The transcript from this week’s MIB: Dave Goetsch, The Big Bang Theory Writer/Executive Producer, is below.
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This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.
BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest. His name is Dave Goetsch and he is or was the executive producer of “The Big Bang Theory” as well as a comedy writer for that show and “3rd Rock from the Sun” and number of other shows.
If you are at all interested in anything having to do with television, entertainment, screenwriting, script writing, comedy, you’ll find this to be an absolutely fascinating conversation. So, with no further ado, here is my interview with Dave Goetsch.
My extra special guest this week is David Goetsch. He is the executive producer and writer of television’s highest ranked sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” He has been with the show pretty much from the very beginning right through the season finale which is taking place in May 2019. He was also writer at “3rd Rock from the Sun.” Dave Goetsch, welcome to Bloomberg.
DAVE GOETSCH, PRODUCER AND WRITER: Thank you, Barry. Well, it’s so great to be here.
RITHOLTZ: So, you have a really fascinating history. How did you start out writing for “3rd Rock from the Sun”? How did that come about? And for some of you who may be a little younger, that was a show with John Lithgow and Joseph Gordon Levitt. It was a pretty popular sitcom in its day, how did you find your way there?
GOETSCH: Well, I first had to learn that you could be as sitcom writer. So, that was a job ….
RITHOLTZ: You didn’t know that …
GOETSCH: Growing up in Connecticut …
GOETSCH: I loved watching television but I never thought about who wrote that stuff, who was filming that stuff, what was that business like. And so, when I was a senior in high school, there was a guy who just had graduated from college and he came back and he taught for a year at my school and we ended up doing — we did little radio station, nothing like this recording studio, and we did a little show there with another teacher and it was — these guys are hilarious and it was sitting around like this and just making each other laugh.
And he then left that year to go to film school and within a year and a half, he was a writer on “Cheers.” So, I stayed in touch with him.
GOETSCH: His name was Rob Long and a couple of years later, he was the executive producer of “Cheers.” So, as I thought about going to college and being a lawyer or doing whatever, in the back of my mind, I always remembered what he described being a sitcom writer was like which is sitting around in a room with 10 people who are funnier than any of your friends and trying to make them laugh and write a little play and put it on TV and your grandparents can watch it.
And that …
RITHOLTZ: Along with a few million others.
GOETSCH: Ideally along with a few million other people. And so, there were a bunch of other things that I thought about doing. But ultimately after an interview at Goldman Sachs with a fixed income division where I said, you know what, I’m going to be a sitcom writer. So, I moved to Los Angeles …
RITHOLTZ: By the way, you should know, the fixed-income desk at Goldman Sachs, those guys are hilarious.
GOETSCH: They’re hilarious. That meeting was unbelievable because I put on my uncle’s — I didn’t have a suit, I put on my uncle’s tweed suit in the middle of August and I went down there to Wall Street and I sat and talked to this VP and I literally didn’t know what fixed income was. You just like you go to Yale and you get …
RITHOLTZ: When it’s broken, you got to …
GOETSCH: You fix it. You got to fix it. Exactly.
RITHOLTZ: Makes perfect sense.
GOETSCH: And I remember her saying, when was the last time you read the “Wall Street Journal” and I said, well, honestly, this has been a pretty crazy time for me. I’m like 22. I don’t have a job. There’s nothing going on. She’s like, I can’t believe you’re going to Goldman Sachs and having a meeting and you haven’t read the “Wall Street Journal” and I was like, well, like I said, things with me and my girlfriend is crazy.
RITHOLTZ: So, that didn’t work out.
GOETSCH: No. They offered me a job in fact.
RITHOLTZ: Get out.
GOETSCH: Yes. And then like …
RITHOLTZ: They must have really liked you because it sounds like a …
GOETSCH: It was a bad start.
RITHOLTZ: … a winning interview strategy.
GOETSCH: Yes. Yes. It was a bad start.
RITHOLTZ: Listen, I apologized but things are crazy. Do you have any other questions?
GOETSCH: And the other things. And so, the way you’ll get into — the old way of getting into Hollywood and being a TV writer is you write — is that you wrote sample scripts and then you try to get an agent and that agent gets you a job on — during staffing season.
RITHOLTZ: Now, that spec process has changed.
GOETSCH: It has changed a lot. The first thing that’s changed is that people don’t write old shows. Like you would write a friend — if you wanted to get on a show when “Friends” s on, you’d write a sample “Friends” and then that would show …
RITHOLTZ: Even if you weren’t applying to “Friends.”
GOETSCH: Ideally, the people of “Friends” would never read it. It would just be, OK, I know this guy can write in the voice of other characters and it can be …
GOETSCH: … a team player on staff. And now, what everybody wants is an original stuff. And so, there — so, that process had changed and in fact, now, I teach this webisodes class at USC and I recommend that people just shoot stuff and make it and have a trailer …
RITHOLTZ: Do a full video.
GOETSCH: Make a video. Make — it’s hard to get anybody to read anything.
GOETSCH: But if I said to you, will you read my 120-page screenplay or will you watch my two-minute video, you might watch my two-minute video.
RITHOLTZ: For sure.
GOETSCH: But from that two-minute video, you get a sense of, hey, this guy he knows how to write, he knows how to direct. Even if he’s in it, he’s pretty funny. I’ll take a meeting then I’ll read the script. So, there’s — the technologies allowed people to break in in a new way.
But for me, it was the old-fashioned way. It was get an agent, I had a writing partner at that time and he and I went and met Bonnie and Terry Turner who are the creators of the show, they’re married, they’re wonderful and we had one of those just great meetings where we laughed and laughed and laughed.
RITHOLTZ: This is “3rd …
GOETSCH: “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
GOETSCH: And then we got hired at the end of the first season.
RITHOLTZ: And how — that ran a good couple of seasons.
GOETSCH: Yes. So, that ran for six years.
GOETSCH: And we started as staff writers and on the last year, we were the executive producers and showrunners with Christine Zander.
RITHOLTZ: So, let’s break these titles down because they’re interesting. Executive producer, showrunner, everybody kind of knows what a writer is, what’s the show runner do?
GOETSCH: So, they’re — the way to think about it is that there are people who make suggestions and there are people who decide. So, the showrunner decides and all the other writers were pitching, how about this, how about this, how about that.
GOETSCH: And you might start as staff writer and then become a story editor, executive story editor, co-producer, supervising producer, executive producer. But those are just different steps of virtually the same thing which is …
GOETSCH: … you’re still in the room, you’re still pitching and, hopefully, you’re getting paid a little bit more as you go up the way.
RITHOLTZ: And eventually, the showrunner is the person who ultimately is responsible for saying, they’re the managing partner of the show.
GOETSCH: Yes. Exactly. And the way I think about TV development is really in that VC model which is where you write a pilot and that’s a business plan.
GOETSCH: You say we think we’re going to be able to make 200 of these widgets, these funny shows but we need some money to — when there’s some angel investing to make a pilot. And then you make that first pilot and the network says, OK, go ahead and do that.
And then you maybe get your series A. That’s your first season, right? And then you have to get the second season and third season and in the old days, by the fourth season, you could syndicate and that would be your IPO.
RITHOLTZ: By the old days, you can syndicate after four or five seasons anymore?
GOETSCH: Well, so, “Big Bang Theory” certainly is the exception to that and it did very well in syndication. If you’re selling to the new streamers like Hulu and Netflix, they don’t have syndication. They own their — own your content forever.
GOETSCH: So, they have some different models where they’ll say, we’ll give you a bonus in the fourth season, and what you’re seeing a lot is that shows get canceled on the third season.
RITHOLTZ: Right. Makes a lot of sense. So, could show like “3rd Rock from the Sun” or even “Big Bang” get off the ground today? With the political correctness, with the environment today make that more challenging?
GOETSCH: It’s such an interesting question and I ultimately have to say probably — there’s so many places where you could put it out there and there’s just so much chance. There’s so much …
GOETSCH: The role of a hit show is there’s so much luck involved and you think about the stories of how “Seinfeld” was just six episodes and then was almost canceled. “Cheers” was almost …
GOETSCH: “Cheers” was almost canceled at the end of the first season and then it won an Emmy. We got lucky in the first season where there was a writer strike. So, we did, I don’t know, seven or eight episodes and then we went down and that meant that they repeated all of those eight episodes.
And then when the strike ended, because were multi-cam sitcom, we could get up faster and shoot more. And so, people were looking for new stuff and we had it. And so, to what degree that we think that helped but there’s so many variables in all this. It’s hard to know.
RITHOLTZ: So, later this month, I’m going to go see John Lithgow on Broadway. He’s got a new play out. You got to work with him and others. What was the experience like on “3rd Rock from the Sun”? Some really huge subsequent names out of that.
GOETSCH: Yes. It was a magical experience from top to bottom. I got to just see the play this past weekend which is …
GOETSCH: … wonderful, the Clinton play, and it was so cool because there’s an episode of “3rd Rock from the Sun” that my partner and I wrote where Laurie Metcalf who plays Hillary in this play falls in love with John Lithgow’s character and they speak to each other only in iambic pentameter and she got nominated for Emmy for that 20 something years ago.
And then later, she has — in her many, many roles, she’s also played Sheldon’s mom on “Big Bang Theory.”
GOETSCH: So, seeing them up on stage, I just had flashbacks to working with them two decades ago, working with John …
RITHOLTZ: Did you get to go backstage?
GOETSCH: Yes. I got to go backstage.
RITHOLTZ: Well, that must have been lovely.
GOETSCH: Yes. Yes. He is so remarkable and I could spend the whole time talking about what a man he is. But probably the best example of that is you know you’re a star, you don’t need to know everybody’s name, right?
He not only knew everybody and all the writers’ names, all the crews’ names. There’s a Christmas gift that I have framed and is an illustration, a cast and crew photo but he drew — so he drew every person’s face …
GOETSCH: So, you not only know your name and …
RITHOLTZ: What they look like.
GOETSCH: What they look like, how to draw them and then for each person, he colored in that person and said, To Barry, Happy Holidays. Love, John.
RITHOLTZ: Really? That’s amazing. I almost met him, just a quick digression, I’m at an event in Vancouver, this has to be like 10 years ago or eight years ago, and I love ethnic cuisine and there is like a crazy top-ranked Indian restaurant in Vancouver called, I want to say Vij, something like that, V-I-J. No reservations but when you get there, they just start feeding you appetizers and drinks while you’re waiting.
And we sit down at two-top and right next to us is John Lithgow. And the food was so good, nobody paid attention to him. Like he was a big star then.
GOETSCH: Big star. Yes.
GOETSCH: Like in New York or in a place like this, there’s like the vibe is, hey, it’s just …
GOETSCH: Let that go.
GOETSCH: Right. It’s always bad form to scream at celebrities and that’s a very New York attitude. But I was surprised to see that in Vancouver. I didn’t know if it was the town or because the food.
RITHOLTZ: Crazy delicious. Let’s talk a little about your really terrible relationship with money as you have described it when you’re growing up. Explain that.
GOETSCH: So, I — my parents were teachers and so we always had enough money but there wasn’t my that was being saved. And so, when I started to work in Hollywood, I had some money and I didn’t know what to do with it and I think from the very early days, I would always read the business section to try and get worked up to look at — think about what bad stuff could happen.
RITHOLTZ: OK. And there’s lots of bad stuff.
GOETSCH: And there’s lots of bad stuff and there are screens and screens of it. And so, I would — I describe myself on the writing staff as like the chief worrier because I knew enough to get scared about the Asian currency markets or what’s going to happen and I …
RITHOLTZ: How was the Asian currency market?
GOETSCH: I don’t know. The good news is it doesn’t matter. It’s my new philosophy.
GOETSCH: I’m a long-term investor so I don’t care.
RITHOLTZ: Right. What happened — so, in other words, what happened last Tuesday is not relevant to your retirement in 30 years, is that what you’re saying?
GOETSCH: Exactly. So, for me, it’s about if I have — what your time — you must talk about to your clients all the time.
GOETSCH: What are your goals, what’s your time horizon. If you are thinking about 20 years from now, then what happens in today’s markets is …
RITHOLTZ: I’m just so fond of telling people look at long-term chart of the market, the single worst day, the 1987 crash, 23 percent one day crash, on bit long-term chart. It’s like a little wiggly, you barely even see it. Although while you’re in it, the world is coming to an end. But that’s just a function of perspective.
GOETSCH: Exactly. And I think that there is this problem that I had which is even after I knew that, I didn’t internalize it. There’s kind of that aha moment when you start to see how all this stuff fits together and that’s when you have the ability to start feeling better now, not just that — not feeling like, OK, I have enough money or I’m going to be OK. It’s more like I have confidence in this approach that I’ve taken and also being comfortable with the uncertainty.
RITHOLTZ: So, let’s talk about that because there’s a line that you wrote, quote, “The markets haven’t changed. They still go up and down. The difference is I don’t anymore.” So, how did you get from that process of worrying about where the yen was to, hey, markets are volatile. They’ll fluctuate but I can’t be bothered.
GOETSCH: So, I was a mess. So, I had my retirement in cash and the ’08, ’09 happens and it starts — everything starts to tank and I think to myself, I’ve been waiting since I’m 13 for this.
GOETSCH: It is the end of the world. I knew it was going to happen. But it wasn’t the end of the world and it was around that time that I read this article about Gordon Murray who is writing a book called “The Investment Answer” in his race against cancer. He was trying to finish the book before — I think it was brain cancer.
And so, it was extremely moving article. I ordered the book on Amazon before it came out. I read it and things clicked for me in a different way. I had understanding how the market works, being a long-term investor and no one ever talked about having a fiduciary investment advisor.
And once you realize that there’s somebody who’s on your side who’s not trying to make extra money in every single trade and being a partner for the long term, I sought out an advisor and it’s funny, I — once I met with him, I said, OK, I’ll give you a year to see how it is. So, it proves I didn’t really know. I wasn’t really a long-term investor.
RITHOLTZ: Right. Because 12 months is …
GOETSCH: Twelve months is enough.
RITHOLTZ: I heard something amusing, you had your agent and his brother was an advisor and …
RITHOLTZ: … you said, I’ve given enough — that family enough money.
GOETSCH: Exactly. Right. So, CAA — one of the leaders of CAA is Bryan Lourd and his brother Blaine Lourd I think is his name is also an advisor and I was like, I’ve already given 10 percent to the Lourds, I don’t think to give 11.
RITHOLTZ: That’s really funny. So, you’re looking at what is at least by traditional standards a fairly substantial salary. However, there’s always the risk, hey, we could get cancelled anytime, who knows if this show is going to get picked up, how do you deal with that sort of uncertainty? You have to be fairly risk embracing if that’s the career choice.
GOETSCH: So, this is what I realized which is when I became a sitcom writer because I saw my friend get a job on “Cheers” after a year and a half. I totally miss price risk. I thought going in the Hollywood was going to be a lot easier and a lot more stable than it was.
And once I got there, I was like, my God, this place is a mess. I went to meeting an accountant once and he said, OK, well, what’s your — what kind of income can you expect over the next five years? I said, well, I might never work again so zero or I might syndicate a show so $200 million. So, can we budget for somewhere in between that.
RITHOLTZ: Right. Just that range.
GOETSCH: And that is paralyzing for — it was paralyzing for a long time and the difference for me is getting on their side of it and saying, hold on a second, risk — we know risk and reward are related.
GOETSCH: We tend to be afraid of that or we can try to make a little peace with that and so much of my life — so much of everyone’s life is how do you reduce risk and mitigate, how do you try to make everything seem to make more sense. And as a storyteller, I was always telling myself stories either to get racked up and nervous or …
GOETSCH: … try to calm down. And it’s hard but I think trying to get comfortable with that unknown isn’t that really powerful.
RITHOLTZ: I can imagine. So, before we leave the investing space, I have to ask, you have a patent, how on earth did that happen?
GOETSCH: So, I have a couple of friends from college and this was — we graduated in early ’90s and we had the — we always wanted to start a company. And so, all of us were at the beginning of our career and Jon Zittrain who’s now this Internet law professor at Harvard …
RITHOLTZ: Harvard. Right.
GOETSCH: … he’s a big deal, he had this idea which was what …
RITHOLTZ: Wait, he was a colleague or a friend of yours?
GOETSCH: He’s a friend from college. So, it turns out it’s like this guy Shermann Min who — he just sold his company to Target and Zach Mainen who runs a neuroscience institute in Portugal and me and Zach and Mary Lambert who another college friend who worked at Google and the thing that was incredible — there are a couple of things that were fun — it was a great chance for us to all be together and this idea for the patent was could there be a way to communicate without having to talk and without having to type, could there be a touch-based way of communication.
So, if you and I had a bracelet and we give it a squeeze, you’d say, you know what, when this interview rather than me giving you a sign when we want to break to go get a snack, just give me a squeeze. And so you give me a squeeze or you’d be able to tell your kind would say, I want to get to school, I’m going to give you a squeeze.
And so, it was a haptic way of communication and we were going to use pager networks to do it and we ended up getting a patent. But all of our lives got busy and it turns out this is actually a pretty hard thing to build especially in the ’90s.
RITHOLTZ: Well, Apple didn’t have a hard time building it.
RITHOLTZ: It’s part of the Apple Watch.
GOETSCH: And technically, it is part of the Apple Watch. So, we kept waiting for Apple to call us and they still haven’t called. So, if Tim Cook is listening to this podcast …
RITHOLTZ: Send checks, too.
RITHOLTZ: So, you guys never tried to enforce the patents or never tried to do something?
GOETSCH: We were like open to it but …
RITHOLTZ: So, Apple should come by the patent so you don’t sell it to Samsung.
GOETSCH: I agree. I agree, Barry.
RITHOLTZ: Right. Isn’t that fair?
GOETSCH: I think that’s a really good idea.
RITHOLTZ: I’ll take it through.
GOETSCH: OK. Thank you very much.
RITHOLTZ: I also recall hearing that you set up your own defined benefits plan, you don’t even know that was an option for someone who was technically self-employed, right? The structure is all the writers and producers work for either themselves or a separate LLC. So, it’s like a pass-through and they’re all partners.
GOETSCH: Yes. So, what happens is after you become a certain level of a writer, your accountant will say, time to make a loan out. And so, for a writer, that says, what am I going to call my — as a writer, you think, OK, what I do call my corporation, and some people have really goofy dumb names for corporations. So, when the IRS calls that you regret that you have this really dumb name.
RITHOLTZ: But the funny thing is when you go to file an LLC to the corporate paperwork, most of the names have been taken. You have to really work to find the name that any common one or two word combination, somebody’s filed it already.
GOETSCH: Yes. Exactly. So, what happened is that now that I had a financial advisor, he said, hey, you don’t know what your future is, these are good earning years, can you put a chunk of it away to create your own pension. And that sounded great to me. I love that idea and I end up mentioning this to lots of people, too, because I feel like it’s surprising how many of my colleagues don’t have financial advisor …
GOETSCH: … and how much they would benefit from it. And they — what you guys do, you get a bad rep from all the other guys who aren’t doing what you do.
RITHOLTZ: Well, it’s not clear who’s a transactional commission broker who are allowed to call themselves advisors versus a fiduciary registered investment advisor who basically are like your accountant or your lawyer are obligated to do what’s in your best interest and that’s been an ongoing debate in Congress for a while.
President Obama, his Department of Labor passed that pay for retirement accounts. They must be fiduciary. That rule was just overturned by the new administration. And so, it’s very ambiguous, it’s very — and even worse, there are now hybrid broker-dealer RIAs. So, what hat am I wearing? Am I wearing a fiduciary hat or am I wearing to commit — so, it’s really — it’s so complex and so unclear when really we could just clean this up and say either, everybody needs to be fiduciary or if you’re not a full-blown fiduciary, you can call yourself a planner and advisor. You have to be either a CFP or an RIA and blah, blah, blah with all the acronyms.
But this could be cleaned up. There’s too much money at stake from people who don’t want it to be cleaned up. I think the estimate was just for retirement accounts was 17 billion a year in fees. So, of course, there’s a lot of opposition to that.
GOETSCH: Yes. And the upside of having a fiduciary advisor is that your — things keep changing in your life.
GOETSCH: You have kids. You lose spouses. You inherit money. You have health challenges. Things change all the time.
GOETSCH: And there — I mean, you spend all your time — I spent all my time with all these writers in all these rooms and we don’t talk about money because it’s too scary.
GOETSCH: It’s too stressful. So, we’re going to talk about different things. But you want to be able to call up somebody and say, hey, I need some help, what is this.
GOETSCH: And so, I’m super grateful for my advisor and …
RITHOLTZ: Hey, I need a trust and estates lawyer, I need somebody who can help me with this, they have that network.
GOETSCH: Yes. Exactly.
RITHOLTZ: It’s really important.
GOETSCH: And I know markets are going to go down. I know there’s going to be sometime in my lifetime things — historically, things go down, some giant thing again like ’87 or whatever.
RITHOLTZ: Right or ’08, ’09, it was 57 percent.
RITHOLTZ: Big drop.
GOETSCH: And it’s going to be really good to have somebody that I can talk to to say, I know we said this is going to happen, I’m freaking out, let’s talk this out before I do something reckless.
RITHOLTZ: Sounds like a smart approach. Let’s talk a little bit about the show. It’s been the top-rated sitcom for how long now?
GOETSCH: For a really long time. I’m not exactly sure but years and years.
RITHOLTZ: But years, years and years.
GOETSCH: Yes. We’ve had a great run and there are 10 writers that all work together in this really unique way and …
RITHOLTZ: You say o unique because I always think of my framework is shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” which is also its own thing or “Seinfeld” where one or maybe two people would write a script and then we’d go to the writers and the jokes would be at it.
You guys do a very different approach. It’s not a single writer and then it’s punched up. It’s a whole group discussion, right?
GOETSCH: Right. The standard model is to have, you break the story around a big table and then — and come up with an outline and send one or two writers off to write it and then come back and get notes.
But what Chuck Lorre noticed in his long-storied career was that when those scripts came back, he spent a lot of time rewriting them. So, what if we just had this burg and had everybody’s eyes on the script and we went through it.
And one of the things that happen when you go off to write a script is, of course, it sounded great when you were talking about it, it sounded awesome in that little outline. But now it doesn’t make sense or even better, you came up with a twist that is better for the story but you’ve got it approved and you got to kind of stick to the outline …
GOETSCH: And you don’t want to book the showrunner. And what we’ve been able to do is sit around the room, come with it together, write the script together and then have that freedom to pivot and turn and follow the story.
So, sometimes people will say, my gosh, I didn’t see how that was going to happen at the end and we said, well, neither do we. We discovered it along the way that it would be more fun to go this way or to go that way.
RITHOLTZ: Now, we’re in the Chuck Lorre era of television where the laws were passed and no sitcom could be on unless it’s either created or produced by Chuck Lorre. Is that more or less true?
GOETSCH: He — if you think about all of his shows, right, it’s …
RITHOLTZ: “Two and a Half Men” was his.
GOETSCH: So, it’s “Cybill” “Grace under Fire” “Dharma & Greg” “Two and a Half Men” “Big Bang Theory” “Mom” “Mike & Molly” and he just won a Golden Globe for “Kominsky” with …
RITHOLTZ: I love that show.
GOETSCH: … on Netflix.
GOETSCH: And now, his new show just got pick up, “Bob Hearts Abishola” which is going to be on CBS and I saw the pilot, it’s really, really funny. And so, there’s no — he’s incredibly talented. But he — and in addition to that, he has this process for making a show which is different from the way other people make show.
RITHOLTZ: And that ends up having a big impact on how successful the show or at least that’s the correlation that seems to exist. He touches something and it — I mean, has he had many shows that haven’t worked out especially well? You have to think about it.
GOETSCH: No. Yes. Yes. There’s a story that a long, long time ago some network bought a show with him and Tyler Perry, right?
GOETSCH: Those are like the two most popular …
GOETSCH: Those guys — that that show didn’t get on the air with those two guys but he — I don’t think anyone has the track record like he has.
RITHOLTZ: It’s astonishing.
RITHOLTZ: It’s astonishing.
GOETSCH: It’s really amazing.
RITHOLTZ: So, one of — so, my wife literally started watching “The Big Bang Theory” from the first show and I watched more or less what she watches other than a handful of “Project Runway” or “Flip This House” and I will specifically notice how the show has iterated over, what is it, 12?
GOETSCH: Twelve years.
RITHOLTZ: Twelve season.
GOETSCH: Two hundred and seventy-nine episodes which is …
GOETSCH: … slightly more than your episode. Yours like 250 something, right?
RITHOLTZ: I’m coming up on 250.
GOETSCH: Right. Soon you’ll pass even “The Big Bang Theory.”
RITHOLTZ: But it’s only taking me five years to get there.
GOETSCH: It’s very impressive.
RITHOLTZ: That’s the beauty of once a week and that’s the beauty of two idiots sitting and talking in a room as opposed to a whole television production.
RITHOLTZ: So, I’ve noticed in the beginning, the thing that was so appealing to me, I don’t watch a lot of television, but I got pulled into the show because everybody was pretty dysfunctional. This was a group where most of the main characters, certainly the four male characters, were at various points on the spectrum.
Certainly, it’s implied that Sheldon is either autistic or Asperger’s or somewhere on the spectrum and over the years, that’s kind of moderated a little bit. We’ve mainstreamed them. Tell us about how this has evolved and how do you stay true to those original characters.
GOETSCH: Well, I think it’s a testament to Bill Prady and Chuck creating this show which was those characters were inspired by Bill Prady’s experiences here in New York working at a computer company and …
RITHOLTZ: Really brilliant people, not exactly the most socially …
RITHOLTZ: … adept.
GOETSCH: So, brilliant people who are not socially — not the geniuses socially that they are in other ways. And so, the amazing thing about television is how you can tell such a long story and how people can change at …
RITHOLTZ: They evolve.
GOETSCH: … at a rate that is a little bit more consistent with how things happen. It’s hard than a movie to have — these movies were just like you tell the story of somebody’s life in 90 minutes.
RITHOLTZ: Right. He’s a jerk and now he’s enlightened and what a great guy.
GOETSCH: Exactly. And so, for us, the way it’s always been is to follow the characters and not necessarily know where we’re going. Like when Mayim Bialik showed up to be — to go on a date with Sheldon, I think she had two lines in her — it was the season finale of maybe season three or something …
RITHOLTZ: This is because Howard had set them up …
RITHOLTZ: … without Sheldon knowing, set them up on a web — dating website.
RITHOLTZ: And basically, just made Sheldon a complete and total accurate depiction of somebody, again, pretty much on the spectrum and lo and behold, here she comes.
GOETSCH: Here she comes and she was great to work with. And then we brought her back for another episode and then another episode and I don’t think the plan was ever Sheldon’s in the — well, 10 years from now, Sheldon’s going to marry her. Yes.
RITHOLTZ: Was it the second season, was it that early?
GOETSCH: I’m trying to remember. I think it was — it’s all blurry together but I think it was season three.
RITHOLTZ: Because what ended up happening with her introduction was it went from a story about four dysfunctional guys to pretty much four dysfunctional couples and how they manage their lives in spite of the fact that they’re all a little wacky.
GOETSCH: Melissa Rauch, she plays Bernadette and Mayim Bialik who played Amy deserve enormous credit for what they brought to the show and what they — the stories they allowed us to tell. So, it didn’t just be — still be about four nerds who were trying to go to the comic bookstore as much as they can.
RITHOLTZ: Use Google maps to find, I forgot what was the “Bachelorette” or one of those shows where all of the …
GOETSCH: “America’s Top Model” episode.
RITHOLTZ: … a bunch of beautiful women with low self-esteem because they’ve been rejected and they figure out how to go set up their Wi-Fi.
GOETSCH: Yes. And that is a part of the show and its — that’s so fun and what became even more fun was just to be able to tell more stories.
RITHOLTZ: Did you ever get any — did the writers or the producers ever get any pushback from any advocacy groups that had autism or Asperger’s or anything like that because of the way they’re being depicted?
GOETSCH: So, we never say…
RITHOLTZ: You never say what it is.
GOETSCH: … said what it is and …
RITHOLTZ: But anyone with Google and Wikipedia can figure it out.
GOETSCH: We had some really meaningful or wonderful connections where people have come to us and said, my son identifies with Sheldon, and we — every day, we sit down and we watch an episode and then — and we talk about it and we talk about what Sheldon’s going through and we talk about what my son’s going through.
And that — we didn’t intend to do that but it’s something that we’re so proud of as a group. And I think that we — certainly, among the 10 writers, everybody is protective of the characters and I think that showrunner Steve Molaro in the ways is the most protective in a really wonderful way and was going to make sure that Sheldon never did anything that would cross the line or be objectionable. And so, we really care about these characters and they are alive to us.
RITHOLTZ: I can totally see why that would be. I mentioned the show is iterated over the years because it’s on syndication. I frequently will see like a first or second or third season show, it was really edgy in the beginning. I mean, it had some really sharp elbows like where you gasp like wow that’s hilarious but, my God, nobody else on TV says anything like this.
GOETSCH: Yes. And what happened is around — so when the show is syndicated around season four, its normal that when a show is syndicated, the audience grows.
GOETSCH: More people find it and they say, hey, I want to check out the new ones.
RITHOLTZ: Hey, it’s a commercial for the current show.
GOETSCH: Exactly. But what we found is that families love to watch the show together and they would — people would — we have an audience of 250 people that comes on Tuesday night to watch …
RITHOLTZ: Live studio audience.
GOETSCH: Live studio audience and it’s not laugh track, we have microphones in the audience. And so, those people would stand up and thank us or tell us that this is the only show I get to watch with my family and I was really stuck with Chuck and he had created “Two and a Half Men” and that’s not necessarily a show that you can watch with your children.
RITHOLTZ: No. For sure.
GOETSCH: With your kids and that wasn’t intended to be that way. And so, we heard how the audience was growing and moving and then — and as I recall even, a lot of us have kids and we started watching the show with our kids.
And so, it was more of just a gut check which is do I want to — that joke is funny but do I want when I’m sitting next to my daughter and hear that. And so, it became I think a little broader and — broader appeal in that way.
RITHOLTZ: Right. So, in the early days, it would be the wood jokes with Sheldon and everybody. He has to be doing this on purpose, all the double entendres …
RITHOLTZ: … that he was oblivious to. Leading up to the series finale, that had to be a bittersweet experience. This has been 12 years of your life.
GOETSCH: Yes. I have a picture also of 12 years of all the scripts because we have — the way multicam works is we do a table read on Wednesday and we rewrite all the jokes that don’t work. On Thursday, we do a rehearsal. We see the actors perform it. Just like a play.
We fix all the things that don’t work on Friday. Same thing. We pre-shoot some stuff on Monday. And then on Tuesday, in front of an audience, we film the whole thing.
RITHOLTZ: So, that’s the third — so when you see what’s broadcast, that’s really the third time everybody’s going through it?
GOETSCH: Yes. And that is a difference from “Modern Family” or “Arrested Development” which is like a movie.
GOETSCH: And because …
RITHOLTZ: No audience …
GOETSCH: … they’ll do a table read if they’re lucky and then they are — they board it and then they’re shooting it in pieces all over town, some on soundstage and stuff. And it’s incredible how they make that look like a movie (ph).
GOETSCH: What I love about the multicam is that you have these chances to watch it and watch it like a play and tweak the jokes and listen to the audience and have that interplay.
And so, that became — as we went through Season 12 and getting to the final episode, these filmings became so emotional because our audience was going through it …
RITHOLTZ: Same thing.
GOETSCH: And so, in the last episode that we shot, people started waiting out the night before to try and …
GOETSCH: … to get tickets and it was festive and joyous. But also, really emotional. And the only thing I can compare to is I got to go — one of the great things about the show is how scientists like it and people from JPL come. And so, I got invited to go to JPL for when Cassini …
GOETSCH: End of the Cassini Mission. And that was like 4 o’clock in the morning and everybody — hundreds of people were there but I get to sit in the room with all these scientists who had worked on it over the last 25 years and these guys who are quite reticent were just watching the satellite and their tears were coming down their face. Not because they were sad, it was just this is the conclusion of a big part of your life.
RITHOLTZ: Twenty-five years. That’s a really long time.
GOETSCH: So, last question about “The Big Bang,” are people watching this live as it broadcast or they’re DVR-ing it? Are they streaming it? Is it on demand?
You have to have seen how that has evolved over the — because you guys launched right into the start really, a totally new era in television.
GOETSCH: The iPhone hadn’t come out when …
RITHOLTZ: That’s astonishing.
GOETSCH: … when “The Big Bang Theory” started. YouTube was about two years old. And so, it is fascinating to think about how much the world has changed and also how this show has been so popular despite being made the same way “I Love Lucy” is made.
GOETSCH: So, we talked about how there’s so much innovation, but at the same time, this way of making things still worked. So, it’s been fascinating to watch how it changes. We used to look at the ratings and then we — then they started to do plus threes for three days and plus seven. And …
RITHOLTZ: To see how it continues to be viewed …
GOETSCH: Yes, because …
RITHOLTZ: … after.
GOETSCH: Because those ratings, you would say, wow, the ratings are going down compared to two years ago. But within there days, they’re way up.
GOETSCH: And within seven days, they’re way up. And so, it’s not just that there’s one way of consuming any of this stuff and you have to be prepared to get it out to everybody, one thing that is different though is this idea of watching something every week versus if you made 20 episodes on Netflix and just dumped it, people will burn through it. It’s is a different kind of an experience.
GOETSCH: And so, as — it’s fascinating as storytellers to think about how to tweak those episodes. Because I remember somebody being on the plane and watching an episode of “House” and saying, like, oh my God. I’m never seen the show. It’s amazing. And then they — I’ll watch another one. And then I watch another episode and I was like that was really good. It was quite like the first episode. I watched the third episode. They were like, that was remarkably like the third episode.
But the point was because it wasn’t intended to watched — it was every week, we give you something that you like which is different but within the confines of it being weekly, it’s fine. But if — you’re not going to watch 26 episodes of “House” in a row.
RITHOLTZ: So, a couple of shows that I started binging, when “Ms. Maisel” came out and when “Jack Ryan” came out. Day one, I started watching both of them.
And I found that if you — you only have a finite supply of it. you have to pace yourself.
RITHOLTZ: Otherwise, you’re going to watch it in three weeks and now, you get to wait 49 weeks till the next one comes.
And it does — just banging through a bunch of them. It does lose a little something when you watch it and you get to think about it and digest it and wait a week, and then next — so we — “The Expanse” is another one that I like to — I don’t want to over binge although I watch one or two of them in a row.
And but you want to give it a little time to settle in. It’s not great to just — I know people who will kill all season in a weekend and I think it loses a little bit of something or am I alone in that (ph).
GOETSCH: It just depends on one that show is I remember watching the first season of “24” in less than 24 hours. It was back when with the Blockbuster and was just like get them and watch them and burn through them all.
So, it’s more like is it a giant movie? Is that the novel you want — just can’t put down or is it something that you want to like incorporate into your life?
So, is — as I think as writers, how you want this to be consumed is relevant. And “The Sopranos” is maybe extreme version of that which is — or “Game of Thrones” waiting two years between those shows didn’t help. You forget, like, wait, what’s that connection?
RITHOLTZ: Could we make and show like a show like “The Big Bang” going forward or is that you are now over?
GOETSCH: Well, I’m such an idiot because I remember telling Bill Prady at season one, this — we live in a new era of television. Syndication is over.
There’s no — I love the show. I hope it’s successful, but there’s no way you’re ever going to make any money on syndication. And I …
RITHOLTZ: Good call.
GOETSCH: I was very wrong. I was very, very wrong.
So, I — it seems like it’s never too late. There’s always audiences like these shows. I love multicam’s because they’re characters that people want to invite into your house and have a relationship with them.
RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk a little bit about the entertainment industry. There are so many interesting things that are going on. But first, I have to ask you about the Emmys. The show and its actors and writers have been nominated, I don’t know, 97 times for Emmys. Do you go to the Emmys? What is that experience like?
GOETSCH: If you get nominated, you go to the Emmys.
RITHOLTZ: You just go.
GOETSCH: Yes. You just go and there’s a — our editor, Peter Chakos, started getting Emmys on “Cheers” and nominations on “Cheers” and on “Will & Grace” and by the time he started getting them on “Big Bang,” it was his 20th nomination and no win.
RITHOLTZ: So, you know it’s due, right?
GOETSCH: So, he went — well, he just thought he’s Susan Lucci. He’s never going to have — it’s never going to happen.
RITHOLTZ: See, I believe in mean reversion. Eventually, he has to win.
GOETSCH: And he did. It was — he reverted to the mean. So, he won, I think three or four in a row. The …
RITHOLTZ: And then that’s it. He’ll never win again.
GOETSCH: No, no. I hope he will keep winning and winning.
He — the Emmys are really fun and what’s interesting is when you go on different years and see like who’s show it is. So, one year, we got to sit in the row right with “Homeland.” And that was the year the — I think it was their first season and they won and they won big.
And it’s — first of all, it’s like you look down and you’re like, hey, there’s Mandy Patinkin. That’s fun.
RITHOLTZ: Claire Danes is great in that show.
GOETSCH: Claire Danes is wonderful in that show. And then they win and they go up on stage and it’s amazing. And so, it’s fun no matter what. And …
RITHOLTZ: But it’s fun to win, isn’t it?
GOETSCH: It’s — I’ve never won an Emmy, so I don’t know. But it seems really fun. And it’s been — it’s interesting to think about Chuck Lorre who — well, he hasn’t won an Emmy …
RITHOLTZ: Ever? How is that possible?
GOETSCH: He’s not won a writing Emmy but almost all of his characters have. And I think it’s a testament to how he creates shows that are so focused on characters that an actor can have a great script to really knock it out of the park. And it’s — you think — Allison Janney just won when Jim Parsons won for …
RITHOLTZ: Right. He was winning every year.
RITHOLTZ: But didn’t the show — wasn’t the show Best Comedy Emmy for a long — it doesn’t — isn’t that really the creator’s?
GOETSCH: So, that — we got nominated, I think, three or four times and but it was during the run of “Modern Family.” So, “Modern Family” won a lot and then we won a couple times for “Third Rock from the Sun” but that was when “Frasier” was wining.
RITHOLTZ: Got you.
GOETSCH: And those guys — “Frasier” won like eight years in a row, “Modern Family” won six years in a row.
RITHOLTZ: But you guys started long before “Modern Family,” right?
GOETSCH: We were a couple years before “Modern Family.” Yes.
RITHOLTZ: Right. For sure.
So, that’s Emmys. It’s kind of interesting. Have you noticed any changes in Hollywood since the Me Too Movement began? And specifically, within your show?
GOETSCH: So, I think that around Hollywood, people are — people get it now. It’s what I’ve been hopeful that this time would happen. And so, I think the culture is changing. And it’s not that hard to do.
There — when you’re in a writer’s room, it’s important to have everyone be able to speak freely. And so, there was even a “Friends” lawsuit years ago where the California Supreme Court guaranteed the right of the writers to cross the line …
GOETSCH: … because you have to find the line.
RITHOLTZ: You have to figure out where the line is. You — if you start self-editing yourself in a creative format, you’re going to really, radically, cut back what can be done.
GOETSCH: Right. And there is a way to speak freely, but also be respectful of everyone in the room.
GOETSCH: And in fact, if you’re trying to get the most out of everybody, if you’re pitching jokes that might hurt people’s feelings or — you don’t want to do anything that silences other people in the room. So, I think that that the — I think this is all positive for making better shows and we’re going to see, I think in the next few years just more of what we’ve seen already which is just more diversity of voices which is terrific and it’s going to make better content.
RITHOLTZ: Well, we’ll be looking forward to that.
So, as executive producer, how much responsibility do you take for the financial success of “The Big Bang Theory”?
GOETSCH: Almost none. So, I certainly — yes. I’m just so grateful to be a part of this show.
RITHOLTZ: And you really started, pretty much, from the — what was it? The second episode?
GOETSCH: Yes. So, the pilot is the first episode. And then the first episode of season one is episode two. So, Steve Molaro and I were there from the beginning.
And the — there are so many people that deserve credit way ahead of me. And I think that it’s been so cool to just watch how this has grown and evolved and nobody really — I don’t think people knew that the show — a show about four nerds was going to be connective with people and be so popular with them and …
RITHOLTZ: When did you start to think, hey, this thing is becoming a monster? How long did it take?
GOETSCH: There was a press tour that the cast took. And I think it was maybe at the end of season one — between season one and season two or between season two and season three.
RITHOLTZ: Is that where you guys went to Comic-Con?
GOETSCH: So, we went to Comic-Con and hat was — that was definitely a moment we’re like, wow, people are into the show.
RITHOLTZ: That’s your audience, for sure.
GOETSCH: Yes. But these guys …
RITHOLTZ: And then you guys write it into the show which was hilarious.
GOETSCH: And we always had — every year of Comic-Con, we’d have a little reel so we’d have all the nerdiest jokes and the super hero references and references to Comic-Con. And we always wanted to shoot at Comic-Con, but it’s in July and it never — it was always too hard to do.
And so, the — I think the moment, for me, was when the actors came back from a press tour in Mexico City and they were all — they just — their eyes are wide open and they were just like, we were The Beatles. Like, it was — there were security and there were hundreds of people waiting at the hotel and they didn’t even know the show was — they thought they were promoting, that the show is going to be in Mexico. But it had already become a huge hit.
And there’s a moment for me also where I met somebody, a Chinese person who said I learned English watching your show.
RITHOLTZ: Really? That’s kind of interesting.
GOETSCH: Yes. And it’s the number one comedy in China, too.
RITHOLTZ: Let me think about that. I’m wondering what cultural things wouldn’t translate. But I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s just a quirky family, and so that’s kind of universal even though the specifics are so unique to the show.
GOETSCH: Right. Jokes about Pasadena aren’t going to play in Beijing. But you can — you know what it’s like. It’s that core dynamic of friendship about relationships, about trying to find love, trying to find career, success and that has been able to translate.
RITHOLTZ: So, when you look around what’s going on with Hollywood. You’ve giant mergers. You have related to the show all the superhero stuff just going ballistic. When Disney starts cranking out Marvel comics after that purchase, Marvel comics movies, four times a year, what do you think the future of this is going to be in the entertainment space?
I don’t mean just from the four guys’ perspective, but broader, is it becoming a nerd’s entertainment world?
GOETSCH: It’s such an interesting question. I feel we’re in this wild moment where within three weeks of each other, the Marvel arc, “Game of Thrones” “Big Bang,” they’re all ending.
And so, when we look back …
RITHOLTZ: Well, just the Avengers arc is ending. Marvel is going to continue …
GOETSCH: I mean, Marvel will go forever and ever …
RITHOLTZ: Cranking out …
RITHOLTZ: You have a million …
RITHOLTZ: … million comics they haven’t even touched into yet.
GOETSCH: No, that’s true. That’s true.
I do think it will — it will have to continue innovate, right? You have to find — you can’t — there weren’t — there’d never been an arc like Avengers in a movie. You’d never seen anything like game of thrones before “Big Bang.” You haven’t had a show like that.
And so, that’s kind of like why reality TV was hot where you’re like, wait, I’ve never seen a show with guys stuck on an island and …
RITHOLTZ: But I thought that was cheap, that’s why that was so hot.
GOETSCH: Well, those ratings were great. Those ratings are really great.
And so, it’s …
RITHOLTZ: I will admit to watching the first couple of seasons of “Survivor” and then it kind of got repetitive.
GOETSCH: It’s interesting …
RITHOLTZ: … to me.
GOETSCH: People on staff still love that show.
GOETSCH: Like they still love it and there’s something special about it.
The — so, it’s just about being able to innovate and entertain an audience and as you have fewer giant corporations, are they going to become more risk averse? Are they going to say, well, we know Avengers worked, so let’s make more Marvel. It’s this — they just did that with “Star Wars,” right? They cut back on a “Star Wars” movie because the one before, it didn’t do as well.
RITHOLTZ: Well, they were cranking out — cranking them out too fast and too much. Although when we look at risk aversion, look at Disney.
All right. So, they buy Star Wars. And they buy Marvel. And they buy Fox. And they said, yes, Netflix, we’re going to put out Netflix at half the price. They seem to be taking or embracing risk. I don’t know if everybody else is.
But when a giant TV like Disney has figured out if we don’t throw stuff up against the wall, we’ll never know what — it’s a great Jeff Bezos quote, if we don’t fail, we’re not taking enough chances to see what might work.
GOETSCH: Yes. Exactly. And they just took a big write down on “Vice.” So, there …
GOETSCH: Like that’s the thing. You take bets (ph).
RITHOLTZ: By big write down for them, it was a couple hundred million dollars …
GOETSCH: Hundred million dollars.
RITHOLTZ: … which is really a — I thought you don’t track all the stuff or is that Hollywood enough related.
GOETSCH: That’s entertainment. It’s all entertainment.
RITHOLTZ: So, you have to track …
GOETSCH: Yes. Exactly.
RITHOLTZ: Yes. A $200 million write down for Disney is like I had a (inaudible). I can’t find …
GOETSCH: Where to go? Where to go?
It’s — I think the stuff to me that’s so interesting is how people are able to build businesses outside of that model. So, watch how sitcoms is arrayed with insecure or the guys that made high maintenance, they start as web series. They did proof of concept.
There’s a moment where these shows can live on their own or come in to the corporate structure. And so, how — for people breaking — one of the things I say is that the students at USC that I teach is that part of breaking into Hollywood might not be breaking into Hollywood that you might — if you can be entrepreneurial and think about new platforms and TikTok is this huge thing that’s happening right now that if you’re under 25, you’d love it.
And so, how can you become a great content creator for TikTok or how can you monetize that? How can you do new things people haven’t done before?
RITHOLTZ: So, last question about this. What is the entertainment industry going to look like 10 or 20 years from now? Is it going to be what we think of as Hollywood or as you are implying, it’s going to be far more Balkanized and far more spread out and not the old studio system remotely?
GOETSCH: Well, the simple answer is nobody knows. But the stuff that’s interesting to me is that there — we’re going to be more and more like Spotify where everything is available.
RITHOLTZ: All on demand.
GOETSCH: All on demand. And for me, that makes me want to actually — maybe it’s just something older. I don’t want to listen to more music when I have access to my music. It’s kind of overwhelming.
GOETSCH: Like, I want to go to my record collection and I was like, I’ll play that.
RITHOLTZ: That’s the beauty of Pandora versus Spotify is that you can seed a playlist with your favorites …
GOETSCH: Yes. And find new stuff …
RITHOLTZ: … and you’d still hear new stuff that’s similar.
GOETSCH: And that’s the most interesting thing about Spotify. Is it — it would have this recommended lists with — it’s a great way to find new music.
So, for me, it’s like the Netflix algorithm suggesting what shows you want is fascinating but also are we just going to — to do the economic parallel, are we going to have too much faith in models?
GOETSCH: And so, what is the role of humans being able to kind of create and innovate. And then the other thing that I wonder about is how you see it in every family where it used to be one TV screen. Now everyone’s got a tablet and everyone complains about that.
But from a content creator standpoint, it means, hold on a second. We just went from needing (ph) four shows at the same time — one show at the same time to four shows at the same time. And as you get to driverless cars, what are people going to do? They’re going to watch TV.
So, when you think about you — 20 years from now, you’re in the driverless car that’s super luxurious, you get to live far out of town because it doesn’t matter. You commute in for an hour or back. You plan I’m going to watch “Game of Thrones” part nine on that ride in and on the ride out. How you can consume this content is going to drive a lot of what it’s going to be and how long it’s going to be and where it’s going to go.
RITHOLTZ: So, I agree with you except I think they’re going to spend more time listening to podcasts.
GOETSCH: I agree. People — I love podcast. I love driving. I drove to Sacramento and listened to your podcast and it’s much more engaging than music.
RITHOLTZ: It’s so different because it’s a whole long story we’re going into in a little bit. Can you stick around a few minutes? I have a bunch more questions for you.
GOETSCH: Sure (ph).
RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking with Dave Goetsch. He is a writer and the Executive Producer for “The Big Bang Theory” which just had its season finale.
If you enjoy this conversation, well, be sure and stick around for the podcast extras where we keep the tape rolling and continue discussing all things television related.
You can find that at iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, Bloomberg, where ever finer podcasts are sold. We love your comments, feedback, and suggestion. Write to us at MIBpodcast@bloomberg.net. Check out my daily column on Bloomberg.com. You can follow me on Twitter, @ritholtz. I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.
Welcome to the podcast. Dave, thank you so much for doing this. I say this every week. And it’s always true, but it’s especially true this week. I’ve really been looking forward to having this conversation. We’ve been trying to do this for a while and it just worked out great that we’re recording this on a Monday and the — by the time this drops, either the same day or the night before, the finale will have aired.
So, the one question I didn’t get to that I have to ask you, what’s next for Dave Goetsch? What are you going to do after this? I now you probably — the assumption is he doesn’t have to do anything again. The show’s been in syndication forever. But you’re a young guy. You don’t want to not work for the rest of your life, do you?
GOETSCH: I definitely want to keep working and …
RITHOLTZ: You’re too paranoid not to work.
GOETSCH: Yes, I know for sure. And I didn’t create the show. So, if I created the show, I’d be a — floating on a hovercraft or something.
But I want to take the lessons of the last 12 years and apply them on new shows. I think this multicam world, where you get the chance to rehearse for a couple days, and tweak the jokes and then do it in front of a live audience is — it’s old — it is old fashioned but — the success of “The Big Bang” is testament that people like it and even bringing back “Full House” on Netflix, that has been a big hit for them …
RITHOLTZ: Really? I would not have guessed that. I was never a “Full House” …
GOETSCH: Yes, me neither.
RITHOLTZ: So, I have to ask. So, you’re a comedy writer. What comedy shows do you like to watch?
GOETSCH: So, I don’t like to watch much because it all feels like work. So, when I’m watching …
RITHOLTZ: Because you can’t help but critique and take notes and …
GOETSCH: Or feel jealous and have low self-esteem that that’s such a good joke that I wish I’d come up with it.
GOETSCH: So, I mean, I thought “30 Rock” was flawless and I was obsessed with it. What they did in their …
RITHOLTZ: Especially the first two seasons, were amazing.
GOETSCH: Oh, my gosh. It’s amazing.
RITHOLTZ: I remember — I had like the worse flu a couple of years ago and having seen it all when it broadcast, I just binged all three season or the first — whatever it was. And you could see when it starts to change. Like at a certain point, you could tell different writers are involved. But the first two seasons were so fresh and so hilarious.
GOETSCH: They’re amazing. It’s like — there are special seasons, right? It’s like …
GOETSCH: It’s like — what is it? “The Office” seasons two and three.
GOETSCH: And a lot of those (ph) has to do with kind of where those characters are and …
RITHOLTZ: Where’d they go?
GOETSCH: And what’s happening. I have been able to watch and see how hard it is to make television that I have a lot of forgiveness for when people say like, that show stinks and my instant reaction …
RITHOLTZ: Don’t you understand? It’s so much work to stink.
GOETSCH: Yes …
RITHOLTZ: Just to get to that level.
GOETSCH: It’s so hard that they got that on TV. Like, do you know how many — they got notes from the studio and the network and every outline and every rewrite and then they still had to get there and …
RITHOLTZ: Does Chuck Lorre shows still get notes or can you guys do what you want?
GOETSCH: He has earned this place where he does not get notes. And that is an extraordinary luxury for us as writers to work in that world.
RITHOLTZ: So, the story with “Seinfeld” and and Larry Davis, no notes, we’re not interested, somehow they managed to carve that out. And obviously, “Curb” doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of notes because it’s so improved. Do you — what shows do you find interesting that way? Do you watch either of those?
GOETSCH: Yes. They’re — I think what they did on “Curb” is great and it’s fascinating how they do that it’s improvised but heavily — it’s really interesting …
RITHOLTZ: Structured improvisation.
GOETSCH: … if you ever read one of those outlines where it’s really dense. The — I have students who think, well, since curb is improvised, I’m going to do and improvise thing. And if you ever shoot and improvised thing, it’s just a nightmare because they all spin off and all these …
GOETSCH: … you’d have to be really focused on …
RITHOLTZ: And that’s a …
GOETSCH: … nailing those story beats.
RITHOLTZ: And that’s an amazing cast.
GOETSCH: It’s incredible cast.
RITHOLTZ: Right? Really stop and think (ph) everybody on that show is a rock star. It’s just — it’s not — any other comedy shows that tickle your fancy?
GOETSCH: I think the “Arrested Development” was hilarious. And I’m really excited about — I’m not trying to just like promote other Chuck Lorre world, but I think this new “Bob Hearts Abishola” is a really cool show which is about a Bill Gardell who’s Mike from “Mike & Molly” in the pilot has a cardiac event and goes to the hospital and wakes up and there’s a nurse and she’s a Nigerian immigrant and he falls for her.
And it’s such a simple sweet story but you watch this pilot and you’re like, I want to see more. I want to see these characters. I want to see what’s going on. So, I’m really excited for that.
RITHOLTZ: So, I only have you for a finite amount of time. Let’s jump to our favorite questions that we ask or guests, sort of art or speed round.
Tell us the first car you ever own, year, make, and model?
GOETSCH: A 1976 AMC White Hornet which my parents got from the telephone company and …
RITHOLTZ: Meaning it was a fleet car?
GOETSCH: it’s a fleet car and they got it for $500 and …
RITHOLTZ: They paid too much.
GOETSCH: They paid too much and then …
RITHOLTZ: That’s a POS for sure.
GOETSCH: I hit a telephone pole because it was Connecticut in the spring and too much sand from the snow and …
GOETSCH: And I totaled the car because it would have cost $600 to fix it.
RITHOLTZ: So, it cost more, just a simple repair cost more than the whole …
RITHOLTZ: … the whole car.
What’s the most important thing people don’t know about Dave Goetsch?
GOETSCH: Well, they know about the patent. That’s really — so, that’s the …
GOETSCH: … that thing. But I tried to start a chocolate company in the first season of “The Big Bang Theory” at the same time while …
RITHOLTZ: Quantum candies. I remember that.
GOETSCH: So, it was going to be called RX Chocolates and the idea was it was going to be apothecary bottles and it was going to have the amount recommended of dark chocolate every day and you pop it in your mouth.
GOETSCH: That’s a good idea …
RITHOLTZ: Funny. Right.
RITHOLTZ: And what happened to that?
GOETSCH: Well, it turns out, I’m much better coming up with ideas than I have in starting businesses.
RITHOLTZ: Right. It’s concept versus execution.
GOETSCH: Exactly. Exactly.
RITHOLTZ: That’s why you need a partner for that sort of stuff.
GOETSCH: I do.
RITHOLTZ: Who are some of your early mentors? Who really gutted your career in television?
GOETSCH: Well, I mentioned Rob Long who’s this guy who showed me that there was actually a path. And the other guy in that radio station was a teacher named Craig Thorne (ph) and he has since passed away and he just — couldn’t have more of an impact in terms of how to live your life, how to help people, the power — this is one of the funniest guys in all the years in Hollywood, one of the funniest guys that I’ve ever met.
And just how to live your — really how to live your life. And then working with Bonnie and Terry Turner on the “Third Rock From the Sun.” They created a family in their running staff.
And I remember working that first night — that first year to be a Friday night and they’d say, I’m sorry we have to work past dinner, and I would think myself great. I don’t want to go home. This is so fun.
RITHOLTZ: Wow. So, you’re an investor and have been for a while. Who has influenced your approach to either investing or thinking about markets?
GOETSCH: Well, I mentioned that Gordon Murray book which had a really profound impact on me. And I think the work of Gene Fama. This — I wish everybody knew more broadly about this efficient market theory.
RITHOLTZ: If only he would win a Nobel Prize for that, people would find out about it.
GOETSCH: They it would get out.
GOETSCH: I took macro econ with Nordhaus and I
GOETSCH: Winner. And then I took micro with Giannakopoulos who might win in some day.
GOETSCH: And …
RITHOLTZ: Didn’t he win — didn’t he win Bates (ph) …
GOETSCH: He won something big.
GOETSCH: And they didn’t talk about personal — they should- I wish they would just say be a long-term investor. Keep fees low. Invest in a broad basket of stocks.
RITHOLTZ: You sound like me now.
GOETSCH: Yes. And …
RITHOLTZ: What are they going to do for the next 16 weeks of the class?
GOETSCH: Exactly. Right? And so, it’s so simple but I like there’s just so much noise pushing the other way.
RITHOLTZ: For sure. Tell us about your favorite books? What do you like to read? Comedy/Non-comedy? Fiction/Non-Fiction?
GOETSCH: So, John Irving had a giant impact on me growing up and “Cider House Rules” is still one of my favorite books of all time.
And there’s a — then this guy, Rob Long wrote a great book called “Conversations with My Agent.” And so, if you ever want to know what Hollywood’s like, that’s a good little book to follow.
RITHOLTZ: And tell us about a time you failed and what did you learn from the experience?
GOETSCH: I fail all the time. I mean, pitching is failure, right? You’re pitching ideas. You’re pitching things. There’s so many pilots that I’ve written and sold that never got made.
But what I realized is that you really can’t define failure for five or 10 years because what comes from that as a result of not getting that thing, what else happens?
And it’s happened when I was dying to get on “Spin City” and I didn’t get a meeting and then I got the “Third Rock From the Sun” job which was a dream job.
I was so excited to try and get a job on “30 Rock” and I had a meeting and then it got cancelled because they hired their friend. And then that led to “Big Bang Theory.”
So, failure — it’s easy to make failure one thing, but I think if you’re a long-term investor, if you’re a long-time horizon, you can redefine it.
RITHOLTZ: You have to look at it across the continuum, I guess.
What do you do for fun outside of the writer’s room? By the way, I imagine that the writer’s room is just hilarious and I know it’s work, but it must be just so entertaining.
GOETSCH: It really is so entertaining. And when you — when people make fun of you on — when the professional comedy writers who do it, it’s like, wow, that was so, so good. That way — you can’t be frustrated or embarrassed or everybody. You’re just like, wow, that’s so good.
And so, that is a — it’s a joy to hang out with those guys. It’s still work, it’s so stressful. There — people get mad at each other. Things happen. You still have to do your job. But the way to have those funny people around you is amazing.
And really, the thing that’s so fun for me to do is to teach and I teach every fall at USC and this webisodes class and it’s so fun to take these things that I’ve learned in my career in television, but then apply them to this new medium and give — say, to this kids. You have all the power to make your own TV show which I never had for years and years into my career.
RITHOLTZ: What are you most excited about within the entertainment industry?
GOETSCH: What you can do just with your phone is more than Martin Scorsese and Ted Turner could ever do in the 1970s.
RITHOLTZ: That’s amazing.
So, if a millennial or a college student came up to you and said we’re interested in the career in television or entertainment, what sort of advice would you give them?
GOETSCH: If you’re a writer, if they’re a writer, I’d say there are three kinds of writing. There’s writing on the page, there’s writing when you’re working with an actor and how you change it to fit that actor’s voice. And then there’s the writing you do when you edit.
And you use to have to be a showrunner to do all those things. But now, you can do it. So, how you write is different now and you can post and get feedback and build an audience. Make your webisode and have a discipline so that you’re able to fit it into your schedule so that you can say one weekend a month, I’m going to shoot and I’m going to make one-minute episodes but I’m going to make four of them.
And every Monday, just like Barry Ritholtz, I’m going to drop my episodes. And by the time you’ve made 50 of them, you’re going to say I’ve learned so much. I’m such a better writer. And number 36 is the best thing I’ve ever done and it’s the thing I want to show somebody.
RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what do you know about the world of producing and writing and comedy today that you wish you knew 20 years ago when you were first getting started? Almost 20 years ago.
GOETSCH: No, more than 20. Yes, 25 years ago.
I would say that it is the — one of the lessons from Chuck Lorre is he treats writing with a group of people — someone described it like jazz where you sit down and you don’t know where it’s going to go. There’s a structure in a jazz thing, you do eight bars and I do eight bars and we go around.
There’s a structure to the singing (ph) and occults and singing (ph) by being open to that freedom. It’s kind of being comfortable with uncertainty that we’re talking about. The being able to execute but being able to be open to that possibility of maybe not knowing where you’re going to go and drawing the best out of people is absolutely magical and just have faith on that process.
RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating.
We have been speaking Dave Goetsch. He was the Executive Producer and Writer for “The Big Bang Theory” as well as other shows.
If you enjoyed this conversation, well, be sure and look up an inch or down an inch Apple iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Bloomberg.com wherever finer podcasts are found, and you could see any of the other, I don’t know, let’s call it 238 episodes we’ve done previously. I’m just ballparking that.
We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at MIBpodcast@Bloomberg.net. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff who helps put out this conversation each week. Madina Parwana is my producer/audio engineer; Michael Boyle is our booker; Atika Valbrun is our project manager. Michael Batnick is my head of research.
I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.