January 6, 2011
By Mark Maurer
He compared it to corresponding with a deranged pen pal.
Every six days, from his Millburn home, Alan Zweibel would e-mail a chapter to Dave Barry in the voice of his character, Phillip.
Every few days after that, Zweibel would receive a chapter, from Barry in Florida, in the voice of Phillip’s crude, volatile foil, Jeffrey.
Neither writer knew quite what to expect — which was part of the thrill as they experimented with “improvisational novel writing,” alternating chapters from roughly 1,500 miles away.
The result is “Lunatics” (Putnam, $25.95), a new comic novel penned jointly by Barry, a Pulitzer-winning former newspaper columnist, and Zweibel, an Emmy-winning TV writer and recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
As the pair set out on a book tour this month, including a stop next week in New York, they are drafting the screenplay for a film version, with actor Steve Carell already signed on to play Phillip.
In the Fort Lee-set book, Phillip, a pet store owner who volunteers as a youth soccer league referee, calls a 10-year-old girl offsides after she kicks what would be the championship-winning goal.