Speaking to Joe Keenan is like having a conversation with Frasier himself: the multiple-Emmy nominee penned the show “Frasier” through many of its award-winning seasons, and he has a cadre of TV shows under his belt that reads like a course syllabus for â€œHow To Write A Great TV Show 101.â€ Like any modern-day writing guru, he canâ€™t help but let the words flow: he goes on vacation from writing TV scripts to write books, the most recent of which is the HILARIOUS My Lucky Star, a skewering of life in Los Angeles, falling for closeted movie superstars and the stumbles of covering up such tawdry affairs. The book is the third installment in the lives of gay “former lovers turned best friends” Gilbert and Philip, although you don’t have to read the first two to appreciate their latest tale, it is glorious on its own. The words flow like poetry, the you wish you were friends even with the bad guys, and you read the final page wishing it would go on. The perfect summer read! Go buy it immediately.
Queerty’s editor Dan sat down with the hilarious and charming Mr. Keenan, to chat about the dismal nature of television, what a “gay book” really is. Not that he wrote one. Read on:
Q: First of all, I love the book.
JK: Thank you.
And I’ve been a big fan for a long time. Your book My Blue Heaven was excellent.
Thank you. And Matthew (the publicist) tells me you were on a television show?
Yes, but it doesnâ€™t matter.
What television show?
Isn’t this conversation fun for me already?
What was it, Real Life? Real World?
Real World, yes.
Iâ€™m sorry, I havenâ€™t watched it.
I donâ€™t watch it either.
Perhaps Iâ€™m a bit out of the target audience for MTV.
Which is obvious, you utilize proper English and complete sentences.
Iâ€™m always too wrapped up in my own head to pay attention to the world around me. All these years, living in L.A., I never learned how to drive. My friends say â€œAnd thank God, if you got behind the wheel of a car, youâ€™d kill somebody, scribbling something down on your little notebook.â€
The world in your head is a lot of fun. Although the characters seem to be based on real people, they are very tangible.
Theyâ€™re not real people, but their experiences are based on real-life experiences. None that Iâ€™ve had…Philip the narrator is very close to me just in terms of his viewpoints, his nature, his character, his likes and dislikes, but heâ€™s not like me in that Iâ€™m now 17 years older than he is. When I first created the character in my first book My Blue Heaven, he was maybe a year or two younger than I am, but Iâ€™ve left him under 30. This is not dissimilar to the way people have created characters. Itâ€™s the Bart Simpson thing: you create a character, and you just leave him there.
Or Family Circus. Theyâ€™ve been kids for about 50 years.
But nothing that has happened to Philip has happened to me.
So you havenâ€™t had sex with any closeted movie stars?
Alas no. Not even any uncloseted movie stars.
Thatâ€™s too bad.
But thatâ€™s the fun of creating a character, and imagining the world through his eyes.
So often when you read gay books, or see gay films or whatever, their main selling point is that theyâ€™re gay, as if thatâ€™s enough. And they forget to make them any good. Things started so well with the Ellen episode, when she finally came out–it was so beautifully written and funny. And things seem to have gone downhill since then.
I really try to write for everybody, I never specifically write for a gay audience. Itâ€™s offensive to me the notion that anybody wouldnâ€™t like my book because thereâ€™s a gay protagonist, thatâ€™s like saying because Iâ€™m a guy I wouldnâ€™t like something by a woman, or because Iâ€™m White I wouldnâ€™t like something by an African-American?
And when white people donâ€™t go to see a movie about black characters, Hollywood blames it on the fact that the actors are black, when really it was because the movie itself wasnâ€™t any good! In the Angela Bassett days, with Waiting To Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back…those movies were very much about the unique experiences of black women, and everyone went to see them.
Now you wonâ€™t see a black actor in a lead role in a movie or TV unless itâ€™s on some terrible show on UPN or something. But certain people watch the terrible shows anyway, they are very forgiving when they get to see themselves on the screen. The same thing happened on Will & Grace.
There came a point when the characters from Will & Grace became completely divorced from any reality, and became these cartoonish characticures that would never exist.
Itâ€™s like the actors purposely try to be stupid now.
So often writers think their gay characters are funny just because they act ‘gay,’ and ipso facto, it’s a laugh riot because the characters call each other darling. Although now that Will & Grace is ending, the stories are improving. They have the story of Will losing his father…and you wonder where these stories have been.
How do you find time to write books when you have all these TV shows to write?
This book took me 9 years to write, I was working on television, I only had five or six weeks a year…I’d write when I was on vacation, writing as fast as I could, and when it was time to go back to work I’d have to stop, you know, ‘time’s up, pencils down.’ Fiction is what you do for love. You don’t make any money writing books.
Try editing a weblog, and see how much money you make.