A Veteran TV Showrunner’s Simple Advice on Breaking Into Showbusiness
This is the practical advice veteran TV writer, former Roseanne Showrunner, and one of my mentors, Bob Myer, has been giving my USC students every year since 2013.
When Bob was working on My Two Dads, he met a staff writer who was persistent in a charming and funny way (staff writers sit at the bottom of the professional totem pole; and Bob, at the time, was second in charge). This particular staff writer would often pop his head into the writers’ room and say, “Hi Bob. Need anything? Need some jokes?”
He was in his early 30s and was always very respectful to senior producers. He’d mastered the art of getting noticed without being annoying—or, put another way: he’d mastered the skill of being adorable.
This talent, combined with sharp writing skills, earned him a promotion during Bob’s tenure on the show. After that show went away, Bob was hired to be the Executive Producer on Roseanneand took the adorable writer with him. After two full seasons, this writer was elevated to 2nd in command to Bob.
Today, we know that “adorable guy” as Chuck Lorre, one of the most prolific and successful sitcom writers in TV history! (at one time, Chuck had four shows running simultaneously on the air: Big Bang Theory; Two and a Half Men; Mom; and Mike and Molly—the show that put Melissa McCarthy on the map).
Over the years, Bob and Chuck maintained a good relationship. Years later, it was Chuck who hired Bob to be the executive overseeing two of his CBS shows. I have a feeling one of the reasons is because Bob Myer is just as adorable, and to know him is to truly love him.
Bob’s advice to “be adorable” has truly helped my students get jobs. I had a student up for four internships and asked if she’d call me to tell me how they all went. Here’s what she said: “Well, Bob Myer’s advice really impacted me. I just went in there smiling. And at the end of the interviews, when they asked if I had any questions, I just blurted out, “I want to be adorable and make your lives easier!” One executive burst out laughing and said, “You want to be adorable? That’s cute!”
Just saying that she wanted to be adorable, was adorable. And not only did she get offers at all four companies, she has continued her success and is currently an assistant to a top film agent at CAA. I have no doubt that in addition to her adorableness, she is now quite skilled.
Being adorable isn’t about being fake or sucking-up; it’s about being authentically you. If you are nervous, lean into your nervousness. Acknowledge it. If your hands are sweaty, instead of offering your wet gripper to a stranger, look her in the eye and say, “I’m so nervous right now, my hands are sweaty. I don’t want to gross you out—do you mind if we don’t shake hands?” I have no doubt an HR executive would be delighted that you said something to save her an awkward, moist palm—so take a breath and let your personality shine through.
Just remember: the purpose of being adorable is to make sure the bosses are happy to see you when they come in. Everybody makes mistakes, but even when you do, your overall appeal (adorableness) will get you another chance. Be upbeat, professional, and pay attention to what your seniors have to say without interjecting a similar experience of your own. Make it all about them (and don’t screw up their lunch order).
I firmly believe that your personality and attitude dictate your employment prospects just as much—if not more—than aptitude or experience. This is particularly true when you are starting out. When you hire an intern or an assistant, you are hiring someone to be around you eight or more hours a day—so you have to like them. You look for a personality-fit, as well as someone who has the interest and basic skills to handle whatever job you are looking to fill.
I tell all of my students that their objective at every job interview is to “be adorable.” And I hope the next time you’re up for a job, you remember the great Bob Myer’s advice.