He’s an ideas man: Chuck Tatham

“I just loved comedy, but I never really said ‘I’m going to do that for a living.’” Despite this claim, Laurier graduate and television writer Chuck Tatham has successfully established himself as a writer and producer for some of Hollywood’s funniest shows.

The Ontario native had the audience laughing last Wednesday when he took his spot as the final speaker in WLU’s Centennial Series.

From anecdotes about Billy Joel to turning down what would become Modern Family, Tatham was an engaging and highly entertaining speaker.

After graduating from Laurier Tatham secured a job in advertising, writing TV commercials, but said that after dealing with constantly changing clients, “I wanted a little bit more freedom.”

Tatham and his brother Jamie got into television writing on a show with Mike Short, who told them that if they wanted to write comedy, “Get outta here! There’s no jobs in Toronto.”

After this, Tatham moved to Los Angeles and landed a spot writing on the ‘90s sitcom Full House.

Speaking to The Cord about his first Hollywood experience, he said that it was “intimidating” to discover that “everybody really makes a good living acting like they know what they’re doing and looking good and skinny and tanned.”

But he wasn’t necessarily impressed with what he saw in L.A. He recalled thinking to himself, “I don’t have any skills, but I’m marginally funny — this might work.”

If his body of work is any indication, then his naturally hilarious demeanour served him well.

Upon getting a call from Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz saying, “Chucky, I think we’re gonna get cancelled, if you want to get over here and do this, get over here,” Tatham left his writing position at Less Than Perfect and joined Arrested Development for its final season.

“I’m thrilled that I was a part of it; it is a piece of TV history. It made me laugh before, it made me laugh during, it still makes me laugh,” he said.

Tatham shared fond anecdotes about the cast and crew, including star Jason Bateman’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of baseball’s National League (he’s a Dodgers fan) or Jeffrey Tambor approaching him to exclaim “I’ve always loved your work!” — followed by “What’s your name again?”

He only had glowing reviews for his co-workers at Arrested Development and revealed without pause for thought that his favourite recurring gag on the show had to be Gob Bluth’s obnoxious puppet Franklin.

More recently, Tatham has worked on the hit comedy How I Met Your Mother, which he seems to be thoroughly enjoying. “It’s one of those jobs that when you’re driving to work, you’re happy,” he said.

Talking about the show’s creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, Tatham described them as organized, bright, hilarious guys that made going to work easy.

He’s currently got other projects in the works that include animations for America’s Funniest Home Videos, an HBO series with David Steinberg and a Canadian project called Staffers. Tatham also joked that he’s “thinking about redoing the master bathroom.” Whatever he does in the next little while will be sure to keep audiences laughing.

As for his advice to current university students, Tatham stated, “Don’t sweat it too much. I went to school with a lot of very bright, very motivated people that got locked in pretty early. I hope they’re enjoying life, but I have a feeling that some people’s resting pulse is at 160. Mine was 7 and still is.”

He continued to say, “You’re 19. Have a Vachon cake, lie down, you don’t have to determine your entire future during Orientation Week.”

—With files from Liz Smith