There are so many benefits to writing with a partner that I recommend it for writers out there lucky enough to find someone they’re compatible with.
I’ve tried to work with writers who really only wanted to do one specific type of dramatic comedy. One writer I tried to work with only really liked one TV show, and it was off the air. We couldn’t even pick a TV show to write a spec for. That partnership was dead in the water.
Writing partnerships are like any relationships; the more you have in common, the easier it’ll be to get along. You certainly don’t want to be arguing all the time. That takes up valuable time, and eventually sucks the soul out of you.
My writing partner of over 20 years and I had an agreement; if neither one of us liked a scenes, a story, a character or dialogue, we’d brainstorm until we found something we both liked.
Regardless of how well you get along, you’ll inevitably hit some bumps in the road. For example, during a writers strike my partner started writing for an animated show, and loved the hours, plus he won an Emmy.
We got over that, but it took time. At a different time in our partnership I sold a feature and took six months off to write it with my wife. That was hard to get over, too.
We finally agreed that each writer could pursue his own projects, and unless something took off, we’d continue working together. Fortunately we found lots of work found work on prime time comedies for years to come.
To accomplish that kind of career longevity, you both have to be flexible. And it helps if you actually like each other, because you are going to be spending long, long hours together.
Possibly more important; you need to trust each other. If I couldn’t come up with a story idea, I knew if we talked about it, the two of us could, or my partner could. Same thing with jokes. I always knew he could find a better joke, or we could find one together.
One thing that can help you is having a writing partner who has a special skill set or is a minority. TV showrunners are always being accused of hiring white men only.
If you have a partner who’s a woman, a minority, or has a special skill set relevant to the show (a former lawyer or doctor, for example), that can really help you get hired.
Another smart move to get into comedy shows is to find a standup comic to team up with. Comedies are generally room-written, so to have some standup comedians in the room can be a huge plus for the writing staff.
A partner who does Improv would be even better in some ways. Standup comics can write jokes and deliver them, while people with Improv backgrounds can wing it, in the room, on the spot.
I know a writer that teamed up with a female standup comedian which made the network executives happy, so they could point to their female writers and claim they were inclusive.
Not only that, network executives think females can get the females voice better than men, and their probably right. The other obvious bonus you get with a female standup is they’re good in the room with jokes.
The other great thing about being in a writing partnership, is the studio gets two writers for the price of one. There a two minds in the room fixing story, writing and rewriting dialogue, and addressing studio and network notes. They feel like it’s a bargain. The downside; single writers make twice as much money.
However, I think writing teams tend to stay around longer, as a team since they can survive changes in market trends, and help each other out of slumps.