Believe it or not, writing a great comedy series is one of the most challenging genres to tackle, the key word being great, as we’ve all seen shows that attempt to be funny, but instead leave us unamused or wondering if we missed the joke. When a production finds a solid writer whose jokes flow seamlessly into the mix of the script, someone like Canadian screenwriter Mark Satterthwaite, they’ll do practically anything to keep them; and for good reason as the production’s ratings depend on them!
With his inclusion of bold jokes and subjects that push the envelope, Satterthwaite has had unparalleled success writing television comedies that have kept international audiences laughing for hours.
One of his first forays into the sketch comedy genre came nearly a decade ago when he was asked to create a comedy series for CBC’s ‘tween’ viewers. The result was The Morgan Waters Show starring quirky Canadian Morgan Waters from the shows Cock’d Gunns, Screwed Over and The Amazing Gayl Pile.
Satterthwaite recalls, “Our writing and development process was to push the humor and scenarios as far as we could, so we made sure we were challenging our audience, as opposed to holding their hands.”
Satterthwaite wrote and produced some of the show’s most absurdly hilarious episodes including “New Assistant,” “Camping,” “Puke on the Yo-Yo Man” and “Unrequited Love,” which helped the series earn a Gemini Award in 2006.
For Canadian audiences, The Morgan Waters Show was something like that of Mr. Show with Bob and David in the U.S., with viewers tuning in for the show’s spoof music videos, off the wall sales pitches, celebrity guests and pop culture parodies. In the “New Assistant” episode, Satterthwaite brilliantly crafted a song sung by Waters dressed up as Trent the Goth about how badminton should really be called goodminton. After the success of The Morgan Waters Show, Satterthwaite wrote and produced the comedy pilot House Sitters for Funny or Die featuring Morgan Waters and Mark Little.
While Satterthwaite has written several other hit sketch comedy shows over the years, his unique approach to comedy has also made him a highly sought after writer for a wide range of shows across various other formats and genres as well.
Some of his past credits include writing episodes for the variety show MTV Live, CBC’s 11-time Gemini Award winning talk show The Hour, as well as the network’s one-hour special Canada’s Smartest Person, the second season of The Comedy Network’s game show You Bet Your Ass, seasons one and two of The Food Network’s series The Main, and HGTV Canada’s lifestyle series My Parents House.
He has also written the scripts for awards programs including the 2007 Gemini Awards, which garnered the awards show a Leo Award in the Best Music, Comedy, or Variety Program or Series category, as well as the 2007 MuchMusic Video Awards, which garnered a Gemini Award in the Best Music, Variety Program or Series category.
His work as a screenwriter in the Canadian entertainment industry clearly spans the gamut, but out of all of the television formats he’s written for, there’s one area that really gets his creative juices flowing and allows him to cut loose.
“I love absurdist comedy. I think that’s why I ended up doing a lot of writing in animation, because it’s such an anything goes environment. Want to create a new character? Do it! Blow something up? Sure. Morph anything into anything else? WHY NOT?!?! It’s very liberating,” admits Satterthwaite.
Beyond simply loving to write animated programs, Satterthwaite has proven through the astonishing success of programs like Almost Naked Animals, Grojband and The Dating Guy that he is incredibly good at it.
In 2010 he wrote and produced the animated comedy series The Dating Guy, which aired on Teletoon, as well as the show’s accompanying live action web series Dr. Love, which was available on TheDatingGuy.com.
The unique creation of a cross platform approach between the web series and animated TV program not only gave fans of The Dating Guy additional content to check out, but it also earned a 2011 Gemini Award and a nomination for a Banff Rockie Award for Best Cross-Platform Project.
In 2011 Satterthwaite both wrote and produced the Gemini nominated children’s series Almost Naked Animals for Cartoon Network and YTV. The series followed a band of adventure-loving animals voiced by notable actors including Jamie Watson (Scaredy Squirrel, Producing Parker) as Hippo, Rob Tinkler (Harold & Kumar Go to White Caste, Arthur) as Howie, and Emilie-Claire Barlow (Total Drama, Fugget About It) as Bunny.
While Satterthwaite has also produced and directed several of the shows he’s written, it’s his work as a screenwriter that has given him the greatest challenges, as well as the greatest reward.
“I’m passionate about screenwriting because it’s a huge, huge life test. All of the time. It’s fun and it kills me,” he admits.
“Sometimes I’ll read comments on the Internet from people who have watched episodes of something I’ve written. ‘This is my favorite episode!’ or ‘This show is the funniest thing on TV’ or ‘WRITE MORE! MAKE MORE!,’ and that always makes me feel like a million bucks. Writing scripts is hard work; it’s so nice to know that people like it.”
Considering that he has already been writing successful television shows for 15 years, and he’s the kind of person who loves a challenge, it only makes sense that the natural progression in Mark Satterthwaite’s career would be to move onto writing feature films; and, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
In addition to having several television shows in development for Entertainment One and Teletoon including Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong, which is slated to air in 2016, he recently wrote the screenplays for the feature films Cottage Life and The Blind Painter.