Friday, November 1, 2013

"A Single-Minded Focus"

Chuck and Ann were a highly respected comedy writing team.  I had visited their office.  I had worked with them.  We had been at the same parties together.

Stipulated:  I knew Chuck and Ann.

One day, I am working on a rewrite with a roomful of writers, not the boss, but a full-time contributor to the show.

The rewrite is dragging along.  We have been in the room easily seven hours.  There’s a pitch, and the show runner says,

“I think Chuck has a good idea.”

I say,

“Who’s Chuck?”

The writers look at me like I’m out of my mind.  But I am totally serious.

“Who’s Chuck?”  I repeat.

Finally, I am directed to an understandably embarrassed comedy writer sitting at the end of the table, as he has been for the past seven hours. 

That man was Chuck.  (Not a different Chuck.  It was the same one.)

I apologized profusely.  But it was hardly enough.  I should have bought him a house.

In the heat of the moment – or, more specifically, a seven hours-plus rewrite – my intensity had gotten the better of me.  I was focused, laser-like, on the task at hand.

And absolutely nothing else.

That’s who I am.  Or at least was.  And, given another opportunity,

I would most likely be again.

Once, on The Cosby Show, we did an episode that was far from the best.  Observing my unhidden anguish, Dr. Cosby consoled,

“Consider it a ‘B.’”

With an almost feral ferocity never displayed before or since I growled back,

“I want an ‘A!

I believe I may have frightened a one-time football player (turned comedian).  I most certainly frightened myself.

But that was me. 

Always single-mindedly striving for an “A.”

And whenever I’m tested, nothing else really matters.

In an unjustly overlooked movie called Mr. Saturday Night (1992), comedian Buddy Young Jr., played by comedian Billy Crystal, now old, berates his put-upon brother-manager Stan, played by David Paymer, reminding his subservient sibling of all he had done for him, then ending his belittling diatribe with,

BUDDY:  I didn’t take your life, Stan.  I gave you one.

To which his brother replies,

STAN:  Yeah, but you could have been nicer.   

I have excuses.  I have rationalizations.  I have explanations.  I have justifications. 

But despite their validity, at least in my mind, like Buddy Young Jr., 

I too

Could have been nicer.


Anonymous said...

Hi Earl,
Not that you have enemies, but this quote by Churchill comes to mind when I read your stories about wanting to do better.

"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life"

You stood up for something you believed in, well done. Most people go by thinking I wish I had stood up more.

Some people would move the point it was just a comedy, who cares?

Well bringing laughter into millions of homes on a weekly basis is a pretty good job and probably saved a lot of people money on therapy.


Canda said...

Too many shows on are just fine to have a "feel" or a "look", or are satisfied with word play that is mildly amusing.

Congratulations for having always strived for an "A", when so many think a "C" is exemplary.