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Writer Michael Jamin Remembers Marsh McCall: “He Changed Many Lives For The Better”

Deadline logo Deadline 5/23/2017 Nellie Andreeva
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Tributes have been pouring in over the past 24 hours for veteran comedy TV writer-producer Marsh McCall, who died suddenly Monday morning at the age of 52.

Here is how McCall is being remembered by fellow comedy writer and long-time friend Michael Jamin (Maron, Wilfred, Rules Of Engagement). Jamin recounts how the two first met as writers on the NBC’s comedy series Just Shoot Me!, and a career-making advise by McCall that helped him and many other young writers.

I met Marsh McCall in 1996, when I was a staff writer on Just Shoot Me. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of being a comedy writer, and this was my first job in the business. The Just Shoot Me writers room was incredibly intimidating. It was like being in a frat house where you’re surrounded by the crassest, most foul-mouthed, wickedly funny people you could ever want to impress. Marsh was one of them.

This was my dream job until I realized that if I couldn’t make these outrageously funny people laugh, I’d be replaced by someone who could. There’s nothing worse than pitching a joke to a room full of comedy writers and hearing the thud of it falling flat. I was definitely struggling.

After a few weeks, I confessed to Marsh that I could feel my childhood dream slipping away. Marsh gave me the single most helpful piece of advice I’ve ever received in my career.

He said that when everyone in the room is pitching on a joke, don’t come at it from the same direction as they are. They’re too funny, and you’ll never beat them to the punchline. He told me to approach the joke from a completely different angle. Instead of climbing over the wall with everyone else, find a way to dig under it.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Marsh’s advice changed everything for me. It was as if someone showed me a secret door… one that would allow me to sneak into this world that I so desperately wanted to be part of.

Over the years, I’ve shared this advice with countless young writers, and I’m always quick to credit Marsh with his wisdom. Marsh was a good friend. He was supportive, kind, and always generous with a laugh. For many years, we played basketball together on the weekends. Our daughters were born only a few months apart, and to this day, they remain best friends. Marsh and I also share a birthday, and every year we try to be the first to wish each other happy birthday.

Marsh McCall changed many lives for the better, and I’m grateful to count mine as one of them.

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