Monday, August 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished

A great man once said, "If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life." And in that sense I've been blessed. I knew, from a very early age, that I wanted to write. Through dumb luck or hard work or a likely combination of the two, I've been able to make a living as a writer.

This is surprising since I am not particularly well-read. My shameful lack of literary reference is only surpassed by my appalling ignorance of proper grammar. If you held a gun to my head I couldn't tell you the difference between a gerund and a dipthong. And thankfully it has never come up in a business meeting.

Years ago, Rob Schwartz (Chief Creative Officer at TBWA Chiat/Day) and I teamed up and feverishly wrote spec TV scripts. We cranked out episodes of FRAZIER, COACH, The DREW CAREY SHOW, etc. Our best script was an episode of The LARRY SANDERS SHOW. The premise --Rob's gem of an idea -- was that Gary Shandling would be a guest on the Larry Sanders Show.

Somehow we got the script into the hands of Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, Executive Producers of The SIMPSONS. They loved it. Quite flattering considering they ran the funniest show on television.

Months later, they hired Rob and I to write an episode of their new animated show called MISSION HILL. I use this word "hired" lightly as I'm sure the night cleaning crew made more that week than we did.

I want to tell you the experience was a bit of writing nirvana, but it wasn't. It was an unfamiliar process that barely resembled writing. From 10 o'clock in the morning until midnight, we sat in a cramped room with 7-8 Harvard Lampoon graduates, eating cold food from Burger King and beating out line after unfunny line. A waterboarding break at 8 o'clock would have been a pleasant diversion.

Though few, if any, of our jokes got used, the episode did get produced and runs on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. On episode 13 titled, "Happy Birthday Douchebag", Rob and I were actually given a credit. I'm pretty sure the credit was for sticking with it as long as we did.

We remain grateful to Josh and Bill for giving us the opportunity, but writing for TV was not at all what Rob and I had dreamed of since childhood, so we returned to our careers in advertising.

There's an important lesson in all of this.

Be careful what you wish for. Because you might just get it. And don't sit in a room for extended periods of time with guys eating Whoppers and Onion Rings because once that smell gets on your clothes or in your car, no amount of Febreeze will get it out.

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