often does in his movies and TV shows, Perry brought it all down to earth on a dime by putting his journey into perspective. In 15 years, he's gone from being a hotel worker who had to sneek into NATPE to being gi-normously successful writer/producer/director/star and recipient of a top honor from NATPE.
"Only in America," he said. Indeed.
Rounding out the honorees was Disney-ABC Television Group chief Anne Sweeney, who got a funny and heartfelt intro from "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry. Sweeney acknowledged the tough times facing the biz, and the nation, and noted that while it was the unpredictability of television that attracted her to the biz in the first place, she could do "with a little more certainty" about the future these days. But ever-upbeat, Sweeney emphasized: "I do feel lucky every day."