Trying out new material

July 13, 2010

So, last week I had a meeting at my agency. The meeting was fine, except for the various awkward moments.

I don’t know if you know this, but people in Hollywood tend to dress really casually. Writers in particular dress in a way that makes it clear that you’re a WRITER, a CREATIVE, not some kind of person who has to go to an office every day *draws imaginary square with index fingers* (even if you are actually a totally serious writer who keeps steady hours at your office every day.)

Dude writers wear sneakers and jeans and t-shirts and don’t shave very often. Girl writers dress like they’re going out for french toast with some pals. Writers don’t wear sweatpants or anything, but come on, you’re not going to put on SOCKS. (Someone once told me that Brian Helgeland is basically like “Fuck it, I’m Brian Helgeland! I’m gonna be comfortable.”, so he always wears shorts.)

And that’s fine and people are used to it. In fact, if you dressed up for a meeting, people would probably ask if you had just come from a funeral or something.

But, and I’m getting to my point here, agents and people who work at agencies dress really nicely. They wear suits. SUITS.


SUITS YOU GUYS. It’s them and some bankers downtown, they’re the only ones keeping the LA suit industry alive!

So anyway, the morning of this meeting, I get dressed and go over to Century City and felt totally fine until I walked in


Because there was this line of assistants – people who make so little money they have to scrounge for bagels in the conference room at lunchtime – dressed to the nines. Absolutely splendid-looking rows of bright young things. My agent’s assistant looked like a picture from a J Crew catalog. (In a very nice way.)

And I just slunk into the meeting and sat there and thought “OH MAN NOT EVEN LIKE A VERY STYLISH HOBO, NOT LIKE THAT ONE HOBO WHO WAS ON MAD MEN.”

So there was that.

And then, when we came out of the meeting, I looked at the row of assistants and said “Are you running some kind of call center here?” and my agent smiled politely and said “I know, everybody says that, it’s like we’re selling TimeLife or something.”

I don’t know if you’re a person who likes to be funny. But if you are, you will probably agree that nothing is more awkward than making a joke and realizing that you are the 1000th person to make that joke and that the person hearing it is TOTALLY. OVER. IT. COME UP WITH SOME NEW MATERIAL ALREADY.

AND, I made that joke in front of the nattily-dressed assistants, who’ve heard it ELEVENTY BILLION TIMES, but are prohibited by California law from rolling their eyes where you can see them.

Also. So before that meeting, I was getting some coffee. And this lady walked in, and she was wearing a hat and a sweater exactly like my friend N. often wears, and the lighting was very low, and I thought it was N., and I said “N.-!!!!!” and then the lady came into the light and I realized I was wrong. So of course then I say “Oh! I’m sorry, I thought you were my friend N.-” and the lady is all “I know, I know, we all look alike to you.”


So – pretty embarrassing.

It gets better/worse. So THEN, I’m wandering around thinking that this is a pretty funny story, kind of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. But I make a terrible mistake! I don’t try it out before telling it to a PATCH OF AGENTS.

YES. You know what’s coming. It was bad. I’m telling this story and instead of anyone going “Haha! That’s so CURB.” or even just “Well, you ARE a notorious racist.” everyone looks sad for me and is all “Gosh, I’m sorry that happened. That must have been really uncomfortable.”

This is why you always try out new material before you take it to the Apollo. Sigh.

I am about to get on a plane to go back to LA, but several things I wish to share:

1) Happy birthday, America! Apparently we should all read the text of the Declaration of Independence each year.

A good plan! (Of course, you may squirm uncomfortably when you recognize some current US behaviors in the complaints we once had about THE KING WE HATED – but hey.)

2) Today’s screenwriting outlook: bleak as heck.

3) General Petraeus is IN IT TO WIN IT.

(That article is not actually funny. I just like the idea of big-deal generals being like Texas high school football coaches, saying things like “We didn’t come here for SECOND PLACE.” and “I expect you to give 110%, twice a day, every day! GO RAPTORS.” – this may just be me. I have been delighted for days by Gen. McChrystal (Ret.) and his total glorious insanity in the Rolling Stone article that was his downfall. SO COLORFUL.)

4) I know that bed bugs are a serious problem. But COME ON, this is funny: Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, struck down by bed bug infestation.

5) You know what you should buy today? This T-shirt. Because it’s America, and your freedom to wear ridiculous t-shirts was purchased for you by the blood of patriots, etc. etc.