Adam Lorenzo Author of “All I Need To Know I Learned From My College Bar”

Adam Lorenzo started out as a joke writer selling material to Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, Jimmy Kimmel, and David Letterman which resulted in his first staff writing job on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn which was co-created and executive produced by David Letterman.
Adam Lorenzo’s other TV credits include the Emmy-winning “Everybody Loves Raymond” “Are We There Yet” and “Everybody Hates Chris” based on the life of Chris Rock.
Adam grew up in Buffalo, New York and graduated from Syracuse University. While at Syracuse University Adam owned two bars “Maggie’s On The Hill” and “Maggie’s On The Bay” in Alexandria Bay.
And now he is the author of a book “All I Need To Know I Learned From My College Bar” published by “Fayetteville Mafia Press”
We spoke with Adam Lorenzo about his journey from Syracuse University to Hollywood.

Q – Adam, you were a junior at Syracuse University and you owned two bars. I would think it takes a lot of money to get two bars open. Did you come from a rich family?
A – (Laughs). I wish that were the case I tell you. Absolutely not. Where did you read this story? I’m wondering.

Q – I read it in one of the interviews you gave here in Syracuse.
A – Yeah. There was a lot of press back there. I wondered because some of them were more extensive in their explanations and how it happened. And some were a little more abbreviated. But no, I didn’t come from a rich family. In a lot of the antics I talked about how it happened which was the owners held a promissory note for me. So, that’s how it worked. Like you put a small amount of money down or no money down and pay them back every month. You’re not talking about large sums of money. You’re talking about reasonable amount of money but I was the owner/operator. That’s what made the deal attractive. You couldn’t do that deal to someone who wasn’t an owner / operator because financially it wouldn’t make sense.

Q – Just how successful was Maggie’s?
A – It’s a great question. It was successful all the articles and press is about the book “All I Need To Know I Learned From My College Bar” which is the first book I released. I’m a TV/Movie writer primarily, but that book I put out there and it was about life lessons that I learned while doing it. One of the things that I learned while I was owning this was the money really came from me working there. The business itself, if I wasn’t pulling the manager’s salary and bar-tending every single night and living off of my tips it would not have made sense as a business. But because I didn’t have to pay a manager, the manager was me. I didn’t have to pay ahead bartender, the head bartender was me. So, I was able to keep that out, the pay roll down to a very small amount. You know, I was a college kid. I was there every second of my life that I wasn’t in school. So, that’s how you can make a business like that profitable. You’re talking little. You’re not talking get rich money. When I got my first job out here in Los Angeles, David Letterman moved me out here and put me on The Late, Late Show and the base salary for a staff writer was a lot more than I ever made it Maggie’s as a manager, and an owner, as anything. So, real money is a different deal.

Q – I believe Maggie’s advertised in the Syracuse New Times. Do you recall that?
A – Are you talking about the old days?

Q – Yes. I think you had something like a half page in that paper and that couldn’t have been cheap.
A – I don’t remember The New Times. Our big thing was The Daily Orange on the Syracuse University Campus. There was a Syracuse Maggie’s On The Hill and there was a Maggie’is in Alex Bay. I do remember the advertising budget for both these places was high. You have to realize these are the inner workings of how I made this work. You’re asking great questions. The only way you can pay for those advertisements is if Budweiser would say, “Hey; I don’t know if it was Budweiser you understand. I’m just using this as an example. It’s a beer company or a soda company would say you let us put our neon in the front window and give us a tap, one of the five or six taps at the foot of the bar, will take this ad out for you in The Daily Orange, in the Syracuse paper. Will go 50-50 on a billboard and you’d get those types of offers from different kinds of companies. So, if ever there was a big full-page ad or a half page ad, a Fish Bowl Friday or anything like that typically that’s how those work. That’s how they became affordable.

Q – Who or what is this Fayetteville Mafia Press? That’s a strange name for a publisher.
A – (Laughs) It is. They’re great guys. I found them because I think one of them had a relationship with David Letterman’s Company. I got my first job by sending jokes to Letterman and he moved me out here. They’ve done a book on Letterman’s last days before he was hired and that’s how I connected with them. I think the name Fayetteville Mafia Press I don’t know exactly, but I think it’s a reference to a TV show. There is a reference to a TV show I’m not recalling right now. I think it’s kind of an inside joke. But, I do think the company has recently partnered with another company that Tucker Press I think. So, I don’t know if the Fayetteville Mafia press stay in existence forever, but, it’s going on now. But, I think they have partnered with another company but, I liked it. I liked it because it stood out. There really fantastic publishers who support writers. I thought it was a funny name and you know the guys it would be even funnier to you. But, you don’t forget the name. The book you can find it on there. You can go through Fayetteville Mafia Press. Then we started some funnel sites at where you can get the book directly from the publisher. You can get some research too, some old throwback Maggie’s Syracuse merchandise. We have a college bar challenge where some of my celebrity pals take this challenge and it’s getting a big response where people say their name and where they went to school and the best piece of life that they learned at their favorite college bar. That’s on too. Yeah, a lot of great stuff out there. The publishers are fantastic. I can’t say enough about them.

Q – When you sent these jokes to David Letterman how were you sending them? By regular mail? By fax? By email?
A – (Laughs). These are such great questions. Email was just starting so I remember AOL, the dial tone, that long dial tone. But no. I called the show without knowing anything about how you get a job on the show. I just knew I didn’t want to be in the bar business. I was a young guy. I didn’t want to be in the bar business forever. It was not going to be a business that I owned unless I operated it. It wouldn’t make sense as far as profit or smart business idea if I wasn’t the guy there and back then everything was cash. So, if I wasn’t paying attention you can only imagine how heavily I would get robbed. (Laughs). You gotta be there counting the money. You got a be watching everybody all the time. So, anyway I called the Letterman show. My dream was to somehow become a writer without knowing anything about it. I called the show. “How do you get a job?” some assistant or intern answered and said you got to have an agent but if you know one of the writers there is a joke list where you can you’re calling a writer. And of course I didn’t know anybody. I said I don’t know anybody. I’m just calling. I probably sounded like a fool. They hung up which makes sense and that was it. That night I watched the credits for the show and I just picked the name of a random writer and I called back and said “hey, I know this writer so I can be on the joke list.” Of course we love this writer. So, it was fax. They faxed me. Man, so crazy to think about. They faxed me a release. I signed the release said the jokes have to be here by 9 AM then I started to go and get the newspapers; the New York Post, USA Today and whatever I could get my hands on started to write jokes without knowing what they were supposed to look like. Back then they had a secret fax number. Anybody who’s ever written for Letterman knows about this famous secret fax number and they gave it to me. So, I started to fax in the jokes and they started to buy a bunch. It was unbelievable. I started to get checks from Letterman’s company then they had a producer meet me in New York, in Tribeca and said “we’re starting a new show in Los Angeles. It’s called “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” and it changed my life. They gave me a staff job and moved me to Los Angeles, and I never looked back.

Q – You were engaged at the time. The girl you were engaged to didn’t want to move out to L.A.
A – (Laughs).

Q – I take it you to never got married?
A – (Laughs). We did get married, but, we were divorced shortly thereafter. In all fairness, she didn’t want to move out there but she was a good sport as far as she wanted to give it a try. We were engaged. She tried it for a minute. It was very apparent to me that I was going to stay in Los Angeles forever and she didn’t want to stay in Los Angeles forever. She had a great family in Syracuse, New York. She went to LeMoyne (College). We met when I was at Syracuse (University). We did get married but we were married for under I think a year and got divorced and never saw each other again. It was 20 years ago but we were kids. She was wonderful her family was wonderful but, why it was tricky when I got that job offer. I had to change my life overnight. They called on a Friday and I moved out here on a Sunday.

Q – And when your computer was delivered to you, it was smashed! Did you have the money to buy another computer?
A – (Laughs). It was so devastating. You did your research. I appreciate it my ex-wife’s family, one of her, I think it was her grandpa had a Brother word processor. So, it was lying around our apartment and it was still in the box and that’s what I started to write on. I wrote all of my jokes on this Brother word processor. They would type out like a typewriter. Everybody in the apartment building would wake up I’m sure because it was so loud. We had no furniture. It was just echoes of the typewriter. So, when I got the job I FedEx did out to Los Angeles to the hotel and when I arrived they picked me up at the airport. They dropped me off at the hotel and I was very superstitious. And there was behind the counter. The box was smashed to smithereens and soaking wet. I tried. (Laughs). I didn’t give up I tried to write on it but, it was useless. Did I have enough money to buy a computer? I’m sure I could have because they give you a good salary but, by then they give you a computer and an office, a great office at the top of CBS here in Los Angeles with a really nice computer in a really beautiful view. I had to get over my superstition and no it was me not the Brother word processor. (Laughs).

Q – With so much tragedy in every day news how do you find funny things to write about?
A – Man, what a cool question! That is going to get to a really interesting answer. When I first started to write jokes it would be from the newspaper, right? But, when I got a job on the show they have a feed, a live feed to all the writers offices and it’s only stories; I mean some of them are tragic, like a flood here or a flood there. No deaths. Nothing devastating. But it’s news. The feed is news that they think would be fodder for good jokes, for good stories. A litter of puppies, a truck full of fluffernutter’s. Stuff like that. So, you get this feed. What was cool about the feed, I’ll never forget it, I’ve never seen anything like this was you had a TV in your office though this live feed it starts at four in the morning or something from all the different news places. What the best part of this feed was, is our offices in Los Angeles, it went right to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York into Letterman’s offices. So, when they would start to rehearse it’s the three-hour difference, but we had a live feed to his stage. So, when they would start to rehearse the show, I think it was 10 or 11 in the morning over here in Los Angeles did see Dave loose in his casual clothes go onstage Paul Schaffer trying out jokes. You got to watch it in this “live feed. It was the best! You’d see the musical guest rehearse. That’s where you’d end up getting the joke material. It was probably one of my favorite things in the world to get my lunch and be writing “live” rehearsal from New York. It was unbelievable.

Q – You say to go from writing jokes to writing sitcoms and movie scripts is a totally different craft. How did you learn to do that? Did you have to go to school? And don’t you need an agent for that type of thing? That’s a tightly controlled business.
A – How do you do it? How do you go from writing jokes to script writing was the first part of your question. Yeah, you have to learn. I didn’t go to school for it. I’m self-taught just like I was a self-taught joke writer. And how I did it? Back then it was an easy to get your hands on a script. I’d order them from a place in Hollywood and I think I paid 20 bucks a script and I’d study them then I go to the library, part of the Writers Guild here that has every produced script. All the great produced scripts. I go in there in the library and devour all of them. I take notes, study them and reread them and I go to the TV Academy in Beverly Hills when they would be open late at night and I bring a stopwatch in a legal pad. I time how long a minute would be, how many jobs a minute. I was completely obsessed with learning the craft and that’s what I did. It served me because I already had a great joke muscle. I think I was gifted in that way that I had that. It kind of came easy to me. I needed to learn the craft of storytelling. I had great stories but I definitely needed to know what the script look like and once I saw it, for me my eyes opened. I was so meant to do it. The first time I saw a script I still remember it to this day. It was a Saturday Night Live script. I remember one of the sketches I read was written by a guy named Dave Mandel. I remember it was about Bill Clinton and going to McDonald’s. I remember later meeting David Mandel at a TV Academy event in Los Angeles and I told him that story. He’s great. He won a bunch of Emmys. He’s a great writer. For me, once I saw that script and what it was supposed to look like, everything started to fall into place. I just kept writing and writing and writing and getting better and better. I still do it all the time. All day, every day.

Q – How did you survive that writers’ strike? You must have had some money in the bank to carry you through.
A – I got really lucky before the writers’ strike and thank God the writers’ strike is over. I did a lot of picketing. It was very necessary. I got real lucky. This has happened a few times in my life. I really do feel blessed. I mean by pure luck, right like two, three weeks before the strike started I sold the movie called “The Prayer Box”. It was my first drama movie I got lucky. If I hadn’t sold that movie right before the strike it certainly would have been a tighter five months. So, that’s how I got through it. I wrote the book, sold the book during it because that was pretty much the only thing you could sell. I wrote it during the pandemic. I think it came out in April or May of last year (2023). So that was out there. It was great because I got to do a lot of press for the book during it. It was so necessary. So, that’s how I got through it I got lucky.

Q – You’ve never had an agent have you?
A – Look, agents can be incredibly helpful. They can knock down doors that you can’t. Some of them can be your friends. They can give you feedback. Everybody is different. I know people who have had the same agents there whole career. I know guys and girls who have changed agents a lot. I had a manager who I really loved. He’s now deceased. I sold my first movie with him. His name was Mace Nevfield. Mace was a real gentleman. He did all the Jack Ryan movies. One of his first big once was “The Hunt For Red October.” He was an agent for a long time and then he became a manager. I met him and be kind of took me under his wing. He was very good to me. He was a very important rep. in my life. I didn’t meet him early on. It was probably I don’t know seven years into my career I’m guessing with that. He introduced me to very important people that I wouldn’t have been able to access on my own. I’m very grateful. He really believed in me and he told me all the time. He was the biggest agent at one time. He’d say “you’ve got it.” And it would mean a lot to me. He was an older guy when he started to manage me. He was in his 80s, so sharp. I sold my first two movies with guys in their 80s. The first one was with Mace. The second one was with the partnership Sid and Marty Krofft. They were great. We had sold a movie to DreamWorks based on one of their shows called “Lidsville”. I just went to Marty Krofft Memorial maybe about a month or so ago. It’s cool to see that because you see these people who love what they do and their still going into their office in their 80s. Mace died and I don’t know how old he was maybe 92. The guy was crushing it. He had the Jack Ryan series on Amazon. He had The Equalizer franchise with Danzel Washington it’s that perseverance and he loved it. Writing is what I need and want to do with the rest of my day.

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