As Oprah once said that Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.”
In our new ongoing series, The Second City Network looks forward to bringing you mostly-sage wisdom from some of our most outstanding alumni.
Learn from these people = Do better in your own life.
Up first, SCN’s Editor-in-Chief Liz Kozak talked to four-time Mainstage vet Brian Gallivan about selling a pilot idea, being professionally funny & why he never wants to set foot in a middle school classroom again.
LK: What is your earliest memory of making someone else laugh?
BG: I was six years old, and my family was on a trip to Ireland. There were nine of us crammed into a rental car, and I was trying to do an Irish accent. It actually sounded more like Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap, and my older brothers were laughing at me. My dad told me to stop. I think because he was trying to concentrate on a map and driving on some dangerous Irish roads, but I wouldn’t stop because making my brothers laugh felt so good. I was the fifth of six children, so getting attention from the older siblings was a big deal.
LK: Describe your Second City experience in 5 words.
BG: Fun, friends, collaborating, doubt, laughter.
LK: What information do you wish you’d had BEFORE going out and pitching your first pilot idea?
BG: Looking back, I’m actually glad I didn’t know too much about pitching before I went and did it. It’s similar to why I loved the rehearsal process for my first Mainstage show at Second City the best. I was never sure what the next step was, so I had to just kind of be in the moment. What I realized after my first pitch was that it’s kind of like doing a one-man show, where you are telling a story to an audience and bringing different characters to life. And I was grateful for my time at Second City because it had given me experience with both of those things.
LK: What would have been helpful to know BEFORE you entered your first Writers’ Room?
BG: I actually asked a friend of mine for advice before my first day, and she gave me great advice. She said, “You’re the newest person, so you should offer ideas or build on other people’s pitches, but you should never be the one to shit on someone else’s idea. There are higher-level people who can do that. You don’t need to. Be a positive person in the room.” That was great advice.
LK: Tell us about how The McCarthys came to be…
BG: I wanted to write a pilot that was about a large Boston family, similar to the one I grew up in. I wrote a draft that was pretty close to my real family, but it wasn’t so great. So then I decided to scale back on the number of characters and change some of the other characters and make them different from my own family. I also added a basketball coaching element to the story which made it more interesting to me. I ended up pitching the new version and selling it to CBS in 2012. I wrote a script, and we filmed a single camera pilot of it in 2013, which didn’t go, but we are currently editing a multi-cam version of it that we taped in front of an audience at the end of January.
LK: What else do you have coming down the pipeline that you’re excited about?
BG: I’m starting work on another pilot based on my family. It’s set in 1976, and the family is opening a tourist cottage business in New Hampshire. My family did something similar with cottages on Cape Cod when I was a kid.
LK: You started out your career as a teacher. How has that helped you in the comedy world?
BG: I taught middle school for five years, and dealing with middle schoolers can be VERY challenging. So whenever I have doubts about my comedy career, I’ll say to myself, “Do you want to go back to teaching middle school? And I always quickly respond, “No. No, I don’t.” And then I keep working at the comedy.
LK: Who is the funniest person the world doesn’t know about (yet)?
BG: My nieces and nephews are very funny. And my mom and dad. I guess my whole family. That’s why I keep making shows inspired by them.
Now go write that original pilot script about your own weird family you’ve been talking about for three years so Liz can interview you next.