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Gene Perret

Success Requires an Investment in Yourself

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I had been writing for Phyllis Diller for some time before I met her. She invited me to see her performance at the Latin Casino outside of Philadelphia. The first thing she said as I walked into her dressing room was, “You’re the best writer I’ve got.” I said, “Then how come I’m not in Hollywood?” She responded honestly, “Because you’re not ready yet.”

            Naturally, I was delighted with her compliment, but disappointed that she felt I wasn’t yet prepared for the big time. It was confusing. How could I be so good on one hand and not good enough on the other? She was right, though, and since then I’ve come to learn what she meant.

            Reaching a certain level of success—especially in the arts—requires more than ability. You have to convince others that you’re talented. That requires a lot of persistence and a touch of luck. There’s another phenomenon to consider—if you’re really good, sometimes the powers that be won’t recognize your sills. You’re too advance for them. I’m not claiming that happened to me, but it has happened to others. They were ahead of their time. I can remember as a television writer reviewing tapes of Steve Martin many years before he became a household name. He was so outlandish that no one would admit he was funny…until audiences forced us to.

            It would be an ideal world if we could acquire a certain amount of proficiency in our profession and immediately be recognized for it and paid for it. It just doesn’t often happen that way.

            However, I will go out on a limb and suggest that if you do learn your craft, be it speaking or writing, you will eventually earn the recognition you deserve. It does take some time, though.

            There will be times when you deserve pay and don’t get any. There will be times when you deserve more than you get, but no one will give it to you. These are the times when the true professional invests in the future. You invest in yourself.

            During one of our writer’s strikes I was walking a picket line outside of Universal Studios. A young man approached and began talking to us. We welcomed that. We welcomed anything that broke the monotony of walking in a circle. This gentleman was an aspiring writer who was studying TV scripting in a class taught by the Writer’s Guild. Many members volunteered to teach classes regularly to the underprivileged and this lad was one of the students.

            We talked about the good and bad facets of the television writing. We all knew what was wrong with TV and how to cure those ills. We all knew that if only we were in power, the medium would be improved two hundredfold. There’s a word for what we were doing, but it doesn’t belong on the front page of a classy newsletter like this.

            Then this aspiring writer told us that he had written a short presentation that his teacher felt had potential. He went to his car, brought back the document, and asked us to read it quickly. It was only one or two pages long. We all agreed that it was a workable idea that could possibly result in a sale.

            This student told us that his teacher advised him to rewrite this premise into a full treatment, which might be ten to twenty pages. We thought that was good advice and were happy for him. The he said, “If he wants me to do that, he’s going to have to pay me for it.”

            That was about 15 years ago and I doubt if that lad every became a TV writer. I doubt if he ever sold anything. In fact, I doubt if he ever completed that treatment.

            Each aspiring writer or speaker reading this page can put the moral to this story in his or her own words. I know the lesson I learned from that day’s chance encounter struck me heavily…otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it 15 years later.

Meet Gene Perret

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Eugene R. (Gene) Perret, one of Hollywood’s best-known comedy writers, has worked with Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Phyllis Diller, Bill Cosby and many others.

            In 1969, following a long-range stint as a monologue writer for Phyllis Diller’s one-hour variety show, he joined the Jim Nabors Show writing staff, became a member of Bob Hope’s regular writing staff, and later became head writer for Laugh-In and The New Bill Cosby Show.

            During five seasons with The Carol Burnett Show, Gene picked up three Emmy Awards for outstanding comedy writing and a Writer’s Guild Award which is voted yearly by the writers themselves.

            Moving into producing with his partner, Bill Richmond, Perret spend a season with Welcome Back, Kotter and another with the then-#1 rated show on TV, Three’s Company before helping launch The Tim Conway Show as producer and head writer.

            Gene first book Hit or Miss Management was published last year. Despite his many honors, Gene is proudest of his work with young writers. Through magazine articles and correspondence, he’s helped launch many new writing careers. 

Why Round Table?

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All of us on the staff of ROUND TALBE are happy to see this first edition finally in print and we welcome all our readers.

            We’re quite proud of this publication, and we unashamedly wish ourselves much success. You’re welcome to join the good wishes if you like.

            We feel that ROUND TABLE is a unique periodical written by comedy writers and humorists for comedy writers and humorists. But then why the mysterious name, ROUND TABLE, a gathering place for comedy writers and humorists? Why not simply COMEDY WRITERS MONTHLY or the COMEDY WRITERS JOURNAL? Is it because the comedy writers who put the first edition together simply can’t bring themselves to use such trite, hackneyed, expected titles? That’s part of it. We humorists always think we can top anything

that’s been done before. But that’s not the real reason.

            We wanted the title to reflect the purpose and the content of the publication. Years ago, the finest humorists of America would meet periodically for lunch at the Algonquin hotel in New York. People like Alexander Woolcott, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and others would exchange ideas and insult across what became known as the Algonquin Round Table. It was at the meeting place that Robert Benchly once said, “It took me 15 years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.”

            We want this publication to have the same relaxed and friendly atmosphere as the original Round Table.

            This journal is not intended to be merely a fact finding and news reporting bulletin. It’s intended, rather, to be exactly as the subtitle says, a gathering place for comedy writers and humorists. It’s really an instrument for you readers and subscribers to exchange ideas. We solicit and welcome your input.

            Writing is supposed to be a lonely profession. That’s especially true for the comedy writer. Even the most popular writers magazines virtually ignore this specialized field. In every city that I visit I invariably meet at least one comedy writer who wants to know “Who do I show my material to?” “How do I sell my material?” and similar questions.

            ROUND TABLE is designed to take some of the loneliness out of comedy writing.

            Through this publication, writers and humorists will meet on these pages. They can ask questions of the experts, the experienced writers and humorists, or of each other. We want to know of your successes and how you achieved them, because others can learn from your innovations and gather some residual confidence in your achievement.

            We’ll provide a showcase for your writings. We’ll provide interviews with successful performers and some accomplished writers will pass on their experience to you. Notice, we don’t say “expertise,” but experience. A long-time writer isn’t necessarily more skilled than the beginner. He just has learned how to use those skills more effectively. (Go back and reread the Robert Benchly quote. It has as much truth as humor in it.)

            One advantage this ROUND TABLE has over the original…they only had room for the elite of the world of humor. We’re grateful that we have plenty of room for everyone.