“Modern Family” executive producer Jeffrey Richman will give an insider’s view of the hit TV show at Howard County’s Federation Live! on June 9.
Federation Live! at the Ten Oaks Ballroom is the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s biggest event of the year. This year’s honorees are former federation president Jean Friedberg and Volunteer of the Year Stephanie Youngworth.
Although you may not know his name, you probably know Richman’s work; the TV veteran was executive producer or co-executive producer of such hit TV sitcoms as “Frasier” and “Wings.”
ABC’s Emmy-winning “Modern Family” follows the lives of three inter-related families. Production on the show’s fifth season is in full swing in Los Angeles.
Richman took a break from his work to speak to the JT about “Modern Family,” his connection to Howard County and his upcoming appearance at Federation Live!
JT: What’s your connection with Federation Live! and Howard County? You must get a lot of offers for appearances.
Richman: My sister, Gina Egel, lives there, and she is very good friends with Carol Shapiro, who is very act-ive in the [Howard County] Jewish Federation. Carol is the one who
approached me. I’ve done this sort of talk before; actually most of the writers have at different events. I actually just got off a cruise ship where I did it. It’s a combination of a lecture, how we put the show together and an inside look into the writers’ room — how an idea becomes a story, how it becomes an episode and how it gets on television.
Do viewers try to give you their two-cents’ worth about the show?
Viewers are very, very positive about it. I don’t get many comments about how to improve it. That said, there are a lot of questions, and they’re usually fun. It’s more, ‘Here’s how the sausage is made at “Modern Family.’”
Of all the shows I’ve worked on, it’s really the most relatable to people, and a lot of that is because the stories come from our lives. If there’s enough feeling of universality and relatability, then we expand upon those ideas, and they become stories. Plus, the actors are so wonderful and gifted that they elevate everything we write. So the combination of the stories that we tell and the way they’re acted make the show the kind of ‘flukish’ hit that it is.
You’ve seen so many changes in the television industry. Should we urge our kids to head to Hollywood or stick to being doctors?
The definition of a hit is now so different than it was 20 years ago. We did a show called “Wings” that was canceled after eight years with 19 million viewers. And “Modern Family,” which is one of the most popular comedies on television, has 12 million. But there are also more opportunities for writers and actors, because there are so many more venues.
Are you active with the Jewish community?
Well, I’m in show business, so I am very much a part of the Jewish community. [He laughs.] When this opportunity [to be at Federation Live!] presented itself, I was really happy to do it for that reason. I feel like being Jewish informs a lot of who I am and how I write. If the Federation was interested in having me speak, I was happy to oblige.
Is it a bit of a culture shock to fly from Los Angeles to Howard County?
Not really.. I have an apartment in New York, so usually when I go to Howard County, I go from New York. I’ve been going there for so many years. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, so it’s not that much different. It’s quiet, it’s pretty. It’s a bit of a break.