Tuesday, March 26

Q&A: Alum, screenwriter Don Holley discusses memoir and a life of humor

UCLA alumnus Don Holley published "Half Loaded" based on columns he wrote at the Daily Bruin. He reflects on his experience as a Hollywood scriptwriter. (Create Space Independent Publishing Platform)

UCLA alumnus Don Holley published "Half Loaded" based on columns he wrote at the Daily Bruin. He reflects on his experience as a Hollywood scriptwriter. (Create Space Independent Publishing Platform)

Don Holley wrote a weekly humor column about his college life for the Daily Bruin. Thirty years later, the column became a 114-page memoir.

After graduating from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television in 1984, Holley sold his first script which became the cult film “Loaded Weapon 1,” a cop satire with Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson and William Shatner.

Now, while caring for his mother, Holley wants to re-enter the entertainment scene with his new book, “Half Loaded: A humorous Hollywood memoir about dumb luck, black magic, mopeds and misdemeanors,” a collection of essays from his UCLA humor column and about his life since graduating from UCLA which he published in October. In the future, Holley has plans to start a new project with poems, which he will post online once they are uploaded onto his computer.

The Daily Bruin’s Nate Nickolai spoke with Holley on his transition from screenwriter to book author, his new comedic memoir and his plans for the future.

Daily Bruin: What got you interested in screenwriting, the entertainment business and comedy in general?

Don Holley: It goes all the way back to my childhood. I grew up in a very sarcastic family, so there were a lot of sarcastic jibes going around. Around high school, which was the beginning of the ’70s, all the great comedy that was coming out – and it started out with “Monty Python” in like 1969 – was a huge influence on me, just that non-sequitur, goofy humor and then Steve Martin … and of course Woody Allen, enough said; we all know about him … Starting right around my freshman year in high school is when I really started absorbing myself in comedy.

DB: When did you start writing the “Loaded Weapon 1” script?

DH: I started writing that I think right after “Lethal Weapon” came out. I was a huge fan of the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams, who did “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” series. I’ve always been very good at writing lampoon. Just to me, I think it’s easy. You just take something that’s really ridiculously dramatic, and you just turn it on its ear to make it funny. I was looking for something that I could skewer, something that was taking itself really seriously.

And “Lethal Weapon” came out, and I actually read the original screenplay for “Lethal Weapon”… it blew me away. I said this is the best screenplay I’ve ever read in my life, but I saw that it was right for skewering à la the Zucker brothers, so that’s why I sat down and started. I took his screenplay, and then I just spoofed it all over the place and wrote it. That was probably about 1988.

DB: How did you transition from screenplay writing to writing a book?

DH: I actually wrote for the Daily Bruin when I was there my junior and senior year … so I had all of these old humor columns in my scrapbook here, so when I got divorced, unfortunately, and moved into my mom’s house when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease unfortunately about four years ago, I thought well, you know, I got a lot of time on my hands, and I’m kind of homebound with caring for my mom full time, I might as well at least get all those old, yellowing humor columns from the Daily Bruin typed into the computer.

So I typed them into the computer … I had a handful of internet blog sites that I started posting at, which then prompted a couple of people to say, Hey, you should write a book; you should write a few more modern things to tie it all together and turn it into a book, and I thought: well, sounds like a good idea. So that’s what I did … and I came up with this huge, massive book of 114 pages.

DB: What made you decide to make your book a memoir?

DH: It was a combination of just compiling all the old stuff I had done for the Daily Bruin, and then taking what (Benjamin Gohs, Holley’s publisher) told me to heart, that there really is sort of a cult following for “Loaded Weapon.”

And I’m not married, and I don’t have any kids, so I thought it would be really cool to leave something behind of myself if anyone’s interested. And, huge amounts of people were interested, and we sold a massive amount of books – I’ve sold six copies, so it’s really huge.

DB: Do you have any plans for the future of writing a sequel or going back to screenwriting?

DH: I’m open to anything. That’s what I tell most people. I wrote 10 spec scripts after I sold “Loaded Weapon,” so I really wrote almost everything creatively that I’d ever wanted to write, and now I’m pretty involved with caring for my mom, sadly, who is suffering from late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, so I don’t have a lot of time, and it’s really depressing … So at the moment now, no, but as the politicians say, I never rule anything out.

Compiled by Nate Nickolai, A&E contributor

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