INTERVIEW with JIM VALLELY  
Feb. 16, 2009
 
DON’T FORGET TO VALIDATE YOUR PARKING used to be published monthly in WRITTEN BY magazine, which is sent out to all the members of the Writer’s Guild. After the first issue with DFTVYP was published, I came home to a message on my voice mail. The message said, “Hi, this is Jim Vallely, and I’m a writer. Saw your comic strip in WRITTEN BY. Very funny! Yeah, very funny!” End message. First thing that struck me was how did this guy get my unlisted home number? Second, I didn’t know who Jim Vallely was. So I instantly looked him up on IMDB and saw his long list of credits, including being a writer and producer on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, one of my favorite shows of all time. Jim didn’t leave a number in his message, but luckily I had caller ID. I called Jim back, and we instantly hit it off. He invited me to see a live comedy show his wife produces called SIT N SPIN, and to join him and his friends afterwards for a drink. I did so and we’ve been friends ever since.
 

 

HEY JIM, THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO DO THIS INTERVIEW. YOU BROUGHT BILL MAHER AND RICHARD BELZAR TO ONE OF MY PARTIES RECENTLY. I ASKED MAHER HOW HE KNEW YOU AND HE SAID FROM YOUR STAND-UP DAYS. TELL US ABOUT YOUR TIME AS A STAND-UP COMEDIAN AND HOW MUCH THAT EXPERIENCE SHAPED YOU AS A COMEDY WRITER?

I actually began doing standup as part of comedy duo in college in New York. A classmate of mine, Jonathan Schmock, who was and still is the most talented actor I know, decided that the comedy clubs of New York was a great way to learn our craft and get laid. So we called ourselves ‘THE FUNNYBOYS’ believe it or not, and just did stuff that made us laugh. It really taught me the basics of comedy that I still carry with me today. It also exposed me to a world in the late 70’s and early eighties of comics who would help shape the comedy of the boomer generation. Larry David lived in my building and I would follow him around New York like a puppy dog, just to be around that mind of his. Bill Maher and I became close friends, and we all came out to L.A. in the early eighties and were given development deals (a rarity for unknowns these days) and began transferring that sense of live comedy to television and film. It’s been done this way forever. Jack Benny, George Burns came from Vaudeville to radio. Sid Caesar, Jackie Gleason, were comics who brought that sense of live comedy to TV. Bob Newhart, etc. SNL all comes from Second city, the Groundlings, U.C.B. Comedy has to be learned by performing live.

Bill Maher
Larry David

 

I KNOW SEVERAL STAND-UPS AND THEY ALL SAY BEING IN FRONT OF THAT AUDIENCE NIGHT AFTER NIGHT IS A SOUL-CRUNCHING JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY. WHAT PERSONAL REVELATIONS HAVE YOU COME TO FROM BEHIND THAT MICROPHONE?

Not one.

 

THAT’S PROBABLY MORE PROFOUND THAN YOU THINK. YOU’VE BEEN PAID LOTS OF MONEY TO BE FUNNY. SO TELL US, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING FUNNY?

Oh, that’s a trick question. You can only sound like an asshole trying to answer it. The truth is, if people laugh, it’s funny, not all people laugh at the same thing, not all people think that the same thing is funny. Being snobby about comedy is as stupid as being snobby about gourmet food, or fancy wines. There are a million different reasons things are funny. At the end of the day, you just have to keep writing until a lot of people laugh at the same time.

 

WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE THAT YOU WERE FUNNY? WERE YOUR PARENTS FUNNY?

Who knows? In school I was short, I was sickly, and was an easy target. If you acted like an asshole and got sent down to the principal’s office, you were less likely to get the shit beaten out of you. My Mom has a very brilliant sense of humor, especially if she’s mad. My father is, at 86, still razor sharp. My brother is an artist and writer, and my twin sister is also funny. I have a nephew, Mike DiCorcia, who is one of the funniest unknown comics in New York right now. He’s got a big career ahead of him.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PAID GIG AS A WRITER?

GOLDEN GIRLS, season’s 5, 6 and 7. It’s where Mitch Hurwitz and I met. GOLDEN GIRLS was a great show to learn how to write on, one of the best casts in television history.

Golden Girls

 

YOU WERE A WRITER/PRODUCER OF ONE OF THE GREATEST TV SHOWS, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. WHAT IS THE GENESIS OF THE PROJECT AND HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED?

Mitch of course, wrote the pilot. I was writing on an ABC show called MY WIFE AND KIDS. They had me under contract, but I was able to come in the first season at nights and on weekends, which was when the lion’s share of the writing was done, as Mitch spent much of the time on the set during the day. An amazing bunch of writers, an amazing cast. I didn’t see my wife for a year.

 

ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN YOUR FAMILY AND THE BLUTHS?

No. Although some of the episode ideas came from my life. My daughter and I did accidentally sing AFTERNOON DELIGHT at a Karaoke night, and began doing inappropriate songs for a father daughter to sing together bit, that made it into the show. Stuff like that.

 

WHAT’S THE STATUS ON THE ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT MOVIE?

What have YOU heard?!?!?

*Jim is referring to some insider knowledge which I cannot share at this time.

Arrested Development

 

I THINK COMEDY IS THE ONLY GENRE THAT IS SERVED BEST WHEN WRITTEN BY COMMITTEE. DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS?

Only if I am on the committee. But yes, I like working in a room or at least with a partner. I’ve written alone, and I don’t like it as much.

 

YOU’VE ALSO WRITTEN FOR ANOTHER GREAT TV SHOW CALLED ACTION. HOW DID YOU GUYS COME TO THE DECISION TO KILL JAY MOHR OFF IN THE LAST EPISODE?

The network sort of it made the decision for us. That was an example of a network trying to do something “edgy” and when we gave them something edgy they dumped it as fast as they could. Jay Mohr was amazing, as was Ileana Douglas and Buddy Hackett. Casting is everything.

 

YOU’VE WRITTEN FOR BOTH FILM AND TV. WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

TV, hands down. There’s this weird snobbery with film people, they look down on TV, but at the end of the day, films are only in the theaters for a few weeks, after that they become TV just like the rest of us. So get the fuck off your high horse film people!

 

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE NEW WRITERS LOOKING TO BREAK INTO TV?

Just keep writing, don’t be an asshole even when you’re right, go to the clubs, to U.C.B., get to know the funny people and make stuff. If it’s good, they’ll find you.

 

YOU’VE HAD A LONG AND ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER, BUT WHAT STILL SURPRISES YOU ABOUT HOLLYWOOD?

How I still feel like an outsider.

 

YOUR DAUGHTER, TANNIS VALLELY, HAS A VERY ACTIVE CAREER IN HOLLYWOOD, RIGHT?

My daughter Tannis is my greatest source of pride. Not only was she a great a little actress as a kid, but she was able to graduate from Stanford (the first one in our family to make to a school that didn’t’ have the words “beauty or clown” in it) and has spent the last few years carving out a name for herself in Casting, which is the most important part of this business. So, yes, I am very proud of her.

 

DID YOU ENCOURAGE HER TO PURSUE A LIFE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS OR DID YOU TRY TO TALK HER OUT OF IT?

I did encourage her in the way that I’ve always felt very lucky to make my living as a writer or actor or comedian. It’s a fun business, and actors and writers and the whole creative community of Hollywood, or in my younger days New York or anywhere in the country for that matter, these people are just a ton of fun to hang out with. Seriously, have you ever had dinner with a guy from Wall Street, Christ, you want to blow your brains out.

 

IT WAS BECAUSE OF DON’T FORGET TO VALIDATE YOUR PARKING THAT WE MET. WHAT WAS IT ABOUT MY COMIC STRIP THAT YOU REPSONDED TO?

It was the first and only thing in WRITTEN BY that made me laugh on purpose.

 

YOU’RE MARRIED TO THE VERY BEAUTIFUL AND TALENTED MAGGIE ROWE. HOW DID YOU GUYS MEET? BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW DOES SHE PUT UP WITH YOU?

I was home and I got a call from Bill Maher, who was doing POLITICALLY INCORRECT. He told me he had met some girls at the show and they were meeting for drinks at the IMPROV, and he needed a wingman. I met Bill 20 minutes later and he pointed out to two girls at the bar, and said to me the five words that changed my life. “You take the tall one”. That was my Maggie, and we’ve been together ever since. Maggie produces with COMEDY CENTRAL a bi-weekly live show called SIT N SPIN, that has sort of become one of the top live comedy shows in town, and has helped a lot of writers get some projects off the ground, sell books. It’s amazing how Comedy central has kept this going for 6 or so years. She also produced a show called HELLHOUSE, which people still talk about. She’s amazing. She puts up with me because I am dynamite in the sack.

SIT N SPIN
COMEDY CENTRAL

 

THE FIRST TIME I MET YOU WAS AT THE BUNGALOW CLUB WHERE YOU TRIED TO HOOK ME UP WITH A VERY BEAUTIFUL ASIAN GIRL. I NOW BELIEVE YOU WERE HOPING THIS GIRL AND I WOULD GET MARRIED, SETTLE DOWN, AND OPEN UP A CLEANERS SO YOU CAN EVENTUALLY HAVE A FREE PLACE TO GET YOUR CLOTHES DRY-CLEANED. TRUE OR FALSE?

Actually, I was hoping we could start a new race of funny Asian people.

 

THAT BEGS THE QUESTION: WHY AREN’T THERE MORE FUNNY ASIAN PEOPLE?

Because you wouldn’t fuck that girl I introduced you to.

 

IT WAS MORE LIKE SHE WOULDN’T FUCK ME, BUT WHO’S KEEPING SCORE? YOU HAVE THE BEST WEED IN TOWN. WHO’S YOUR DEALER?

Uh, I thought you were.

 

OF COURSE, I JUST NEEDED A LITTLE AFFIRMATION. SO WHEN IS THE NEXT SCHEDULED BACCHANAL ORGY AT YOUR PLACE?

Friday.

 

GREAT! I’LL BRING THE WEED.

 

 

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