Monday, April 30, 2018

Put on your eatin' bib.

Good Night Nurse!

We've come to the point in the life cycle of RoundSeventeen, where what was funny once, in 2010, has died a quiet death, enjoyed the miracle of resurrection, and climbed back out of the sea to be funny once again in  2018.

Case in point: Red Lobster.

Last week the genii in the Red Lobster marketing department announced an agency review -- that is, more accurately, another agency review. They have more agency reviews than there are appendages on America's favorite ocean roach.

You might recall I wrote about Red Lobster and their impending review a long time ago. That post was even picked by AgencySpy, you can read it here. In it, I even proferred up a free look at what their next Red Lobster TV commercial might look like.

In early 2011, the "winners" of the review unveiled their new campaign and short of using my tagline,  "Who's in the mood for Tail?", it was a shot for shot doppelgänger. The following years since, the account changed hands six or seven more times, but the advertising remained the same.

More claws.

More steaming hot potatoes.

More colorful corn cobs.

And more drizzled butter.

A lot more drizzled butter.

This is a client that believes in the magic of drizzled butter. And yet sales have remained as flat as a dead starfish.

I'm not about to write another free commercial for the good folks at Red Lobster. But as a diligent freelance copywriter with a known reputation for hustling, I am willing to share some insight and a possible way to grow the market.

You see the people who love Red Lobster, and there are many, will continue to go there. Maybe once a month, or once every two months. But that pattern is not going to change. No matter how much butter you drizzle on it.

The key then is to grow the market. Find a target audience who have never been to Red Lobster but who would love to eat and get fat there.

Enter the Jews.

You might know that Jews are prohibited from dining on shellfish. It's all part of a crazy Kosher laws written by old rabbis some 4,000 years ago. The prohibition stems from the fact that shellfish are bottom feeders and scavenge along the landfill of the sea. Thus bringing disease, pestilence and God's fury into the food chain.

My solution is to create Red Lobsteries™, a technologically advanced hatchery for lobsters, where they can live safely high above the ocean floor and where they are fed rabbinically-approved food. Thus making lobsters, which were once considered un-kosher, kosher

It's a modern day miracle.
And a whole lot more rewarding than Chanukah.

Full disclosure, I've never abided by the Kashrutic laws. My mother was from Scotland. Being half-Jewish was my Get Out Of Treif Card. Being half-Critical Thinker was my other excuse. But I will say this, and this is for my fellow Tribe members, until you crack into a perfectly boiled, succulent Maine Lobster tail, soaked in beautiful clarified butter, you have not been to the promised land.

Take it from me, those crazy goyim know how to eat.

This one is on me Red Lobster.
The next one will require the full Day Rate.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Senate Thrashing is back in Session

We're back.

It's week number twelve.

Today''s letter goes out to Rand Paul, he of the famous flip flopping incident of 2018.

Fuck You, Rand.



Senator Rand Paul
167 Russell Senate Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator,

You know what I love about Libertarians, Rand?


It's been my observation that they talk tough, "gotta cut spending", "gotta make government small", "gotta restore integrity and moral clarity to our leadership", but when the rubber hits the government-funded roads, they fold like cheap, thin crust pizza. 

Let me back the truck up and explain that I have made it my mission to write letters to each of our 52 US Republican Senators. Not that it will accomplish anything (a perfect metaphor for the Senate House if there ever was one), but more to serve as a venting mechanism for my growing outrage.

You sir, are letter #12. 

And as you might expect, after this week's Kentucky Two Step before the TV cameras, you were the easy choice.

Let's step back in the Time Machine, when just a week ago you lectured Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (then only a candidate) on our oh-so-precious (yet remarkably flexible to the whims of Republicans) Constitution.

"Mr. Pompeo the President does not have the authority to bomb Assad's forces. Our founding fathers, who believed they gave the authority to Congress, and actually they're uniformly opposed to the executive branch having that power."

Those were your eloquent words.

You followed that up with a very public denouncement of Mr. Pompeo and a pompous pledge not to confirm him. 

Then, I must assume, Precedent Shitgibbon got you on the phone and promised you a lifetime golf membership at Mara Lago, including complimentary tees and golf club scrubbing, because a few days later, you had pocketed your pocket Constitution and were confidently voting this torture-happy blowhard into one of the most powerful positions in the land.

Nice job Rand.

But you know what? 
I understand a change of opinion. And a flip flop.

In fact, I wish the judge who settled the recent dispute between you and your neighbor would reconsider his ruling.

"I know I initially ruled against the Senator's neighbor. He had no right store his ugly brush pile of yard junk on Mr. Rand Paul's property.  I know I accepted the neighbor's guilty plea for arguing with Mr. Paul and then attacking him, pulling his curly hair and kicking his ribs. But I have re-reviewed my findings and wish to reverse them. For no other reason than the Senator is a wishy washy weenie with the backbone of a garden snake and the fortitude of a campground marshmallow. Plus, he's got a face you just want to punch."


Rich Siegel
Culver City

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What's it gonna take to get you into a car today?

Though I have lived here all 44 years of my life, there is one thing about America I will never understand -- Americans.

Right now, as I write this (on a Monday morning, a lot can change before Wednesday), we find ourselves divided. If we are to believe the pollsters, that split runs 60/40.

That is, sixty percent of the country believe and trust in Republican Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And the other forty percent have put their faith in a guy who once gave the world Trump Vodka.

This is nothing to be trifled over since the fate of our nation literally depends on the outcome of the ongoing investigation.

But since many Americans choose NOT to invest themselves in this mammoth debacle, nor are they willing to do their homework and gather news from a wide spectrum of sources, I thought it'd be best to reframe this in something more colloquial.

Like buying a used car.

Imagine if you will, that you are stepping on the lot to buy your son, your daughter or even your mother-in-law, a fine trustworthy vehicle that will deliver dependable, affordable service for years to come. Now imagine you are faced with two salesmen ready to take your hard earned money.

Which salesman would you choose?

Salesman A is new to the car selling business. He's been busy as the nation's top law enforcement officer for a dozen years. He's also served in the Attorney General's office, taking charge of the criminal division and prosecuting the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 103, Manuel Noriega and the Gambino Crime Family. Before that he volunteered for several tours of duty in Viet Nam, where he was a Marine Platoon leader and distinguished himself with many medals including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He has never been the object of a lawsuit, much less 3500 of them. And to no one's knowledge has ever banged a porn star.

Salesman B also has a Purple Heart, one of his cult-like followers simply handed it to him. He didn't serve in Viet Nam, hampered by life-threatening heel spurs, which have magically disappeared. Though he hasn't sold cars before he has made a quite a killing selling real estate. In fact, Salesman B is so accomplished it would be hard to go through all his lifetime achievements in paragraph form, so let's just make a list:

-- Founder/Operator of Trump University which recently paid out $25 million in fraud fines

-- Spearheaded the Birther campaign and promised hard evidence of Obama's birth in Kenya

-- Led the charge against the Central Park 5 despite exonerating DNA evidence

-- Fined by US housing authorities for rental discrimination

-- Claims there were 5 million illegal voters in 2016 election, has not produced evidence of one

-- Founder of Trump Steaks (bankrupt)

-- Founder of Trump Airlines (bankrupt)

-- Founder of Trump casinos (bankrupt)

-- Promised he wouldn't have time for playing golf (spent 22% of presidency playing golf)

-- And finally, says he's 239 lbs.

 Ask yourself America, which salesman would you trust?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

More Tales from the Hood

Some of you, the foolish 8 people who insist on reading this tripe everyday, will recall that several months ago we hosted a television production crew at my house.

Zach Braff and his new show Alex, Inc. were looking to stage a scene in a house that could pass for his aunt's, living in Queens, NY.

This is only semi-odd as I sort of grew up in Queens.

First in Jackson Heights and then later in Flushing. That is until my brother got "jumped" by four urban teenagers and my father moved us out to Suffern, NY, where we could learn the joys of suburban antisemitism.

In any case, the production crew and set designers moved in and took our admittedly eclectic artwork off the walls and replaced it with lots of Jesus-y stuff. I wish they would have left some behind, just as a keepsake.

A few weeks ago the show aired on ABC.

I'd be lying if I said I watched it on TV. But thanks to the interwebs I was able to view it on my iPhone.

You can too, here.

I should tell you it's not exactly my cup of tea. It's kind of sappy. Whiny. And heavyhanded in the way television sitcoms were meant to be. Particularly the Zach Braff variety.

I like snarky.
And dark. Really dark.

So if you don't want to watch, I will completely understand.

You can simply skip ahead to the 17:20 mark. That's where our house makes its TV debut. (Not really a debut, because years ago they also filmed a few scenes from the show VEGAS with James Caan.)

If that's too much to ask here are some screen grabs...

Like I said, I'm not going to be a diehard fan of the show. 

But if you ask me, I think his aunt steals the scene. And if I were writing the show, I'd start making more of the stories revolve around this riveting character. Particularly if it required more shooting in my house and paid ridiculously large location fees.

That's just my two cents.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tales from the Hood

With apologies to my hometown, NYC -- there are 20 million stories in naked Southern California.

This is just one of them.

This happened last week, during ManCation 2018.

My wife and two of her sisters had galloped off to Prague, and Amsterdam, to visit my daughter who has been studying abroad. And while they were taking in museums, art and European medieval culture, I made it my duty to eat red meat every night. Take my own self-guided tour of our nation's finest bourbon distilleries. And indulge in more NBA playoff games than Charles, Kenny or Shaq, combined.

(I now have 24 hours to clean up the place before she returns, which will demand a trip to the local market for Clorox, Formula 409 and a new cashmere sweater, don't ask.)

In any case, I woke up and sallied forth outside to pick up my NY Times, eager to read the latest accounts of our presidential nightmare. That's when one of Culver City's finest, with hand on holster, snapped me out of my stupor and yelled...

"Get back in the house. NOW!!!"

At that point I heard the distinctive whirl of a helicopter. Actually, two. One from LAPD and one from a local news station.

Holy Shit, I thought, was this about a home invasion robbery? Did they locate the guys that escaped Alcatraz (I know that was years ago, just go with it)? Was there a mass murderer terrorizing frumpy little Culver City?

Turns out, none of the above.

An hour later, when the smoke had cleared and the Glock 9's had been holstered, I spoke with a uniformed cop on the corner.

"So this guy steals this meat truck from somewhere in Rampart division. We chase him all the way up to the Valley and down the 405. He enters Culver City. We hand off the chase to your guys. He hightails the truck (with 400 lbs. of brisket, flank steak and Ribeye, mmmmm, ribeye) down Mentone ave. Loses control of the truck, smashes into the White SUV and pile drives it into the house on the corner. Then he hops out of the truck and scoots across to the street into your neighbor's back yard. But apparently he hadn't been doing enough cardio cause our guys nabbed him, about two houses down from yours."

Thankfully, no one in the house, including the two small children, were hurt.

The neighborhood is back to its normal sleepy self. Though here at the Siegel household there will be soon a flurry of cleaning activity.

Anyone know how to get BBQ sauce out of a microfiber couch?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why Not Me?

(As some of you know, I've cordoned off Thursday for my weekly Thursday Thrashing Letter, wherein I pen a nasty letter to one of our dimwitted and complicit Republican US Senators. But this week I find myself swamped with work (that's a good thing) and so I will be reposting something from the past. This was was from two years ago and in light of Martin Sorrell's hasty departure from WPP, I thought it merited another viewing)

Last week it was announced that Sir Martin Sorrell, Chairman of WPP, one of the world's largest advertising holding companies, is leaving the organization.  And that they will be seeking a replacement.

I know this is normally not done, but I'd like to throw my proverbial 'hat in the ring.'

Let's start where all good arguments start, with Maurice Levy, Chairman of rival Publicis, another one of the world's largest advertising companies, who slyly said, quite publicly...

"Whoever succeeds Sorrell needs to be a good human being -- not wicked and nasty, generous and not greedy, sharing and not selfish or egotistical."

With the exception of egotistical, I believe I measure up to all those criteria.

Despite my gruff writings, I am a good human being. I put the seat down. I pet puppies. I give dollar bills to people standing at the end of freeway exit ramps, unless I judge from their appearance that they are going to spend the money on drugs or airplane glue or Pabst Blue Ribbon.

And I am in possession of a good working moral compass. That alone separates me from 95% of the potential field.

I'm not wicked and nasty, though I have been known to exhibit a short fuse with people in the office who are: a.) stupid, b.) incompetent, c.) drunk, or d.) all of the above. This, I would contend, is an indicator of leadership.

To Mr. Levy's last point, I believe I am generous and share easily. On more than one occasion I have used this blog to take a stand on greater profit sharing for all agency employees. I've railed against C-Suite money grabbing. And have always gone out of my way, in presentations and/or interviews to use the "we" word and acknowledge the contributions of my partners, even if they wasted countless hours watching Internet porn. Or Fox News. Or both.

My fabricated endorsements don't stop there.

At the recent International Andy Awards Festival, my former boss and advertising icon Lee Clow said:

"Every ad agency should be led by a creative person."

Some might argue that Clow was referring to a thoroughbred recognized creative with a closet full of awards and odd-shaped acrylic trophies.

I never picked up a Cannes Lion, mostly because the one agency coordinator "accidentally" omitted our ABC submission, two years in a row, but I am in possession of a 1997 LuLu Silver and a 2004 Telly Award, ok, it was Merit of Excellence.

You might be thinking, "Rich, you're a 44 year old freelance copywriter, what do you know about business, real business?"

I'll grant you I'd need some boning up on the bean counting. But my father was CPA. My uncle is a CPA. And my brother is a CPA. Plus, I'm Jewish. I don't know if you've heard, but we're good with money.

Last week I bought chlorine for the backyard jacuzzi. I found an online source that sells the 5 lbs. jug for the same price as the 3 lbs. jug found at the brick and mortar store. Saved 42%.


I don't know how this is all going to go down. But for all my friends at Team Detroit, JWT, Y&R, Possible, etc., you need to stuff those ballot boxes, lobby hard for me, and sign all your time sheets with: Siegel for WPP Chairman. (By the way, I didn't post that petition, that was put up by brilliant adman Greg Bergan.)

Do that, and I promise:

-- More free Bagels

-- Offices for everyone

-- The abolishment and/or reduction of Frivolous Fuckwadian Digital Knick Knacks™

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Feel the love

I love clients.

Probably not in the same way some account folks do. You know with the gushing. The sycophancy. And the involuntary laughing at every joke.

Account Executive: ...Oh my god, that's so funny.

Client: I haven't got to the punchline yet....

If I had mastered that kind of love who knows where I'd be right now. Possibly in a boardroom, waiting to be interviewed to replace Martin Sorrell. But that strand of obsequiousness does not run in the my DNA. As my friend Dana said the other day at lunch, "Siegel doesn't do subtext."

My love for clients is more like the uncle who comes to visit the kids, sees the stupid shit they do, laughs, and on the way home thinks, thank god I didn't breed.

I'll give you an example.

Years ago, I was producing some radio spots for a client. She thought it would be "fun" to show up at the sound studio to watch and participate in the process, a process which by the way is very delicate. Theater of the mind is not for rank amateurs. Which she clearly was. Because before I could get the talent even warmed up and into the rhythm of the script, she was reaching for the red talkback button and giving line reads...

Client: Can you read it with more energy?

Long story mercifully shortened, we sat in that booth for the next 2 hours as the actor kept injecting more and more energy into the read until she was screaming into the microphone and not surprisingly lost her voice. It was painful then, it's funny now.

Moving on.

While I was at Chiat/Day, I spent many years working on Nissan, for both the Regional Tier 2 and the more visible Tier 1 National campaigns. I can't think of a single piece of work that was not subjected to...

Client: Can we make the logo bigger?

And every time we did, Lee Clow (who insisted we treat the customer with respect) would inject himself in the process and tell us to make it smaller. This tugging back and forth went on for years. If you've seen any of the recent Nissan work you know who won.

Client (now attending the offline sessions): Let's make that logo really big.

Engineer: If it gets any bigger it will get near Title Safe.

Client: Perfect.

But my all-time favorite, and this is one every copywriter and art director has heard at one time, takes place at the presentation stage. It's usually in a conference room with a long table, lots of attendees, even some distant clients listening in on a crappy remote speaker. And it happens near the tail end of what could have been a great meeting.

After many of the heads are nodding 'Yes" and a sigh of relief has been indulged by strategists, media folks and several group creative directors who are already crafting weekend plans, one junior account person will inevitably, in a clumsy attempt to wrap up the dog-and-pony show, let loose with...

AE: Are there any other questions? Or concerns?

And there always are.

It's at this point that Todd, a junior client sitting in the back of the room, waiting to posture himself and simultaneously deliver the death blow, will stand up, clear his throat and launch this turd into the punchbowl...

Todd: I like all the work. But I'm not sure it's going to grab my attention. What if the commercial comes on and our customer goes to the bathroom? What if he can't see the spot or even hear it? Then what?

Indeed Todd, indeed.

I love clients.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Heads of the Five Families

What's right with this picture?

Admittedly, very little.

At least, not if you listen to clients who, according to an article in last week's Adweek, are outraged at the enormous compensation packages of these holding company CEO's. They're even more outraged when those compensation packages are compared to that of the lowest employee on the totem pole.

In the WPP case, the mailroom clerk at Ogilvy would have to work 8,931,758 years to bring home what Martin Sorrell brings home in one. Please note I am using Trumpian Mathematics, which are given to hyperbole and falsity, but that doesn't seem to matter these days.

It's kind of odd that the mainstream press is finally catching on to this.

I, and my fellow bloggers George Tannenbaum and Bob Hoffman, have been harping on this issue for years. In fact, it's one leg of our Well Worn Ad Trope Trifecta: Pay Inequality, Worthless Big Data and the Open Office Plan.

If you are to believe the article, each of these gentlemen brings home about $25 million a year. Let's say he or she...strike that...he (you're welcome Cindy Gallop), works 2500 hours a year. That's a 50 hour "work" week, that includes a good deal of "Executive Time." He or she,, he, is making $10,000 an hour!!!

Let that sink in.

If Marty or Jack or Johnny comes in at 9 and then dashes off to the Tavern on the Green for lunch at noon, he has already raked in $30,000. That's what Media Planner Katy Jenkins is lucky to squeeze out in a year. A year in which she missed her birthday party, cancelled her anniversary dinner, and had to shell out $957 for a new catalytic converter for her aging 2007 Honda Civic.

What's even more galling are the constant memos and emails to the effect of:

"we don't have money for bonuses"

"we don't have money for raises"

"we don't have money for freelancers."

The last one is the most appalling.

As if all that weren't enough, it's no secret the advertising agency industry is currently in a world of hurt. Clients are taking the marketing in-house. The AOR model is dead. And PR firms, entertainment agencies and small production houses are gobbling up assignments.

I'm no business wizard. I like to use the word acumen but the truth is I have none. I'll probably end up in a dirty nursing home, telling orderlies about my glory days in advertising while they steal loose change off my dresser and rummage through my pant pockets for valuables.

But it seems to me the solution is right in front of our faces.

Ad agency chiefs ought to do what ad agency chiefs have been telling clients to do ad infinitum: Disrupt, Invest and harness the power of creativity.

Bringing back the freelancers (at their full day rate) would be a good place to start.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Are you up for something different?

For someone who makes a living making TV commercials, I watch surprisingly few.

This is quite odd, considering TV commercials have put a roof over my head, paid for 25 years of accumulative private education for my kids, put tri-tip sirloin beef on my plate, and now, a beautiful Brilliant Black 2015 Audi S5 in my driveway.

I don't watch commercials for two reasons.

First reason,  my TV viewing habits have changed. I used to be a fan of several shows on the DIY network including the Maine Cabin Masters -- one day I'd love a lakeside cabin. All the Planet Earth shows. And the cheap thrills on Outrageous Acts of Science on the Science Network.

But these days, I find myself struggling to keep up with the drama and trauma coming out of the White House, consequently I'm often toggling back and forth between the fact-based journalism on MSNBC and the screaming panelists on CNN.

The second reason I don't see many spots is because they simply suck.

This one doesn't.

I love the writing, the casting and the editing (kudos to my buddy Frank who did a masterful job with the editing.) But what I love most about this spot is the courage. And by that I mean, I've been in enough client presentations and focus groups to know something like this walks a very fine line.

Oh who am I kidding? Most claybrained clients and tuna fish sandwich eating focus group attendees probably HATED this spot.

"It's kind of racy."

"Were they talking about swinging?"

"Are there any more M&M's?"

And yet the agency and the client persevered. That perseverance was rewarded with the kind of Hollywood magic that never shows up for any presentations or research sessions. It can't even be duplicated in an expensively made animatic. And that's the acting.

Do yourself a favor and  re-watch the spot, I'll wait.

The actors, all four of them, play the joke perfectly. It's not done in a broad way. It's not over the top. It's not even dependent on a clever punchline. Wife #2 simply looks at her husband and says...

"What are you doing?"

To me it's pitch perfect.

If only the people who sign the estimates and give the green light to projects understood that what's on paper, what's on the storyboard, what's on the table, is not the same as what comes out at the other end of the process.

They never will.
And that reality stings.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Senate is in Recess

(Today's post is a repost. I apologize to those of you expecting another flame throwing letter aimed at one of our esteemed Republican Senators who simply can't find their testicles and take a stand for our Constitution. The truth is, it takes a lot out of me to go on a full bore berating barrage, and this week I simply don't have the energy. So here's a story from last year. Last year to the day, actually. We will resume the Senatorial immolation next week.)

As I have mentioned before, my preference is to always work out of the house. I'm more relaxed at home, more productive at home and more at ease with my increasingly lax hygiene routines at home.

"I'm good, I showered three days ago."

But occasionally, a gig will come up that requires me to be onsite. For some reason, this pleases my wife.

This week I am in Century City. It's only 3.7 miles from my house which, in LA rush hour time, translates to 45 minutes.

Ironically the office is just across the street from Abert, Newhoff & Burr, where I got my start in the ad biz. I'll never forget that big beautiful office I had, with a table, a couch and a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. The accommodations have gone downhill ever since.

The building I'm in has a unique elevator system. Here's how it works:

You swipe your electronic key card.

You select the desired floor on the touchscreen.

The computer assigns you an elevator, which in essence and thanks to some nifty software, becomes an Express Elevator.

After lunch the other day, I keyed up an elevator to whisk me to the 23rd floor. I was all alone in the elevator, but had become accustomed to riding solo in this newfangled state of the art elevator system.

At the very last second, a woman in her mid-thirties squeezed in just before the doors closed. Either of two things occurred to me.

One, she was an employee at the same ad agency where I was gigging. Or two, she had mistakenly got on an elevator that was only going to the 23rd floor.

If you know me at all, you know I can be quite jovial. I like to think I treat strangers with respect and am always quick with a smile. Moreover, I don't hit on younger women because I'm married and also because I own a mirror. So, in a completely innocuous way, I smiled and said...

"Oh are you going to the 23rd floor?"

She didn't answer me. Of course she didn't just NOT answer me. She shot me a look that could light the fuse on a Tomahawk Missile. I was taken aback.

She then pointed to a barely visible digital panel with two illuminated numbers: 23 & 24.

"I'm going to 24."

"OK, I'm new here and I thought the elevators only went to one floor."

That did not suffice. And she added.

 "What fuckin' business is it of yours?"

Holy crap, I thought, she went nuclear faster than Mitch McConnell. To say I was stunned would be the understatement of the century. It never occurred to me that these speedy efficient elevators would pair up floors in close proximity. It made perfect sense. But her scowl and outright antagonism did not.

We've all had situations where hours after a rude encounter, we think of the pitch perfect reply. You know, the stinger that would in no uncertain terms, determine the oratory victor. If only we had the wits and the speed to spit it out. This was NOT one of those frustrating moments.

As the doors opened up on the 23rd floor, my floor, I turned to her, flashed her an overly toothy smile and leaned back into the elevator and with catlike precision, whispered...

"You might want to switch to decaf." 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This is the Garry Shandling post about Garry Shandling

I watched The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling last week on HBO. Let me clarify. I caught parts of Part 2 of the documentary and went back recorded both episodes. I still haven't finished the 4 hour long tribute to Garry.

Let me also just state, I feel oddly connected to this man.

In more ways than one.

Years ago, when I was a short order cook/bartender at a local nightclub, we had Comedian's Night. Gary took the stage and as comedians say, "killed." His performance stuck with me.

Not long after that I found myself on a plane going from Newark to LAX. Garry, still in the economical stages of his career, took a seat right next to me. Right next to the toilets in the bumpy section of the plane.

We started chatting. He couldn't have been nicer. And I looked forward to talking to him for five hours, hoping to pry out some wisdom and perhaps a connection that would aid my fledgling writing career.

But it was not to be.

He soon spotted a cute blonde in her twenties a few rows up from us. And the seat next to her remained empty as the flight attendants closed the doors (this was a different time in flying, kids.)

"Hey, nice talking to you. watch this."

He sauntered over to the young lady. Introduced himself. Sat down. And immediately began the charm offensive. Later on in the flight, he got up to go to the bathroom. As he walked by I asked him how it was going?

"Oh, it's going."

And it did. After we touched down, and through a thick cloud of cigarette smoke by the baggage claim area, I saw him get in a cab with the young woman. Well played, Garry, well played.

My connection didn't end there.

In 1999, Rob Schwartz and I were writing spec scripts. We wrote everything: Frasier, Cheers, Drew Carey, Coach, etc. we wrote so many, because, kids, it takes a long time and practice to get good at anything. When we finally had some proficiency at the craft, we decided to take on the more challenging single camera comedy and wrote a spec script for the Larry Sanders Show.

It was easily our best. Less set-up/joke, set-up/joke, and more about the interplay of characters. It was about the last airing of the Larry Sanders Show and his special guest that night was Garry Shandling.

It was meta, wrapped inside meta and then smothered with more meta.

We couldn't get the script into Garry's hands but our generally worthless agent did manage to get the script to Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein from THE SIMPSONS. And based on the strength of that one script (and possibly the press from my ABC  campaign) actually hired us. That's a whole other story.

In any case, Rob and I, and millions of others, loved Garry. He was brave. He was iconic. And he brought an unprecedented level of intellect to a genre that had very little. Moreover, he was always biting the hand (Hollywood) that fed him.

Now, after watching The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, I impossibly love him even more. Because in addition to being incredibly funny, talented, famous and wealthy, I learned he was incredibly pained.

You know, like the rest of us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go

I'm told the economy is booming.

But, if you work in advertising, you know it's not.

For every weekly scandal that pops up in the White House, there is an equally scandalous and upsetting round of layoffs at one of the big ad agencies. Employment is down. Revenue is down. Profits are down.

Shockingly, C-Suite compensation packages are up. I don't know how that works but clearly I should have made it a goal of mine to get a title that started with the word Chief.

Fact is, if I were some kind of Chief Blah Blah Blah Officer, I'd insist people in the office call me Chief.

"Hey Chief, there's a fresh pot of coffee in the break room."

"Did you want to look at those storyboards, Chief?"

"Happy 44th birthday Chief."

Even though I gave up the occasional cigar years ago, I'd start smoking one again. In the office. And when some cross-fit, vegan Gal Friday stopped me in the hallway to read me the riot act, I'd look her square in the eye and say...

"Yeah, I know the rules honey, but I'm the Chief."

But I digress.
Let me jump in the time machine, leave 1958, and come back to 2018.

It sucks out there. And I know from my many fellow freelancers how slow it is. I have no idea why they're calling me for work, when I'm smiling and dialing from 7 in the morning until 7 at night. Then I stop for Jeopardy.

Perhaps they're calling me because I have close to 14 years experience as a surviving freelancer. That's the longest job tenure on my resume. And so when they ask me the secret -- and they always do -- I tell them.

There is no secret.

It's simply a matter of hustling.
And networking.
And staying on the radar.
Then when the job comes in, it's simply a matter of delivering. Over delivering. And then over delivering on the over delivering.

Perhaps I've been more fortunate than others. When the big agencies aren't calling, I'll work for the smaller lesser known ones. When they aren't calling, I'll work directly for a small cadre of direct clients. When they aren't calling, I'll fix the shit around the house that my wife has been hocking me about since 2003.

Why are they called Malibu Lights and more importantly, why do we need Malibu Lights?

The point is, to have pokers in the fire.
Many, many pokers.
And the other point is, not to panic.

Besides, if this advertising thing doesn't work out, there's always coal mining. I hear there are lots of good high paying jobs in coal mining.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fightin' Words

 I like a good fight.

Not the physical kind. My sparring days at karate class are long gone and my breathing is still pained from the many shots and roundhouse kicks I took to the ribs.

These days the fighting is all done in the ether, via the interwebs. Most often it takes place on the Facebook Fox News website, where I love to put up my dukes with good old fashioned facts and figures.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, trolling is more than a hobby I do between writing for pay, it's actually therapeutic and keeps my cerebral cylinders firing on all counts. And it's harmless, like hitting the heavy bag because its incapable of fighting back. Meaning the aficionados on Fox are quite defenseless.

Most resort to weak ad hominem attacks.

What am I talking about it? Well, you see because most are unable to rebuke my statements of fact or my premises of logic, they retreat and go after me. In addition to the hackneyed Libtard and Snowflake, they roll out the childish insults about my mustache, my residency in California or, and this is my favorite, my Facebook profile picture.

The hat, the pussyhat, is like chumming the water for fishbrained fifth grade dropouts. They simply cannot resist its shiny charm.

"Oh yeah, like I'm gonna listen to some guy in a pussyhat."

"Nice hat honey, why don't you make me a sammich?"

"Meet me at the gun store, we can get you a nice AR-15 and maybe we can find you a new set of balls."

It's a potpourri of America's finest thinkers. 

If there were an Anti-Mensa Society, these assbananas (my new favorite term) would be chartered officers.

If I were more mature, more Zen Buddhist in my approach to life, more at ease with the way the world is going I would walk away and ignore these testosterone-fueled douche-bro's. 

But I'm not. 

And take embarrassingly immense joy putting these helpless clods in their place. Not unlike the way the panel on CNN gleefully rip apart Jack Kingston.

I also have to laugh at their warped perspective on what makes a man.

I'm 44 years old, I own my house, I have provided for my family and my extended family, held jobs since I was 14, and completed a various assortment of marathons and triathlons. So I don't worry about fitting into their narrow Duck Dynasty definition of masculinity. 

I actually find it quite laughable.

Then I like to point out, that as a vigorous supporter of my wife's rights and the rights of my two daughters, I am am unabashed lover of women. If you don't love women the way I do, then, I like to ask, whose manhood is really in question?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cruzn' for a Bruisin'

We're up to week 11, or 12, in our Thursday Thrashing letters to United States Republican Senators.

It goes without saying that I enjoy drubbing some senators more than others. Consequently it also goes with out saying that I relished throwing punches at this relentlessly moronic, Bible-thumping Ass-Banana.

Step in the ring, Ted.


Senator Ted Cruz
Russell Senate Office Bldg404
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Ted,

Yesterday it was reported that your Democratic opponent in this year's Senate race, Beto O'Rourke (I love saying that name, it's got so much more pizzazz than, oh I don't know, Ted) raised a whopping $6.7 million in campaign funds.

That's a lot of cash. With money like that you could buy a $31,000 dinette set. Or a $141,000 door. Or even charter military jets to whisk you around the world. 

But Beto, has different plans. He's going to use that money to unseat your sorry, soggy ass. If only that would have happened earlier, I wouldn't be on this current kick to hand write letters to all 52 of the incompetent, and often traitorous, Republican US Senators. 

I'd only have to write to 51.

But that's OK, I can wait until November 6, 2018, a day that promises to restore America to its former greatness -- pre-November 9, 2016.

It's at this point in the letter I usually turn my attention to insulting my Republican recipient. But I'm afraid anything I offer in this arena will pale in comparison to the many thousands of insults hurled in your putrid direction. And I know there's no way I could top your former Senate colleague, Al Franken, who famously said, "I like Ted Cruz more than most people in the Senate Chamber. And...I hate Ted Cruz."

I can't do better than that. 
But here's what I can do. 

As of November 7th, 2018, it's a safe bet you will find yourself unemployed. Chances are you've socked away some money made from influence peddling or some insider trading into a bank in the Cayman Islands, though my understanding is Cyprus with its various ties to Russian oligarchs is the preferred choice of crooked Republicans.

Still, it's nice to wake up in the morning and have a purpose. Mine for instance is calling out the endless stream of horsecockery you and your party and your hugger mugger of a president foist upon this nation day after punishing day.

So I've taken the trouble of seeking out employment for one Mr. Theodore Cruz in the greater Houston area; I suggest you seriously consider that name change, it makes you seem a lot less douchey than Ted.

Here goes:

Nursing Home Magician, Sunrise of Cinco Ranch Nursing Home-- Currently seeking a part time magician to entertain our guests three nights a week. Prefer magician with excellent sleight of hand work.  Must be proficient at juggling. And have loud, clear speaking voice. No flammables, please.

Fruit Freshener, Hung Dong Supermarket-- Located right outside Stuebner Center, Hung Dong is a local favorite. This is a full time position that requires a keen eye, as you will be responsible for maintaining our fruits and vegetable display. Making sure they always look farm-fresh with water dew and proper color coordination. Perfect job for a recent retiree.

And then I found this on Craig's List. Not sure if it's in the Houston vicinity, but I do think you have the qualifications for this position.

Cat Holder Downer-- I'm new to town and need someone to help me for about half an hour while I give my rockin' awesome cat a haircut. I don't want to pay a groomer $75 and don't want to stress my fantastic feline out by taking him somewhere he's not comfortable. He is very docile and does not mind this procedure; it's just a two man job that I'm short a reliable person to operate. All I need you to do is 1) Be cool 2) Dig cats 3) Hold my cat for half an hour. He 1) Rawks 2) Will not bite, scratch, urinate, defecate and/or molest, harry and/or pillage your forearm region. He will 1) lick 2) head butt and/or 3) give aforementioned area loving attention. 

This needs to be done at my apartment and I will pay compensate you with beer, good music, stimulating conversation & $10 (It's not much, but you're doing this because it will make a great story). I will not monetarily compensate any colleagues you bring; however, said cohorts may help themselves to one of the following options 1) one alcoholic beverage & one snack 2) two non-alcoholic beverages & one snack 3) unlimited ice cold water & two snacks. Also, you may choose to watch television and/or listen to my massive collection of vintage and contemporary vinyl collection while grooming is being performed.

The good news Senator, is that should you decide to accept any of these positions you will receive more respect and more admiration than you had at your previous position. Good luck out there.


Rich Siegel
Culver City, CA

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

No Countenance for Old Men

There are many advantages to working at home.

I shave rarely. And only when the itching gets unbearable.

My sock drawer has gone untouched for weeks.

And I don't go to bi-daily creative check ins. With Planners, ACD's or account people, who are so new to the business they have never, ever, not once, been associated with an award winning campaign.

I also get to spend time with Lucy, my new rescue dog who has frightfully bonded with me and begins to experience separation anxiety the moment I close the door to the bathroom in order to "dump all my shares of Hometown buffet."

The cure for that is a good training walk. And Lucy loves to go for a walk. Consequently, I spend a lot of time strolling the neighborhood. And that's when I run into them -- the old crotchety guys who have outlived their poor wives and want to talk.

My neighborhood, built in the late 40's to accommodate returning soldiers and the various craftspeople that worked up the street at MGM Studios (now Sony), is crawling with these lonely  widowers. And don't get me wrong, I'm more than willing to do what Larry David calls the "Stop and Chat."

Years ago, I met an old Marine who would tell me fascinating tales of his battles in the South Pacific. I even wrote about him for the Huffington Post.

My problem is with some of the other gents who have the annoying habit of turning the Stop and Chat into a Stop and Bloviate. Usually about the damn Mexicans. The no good n****r's. And of course, the global, elitist Jews.

Part of me wants to put my foot down and straighten these old geezers out.

"Listen buddy, I don't take kindly to racially disparaging remarks. And I find your attitudes unacceptable. It's wrong. It's stupid. And it reflects more poorly on you than any kind of stereotype you want to project on other people."

But I don't do that.

I nod my head. I grin through my gritting teeth. And I find a reason to cut the conversation short before these fuckers launch into Archie Bunker mode. Because years ago I learned the futility of trying to bring these old men around.

We had a 74 year old man who lived across the street. A fascinating guy from the greatest generation. He fought in the big war. Mowed his own yard. Even patched some old shingles on his aging roof. The guy was a rock.

One day, as he was trotting out the old well worn complaints, he let something slip about Jews. I stopped him before he went Full Kike on me and said...

"You know Leo, Deb and I are Jewish."

Leo: "Yeah, but you're one of the good ones."

OK, we're done here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

An Open Letter to Pizza Hut

Dear Pizza Hut,

We have history.

Over the past 13 years I have worked on your account. Not just once. Not just twice. But on several occasions. And while you don't know me, I know you. As such, I feel like I can speak openly. Honestly. Frankly, frankly.

You see I just read that you are splitting up with your ad agency, Droga5.

After only two short years. Sadly, this is not a rare occurrence. You have been making up and breaking up with ad agencies for quite some time now. Chances are, two years from now, or even one year given our collective shrinking attention spans, you'll be doing this wasteful review thing again.

Let me break it down for you. The problem isn't the ad agency. Most the agencies you've been working with are filled with talented people who want to bring their creative magic to the table.

The problem isn't even you. As a freelancer, I never dealt directly with anyone on the corporate side, but again I'd suggest most of your people are good, hard working folks who only want what's best for The Hut.

The problem is, and none of the competing agencies will tell you this, the pizza.
It sucks.
I mean it really sucks.
And it's not like I'm the first person to say it to your face. Have you read the comments on the Pizza Hut Facebook page?

"We had no food in the house and then my girlfriend said let's order some Pizza Hut. Then we remembered we had it a few weeks ago. So we ate the dog's food instead."

I was born and bred in New York City and I'm not sure you could even call what you make, pizza. Of course Cheesy Ketchup Toast Hut doesn't have a lot of taste appeal.

Here's what I suggest:

* Cut your advertising budget in half.

* Spend that money on making the pizza better.

* Invest in ingredients, equipment and employees.

* And for god's sake cut the menu down to size.

* No one wants a shrimp & artichoke stuffed crust pizza. No one.

When you get all that done, then and only then is it time to consider a new ad agency.

In fact, maybe (and you must have seen this coming) you don't need an entire ad agency. I'm thinking two seasoned creative guys who know their way around cheese pulls and starburst price tags can handle the whole magilla.

Let me know.

Rich Siegel

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Joy of German Engineering

I never thought I'd be writing a RoundSeventeen post with that title. Particularly since I come from a long line of grudge bearers and a family who swore off German products since 1945.

There was that one time I wrote a series of manifestos for Volkswagen. But that was different. Someone was paying me money. And it's been well-established I'm a unabashed word whore.

Hell, if Precedent Shitgibbon paid me a full day rate and allowed me to work from home, I'd gladly pimp his sorry ass to the unwashed masses.


In any case, It's now been three weeks since I purchased my certified pre-owned Audi S5. And to be quite frank with you, or Franz as the case may be, I feel compelled to write about it. Mind you, I never felt that way when I purchased my previously-owned Lexus LS 460. Or my wife's Acura MDX.

Those were cars. And driving those cars felt like...well, driving those cars.

This is entirely different.

It's different from the moment you step in and feel the firm bolstered seats wrap around the body. It's almost as if the car is hugging you. When you close the big, oversized coupe door it sounds more like the hatch closing on a vacuum airlock aboard a space ship. That feeling is further enhanced when you push the button to start the ignition.

The car literally roars to life.

This is not by accident by the way. I know this because in the car settings the driver has the option to control the sounds of the engine. I also know this because after years of writing car ads I'm well acquainted with the little tricks ergonomics engineers build into the vehicles. That roar may be manufactured, but I don't care. I'm 44 years old I'm turning the volume up to 11.

The engineers have also built into the vehicle a certain tangible sense of precision. There's an indescribable level of refinement that makes pushing a button feel more elegant than simply pushing a button. Every turn of the knob is reciprocated with a pleasing click. You not only hear it, you feel it in your fingertips. It's pleasing in a way that makes me want to buy a pint of Germany's finest lager for the engineers at the Audi plant.

Again, I know all this because of my vocation I have become well versed in the crafting of automobiles and know that many men and women spent long hours in the lab tweaking the fit and finish to the point of exhaustion.

Picture Frau Hilda in a white lab coat manning a computer aided calibration machine while her colleague, Heinrich, fiddles with the volume control on the radio.


(one last adjustment)


"Next week we work on windshield wiper speed control."

Wow, I haven't even touched the gas pedal and it looks like I am out of time and space. I'll save my longwinded description about driving the Audi S5 for another day.

Suffice to say I find myself, like some hackneyed idiot in a car commercial, making excuses to run errands. Particularly if those errands necessitate a hop on the Marina Freeway, which is often wide open and gives me the rare opportunity to own the left lane.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about: radar guns, immovable CHIP officers and Traffic School.