Allison Bosma '07 writes for NBC's live comedy show, Undateable. She talked to us about her life in and out of LA writers' rooms.
Allison Bosma '07 moved to LA with acting in mind. Once she hit Hollywood, though, comedy writing became her true calling. Today, she writes for the live NBC show Undateable, crafting stories about ladies' man Danny coaching his hapless roommates in life and love. "I basically write jokes all day, which is my dream," says Bosma. She emailed with us about studying as a Theatre major under Sheldon Patinkin, getting involved with the inaugural Comedy Studies semester and jumpstarting her career thanks to an improv comedy set.
How did your Columbia College Chicago experience prepare you for your career?
Columbia offered not only theatre classes, but TV and film classes, as well. Which was great, because I feel like I learned a lot about acting as a whole. Also, my senior year, Columbia developed a program at Second City called Comedy Studies. I was part of the inaugural group. It was life changing because that’s where I learned about the history of comedy and how to write it.
How did you start writing for Undateable?
I moved to LA in 2009 and focused primarily on acting. I did okay auditioning, but it wasn’t very fulfilling for me creatively. So I started writing sketches with my husband and eventually we wrote a couple of pilots. We were both performing improv and stand up and Bill Lawrence, the Executive Producer of Undateable, came out to see a show we were doing with our friends. We ended up talking to him for a few hours after the show about TV and comedy. When Undateable came about, he hired our two best friends as actors and my husband and me as writers.
Undateable was a standard sitcom for the first two seasons. Why did it become a live show for the third season?
NBC wanted to try the live format, and since over half our cast [are stand up comedians] they thought our show would be the perfect. It’s so much fun doing it live.
What are writers’ hours usually like?
We normally have one or two long nights a week. It’s tough because sometimes you have a blank page and you have to shoot a live show in three days. You stay until you’re done. I don’t mind though. I’m a night owl.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into television writing?
If you want to write comedy, learn it. Go to improv and sketch shows and watch as much TV and movies as you can stomach. Old stuff, new stuff. Network and cable. Studio, indie. All of it. Then write. Write a spec script of a show you really like. There are a bunch of different writers’ workshops out here in LA. If you get in, they will mentor you and try to get you staffed on a show. But it’s important to be a prolific writer. That way, whenever someone asks you for a sample, you have a bunch of stuff to show them. That shows you’re a hard worker and you genuinely love to write. And there is nothing showrunners value more than a hard worker.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
I would tell her to chill out! Achieving goals takes time. I’d also tell her not to be scared. My favorite teacher at Columbia, Sheldon Patinkin, always said “better an asshole than a chicken shit,” and I couldn’t agree more. I really started succeeding when I stopped being a chicken.
What’s your fondest Columbia memory?
My favorite memory is my Comedy Studies graduation show at Second City. It was the culmination of all of my hard work at Columbia, and it was such a nice farewell to college.