Peter Mehlman has had a fascinating career. He started out in George Solomon’s Washington Post sports section, wrote for Howard Cosell’s SportsBeat program, and has freelanced for publications like the New York Times, Esquire, GQ, and NPR. He was the writer on Seinfeld who introduced words and phrases like shrinkage, yada yada yada, and double dipping into our collective conscious. His novel It Won’t Always Be this Great is now in paperback.
In a wide-ranging discussion, which is a nice way of not criticizing myself for bouncing around all over the place, these were some of the topics of conversation:
- His thoughts on the retirement of Kobe Bryant, who he collaborated with on a funny sketch (below) a few years ago:
- How the writing process is similar and different on non-fiction journalism, versus television, versus a novel.
- How much are Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David like their on-screen characters in real life?
- The plot to kill off Ross in a Friends/Seinfeld crossover episode.
- New York vs. Los Angeles.
- The structure of residual checks.
- Whether he knew that, even when it was soaring in the ratings, Seinfeld would have this much staying power.
- How this 1988 NYT piece about trying to spot a celebrity in New York City helped him get a tryout to write for Seinfeld.
- Applying to the Washington Post by mail as a woman, and subsequently explaining himself.
- The time Howard Cosell ball-bustingly accused an interview subject of anti-semitism.
- The diminishing appeal of the NFL.