By In Stuff

Writing with Michael Schur

Michael and I met a few years ago at some awesome old-school Hollywood restaurant he picked out, the sort of place where you would expect Bogart to be sitting in the corner and saying, “The drinks here used to be better.” The main thing I remember from that dinner was that Michael was FUNNY. I’m lucky enough to know a lot of funny people — funny as in they make me laugh — but there’s a difference between funny and FUNNY, if you know what I mean.

Maybe you don’t know. Maybe I don’t know either. Let’s try again.

Michael’s job — as a writer at Saturday Night Live, as a writer for The Office, as the creator of Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn 99 — puts him in a position where he has to think about the very core of funny. There’s a science to being funny on a mass scale, a science and an art, and it involves big themes and treasure hunting and unexpected discoveries. It’s a science and art and also serious business. I asked Michael that first evening if there was laughter in the Saturday Night Live writing room. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

When you are FUNNY the way Michael is, of course, then being funny is like nothing, it’s like taking the doughnut off the bat, it’s like a surgeon taking a little splinter out of someone’s hand. So obviously Michael cracks me up continuously. We’ve been doing the PosCast together now for years and my wife stopped listening some time ago because, as she says, “It’s just you two guys giggling.” Well, yeah. In truth every time we talk we kind of always do the PosCast whether there’s a microphone or not (or, as often happens, there IS a microphone but I haven’t hooked it up properly). We went to a spring training game together once a while ago and the only thing I really remember from it was that we got into an argument about strawberries.

When the Blue Jays-Rangers game went nutty in the seventh inning — the nuttiest inning I’ve ever seen — I thought to myself: This is too weird for me to write by myself.

So I asked Michael.

This is what we came up with. One of my favorite ever writing experiences.

Flipping Out

29 Responses to Writing with Michael Schur

  1. murr2825 says:

    Oh I was hoping Joe would give us his take on the Seventh Inning (as it will be forever known) but Michael Schur chiming in makes it so much better.

    Thanks, guys, for a terrifically apt recap.

  2. Nixmith says:

    My only complaint about this piece is that it should’ve been a PosCast episode.

    • PhilM says:

      I disagree: there’s something more permanent and polished about the printed word, and it bears revisiting — plus I can enjoy it at work!

      • Nixmith says:

        There is such a great Ken-Tremendous quality to Michael Schur’s part that I’m amending my comment: This article should *also* be a PosCast.

      • A.B. says:

        I agree with your disagreement and your assessment: “more permanent and polished…printed….”

        Glad I watched that inning. Glad I read this story. Great teaming.
        Laughter is great medicine.

  3. That same play, where the catcher’s throw hits the bat, did happen at least once before, in the minor leagues. And Rangers manager Jeff Banister was the catcher whose throw hit the bat:

  4. hunsecker says:

    Loved this piece. Being a Jays fan, I was so caught up in the events of last night that I never stopped to fully appreciate Harold Reynolds’ cheerleading for Russell Martin’s blinding speed—not until I read Joe and Michael. (I will say that Reynolds was great when it came to understanding what transpired in the top of the 7th.)

    • MCD says:

      Reynold’s screwed up the rules in the top of the 7th, just like the umpires did. While he did accurately described what *should* have happened, the umpire can’t “uncall” a dead ball. Once he called dead ball, runners cannot advance, even if he screwed up in the original call.

  5. invitro says:

    I don’t think I’m offended by JB’s bat flip. But I am offended by the children who are trying to insult the people who were offended.

    Some good opinions here:

  6. DJ MC says:

    That story was one of the funniest I’ve ever read. And most of it wasn’t Schur (who I love).

    I did notice something, though. The name “Chipola College” caught my eye, because I had recently seen in on Baseball Reference and couldn’t remember to what it was in reference. So I looked the school up, realized why (Steve Clevenger went there), and just for fun did a sort to see the major leaguers from that school who had the most experience.

    Number one was Bautista, of course. Number two…well, take a look.

  7. Gregg Zaun, the old catcher working the Blue Jays broadcast, also knew the rule – he HAD ACTUALLY SEEN IT BEFORE. When? Like Banister, he’d done the very same thing – hit the bat with the toss back to the pitcher.

    • Richard says:

      I’ve seen a runner score when the pitcher dropped the return throw from the catcher. I have seen a batter draw a walk, and then immediately – without stopping – steal second because no one on defense was paying attention.

      And was it last year in a game in SF when the Pirates “walked” into a double play? Second and third, one out. Batter drew a walk, and both runners got caught wandering too far off their bases….

  8. How did you and Michael actually write that column together? Did someone transcribe your conversation, or did you actually just pass back and forth each other’s written comments as you went along?

    Loved this column, but would be interested in knowning the how you guys actually wrote it together part.

  9. Shane says:

    “Sort of muddies the waters”?? Dorky baseball question/comment: what about RULE 5.12 instead of 6.03? Our pal Dale Scott (who had a stroke in the 3rd inning, I’m convinced) clearly waved the play dead. “When an umpire suspends play, he shall call “Time.” At the umpire-in-chief’s call of “Play,” the suspension is lifted and play resumes. Between the call of “Time” and the call of “Play” the ball is dead.” He didn’t literally say “Time” but he did wave his hands in the air in the classic fashion indicating the ball was dead (same sign given after a foul ball). Whether the ball was meant to be alive per 6.03A, Mr. Scott made the ball dead. No runs can score in such a situation, nor did he have any basis for awarding home base.

    Outstanding piece. I was there, and it was literally impossible to keep track of everything that happened that inning. Plus the free wifi was pretty much ablaze – 50,000 people beaming out Vines at the same time will do that.

    • Perry says:

      Yes, Scott incorrectly called time and killed the play, but runs can still score, in the same way an overthrow into the stands or fan interference makes the ball dead but bases are awarded afterward. It’s not like an inadvertent whistle in football or basketball.

      Rule 5.06(c) [5.02] concerns dead balls: “While the ball is dead no player may be put out, no bases may be run and no runs may be scored, except that runners may advance one or more bases as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive (such as, but not limited to a balk, an overthrow, interference, or a home run or other fair ball hit out of the playing field).”

      Hence, even though Scott’s call of “Time” was improper, the rules still allow for an umpire to score a run if, in his judgment, the runner would have scored as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive.

      • MCD says:

        That doesn’t apply here (doesn’t meet the conditions of c) While it doesn’t seem likely any Blue Jay could have reached the ball in time to throw Odor out, once the umpire called “time”, there is no reason for the defense to even pursue it. What if the ball had bounced right back to the pitcher’s feet, but he chose not to throw home because he knew time had been called? You still count the run? That is ridiculous.

        • MikeN says:

          Hence the part about judgment of the umpire.

          • MCD says:

            There is no allowance in the rules about “judgment of the umpire”, that phrase was added by Perry.
            I will concede, however, the phrase “as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive” is up for some interpretation.

  10. Shawn Houston says:

    Hi Joe… did Michael really write a 27,000-word essay on Deflategate? And if so, could I get a copy of it? Thanks for “Flipping Out”, by the way… I’m a Torontonian, and looking forward to their game in Kansas tonight!

  11. NevadaMark says:

    Does losing a ball in the sun and getting charged with an error, and then dropping the next batter’s flyball for another error, and then throwing said dropped ball past third base for a THIRD error count as errors on three consecutive plays, or does it only count as two plays? It happened in the 66 World Series in Sandy Koufax’s final game.

  12. Unvenfurth says:

    Deflategate is the most brutally boring “scandal;” in the history of sports, I am not even a Patriots fan, but if I never see that term again, it will be too soon..NO MORE PLEASE!!!

  13. BSChief says:

    The whole thing was brilliant, but “Act like you’ve been there before, Neil” will echo in my head for a long time. Many thanks, guys!

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Actually, Armstrong wanted to slam down his gloves after getting on the surface, but that would have been somewhat problematic.

  14. Grover Jones says:

    Joe, I hate how your articles on NBC Sports don’t have a date (I know this isn’t your fault). It would be nice to see a date for each article on your “page” ( or on the actual articles.

  15. James says:

    so is there laughter in the SNL Writing room?

  16. Regarding the Kevin Pillar/Millar strategy. It reminds me of a very old Simpsons episode when Homer was trying to get a baby sitter, setting the scene, he called and got denied because Bart is flagged as a monster kid:

    Homer: I need a sitter
    Operator: What’s your name?
    Homer: Homer… uh Sampson
    Operator: Wait a minute, didn’t you just called?

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