My recap of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton —
I squeezed in a few workshop sessions in between a pill-popping frenzy that would have made Judy Garland gasp. (Although I doubt she ever took aspirin recreationally.) Now before you get your knickers in a knot (don’t they say that in Ohio?) let me explain: no sooner did I land at the Dayton airport than my brain began throbbing, building steadily to a feverish pitch over the next two days. For those of you about to travel to Ohio, here’s a tip — Excedrin Migraine has no potency in that part of the country. Still, I ingested the capsules feverishly, along with evening mouthfuls of Advil PM. (Note: While I am not being paid to endorse these brands, I’m open to negotiations). But enough about that…
The Writers Workshop was broken down into three days of sessions, most of which were very informative, although one presenter stressed repeatedly that while much of the alphabet isn’t funny, k-words are hysterical (see “knickers” and knot” above). But I and most of the attendees k-new that already.
Every lunch and dinner featured keynote speakers. My favorite was Alan Zweibel, who told us stories about meeting and then working closely with Gilda Radner in the earliest days of Saturday Night Live, where he was hired at 21 as a writer. (Zweibel was not ready for prime time lawyering – prior to SNL, he’d scored terribly on his LSAT, he said, resulting in his parents applying black fabric over all the mirrors in the house, an ethnic joke that fell flat on the goyish majority in attendance. Speaking of, each meal was preceded by a formal invocation complete with Jesus references — blessings that fell flat on the Jewish minority in attendance).
Ilene Beckerman, who’s had her first taste of success at 60 from “Love, Loss and What I Wore” spoke about how she came to write her charming little book. Also her not-so-charming experience with the Ephron sisters (producers of the performance show), whom she indicated snapped up the rights, although Beckerman had little to no legal representation to speak of.
And highly entertaining – humorist Gina Barreca, who did over an hour of stand-up on the last night. After her set I hugged her so fiercely she had to pry me off her torso. This was not only because she had me in stitches (they do say that in Ohio) but also like Zweibel, she was raised on Long Island and by then I was shamefully homesick.