The conversation was a little more subdued than usual at the WGA West's "Sublime Primetime" yakfest Thursday night with a cross-section of Emmy-nommed writers.
Moderator Rainn Wilson opened the sesh at the WGA Theater, co-hosted by Variety and the Writers Guild Foundation, by asking panelists Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof if he could be on "Lost." Darlton put their heads together for a split second before Lindelof answered: "No."
Biggest laugh of the night came from Cuse. After it was noted that "Mad Men" maestro Matt Weiner had a fair number of Emmy writing noms (four to be exact), Cuse joked with "Mad Men" panelists Andre and Maria Jacquemetton that Weiner (who was not there) had "asked us if he could have his name our script as well" -- the "Lost" finale seg that earned Darlton an Emmy writing nom this year. It was a gentle ribbing, not mean-spirited. By the end of the sesh it was clear the "Lost" and "Mad Men" scribe tribes have a mutual obsession society going on. As well they should ...
The Jacquemettons, who are married, were queried on how they do the work/home life tango and whether they ever step on each toes as writers. Maria admitted that they spend so much time together that "if we analyzed it, we'd be divorced." The worst fights they ever have are usually about scripts. "If we didn't write together, we'd fight more," she said, confidently.
What else? Jack Burditt of "30 Rock" did his best to puncture the myth that the show's writers are oh-so-smart and clever. "We're not that smart," he said.
"Simpsons" vet Ian Maxtone-Graham revealed that he once -- briefly -- considered chucking it all in to become a photographer in Japan. He also had a word of advice for aspiring comedy writers: Go try standup. It makes you funnier and tougher, all at the same time.
Billy Kimball, nommed for a "Simpsons" seg co-written with Maxtone-Graham, suggested that young writers would do well to learn how to write fast, as he did in an early job working on a VH1 game show.
Cuse quoted scribe sage David Milch: "Never judge yourself as a writer when you're not actually writing."
Rob Kutner, who's nommed for "The Daily Show" but now staying up later on "The Tonight Show," gave tips on how to get revenge on psycho assistants to executive producers: Ex-Lax laced frappuccinos, for starters.
Michael Sucsy, writer-director of HBO's "Grey Gardens," wowed the aud with his story of shepherding his tyro project for years and then finally hitting it out of the park with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. He suggested writers should always set aside an "inviolable period of time" to write, when the Internet and email is turned off and "you force yourself to sit there even when things aren't coming." He admitted that he sometimes resorted to folding laundry during those hours but nevertheless ...
Lindelof was feeling magnanimous. When asked about the damage that can be done when a role is miscast, he observed: "Miscasting is sometimes a defense we use for shitty writing."
Moderator Wilson shared one profound insight: The WGA Award (he brought his along in a plastic shopping bag) looks a lot like a Romulan Bird of Prey.
Hard to believe but true: We got through the whole 90-minute panel without a single mention of the strike. Time sure is flying.