Step Up To The Podium As MTV News Visits The Movie Awards Writers Room

Hi, I’m Shawn Adler and I’m here to present my blog entry on how to write for a major awards show. (Not funny. I can do better. Let me start over.)

Hey blog readers: Did you hear the one about the news personality who was asked to observe a group of actual writers putting together the show he’ll be working on? But enough about Katie Couric. (rimshot?) (Will people get it? Maybe if I had a partner? Doesn’t matter, drop it. I suck.) The art of blog writing…no….The award for best blog of the year goes to….no, too early in the speech. Where’s the set-up…What if…

Alright, here’s the deal: speech writing is tricky, especially tricky when you’re writing a speech for someone else, and darn near impossible to get right when that speech has to be funny and seem spontaneous. And, oh yeah, it has to no more than 15 seconds long.

Welcome to the world of awards show copy, the sometimes lame, sometimes witty banter you hear celebrities say before they present awards. And you wouldn’t believe how much work actually goes into it (and how much changes between the first stab and the teleprompter).

For the MTV Movie Awards, which air this Sunday at 8 PM ET, a group of a dozen consultants went category by category to script the best patter possible. Yes, a DOZEN, each one commenting on, critiquing, refining, and finally saying yay or nah to a specific pitch.

Take Best Female Performance, a category at this year’s awards show which will be presented by Will Smith and Charlize Theron. MTV News got a chance to peek in on their roundtable process and just for the first category there were…openings about race, openings about sexuality, openings where the gag was that the mic went out, openings where the gag was that they switched places, gags about “I Am Legend,” gags about “Men in Black,” gags about “getting jiggy with it,” gags about funny names. And then they moved from the one guy who started.

Point is, giving Will Smith and Charlize Theron something funny to say is actually pretty collaborative and laborious. But worth it? I think so, having heard the joke they finally wound up with (and it’s no where close to the gags above), but judge for yourself when the MTV Movie Awards screen this Sunday.

In the meantime, watch the video of our visit to the consultants’ room and then see if you can write something better. The set-up is that Will Smith and Charlize Theron are presenting Best Female Performance. And the award goes to…?

The MTV Movie Awards will air live on MTV on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, with MTV News’ “Coming Attractions” preshow kicking the evening off at 7:30 p.m. ET! Meanwhile, stay tuned to the MTV Movies Blog and