Funny Women

An Interview With Ali Adler, Hollywood Producer And Writer

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Originally published on Forbes.com

Ali Alder is a television producer and writer, best known as co-creator of The New Normal with Glee creator Ryan Murphy. Ali has written for numerous shows, among them Glee, Family Guy, Just Shoot Me and as producer for Chuck. She is hard at work on producing a new television show due out in the fall, Supergirl. We talked about that, her views on writing in Hollywood, and what she feels her responsibilities are as a female show runner. I happily met Ali a several months ago; I was thrilled when she invited me to contribute my cartoons to her new book, How To F*** A Woman. In conversation last week, Ali and I inevitably fell into a discussion about saving the planet, because her book is about more than sex.

LD: Wonderful to be chatting with you, Ali. The book is great, by the way, and I want to talk with you about that in a minute. But first, I want to ask you, How did you get into writing for Hollywood?

AA: I went to UCLA as a creative writing major in short fiction. I found it didn’t support my ambition as much as I would have liked to. So I started writing a teleplay. And a friend of mine — the woman who was the inspiration for the Elaine character on Seinfeld, Elaine Pope — read it and loved it and got it to an agent at William Morris. After that I was hired to write on 90210.

LD: In your new book, you write about what its like to work in a writer’s room full of men. Are things better for women writers in Hollywood?

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AA: I just appeared on a panel for Geena Davis Institute for Gender In Media, and it’s interesting to see how things have shifted gender-wise a bit from when I started. Particularly in comedy rooms, it was very out-weighed. Nine or eight out of ten writers were men. I haven’t been doing as many comedy shows lately, I’ve been doing more one hour shows like Glee, and the New Normal. Super Girl, for example, is really split down the gender line in the writer’s room, it’s really refreshing.

LD: Do you think that because Super Girl is about a girl, that’s why there are more women on the staff?

AA: First of all as a female show runner, I tend to be very aware of that. We are very conscientious about that in hiring. There is nothing that is more gender blind that what’s written on the page, so for whatever reason, women have been under-represented in the comedy room. That’s changing with Tina Fey and Lena Dunham and others, I think there’s more equality now.

LD: Do you think it has something to do also with women not putting themselves forward?

AA: I don’t know what the gender politics actually boils down to, whether it’s experience vs putting yourself out there. I don’t know — I think there’s more opportunity, more trust, more economic satisfaction from a demographic. That’s what happens in Hollywood, and it tends to reinforce when there’s fiscal success. So when there are superheros like Shonda Rhimes — things are shifting.

LD: Yes, I’m getting that sense as well. So, tell me about Supergirl.

AA: Sure! most people know the story of Superman, and we wanted to put that kind of super story on the small screen. Greg Berlanti (creator and producer of Arrow and The Flash) approached me to develop with him this idea about Supergirl. It’s certainly a famous story, but most people don’t know her genesis. She blasted off Krypton moments after Superman, to take care of him on Earth. But when she got to Earth, he was already Superman and she didn’t have a path to follow. And so we start the story of her having been raised by an adoptive family and she comes into her own and saves the day. And from that, the series will jump off. Its incredible, the power of this character and a woman like this on television. And in the form of this actress, Melissa Benoist, she’s inspirational, it’s written for her. She is from Glee, and Whiplash…she was the first person we auditioned, and we sort of fell in love with her. After maybe twelve hundred other auditions we continued to have confidence in our first choice of Melissa.

LD: It sounds terrific! When does it air?

AA: October 26th. I’m so excited for everybody to see a character like this who is amazing and strong and incidentally female and showing her world.

LD: That’s so great, I can’t wait to see it. So let’s talk about your new book now–why did you decide to write “How to F*** a Woman”?

AA: Haha! Well, I explain it in the forward. It was trying to be a charity, to help out my fellow man. Having been born with the equipment, and loving a woman, and knowing the mysteries of the female body a little bit more, I wanted to help out my female friends and also help my male friends and give them some tools on how to train their mind and body.

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AA: Haha! Well, I explain it in the forward. It was trying to be a charity, to help out my fellow man. Having been born with the equipment, and loving a woman, and knowing the mysteries of the female body a little bit more, I wanted to help out my female friends and also help my male friends and give them some tools on how to train their mind and body.

LD: It’s such a great book. Are you getting good responses?

AA: I appreciate that so much. I think so — any opinion can be divisive, and there are some opinions in there. And certainly the way I deliver the message can be strong. But it was written to bring about connectedness.

LD: The foundation of the book is what really attracted me, like a ‘why can’t we all get along’ sensibility!

AA: Ha! Despite your chromosome letter, we are all the same genetic code. I mean in all things. In different genders, countries, ethnicities — the key to saving the earth is connectedness.

LD: That’s great, I agree. What drives me crazy is when media and corporations polarize the genders so much….basically to sell product.

AA: Yeah. It’s interesting talking about Supergirl…she’s an alien and here we are earthlings, and we have to unite as people in order to save our own planet, our debilitated ecosystem…who cares what gender we are, what our political views are!

LD: Absolutely.

AA: We’re all on this one planet together. We’re going to learn that lesson one way or the other.

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Originally published at www.forbes.com on July 1, 2015.

Written by

Visual journalist/writer for New Yorker, New York Times, CBS News, CNN. TED, SXSW speaker. Looking to change world w humor. lizadonnelly.com

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