23 November 2005


Warren Ellis has dirt on Studio 7, the series Aaron Sorkin is working on about a Saturday-Night-Live-ish comedy show.
The whole thing comes wrapped, of course, in that wonderful dialogue. Sorkin has a few phrases he loves the sound of, that I suspect come from his family or friends: "I hate his breathing guts" is a phrase that’s turned up in Wing (with a "your" in there), that always leaps out at me because I’ve never heard anyone else say it. Every writer has a few of those. It’s a nice little signature on the work, to be honest; it says there’s a single voice on the work, not a committee.
I'd actually never noticed that one. For serious Sorkin fans --- you know who you are --- a little Googling on that phrase reveals a lot of tiresome fan fiction, but also episode citatations.

In the Sports Night episode "April is the Cruelest Month," Natalie says

I hate Jeremy's breathing guts, but I love him like I've never loved anyone.
In The West Wing episode "17 People," we get this exchange, which I will reproduce for you because I'm a big fan.
Donna: Hello.
Josh: How ya doin'?
Donna: Fine.
Josh: Did you get the flowers?
Donna: Yes I did.
Josh: Did you like them?
Donna: They were very pretty.
Josh: Do you know why I sent them?
Donna: I know why you think you sent them.
Josh: It's our anniversary.
Donna: No it's not.
Josh: I'm the sort of guy who remembers those things.
Donna: No, you're the sort of guy who sends a woman flowers to be mean, and you're really the only person I ever met who can do that.
Josh: I'm really quite something.
Donna: Yes.
Josh: I sent them to mark an occasion ...
Donna: Are we really going to do this every year?
Josh: ... for I am a man of occasion.
Donna: I started working for you in February, this is April, and you are an idiot!
Josh: Well, you started working for me once in February and you stopped for a while.
Donna: Yes.
Josh: Then you started working for me again in April. That's the one I choose to celebrate, because its the only one were you started working for me, and it wasn't followed by not working, but rather going back to your boyfriend, and how in comparison to that and him you can call me mean is simply another in a long series of examples.
Donna: Oh shut up! Honest to God, do you ever get tired of the sound of your own voice?
Josh: No. No ... no.
Donna: Wha --- Where are you going now?
Josh: Sam am I are going to punch up the thing for tomorrow. Hey! We need funny people.
Donna: Yeah?
Josh: Do you know any? See, right there is a joke, it's the oldest joke in the book.
Donna: I'll say.
Josh: You know what, Ado Annie? I sent you flowers. I think what you are trying to say is, "Why Thank you Josh! They're beautiful! How very thoughtful of you! Not many bosses would have been that thoughtful!"
Donna: Really, because what I think I was trying to say was shove it!
Josh: OK, well then I guessed wrong.
Donna: (sigh) Do you want help with the thing?
Josh: Yes I do, because you are such an hysterically funny person. Did you notice how I used "an" there properly?
Donna: Yes I did.
Josh: You crack me up.
Donna: You know there are times ...
Josh: Yeah?
Donna: When I put it quite simply, I hate your breathing guts.
Josh: So the flowers really did the trick, huh?
Donna: Oh, yeah.
I was able to figure this out because some people are even bigger fans that I am, and maintain a list of parallel dialogue between The West Wing and Sports Night.


TheWayOfTheGun said...

Those little bits of unique dialogue are nice, and so much nicer when a writer manages to affix them to a single character. drawing my attention to the quality of the characters rather than the quality of the writing. Witness Jack McCoy's "It's black-letter law, Your Honor."

Jonathan Korman said...

Aye. This is one of the things that impresses about screenwriters I like, like Sorkin and Whedon. The rhythm of the dialogue is recognizably the writer's, but the characters all have their own distinctive voices.

If you know The West Wing, then you can pick out which two characters said these things, even if you haven't seen the episodes:

I'd like to do well on this, my first assignment. Any advice you could give me that might point me the way of success would be, by me, appreciated.

Last night. Local news, Cleveland, Ohio --- oh me-o, oh my-o, oh Cleveland, Ohio!

Joss Whedon even seems to be able to sprinkle this trick onto the other writers in his stable. How the heck does he do that?