Q&A with Nikki Levy


“Saturday Night Live” alumna Laraine Newman shares an experience she had in high school, when, high on a psychedelic drug, she saw her mother as a person and not just her parent for the first time. 

Actress (and daughter of Motown icon Diana Ross) Tracee Ellis Ross, one of the stars of the TV series “Girlfriends,” which ended in 2008, shares a story about when she once used what she thought was a toilet, but which was actually a stage prop, and how she worried that her mistake would ruin her mom’s reputation. 

On Sept. 13, Newman and Ross were among a cast of comedians, screenwriters and actors who appeared in the show “Don’t Tell My Mother!” an increasingly popular storytelling comedy show produced monthly at Café Club Fais Do-Do in Los Angeles. Next month, the show celebrates its one-year anniversary with a performance on Oct. 11 and expands to New York.

“Don’t Tell My Mother!” creator Nikki Levy is a producer at 20th Century Fox who grew up in a Jewish household in New York — with a stereotypical Jewish mother. During a series of interviews, she described how, for her, the show’s best stories are wild without being mean-spirited, salacious but still enlightening. The following is an edited and condensed version of those interviews.

 

Jewish Journal: If you’re a performer, what’s the incentive to go out in front of an audience and share something personal and humiliating, other than to get laughs? Are there other reasons that performers might do it?

Nikki Levy: I figure it’s for a couple of reasons. One, it feels really good to be honest — and sometimes it’s easier to do it in front of a crowd than in front of a really good friend. 

Also, I think people like to get exposure. Someone who is doing our next show got an agent from doing the show [last May]. Someone also cast a pilot from doing the show. So there’s the actual work incentive.

But I think the other incentive is the honesty involved with it. I work in the entertainment business, a lot of people I get are people who act and write, and I think a lot of people don’t get to do this kind of show. They’re maybe on a TV show or write for a super successful sitcom or something, but that idea of sharing writing, performing in a different kind of medium and in a really personal way is kind of freeing. They’re not writing for someone else’s voice, not writing for a character. They’re writing as them. 

 

JJ: Your audience has been growing, and similar comedic storytelling shows also have been dong well. Why do audiences respond so enthusiastically to this type of confessional storytelling? 

NL: Well, my feeling is we’re bombarded with so much bulls— all the time that it’s very compelling when someone honest is performing. I learned this thing once, in acting class — it’s a reason we look at car crashes: All of a sudden, we see something that’s real, it captures us because it’s truth. For instance, in a play you drift off, but the minute someone gets real, actually real, your eyes automatically go to that person. In this world now, with Facebook, Twitter and celebrities tweeting personal things, we’re past the point of going to see stand-up [comedy], of someone doing a character. People want to see things that are real and things that are honest.

 

JJ: You’ve had 10 shows and hosted dozens of performers at this point. Do performers make similar confessions? You said a lot of the stories have been salacious. What other topics have popped up a lot, besides sex? 

NL: We had a great story from someone who accidentally shoplifted at age 24 and got arrested, when really she was spacey, as opposed to shoplifting. One of my favorite stories — by [performer] Jen Kober — she told a story about being a fat kid in a small town and her mother would make her ration cheese that she got from Costco. Jen, 8 years old, realized she needed to steal the entire block of cheese and convince her mother she never bought it. That’s a story I loved. They’re definitely not all sex stories. Drugs come up. Getting arrested comes up. Stealing comes up. Losing your virginity is something that comes up. 

I told my “Hand-Job in the Holy Land” story. … I think it was probably 1993. It was the USY Israel Pilgrimage. … I told that story in March. People loved it. It was short, like five to seven minutes, and people loved it. A lot of audience members are Jews … a lot of the audience having been in USY tours when they were kids. 

 

JJ: How did you become interested in comedy?

NL: Well, I came from a totally bananas household, the wild, wild East Coast of Queens. And coming from two parents who did not get along, there was a lot of yelling, so I would park myself in front of the TV and I would pop in the same three VHS tapes over and over again: “Coming to America”; the critically acclaimed [she says this sarcastically] “Moving Violations,” starring Bill Murray’s brother, John Murray — it’s so awesome but so bad; and “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.”… I don’t know what drew me to comedy, but I loved it and I love everything about it, and I was totally in love with Eddie Murphy, completely in love.

When I was 12, I came out to L.A. with my mom to visit family, and one of my family members worked at Paramount, so we got a tour of the studio lot, and I saw Eddie Murphy’s golf cart — this is during the ’80s, and I thought, “Oh my God, I’m totally going to work at a studio, in movies, in casting or development.”

For whatever reason, I chose development. But I loved comedies since I was  a kid, probably because it was a great distraction from all the craziness at home. It was such an awesome escape.

 

JJ:  So when did you move to Los Angeles to pursue development?

NL: I moved in November 2002. I’d been working at the Oxygen network, in New York, but I’d gone to school [at Northwestern University] for film [specifically, creative writing for media]. I always wanted to work in film, and there was no film in New York. I was 24 years old, and my mom said, “If not now, when? And if you don’t like it, come back.” 

I sublet my amazing place in Park Slope, and I came out here, and I felt the max I would be here is six years. [She landed several jobs, including positions at Imagine Entertainment as the junior development executive on Oscar nominee “Frost/Nixon” and running “Ice Age” director Chris Wedge’s animation company, before taking a break living in Buddhist monasteries in Northern California, “because I wanted a change,” she said.] … It was during that time, between Imagine and working for Chris, that I started writing again and doing a little performing here and there. 

Last October, we had our first [“Don’t Tell My Mother!”] show, and we had 100 people waiting at the door. It was Yom Kippur, and it was my birthday. … I had told my producer to lay out 35 seats because I wanted the place to look packed. … When all those people came, I was flabbergasted, literally. 

 

JJ: So your expectations for the show weren’t high?

NL: No, I didn’t have any high hopes for the show. I just figured we’ll do it, and it will be fun. I worked with people on their pieces, like I do now, and hoped it would be good. … I couldn’t believe all these people came. Granted, they were mostly my friends, but still they showed up and gave the impression that maybe there is something to this. The theater took the entire door of 100 people. I didn’t even arrange anything with them. They took all the money because I was, like, whatever, I don’t care.

I get that a big part of [the success] has to do with the title — we all have something with our moms and want to hear salacious stories that you wouldn’t share elsewhere. … But I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I was finally inhabiting my own skin. And it became, like, OK, we’re here to make these people happy. Let’s just have fun. And it was such a fun show.

For information about upcoming performances of “Don’t Tell My Mother!” visit donttellmymother.com.

You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom


The following excerpt is the prologue to “You’re Lucky You’re Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom,” (Viking, 2006) a memoir by Phil Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2006 by Buona Sera Productions, Inc.

My brother, Richard, got married on September 5, 1993. I was the best man, and with that honor comes the giving of the toast. I had been earning a living as a writer on an assortment of television sitcoms for about four years at this point, and so I felt there was an expectation to be humorous whenever forced to speak in public — a self-imposed pressure, but real nonetheless, as if I deeply needed to communicate to people, “See, I can be funny, it’s not my fault the shows are terrible.”

And so I racked my brain for material. Material at family functions often focused on the family at hand, and my particular family had served me well in the past — years earlier I wrote a little poem at my parents’ twenty-fifth anniversary party (at their nonstop insistence) that seemed to be hilarious to the relatives and friends. “Better than Broadway!” I had been told. But now, at this wedding, I was thirty-three, and there were people there who didn’t know the family, and worse, didn’t know me — but here he is: the Hollywood toastmaster. This could be a bad wedding, meaning I could bomb. And then it hit me, an anecdote that had actually happened, that I had suppressed for several years, that drove me nuts then and thinking about it again now rekindled the nuts, and that illustrated the insanity in our family and would serve as a warning to Richard’s bride, Karen, as to why she should perhaps reconsider marrying into this psycho ward. Why she should run screaming into the hills rather than subject herself to a life of unrelenting complaining and unbearable frustration, petty domestic politics and life under maternal rule. The more I thought about this story, I realized it wasn’t funny at all, but that didn’t matter anymore. I had to tell it as a purely cautionary tale. The fact that the toast would come at the wedding reception and that my brother and his wife would be already married didn’t change the urgency of my warning.
“Karen,” I started. “There is still time to run.”

I explained: When I first started to make a little money in Hollywood, I bought my mom, for Hanukkah, a gift of the Fruit-of-the-Month Club.

And then came the phone call from my mother in Rockland County, New York: “Philip, we got the pears.”

“Oh, that’s good, Ma. You like them?”

“Yes, they’re very nice, but please . . . it’s an entire box of pears. There must be twelve or fourteen pears here. There’re so many pears. Please, Philip, do me a favor. Don’t ever send us any more food again, okay?”

I said, “Well, Ma . . . another box is coming next month.”

She said, “What? More pears?”

I said, “No, Ma, a different fruit every month.”

“EVERY MONTH? My God, Max, he got us in some kind of cult. What am I supposed to do with all this fruit?”

“I don’t know,” I told her. “Most people like it. You eat it … You share it with your friends.”
“Which friends?!”

“I don’t know … Lee and Stan.”

“Lee and Stan buy their own fruit!”

“Oh my God, Ma…”

“Why did you do this to me?”

“What is happening?”

“I can’t talk anymore, there’s too much fruit in the house!”

I went on to describe my father’s misery as well at this misfortune that had befallen them. (“You think we’re invalids? We can’t get our own fruit?”) The wedding guests laughed. No one laughed harder than my parents, who really did treat the gift of fruit from their son as if they’d received a box of heads from a murderer. Richard and Karen remain married to this day and have even brought two children into the world.

My warning didn’t take. Nobody listens to me. Maybe you will.

I guess if we have to classify this book, it is a memoir of sorts. (That’s right, Oprah, and I’ll swear it’s all true even if you make the mean face at me on the couch.) We’ll also, if you’re interested, get into how to make a show, specifically the show “Everybody Loves Raymond.” We’ll see how it came to be, how “writing what you know” is not just a saying but essential, and how almost anyone’s life can be turned into fuel for comedy. We’ll use, for example, my life — where I’m from, the other jobs and other shows I toiled on, my relationships with family, with women, with The Writers’ Room, with show business, and how all of it found its way into the work, became the work, to the point where it wasn’t work anymore. And all of it is here — in the hope that you’ll be entertained, and maybe learn a thing or two that could help you in your own career, your life, your diet. You’ll learn a little about how to write, cast, edit, direct, run, cater, and, most of all, enjoy the gift of a hit show.

I was crazy lucky to get such a gift, and for nine years, I savored it; I loved it; I was tremendously thankful for it. It would not have occurred to me to return it or leave it or be unhappy with it, let alone complain about the gift to whoever gave it to me that it was all “too much.”

You still there, Ma?

On Oct. 24 from 7-8:30 p.m., Phil Rosenthal will be at Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.

For more information, call (800) 764-2665 or visit

How to Get Jews on TV


 

In 1989, Richard Rosenstock created an ABC pilot based on the film, “The Flamingo Kid,” which was ostensibly set in the Jewish beach club scene of the 1950s and ’60s.

“I’d grown up among the Westchester County, N.Y., version of those clubs, so it was a chance to draw on autobiographical elements and to write what I knew,” said Rosenstock, now an Emmy-winning co-executive producer of Fox’s “Arrested Development.”

Yet when he tracked down the original script of the 1984 movie, he noted that the filmmakers had changed the hero’s name from Jeffrey Weiner to Jeffrey Willis and “had de-Jewed the material,” he said. “So I actually made the pilot even more Jewish than the movie, on purpose, because that bothered me.”

Rosenstock is one of six Jewish screenwriters who will appear on a panel to discuss how Judaism affects their work as part of The Jewish Screenwriter Speakers Series on March 29 and May 3 at B’nai David-Judea. Participants at the young professionals event, sponsored by The Jewish Journal, will include Michael Borkow (“Roseanne,” “Friends,” “Malcolm in the Middle”); Mike Sikowitz (“Friends,” “Veronica’s Closet”); Howard Gordon (“The X-Files,” “24”); David Sacks (“The Simpsons,” “Malcolm in the Middle”) and Michael Glouberman (“Third Rock from the Sun,” “Malcolm in the Middle”).

Sikowitz, for one, could call his connection “revenge of the Jewish nerd.” When the 38-year-old did stand-up comedy early in his career, he identified with Woody Allen.

“Allen was aware that he was a scrawny, bookish, horny young man, and I felt like, ‘yes, I’ve been the guy who just wishes he could get the beautiful girl, although she’s not looking at him,'” Sikowitz said. “I was drawn to his smart self-deprecation, and the ability to find not only the pain but the amusement of the situation.”

While writing for “Friends” in the mid-1990s, Sikowitz helped bring that sort of pain and humor to the character of Ross, whom he describes as a “shlimazel.”

Sikowitz cites an episode in which Ross (David Schwimmer), buys a monkey in an effort to appear mysterious and Mediterranean to potential dates, only to have the animal attack a pretty woman on the subway.

Sikowitz was part of the writers group that decided to label Ross Jewish in a holiday episode that opened with him picking the wax out of his menorah. While some observers have complained about a dearth of other Jewish details for Ross, Sikowitz said, “the series was a pop fantasy about attractive, funny people in their 20s hanging out, and I don’t think it had a responsibility to be any more than that.”

He is taking a similarly universal approach with his current pilot, “Grown Men,” based on the friendships and rivalries he experienced with buddies at the Jewish fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The show will focus more on the fraternity behavior than the Jewishness,” he said.

Nevertheless, a central character, David Horowitz, is a member of the tribe and shares Sikowitz’s Woody Allenesque sensibility. When the character kvetches about being less successful than an old frat pal, it’s partly Sikowitz speaking.

“I’ve done fairly well in entertainment,” Sikowitz said, “yet when my buddy who I started out with invites me to his Malibu beach house, part of me goes, ‘Good for him,’ but there’s this sort of Dave Horowitz character part that goes, ‘Why shouldn’t I have this? I’ve worked hard, and if I had gotten this break instead of him, he’d be visiting me at my beach house.'”

If Sikowitz has been inspired by Woody Allen, Rosenstock looks more to Philip Roth. His penchant for Jewish subjects began, he said, when he viewed the movie version of Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus” upon its release in 1969. Based on Roth’s work about class warfare between nouveau riche and working-class Jews, the film “astounded” Rosenstock with material that felt so familiar to his own upper-middle-class Conservative Jewish childhood in Yonkers, N.Y.

Rosenstock was also influenced by a late 1960s zeitgeist in which Dustin Hoffman and Richard Benjamin were leading men, and in which Woody Allen and Paul Mazursky made commercial films with varying degrees of Jewish content.

“All this inspired me — that you can actually put overtly Jewish characters onscreen,” he said.

Rosenstock did just that when he created his own TV series in the 1990s; 1992’s “Flying Blind,” which he describes as “‘The Graduate’ meets ‘After Hours,'” tipped the hat to Roth with a protagonist named after “Columbus'” Neil Klugman.

Meanwhile, Gordon, a Reform Jew active at University Synagogue, waited four years to create the perfect “X-Files” episode based on the Frankenstinian Jewish legend of the Golem.

“It was an opportunity to delve into the mythology of a culture and a religion I identify with strongly,” he said. “It definitely meant more to me than my episode about an African melanin vampire.”

In his current job executive producing the real-time counter-terror drama, “24,” Gordon’s Judaism emerges, if more obliquely, in the dialectic tradition he brings to the characters. Points argued include whether torture is permissible under certain conditions, a thread that has helped make the show popular in Israel, Gordon said. A recent trip to the Jewish state has inspired him to consider introducing an Israeli character on the show, as well as to plan missions to Israel for people in the entertainment industry.

“I’m very interested in finding ways to communicate how wonderful that country is,” he said.

For Orthodox screenwriters, integrating religious observance with sitcom schedules has been a major issue. When Sacks got his first job after he began observing Shabbat in 1987, the producers essentially told him “either work on Shabbos or you’re fired,” he recalled.

His agent said he would not work in television again; eventually, the producers agreed to keep Sacks on the sitcom, but with a lesser salary and title.

The writer has since proved himself on shows such as “The Simpsons” and “Third Rock From the Sun.”

“Now before I accept a job I always discuss Shabbos,” he said. “These days I find people are not quite as concerned about whether you think the dead are going to be resurrected at the end of days. They want to know if you can solve the story problem at the act break.”

Sacks is now a consulting producer at “Malcolm in the Middle,” where three of 11 writers are observant Jews and a kosher lunch menu circulates in the writers room. Nevertheless, he said, he is not a “crusader for Judaism” at work but only in his private life. To this end, he teaches two classes at the Happy Minyan and is a founder of Jewish Impact Films, which aims to improve public relations for Jews and Israel by empowering novice filmmakers to produce positive films on these subjects.

He apparently has paved the way for other observant Jews in the sitcom world. Glouberman, for one, said Sacks indirectly helped him secure his first job, at “Third Rock,” a decade ago. At the time, Glouberman’s agent advised him to mention the Shabbat issue only after he had been hired: “So I called the showrunner and I was very anxious and I said, ‘I’ll work 24 hours a day, but I can’t work Shabbat or Jewish holidays,’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it, David Sacks worked on our pilot, and we loved him.'”

Today, Glouberman works with Sacks on “Malcolm,” about a quirky family with a genius middle child (Frankie Muniz) his three hooligan brothers, clueless dad and drill-sergeant mom. It’s the universal family, Glouberman said, but he was drawn to the show because the pilot read like someone had hidden a camera in his Orthodox childhood home. To write one episode, he drew on the time his parents accidentally left his brother standing in the corner all night long.

Although the show is rife with gross-out humor and sight gags, Glouberman believes it jibes with his Torah values. He points out that Malcolm’s parents actually love each other, unlike the bickering parents on shows such as Fox’s “Married… With Children,” and that “the children honor their mother and father, although not necessarily in classic terms.”

When the boys take on four clowns who have dissed their mother, for example, “She watches them with this proud smile on her face while they fight and knee clowns in the groin,” Glouberman said.

It may not be classic Torah, but it comes from a Jewish place. As Gordon put it, “My Judaism informs me so deeply it’s hard to unbraid my [writer’s] identity from my Jewish one.”

March 29 and May 3, 7:30 p.m. (cocktails), 8:30 p.m. (speakers). Free. B’nai David-Judea, 8906 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. with the number of people in your party to RSVP@jewishjournal.com.

 

Life After ‘Sex’


DEJA VEWISH: When you meet yet another great Jewish woman who is so similar in either looks or personality that for all intents and purposes, she could be you (or so you wish).

Like Cindy Chupack, I’m “Between Boyfriends.” I’m also a single Jewish woman in my 30s in Los Angeles who knows a lot — and has written a lot — about relationships, although I can’t seem to form that everlasting one.

But unlike Chupack, I’m not a writer or executive producer for HBO’s “Sex and the City,” and I haven’t just come out with a terrific new book titled “The Between Boyfriends Book: A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays” (St. Martin’s Press) based on my columns for Glamour magazine, headed by phrases I’ve coined such as “LONE RANGERED: To have had a relationship end in a mysterious and annoying way — with no goodbye, no answers, just the vague feeling that you have no idea who that man was.”

(Also, no one has ever called me “cautious” and few find me “hopeful,” and so maybe I’m not a sweet redhead from Tulsa, Okla., but on the other hand, we both look more like each other than like Sarah Jessica Parker.)

THE EVIL “NOT I”: When your life is going so swimmingly well that you try not to have too many expectations lest the ayin hora cause you to lose it all.

“I never expected this little book to be on the best-seller list,” Chupack said about the book’s recent ranking at 27 on the New York Times Bestseller List following her appearance on the “Today” show. “That was kind of exciting, even if that was it for it!” (As of press time, it was down to 35.) “My dream was that it would just get to the right people and they would give it to friends and it would take off that way,” she said.

Chupack expresses the same quiet wonder towards her successful TV career. After working on “Coach” and two seasons of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” she moved to the burgeoning “Sex and the City,” which was only in its second season (this, despite her father’s admonition not to leave a successful show for an unknown). “Sex” is up for 13 Emmy nominations on Sept. 21 — including one for “I Love a Charade,” an episode Chupack co-wrote, and one for Best Comedy Series. “Just to be nominated — and I know that everyone says that — it is huge to me, because I really feel like a kid from Oklahoma; it’s really extraordinary.”

FREE TO BE JEW AND ME: When you come from a small town with very few Jews and think Judaism is something you should keep quiet — and then find yourself living bicoastally and working in comedy writing, where nearly everyone’s Jewish and you learn it’s something you don’t have to hide anymore.

Chupack grew up Reform in a city with some 2,000 Jews and two synagogues — one Reform and one Conservative. After attending college at Northwestern University, she moved to New York and then to Los Angeles to pursue TV writing.

“Once I started comedy writing, it was odd to be around so many Jews. I was more self-conscious about talking or bringing it up,” Chupack said. “I don’t know if I realized that to what extent until I got away from Oklahoma. I remember my teacher asking me to explain Chanukah to the class, and just wanting to fit in and not really stand out, so it’s odd to be working in Hollywood where being Jewish is almost the norm.” (There are “four and a half out of seven ” Jewish writerson the show, Chupack said.)

HOK ME A FAYGELEH: When your parents don’t bug you about getting married because the first time you did — to the greatest guy, a Jewish doctor from a fabulous family — he turned out to be gay.

It’s almost a decade since Chupak’s divorce (see Chapter 10: “IMPOSTER COMPLEX: What a relationship columnist might feel when she is not currently in a relationship, has not been able to maintain a relationship, does not have any prospects for a new relationship, nor does she even have a funny term for this predicament.”), and these days Chupack only dates Jewish men.

“I would prefer to marry someone who’s Jewish,” she said, because most Jews have a “built-in sense of humor, just because we’ve had to develop one; it’s one of our survival instincts or something.” She finds humor really sexy, and likes Jewish family values, “but we haven’t cornered the market on that,” she said.

Does she get parental pressure? “My parents wholeheartedly approved and loved the guy I married, so they’re real hands-off now,” she laughed.

How do they feel about their daughter working on such a risque show? Chupack said that they’re in on the joke, “but they’ve started to understand that some other people might be shocked, so they don’t blanketly tell everyone to watch.”

More disturbing, Chupack said, is that the show has opened up a dialogue she never wanted to have with her parents. “One time after the ‘Tuckus Lingus’ episode, which I wrote, my father said, ‘I hope you don’t actually go through everything you write about,’ and I told him ‘No!’ I don’t even want to discuss that kind of stuff [with him].”

J-DATEALOUSY: The envious feeling in others when they discover that you have a better experience on an internet dating Web site (even though it might be due to a better attitude).

Toward the end of the book (Chapter 34: “RETRODATING: Reconnecting with one of the first boys you ever kissed in order to get back in touch with your own dating innocence and joy.”), Chupack was dating Guy, her boyfriend from when she went on a teen tour to Israel. But alas, Chupack is “Between Boyfriends” again, and back on JDate.

“I [once] got very briefly on Nerve.com and somebody wanted to wrestle, and it scared me,” she said. “So I got off and went back on JDate, because I’ve never been scared on JDate. I might have been uninspired…” she joked, but says that the men on the site seem ready to have a real relationship. “So it’s kind of a relief.”

JDating was actually going to be an episode on “Sex” last season — but it got cut. “When Harry and Charlotte broke up, we thought she would go on JDate and get about 2,000 hits, and [executive producer] Michael Patrick King had a really funny draft of a script that had her on JDate and just feeling overwhelmed … but we ended up doing the scene with the three yentas instead.”

TALKING TACHLIS: The process of eventually getting through all the things you have to talk about to get to what you really want to talk about.

Speaking of Harry and Charlotte, Chupack said they are currently writing the last season, which will air in January, and they are trying to figure out how much they will keep alive the Jewish issue for Charlotte.

“I think it will probably have some sort of presence, because when Charlotte does something, she goes all the way. It wasn’t a means to an end for her; she really fell in love with the religion, and we wanted to make it seem genuine, because that’s what happens so often when people convert. I’ve known so many people who convert, and they’re often more devoted than the rest of us who grew up with it and might take Judaism for granted,” Chupack said.

As to the important question of what’s going to happen to Carrie and soon-to-be beau Mikhail Baryshnikov, Chupack is keeping mum.

“We know basically what we think should happen at the end, but that’s what we’re doing right now, checking it against what we feel like is happening onscreen.”

And as to the biggest heartbreaker of them all — Mr. Big — Chupack said he’ll be back.

“You’ll see him a little bit, probably. You can’t just dispose of Big,” she said. “We have been on long enough to test the theory, ‘Can people change?'” she said. “With Big, we’re testing, what can you believe about him, what’s he capable of, and would that ever change?”

FRAU FA’BITTERSWEET: That lump in the throat you experience when something great is about to end, even though something better might be in store for you.

“I’m feeling very bittersweet about [the show ending],” Chupack said, because “I’m very aware that I may never have a job I love this much and work with people that I love this much and be so proud of what we’re doing….But yet I feel proud of our decision to end it while it’s still on such a high note.”

While HBO has offered Chupack her own show, and she has a few romantic comedy scripts up her sleeve, she isn’t thinking about that just yet. She’s just enjoying her last season writing for “Sex and the City.”

“It just feels like one of those crazy moments in time where all the planets align and we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.”


Cindy Chupack will be reading “Between Boyfriends” on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at Dutton’s, 11975 San Vincente Blvd., and Wednesday, Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in The Grove.

A Graceless Will?


Is Jewish the new gay? That’s how it’s looking this season on NBC’s "Will and Grace." Grace’s (Debra Messing) romance with hunky Jewish doctor Leo Markus (Harry Connick Jr.) has been a source of conflict between her and gay best friend, Will (Eric McCormack), ever since Leo rode in on a white horse in last year’s season finale. On the Nov. 21 episode, Grace and Leo got married, suggesting a threat to the very survival of Will and Grace’s friendship.

Mixed in with the usual bawdy jokes and witticisms has been an unusual amount of seriousness this season, as the two friends have struggled with the changing nature of their relationship. They ended last season thinking they were going to have a baby together, but Grace’s new romance changed everything, causing a bitter fight between them in one episode. The recent wedding episode (filmed in part at Temple Israel of Hollywood) was especially bittersweet. Amid jokes that included Will using kippot as shoulder pads, came heartfelt exchanges between the two, as Will worked through his resentment and tried to be happy for Grace.

Show co-creator and executive producer David Kohan conceded the marriage is a problem for the dynamic between the best friends. "I’d love her to find a Jewish love interest, but that relationship might actually work, and then there’d be no more ‘Will & Grace’" he told The Journal last year. Kohan has since changed his mind.

"They had to move forward in their lives in some way," he said, noting that the writers have had to deal with making the two "vital to one another."

While remaining unspecific, Kohan implies it’s unlikely the Jewish husband will displace the gay best friend. "Let me put it this way, at some point down the road, something is going to have to intervene," he said.

"Will & Grace" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.