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Inside Scott Silveri’s ‘Speechless’ Office, Where ‘Tippy Catchy’ Rules

Variety logo Variety 6/6/2017 Debra Birnbaum
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Like the DiMeo family home in his ABC comedy “Speechless,” showrunner Scott Silveri’s office may not be the fanciest one on the block. But Silveri finds humor in it. “There are buildings with more history and character on the Fox lot, but we pride ourselves on having the slowest elevator,” he says.

His own style leans toward “chaotic.” “I look at the laptop screen, and that’s all I see.” Thanks to an intervention from his wife, that “institutional look” was banished with some comfortable couches, classic lamps, and a chic coffee table and rug — “rather than the fluorescent lights that look like you’re waiting at a medical facility for a scan of some type. So the office is, for the first time ever, curated.”

Poster Boy

Silveri grew up in Yonkers, so it’s natural that he keeps a poster of his hometown in his office. But it’s not about nostalgia — it’s a punchline. The featured image isn’t of Yonkers — it’s of the Palisades, a neighboring town. “The advertisement is as if to say, ‘Welcome to Yonkers. Look at what you can see from here. Wouldn’t it be nice to be over there?’” The poster was a gift from his parents, whom he credits with his sense of humor. “I’m not even the third-funniest person in my family,” he says. “I’m just the one that was able to secure carriage to Los Angeles, and I’m the only one who can type.”

Catch and Release

A veteran of the “Friends” writers room, Silveri recounts a game of “tippy catchy” involving the nerf dart that was invented in later seasons of the classic NBC sitcom. Essentially a game of keep up, it amassed ever more arcane rules. “We just resuscitated it in a ‘Speechless’ room this year,” he says. “I’ll tell you which episodes we play too much of it in and you can judge for yourself. They’re not the strongest ones.” He’s a diehard player: “There are the more reckless people, myself among them, who will stop at nothing, to just keep going, going, going. Some people just want to watch the world burn. We all reveal ourselves in this game.”

Lunch Bunch

Nothing may be more important to writers than lunch — what to order, who’s going to get to choose. So the writers at “Speechless” came up with a system, borrowed from friends who work on “The Odd Couple,” “to make the one piece of diversion you have during the day fun,” Silveri says. “You spin and whomever it lands on gets to pick.” Silveri calls the “Food Wheel” creation a work of art. “It can hang in any gallery. I don’t go to a lot of galleries, but I think they’re full of stuff like this.” Needless to say, this, too, has its own set of Byzantine rules: A veto costs $10. “But you can’t just pay $10 every day to have your choice.” Multiple vetoes get more expensive. “We’re newer than the United States of America, but we’ve thought these things out just about as much as those yahoos did.”

Armed and Ready

“Before I was a showrunner, I was a human being and a hoot,” says Silveri. But now as the boss, he was spending his days problem-solving. Then one of the writers pointed out to him that there was nothing fun in the room. His solution? A trip to the toy store, from which he returned with every form of toy gun he could find. “This was the most unnatural stab at fun that I’ve ever taken.”

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