Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Unsolicited Flashbacks - The Sequel"

So I’m working on my latest blog post one morning and I get a call from my daughter Anna:

“Dad!  My coworker just listened to a podcast where they interviewed Lorne Michaels.  And he mentioned your name!”

It’s the strangest phenomenon.  I can go months without ever being reminded that I was once somebody who did something.  Suddenly, as I wrote about yesterday, Jim Belushi, a guy whose sitcom I had worked on, says hello to me on the street.  And then the very next day – not even a whole day, the “Belushi Encounter” happened at night and this next thing happened in the morning, so less than fourteen hours later… Lorne Michaels mentions my name on a podcast.

I’d have preferred if they had spread these things out.  It is less of a shock to the system. 

It’s like coming back to life two days in a row.  That takes a lot out of a person.

I was thinking that one reminder of previous glory was sufficient, and that I would pass on listening to the podcast.  Why did I need to hear my name mentioned?  It is not like I do not know what it is.

“Earl Pomerantz?  Really?”

But I had gotten that phone call from my daughter.  And I subsequently received two e-mails concerning the same issue.  One was from a guy who had done a podcast with me.  And the second e-mail was from the guy who had originally asked me if I was interested in doing the other guy’s podcast.  Both of them, thinking I’d be interested, left links to the Lorne Michaels podcast. 

In which the “Mogul of Post Primetime Media” had apparently mentioned my name.

(Note:  The podcast was a substantially big deal.  For a podcast.  The interviewer was Marc Maron, who I knew had a popular Internet talk show and had recently gone one-on-one with the president, I believe in his garage.  Not the president’s garage.  I once visited the White House, and I did not see a garage.  Maybe it was in the back.  Where they could shoot you for snooping around looking for a garage.) 

Aside from the “shock to my system” concern holding me back, there was the ominous question of “mentioned my name” how?

“Earl Pomerantz is the cutest person in show business.”

That I could handle.  But what if it was something less flattering?
A little background… 

Lorne Michaels brought me to Hollywood and gave me my first jobs, working on a succession of network television specials.  He then invited me to join him in New York for the creation Saturday Night Live. 

Completing the picture, Lorne showed Lily Tomlin a short film I had written for his and my brother Hart’s – they were a team – Canadian television show, which influenced Lily’s decision to take Lorne on as the producer for her upcoming special. 

Lorne subsequently screened another short film I had written, which led NBC’s head of Late Night Television to believe that Lorne was the right person to create what eventually became Saturday Night Live.

(How do I know these things?  In the first instance, Lorne told me he had showed Lily my short film; that’s the reason I was brought down to join the writing staff of her show. 

In the second situation, NBC’s head of Late Night Television mentioned that my short film had made him decide to hire Lorne to a group of people that included me {but not Lorne} after which I found my mouth saying without my permission, “I wrote that.”)

Am I saying I am responsible for Lorne Michaels’ career?  No.  I am just saying that it is never a one-way street.

The last time I talked to Lorne was at a party in Los Angeles thirty years ago.  Based on this substantial gap in interpersonal interaction, I was less than comfortable concerning the manner I might be mentioned on the podcast.

But I listened.  Because I was curious.  I was flattered.  And I was on a bit of a roll.  I mean, hey, the “Belushi Encounter” had been a success!

It was around the twenty-four minute mark of the podcast.  A brief “mention” in the context of how Lorne and my brother had originally met. 

Lorne was writing, producing and directing a university show in Toronto called UC Follies (which I had tried out for the show and had not been selected.  My brother subsequently came to my rescue.) 

It was in the recounting the story of their first meeting that my name tangentially came up, with Lorne saying,

“He (my brother Hart) came to talk to me about his brother, Earl, who went on to become a… sort of very successful comedy writer.”

And that was it.

Now his might just be me being overly sensitive, but that seems to be unusual combination of words – “a sort of very successful comedy writer.”  Hearing “very successful comedy writer” was enjoyable.  But the accolade lost much of its luster because of the “sort of.” 

Apparently, there are gradations of comedy writer success.  You can be a “successful comedy writer.”  You can be a “very successful comedy writer”.  And wedged in between is an intermediate categorization, that of the “sort of very successful comedy writer.”

And that, according to Lorne Michaels’ evaluation, was where I stood.

Which thinking it over – after the initial shudder – is arguably correct.

I was… sort of a very successful comedy writer.

Not quite an “A”, but higher than a “B.”

An “A-minus” comedy writer… is what I was.

And Lorne Michaels, advertently or inadvertently, had nailed it.

Unless Lorne was implying something entirely different by “sort of.”  It could have been a begrudging “sort of” – “He was a very successful comedy writer… I guess.”  Or maybe the “sort of” referred to an unrigorous standard of evaluation – “Who isn’t a very successful comedy writer?”

My daughter Anna, attempting to reassure me, explained that “sort of” is a Linguistic Affectation of the Young, which Lorne, in the course of his work, had apparently appropriated by osmosis.

I don’t know.

The “Belushi Encounter” was clean.  It was Ultimate Painlessness.

The Lorne Michaels podcast?

It was sort of very complimentary.

Call it a “Split Decision.”

And do not bother me with any of this foolishness again!


Frank said...

Marc should have told Lorne that 'Saturday Night Live' has sort of sucked donkey balls for decades.

Adam said...

Maybe that was his lame, chicken-shit way of getting back at you for not accepting his offer to go to NY w/him all those years ago.