By Benjamin J. Gohs, Editor
You’ve probably never heard of screenwriter Don Holley. But, chances are you’ve seen his cult classic buddy cop spoof “National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1,” starring Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson, William Shatner and dozens more big Hollywood names. (See the movie clip at the end of this article)
The youngest of three children, Holley was born in Los Angeles, Calif., and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Holley’s upbringing reads like a page out of the nuclear family handbook—if that book were written by Mel Brooks: older brother and sister, devoted homemaker of a mother, advertising executive-artist-frustrated golfer of a father … and young Donald S. Holley, vomiting all over everything.
“I was lucky to grow up in such a beautiful place with the same group of friends pretty much right through high school,” Holley said. “With my lifelong Six Flags ride with anxiety, if I’d been a military brat, I’d probably be institutionalized by now.”
Holley moved to the Bay Area when he was 6 years old after his dad got a job in San Francisco with an advertising agency. He summed up his childhood most succinctly in his new humor book “Half Loaded” in the following excerpt:
“I grew up the youngest of three kids in a very tightly wound middle-class family that had the misfortune of reconciling a bloodline of severe Iowa Quaker stoicism with classic mid-20th Century social dysfunction.”
Despite a sometimes paralyzing anxiety disorder, Holley graduated high school, went on to UCLA Film School, and managed to achieve what few people in this world are able to do: he grasped the brass ring—even if only for a short while—when he sold the script that would eventually become a movie with lines like the following:
Colt: “Give me a name!”
Becker: “Weren’t your parents supposed to do that?”
Becker: “Do you sleep in the nude?”
Miss Destiny Demeanor: “Only when I’m naked”
PPB: How long have you been writing?
DSH: I’ve been writing since I was taught how in the first grade. Oh, you mean creatively? Since about the seventh grade.
PPB: When did you know you wanted to be a writer and why?
DSH: I started taking a serious interest in writing my sophomore year in high school when I realized my pro football dreams were going to stay just that. Also, thanks to Monty Python, Steve Martin, and Saturday Night Live—who were giants at the time—I was starting to develop a strong interest in comedy.
PPB: How much stock do you put into comedy Bona Fides?
DSH: Bona what now?
PPB: Where do you get ideas for your material?
DSH: I know this guy…
PPB: Who makes you laugh, and why?
DSH: Donald Trump. He’s hysterical. Also, Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, Patton Oswalt, the Zucker brothers—anyone with an unusually sharp mind for absurdist or observational humor and clever, witty turns of phrase. As a teenager, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, and Monty Python were the first ones to really make me laugh. Not just laugh, but laugh. Just brilliant chroniclers of this thing called the human comedy.
PPB: Who is this book for?
DSH: Librarians mostly. Also anyone who can read. Having a sense of humor helps.
PPB: What do you want people to get out of your book?
DSH: Whatever they can on the used book market. I wouldn’t mind if they related to the hilarious absurdity and shared insanity of life.
PPB: How was it going back through older material to include in the book?
DSH: A pain in my ass. I had to re-type everything off of old newspaper clippings. And my typing skills aren’t that great.
PPB: What inspired your newer material?
DSH: The sudden realization that I didn’t have enough material for a book. Plus, there was some serious updating that needed to be done. I also realized that my experience selling a screenplay that got made into a movie might be something people would find interesting and hopefully funny.
PPB: Think you’ll ever write another screenplay?
DSH: I don’t rule it out. The muse has been in an extended coma but the doctors assure me it isn’t dead.
PPB: Do you miss screenwriting?
DSH: Honestly? Not really. I’ve written 10 spec scripts since “Loaded Weapon” … all of them the stories I’d always wanted to write. So, the “idea well” is currently pretty dry. Screenwriting for me takes an enormous amount of energy and dedication and it would require an almost cosmic flash of divine inspiration to compel me to want to sit down and make that kind of creative commitment again.
Having said that, I do enjoy collaborating, which I’ve been doing a little bit of lately.
I’m always open to being energized by somebody else’s ideas.
And, you never know what’s gonna come around the corner. So, as the politicians like to say, I don’t rule anything in or out.
PPB: Any tips for up and coming comedy writers and humorists?
DSH: Stick to your guns and wear a lot of Kevlar.
PPB: What do you think about modern comedy? How does it differ from when you were a kid?
DSH: What’s “modern comedy?” I’ve been busy crocheting sweaters for pets and I’m a little out of touch with current trends.
The simple and honest answer is that I don’t think comedy ever changes.
Cultural trends do, but humor doesn’t.
Funny is funny.
PPB: Anything else you’d like to add?
DSH: Do you have change for a dollar? I’ve gotta feed the meter. Also, sorry about the fender.
“Half Loaded: A humorous Hollywood memoir about dumb luck, black magic, mopeds and misdemeanors.”
By Don Holley
Available in paperback and Kindle
Cover price: $14.95
Get your copy of “Half Loaded” at Amazon.com at http://goo.gl/1Z7MqR