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Obama Speechwriter-Turned Show Scribe Reveals '1600 Penn' Details (Q&A)

Jon Lovett
Marvin Joseph/Washington Post/Getty Images

Jon Lovett ditched his three-year gig as President Obama's wordsmith to try to make it in television ... and sold his White House-based comedy to NBC shortly after.

Earlier this fall, Jon Lovett ditched his three-year gig as President Obama's speechwriter to try to make it in television. The New York-raised Lovett, 29, wasted no time. He's marrying the two worlds with the red-hot 1600 Penn, a White House comedy Lovett sold to NBC with The Book of Mormon star Josh Gad and Modern Family director Jason Winer.

The Hollywood Reporter: How much will be based on your time with the Obamas?

Jon Lovett: Obviously, my experiences are going to inform what I do, but this family will have absolutely nothing to do with the president. The idea is that this is a dysfunctional family, and the first family today is so far from that, it's ridiculous.

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THR: You must have signed some sort of ironclad NDA with the president, correct?

JL: Well, yeah. I think it's serendipitous … that I had a meeting with Jason, and he mentioned this idea that he and Josh Gad had been thinking about. I know that world and how the White House works, but this is not about me telling stories from the White House.

THR: What more can you tell us about the project?

JL: The only thing we talked about it that it’s not about politics, it’s about a family. It’s about what happens when an old married, dysfunctional family just happens to live at this most famous address. Beyond that, we’ll see.

THR: You've talked about other projects, including a potential MASH update. Where does that stand? 

JL: It’s still just an idea. That’s’ something that I had to talked to 20th about before this other concept came along. That was something that I was interested in.

THR: Still something you’d like to do at some point?

JL: I think so. It was an idea that I thought would be interesting and maybe timely.

THR: Looking back at your time there, what was the highlight?

JL: Standing in the back when he [repealed] "Don't ask, don't tell," or traveling with the president when he was making his case for health care reform. Those were the most meaningful moments for me. And as for the most fun? Nothing compares to the White House Correspondants’ dinner, which was about giving the President a chance to make fun of himself, the press and the ridiculous side of Washington.

THR: How far can you go?

JL: The great thing is that the President is not afraid to go pretty far. He’s not afraid in those moments to push the limit because he, like all of us, relishes the chance to make fun of the absurd and superficial side of Washington. 

THR: Will you stay involved with the President in any capacity?

JL: I don’t know but I want to be helpful. The hardest part about deciding to leave was no longer contributing and no longer feeling like I was part of a team that I really believe in and serving a President that I really believe in. That was the single hardest part about leaving and the only thing that made me hesitate. I want to figure out a way to still be helpful.