Working with Carol Burnett taught Alan Alda how to be a better writer

Previously, Alda wouldn't accept notes from actors, until that note came from Carol Burnett.

Being a writer is not for the faint of heart or the proud. If you're someone who can't handle criticism, your best bet is to never pursue a career as a writer. Receiving notes and critiques on your work is the best way to become a better writer, and this feeling is only multiplied when the person offering you a critique is themselves an amazing writer.

While Alan Alda is best known as an actor, he's also seen success as a writer and director in films like A New Life, and Betsy's Wedding. But while Alda has a catalog of amazing work, there was a time when he was much more protective of his work than he is today. 

In an interview with the Sioux City Journal, Alda revealed that previously, he held a firm belief that his scripts should be followed by actors to the letter. He revealed, "I gently insisted every word I wrote stay intact. Every writer says, 'It's not engraved in stone.' Well, mine was. I could come down from the mountain with two tablets, one under each arm, and that would be it."

That all changed when Alda worked with the great Carol Burnett on the 1981 film, The Four Seasons. There, Alda explained that Carol Burnett made a script suggestion that he said led to "the best scene in the movie." The moment spun Alda's professional viewpoint on its axis, and it led to an adjustment period that ultimately changed his creative process, presumably for the better.

He said, "Now, I try to meet with actors during the rehearsal period, hear all their complaints, and try to solve their problems." Alda confirmed, "It works quite well."

So, if you don't do well with edits, remind yourself that it can only help you. Plus, someday it might be Carol Burnett giving you those editing suggestions, which is undoubtedly a sign that you've done well in the world.

Watch M*A*S*H on MeTV!

Weeknights at 6 PM, Sundays at 7 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

11 Comments

MichaelVegas 2 months ago
You speak the truth, I tried writing and wrote 5 short stories, all were denied, then I wrote 3 books (And even have one I never finish) same thing denied. So I put myself into my art work, after that I won 28 awards, sold around a hundred, got a job in drawing, (before I moved into management) and enjoyed all the fun of that, so if things do not work one way, try something else. You may be surprised
kkvegas 2 months ago
I know that movie well, and I think I know which scene Alda is referencing, but it would have been nice for the article to include that bit of information.
Avie 2 months ago
There's a big difference between an actor, in rehearsal or on set, suggesting a change in a line, and that actor or all the actors ad-libbing.

No writer should ever refuse to listen to the actors' suggestions. He or she may or may not accept them, but it will have been a product of his or her hearing the line spoken -- as opposed to just in his head, the only place it had existed up to that moment -- and also the process of give-and-take and, one presumes, gentle persuasion on the part of both writer and actor to reach the final result as to what's going to be spoken before the camera.
LoveMETV22 Avie 1 month ago
Off Topic: Looks like either you or the powers that be removed your post in the,
" The weird and wonderful world of William Shatner's Christmas movies," article:


Perhaps they're waiting you out? with the " gobbledygook."
Runeshaper 2 months ago
Carol Burnett for the win 🏆!
Deleted 2 months ago
This comment has been removed.
CYB0RG 2 months ago
Alan Alda and Carol Burnett grew up living across the street from each other.
cperrynaples 2 months ago
First of all, the word is "for"! Second, I don't think either Carol or Alan were ever on Hollywood Squares! Bonus Question: What sardonic MeTV actress was one of the original squares?
cperrynaples 2 months ago
I see he corrected it so I take back the first part! And the answer was Rose Marie from TDVDS! Don't forget the DVD tribute on CBS tomorrow!
KellyO 2 months ago
They lived across the street from each other for a very short time while Alda’s dad made a film in LA. They didn’t actually “grow up” together. Alda was a NY kid who was always traveling with his parents on vaudeville tours. He talks about that often. He was only in Hollywood for a short time and Burnett was always a Hollywood kid.
LoveMETV22 2 months ago
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 2 months ago
Fun Fact: Alda appeared on TCBS years before The 4 Seasons!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?