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Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.

Laverne De Fazio and Shirley Feeney.

Richie Cunningham and The Fonz.

These are all names ingrained in our pop-cultural subconscious. Here’s another one: Mark Rothman. Not as familiar? While he may not be a household name, as the former head writer of “The Odd Couple,” “Laverne & Shirley,” and “Happy Days,” he’s responsible for families across the country being glued to their TVs week after week. Oh, and also for the phrase, “Sit on it.”

Author Mark Rothman giving a spirited presentation.  Photo credit: P. Groner

Author Mark Rothman giving a
spirited presentation.
Photo credit: P. Groner

Rothman, a Michigan transplant since the early 90s, kicked off the 2012 Rochester Hills Public Library events schedule last Thursday with an entertaining presentation that took the near-capacity crowd on a pleasant stroll down memory lane. He started off with a Jimmy Durante impersonation, singing The Day I Read a Book. From there he launched into a reading of his most recent book, Mark Rothman’s Essays, a collection of his blog posts and shared his thoughts on television.

For the first essay, A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame, Rothman donned a Detroit Tigers’ hat and began reading a touching tribute to his friend, Ernie Harwell. It was told from Ernie’s point-of-view after the broadcast legend had passed away. He was amusingly looking down at the throngs of people who had come to Comerica Park to pass his coffin and pay their final respects. Rothman may not have been born in Detroit, but he certainly understands the incredible impact Harwell had on the city. After a more comical essay reading, Rothman took time to take questions from the audience, which revealed such insights as “The Dick Van Dyke Show” is what inspired him to go in the direction of comedy writing. He said he learned to write by osmosis while watching the show. He was just 22 years old. By age 24, he was working on “The Odd Couple.”

Among his work, Rothman says he’s most proud of “The Odd Couple” episode where Felix is afraid to fly (The Flying Felix). When someone asked about whether or not he’d written the infamous “Happy Days,” “Jumping the Shark” episode, he laughed and says he always gets that question. And no. He didn’t write that episode, nor does he think that episode harmed the show. “It just harmed a half-hour of everybody’s life,” he joked. As for his take on TV these days, Rothman considers the present to be the golden age of television. Because with DVR devices, you’re never a prisoner to what the network wants you to watch. Plus with all the different outlets to watch TV (computers, tablets, phones) it helps you miss the bad stuff.

According to Rothman, the same philosophy can be applied to writing. As his friend legendary director, writer, and producer Garry Marshall put it, “Good writing is life with the boring parts taken out.”

About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].

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