Success in cartooning speaker: Tom Gammill

Tom Gammill is a comedy writer. He’s worked on Seinfeld, David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and currently a writer on The Simpsons.


  • Tom Gammill reviews how he got into writing and attributes it to his early attempts to write comics
  • “You need to be nice to everyone”
  • Tom showed us his early cartoons from his days at Harvard.
  • He got a job at Hallmark writing greeting cards
  • Jim Downey (SNL) asked Tom to submit some of stuff SNL where he and writing partner Max Ross went on to work.
  • TV is very collaborative. Tom and Max may write a story or pitch an episode, but 30 others will have worked on it before it is done.
  • Tom reviewed some of the shows he’s worked on.
  • Go find Frightened Family on Youtube. It was a skit created by Tom which had influences from Earnie Bushmiller’s Nancy
  • Showed another skit called “Red Pepper”.
  • A lot of personal stories made their way into Seinfeld episodes. Castanza’s fiancé died from licking envelopes. That was a family story from his grandmother (not that his grandma died from licking envelopes, but it was a story told by his grandmother).
  • Advice: Think of how your parents screwed you up and use that as material
  • Another show Gammill worked on: The Pitts
  • Also worked on Larry Shandling show
  • Fox and FX are looking for good animation, but they don’t want shows based on newspaper comic strips. They want edgy – think “Family Guy”
  • Tom did a demo of an actual pitch for a TV show (only faster)
  • If newspaper comics aren’t going anywhere – think of storyboarding. It’s a mix of art and writing. Many more jobs in storyboarding.
  • Tom worked on a Bugs Bunny Looney Toons 50th anniversary. Showed a clip where Bill Murray goes off script.
  • Worked with Chuck Jones, Friz Freling and Mel Blanc on that special.
  • After the Looney Toons special he and Max were unemployed and spent a lot of time at a coffee shop. A lot of that material living in NY got into Seinfeld.
  • The bit where the Jerry’s girlfriend’s uncle is a chef and wanted to prepare a special meal himself for the couple, but didn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom – that really happened to Tom.
  • Showing a clip of a pilot he worked on after Seinfeld that didn’t get picked up.
  • Larry David urged him to write a journal and use that material later. Tom uses The Doozies for that
  • The Doozies is often where rejected Simpson ideas go
  • Gammill: You don’t need newspapers or a studio anymore. Just a computer.
  • The doozies is good for him. He doesn’t get paid well, but it generates ideas for material that might be used later.
  • Question from audience: How do you handle rejection? Answer: You get used to it. A lot of things are cancelled for reasons way out of my control.