I was once partnered up with a guy to work on a show. The guy had written on a successful one-hour drama, whose scripts included scattered moments of comic banter. This, he believed, gave him adequate credentials to cross over into half-hour comedy. The studio thought the project needed some authentic comedy muscle, so they put us together to develop the show. (I love it when I’m associated with anything involving muscle.)
The guy and I wrote the pilot script together, and after it sold, we co-wrote subsequent episodes and co-ran the show. We got along well, though early in the process, we had one contentious moment. Though he had no legitimate comedy resume, the guy demanded a screen credit on the show equal to my own.
I told him I had no problem with that. I did have a small problem with that, but not one worth going to war over. My only demand – and this was worth go to war over – was this: I wanted the last word on whatever went into the script, which meant, most importantly, that I’d have the power to decide which comedic suggestions, pitched by the writing staff, and by my partner, were actually comedic. The guy said okay. Phew. Because I was prepared to go to war over that. And now I didn’t have to. Phew, again.
The guy and I collaborated for one season. It was very difficult. Not because of the guy; his presence there was actually a plus. Working on a series full time is always stressful and exhausting, at least for me, because I’m not built to work full time on a show. I’m built to write scripts and consult on other people’s shows. I committed to it, because that’s what the situation required.
In my entire, semi-lengthy career in television, this was the only time I worked for an entire season full time. People told me I aged.
My partner proved adept at handling the business aspects of the show – including the executives – and was also helpful in his co-writing capacity, by offering valuable plot suggestions, but, most importantly, by providing believable set-up dialogue to for the jokes, supplied almost exclusively by me. The problem arose when he tried his hand at the comedy. Invariably, I had to say no. Which, as you recall, was our agreement.
I will now jump to the end. About a year after we stopped working together, and having had no contact with him whatsoever, I get a letter from the guy. He explains that he’s enrolled in a program, wherein, as part of his rehabilitation, he is required to make amends to all the people he had wronged in the past.
Apparently, I had been one of those people, so he apologized for wronging me. He then wondered if we could have lunch so we could talk about the whole thing.
I’m thinking about this. And my mind goes here:
“Hi, Earl. I’m writing to tell you that I secretly did harmful things to you for a year, and I wondered if we could get together, so I could lay out in detail you how incredibly clueless you were about the whole thing. What do you say?”
“Hey, Earlsky. You know how you worry about people taking advantage of your innocence, inexperience, gullibility and trust? News Flash: It’s entirely justified. Let’s have lunch.”
“So, Earl. Here I was, doing things to damage your career and undermine your authority, and you were insanely oblivious to the whole thing and I’d like to fill you in on all the juicy details at lunch. Y’interested?”
I did not take the guy up on his offer.
Had the revelation bothered me? Of course, it bothered me. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t, I would, suddenly turning Cockney. For a full year, I’d been seriously bamboozled (after “Gustav Bamboozle”, who could fool anyone about anything, including himself, into believing “Bamboozle” is an actual name.)
Reading that letter, I felt violated, embarrassed, humiliated and reddened in the face. I mean, fool me once – shame on you. Fool me every day for a year – I go home, I lock the doors and I never come out. Not because I’m ashamed. Because when I come out, they’re gonna fool me again.
Was I mad at the guy? I don’t know, he obviously had problems. And to be honest, it’s not hard to forgive someone for doing something behind your back, because “behind your back”, by definition, means you didn’t know they were doing it. I mean, how angry can you feel about their doing something you had no idea was happening?
Even after you know, it’s not that hard to forgive them, because the misbehavior is long over, and as far as I could tell, there were no damaging repercussions. That’s what made it not hard to forgive the guy. Either that, or I’m a really nice person.
Nah, I’m not. Two pieces of supporting evidence: One: I did not agree to the lunch, which might have delivered the guy some healing closure but I didn’t give a hoot.
Two: Though I could readily overlook the guy’s serial misbehaviors, what I couldn’t overlook was his believing he had certifiable comedic credentials. He didn’t. Thinking he did dishonors the wonderful uniqueness of the accredited and acknowledged comedically gifted. That, my friends, is unforgivable.
I mean, who does the guy think he is?