It is not true what they say about TV writers being all washed up by the time they’re out of their twenties. In fact, most of them I know are thirty-something, suburban fathers of four fending off the advances of middle age by dressing like Eminem. The idea is to convince the rest of the town that you are not only fly at fortyish, but are also just as jumpy, juvenile and inappropriate in your off time as you are at work. Hanging with the homies in the Writer’s Room with a bunch of other deluded soccer dads, it is widely accepted, makes for some phat laughs, bro. It’s also important to drive this year’s Humvee, fully support a spoiled wife who does a lot of spinning while silently hating you, and own a huge compound in Tarzana connected by underground tunnel to that of every other comedy writer in the San Fernando Valley.
Fashion sense aside, the typical Big Hollywood Sitcom Staffer seems proudest of his flagrant misogyny. The rare woman allowed among these ranks is usually Some Washed Up Comedienne who arrives at work smelling of Whisky Sours and last night’s catered burritos from Poquito Mas. Known for her throaty laugh at even the lamest producer level joke, she rarely lasts more than a season before being shipped off to rehab and replaced by one of the Big Deal Show Runner’s revolving girlfriends—a Moron Blonde barely out of her teens somebody’s assigned to re-write and like it.
My brother-in-law is one such Smug Overpaid Sitcom Weenie, but on him the required costume of baggie shorts, oversized t-shirts and backwards hats somehow reads less Real Slim Shady and more Charlie Brown’s Dorkier Uncle. There was a time, back before he stopped thinking girls were funny at all, when Smug Overpaid thought I was the funniest one he knew. Prior to becoming family when his brother married my sister, he and I were comedy partners in a Miami improv troupe we co-owned right after college. While I remained there working as a journalist, he earned his stripes here writing for a series of shows about nothing. When I finally followed him out, he promised again and again he’d help just as soon as he was in a position to. By the time he got his own show on the air, though, the nothingness had gotten to him. I never even had a meeting with him, a courtesy most of these guys give their nannies.
We haven’t spoken since. Nowadays he gets my sister for Christmas, I get her the rest of the year. Painfully off the mark, his African American family comedy was cancelled after a handful of episodes. I don’t know about women, but there was only one black writer on the staff—which is unfortunate given the milieu, since Smug Overpaid once confessed to having no idea who Beyoncé is.
The thing about closed clubs, though, is they invite you to just keep failing up. This morning I read in the trades that Smug Overpaid sold yet Another Ridiculous Pilot to Another Clueless Network, netting him millions of dollars regardless of how much it sucks.
One thing they won’t tell you in film school is how to feel when someone you once cared about elects to hole up with his less threatening pals behind a golden door that was closed to you to begin with. The right thing to do is to wish him well and move on. The Hollywood thing to do is to take him down the very first chance you get. The way I figure it, you’re either on your way up or on your way out in this town, which is why they’re so fond of the youngsters. While I may not dress like a registered sex offender, I’m still the funniest girl around—and like the weenies already know, that makes me a really scary one.