March 8 – Comedy & Animation

In 2010 USC became the first university in the nation to offer a program dedicated to training filmmakers in the art of comedy. USC Comedy at the School of Cinematic Arts offers instruction in the writing, directing, production as well as the history and theory of comedy. Students work with a distinguished, award-winning faculty of comedy professionals to discover and develop their comedic voices, while getting unrivaled access to the field through workshops, internships, demonstrations and screenings and festivals.

USC Comedy boasts an award-winning faculty that includes Jack Epps Jr. (The Secret of My Success, Legal Eagles, Top Gun) Barnet Kellman (Murphy Brown , Mad About You, George Lopez) David Isaacs (Cheers, Frasier, M*A*S*H*), Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory) John Bowman (Saturday Night Live, In Living Color), Dave Goetch (The Big Bang Theory), Russ Woody (Drew Carrey), Mary Lou Belli (Girlfriends), Tim Marx (Baby Daddy) to name just a few.

Our students benefit from the expertise and participation of SCA Comedy Alumni such as Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents), Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy), Peter Segal (Tommy Boy, Get Smart), Tim Story (Barber Shop, Ride Along), Gabe Sachs (Freaks and Geeks), Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), and Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off The Boat) among many other luminaries and industry professionals.

4E5D5BC6_9684_CD2A_A68BDD1AE95D12D0_originalJack Epps, Jr.

Chair, Writing for Screen & Television
Professor of Cinematic Arts, John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television


Jack Epps, Jr. is an award winning writer and filmmaker who first became involved in making films while an undergraduate at Michigan State University. Inspired by a student film festival, Epps made his first film the following semester and has been making movies ever since. His student film The Pigs vs the Freaks, was purchased by NBC and made into a Movie of the Week, re-titled Off Sides. Epps produced and worked as second unit director on the film.

Upon arriving in California, Epps wrote an episode of Hawaii Five-O and Kojak. While continuing to pursue his writing, Epps also worked as a cinematographer and an assistant cameraman on various local productions. Epps had the good fortune to work for a period of time as a second unit cameraman and assistant cameraman for Orson Welles on Mr. Welles’ last film, The Other Side of the Wind.

Epps united with his screenwriting professor from Michigan State University, Jim Cash, and began writing screenplays together. After writing seven unproduced screenplays, their first produced screenplay was Top Gun which went on to become the #1 world wide box office hit in 1986. Within eleven months, the writing team of Cash & Epps had three produced screenplays in the theaters: Top Gun, Legal Eagles, and The Secret of My Success. As a screenwriter, Mr. Epps co-authored over 25 screenplays and eight produced motion pictures including Dick Tracy, Turner & Hooch, and Anaconda. Epps also did extensive revisions on Sister Act and Die Hard III.

While Epps is primarily known for co-authoring big actions movies, Epps equally enjoyed writing romantic charm and chase comedies inspired by the films of Hitchcock, Wilder and Sturges. Films like The Secret of My Success, Legal Eagles, Turner & Hooch, Viva Rock Vegas, and Sister Act are examples of the comedy of Cash & Epps. Recently, Epps wrote the video game Top Gun for the Sony PlayStation network. Epps has also written video games for THQ.

Epps had the pleasure to write for some of the most successful actors in the motion picture industry including Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Warren Beatty, Michael J. Fox, Debra Winger, Al Pacino, Anthony Edwards, Bruce Willis, Meg Ryan, and John Voight. He also worked with such motion picture giants as Ivan Reitman, Jerry Breckheimer, Joel Silver, Herb Ross, Tony Scott and Dick Donner.

Epps was recently honored as the recipient of the first Victoria and Jack Oakie Endowed Chair in Comedy at the School of Cinematic Arts. Epps was the fall 2008 commencement speaker at the Michigan State University graduation ceremonies and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Michigan State University. In addition, Epps is recipient of the Michigan State University Spartans in Hollywood Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, the team of Cash & Epps was recently honored by the American Film Institute as one of the Top 100 Greatest Quotes in American Cinema for their line: “I feel the need… the need for speed.”

Epps is a thirty five year member of the Writer’s Guild of America, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


4F137E71_F44D_99E2_37962C99FDEF4801_originalDavid Isaacs

Professor of Cinematic Arts, John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television


David Isaacs, SCA Visiting Professor of Screenwriting has worked as a TV and Screen Writer and Producer for over 35 years. He has been credited as a writer, co-producer or creative consultant on M*A*S*H*, Cheers, Wings, Frasier, Becker and Mad Men.  He co-created and executive produced the series Mary, Big Wave Dave’s and Almost Perfect for CBS. His writing credits also include episodes of The Simpsons, The Tracey Ullman Show, The Jeffersons and The Tony Randall Show. Over the course of his career he has been involved as a writer or producer in over eight hundred episodes of TV comedy.

Screenwriting credits include Volunteers, starring Tom Hanks and John Candy, and uncredited re-writes on Mannequin, starring Andrew Mc Carthy and Kim Cattrall and Jewel of the Nile, starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.

Isaacs has been nominated eight times for the Writers Guild of America Award and won three times for Cheers and Mad Men. He’s has six Emmy nominations with one win for co-producing the first season of Cheers. He’s also has been nominated for the Humanitas Award and received a Peabody Award as a member of the staff of Frasier.


3 thoughts on “March 8 – Comedy & Animation

  1. This seminar especially spoke to me because I am so interested in taking a class in the Writing Program!! I loved hearing Jack Epps and David Isaacs stories, their backgrounds, and their advice on comedy. They had fantastic advice and suggestions (I’ve got to remember – comedy comes in threes), and it was really helpful to hear about the different clubs at USC that we animators & storytellers can attend or submit work. It also solidified my interest in becoming a part of an Improv group, to better learn comedy, timing, and storytelling. As a story artist, that would be so helpful, not only for boards but for pitching as well.

    I’m so glad that they are open to discussing the possibility of another Writing Class in the Animation program, and that they are willing to meet with us to get that together.


  2. This seminar was great. Writing is hard enough on its own, but comedic writing is whole new level of challenge. It was really great to hear from Jack Epps and David Isaacs on their experiences over the years. I especially liked the analysis of Hooch. I’ve never watched that film, but it looks like it was pretty well done from a writing point of view. Just hearing about what the sort of basic concepts of what is and isn’t funny was super helpful.


  3. As an international, it’s been always challenging to create comedic story – since humour is rooted in cultural context. Due to a time limit, the seminar covered pretty general idea of comedy, but it was good enough for me to learn what systems make scenes fun, work..etc.

    It’s really great that there is a possibility to have an another writing class – I believe it’ll be indeed helpful to students who are willing to be part of pre-production/story-development part. (like me!)


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