scheft_trumbo_2

It’s Just An Honor To Be Implicated

by Bill Scheft

Comedian Tommy Dash is on a losing streak again, getting two pals fired. 4,211 words. Art by Mark Fearing.


Okay, just by a show of hands, how many of you know about the rule that if you’re dating a co-worker, you have to officially report it to the Human Resources Department so that the company is not liable for any potential sexual harassment claims down the road?

Just as I thought. Nobody knows about this rule. And by rule, I mean racket.

I hadn’t run into Janice in the building  the Tuesday or Thursday before the Christmas break, but we had gone out that Wednesday night. She took me to some Korean place that, again, I’d never been to and was crazy good. It’s hard to fuck up beef, barbecue sauce and beer, but it’s impossible to make the combination so good you go back into the kitchen and ask for a job. And by you, I mean me. Then we went to see Trumbo, and we ended up making out through the second half because, well, we got it. He writes in the bathtub and is a shitty dad. And I would have liked to see more from the Benzadrine. Don’t get me wrong. Bryan Cranston is phenomenal and should get his tux cleaned. This one was not his fault. But I’d like to see him do two hours of reading Trumbo’s letters like I saw Nathan Lane rip through in some Manhattan basement with my ex-wife one night in the early ’90s. See you next time on Kritic’s Korner…

I’m going to talk about my ex-wife for a second, so hang on. I think I mentioned early on that I’ve been married twice, which I know came as a shock to all of you. The first one, which lasted nine years and produced my two daughters, is the only one that counts. She is the one I refer to as my wife or ex-wife. I will not mention her name because she did her time, suffered enough and it really won’t help the story. We divorced in 1995 and remain as cordial as Bloods and Crips over 60. My other marriage took place in 2006, and is not really worth mentioning because it only lasted six months and was, after all is said and done and the check clears, less a marriage and more of a leverage buyout in the short-term housing industry. I really really wanted it to work, but the Ecuadorian police had different goals. And so did her husband, Rogelio.

Okay, so it’s 1993 or 1994 and we’re living in New York. The girls were little. That’s as good as I can do. My wife goes with me on a country club gig. This was rare. Rare like Jim Carrey delivering a line with subtlety rare. It was a combination of the “Let’s do more things together” scam you try at the end of a marriage, and the fact that the country club in Rockland County was the former private estate of Adolf Zukor, the founder of Paramount Pictures and one of three guys in America rich enough in the 1940s to get away with the name Adolf. My wife, born and raised in West Hollywood, hated living on the East Coast almost as much as she hated watching my act, but the possibility of going somewhere that might remind her of what she had left behind was too much for her to pass up. So, she came, walked around the grounds most of the time while I was on stage, and while I wasn’t, sat at the end of the bar with a Perrier and a book of poetry, the exact same tableau I encountered when we had met years ago in the bar at the Improv on Melrose.

My wife (again, her name is withheld out of respect and because I finally finally finally know fucking better now) could sit at a bar all night, drinking Perrier and reading poetry or a foreign novel and shooing guys away with a raised eyebrow. She looked like some school teacher or somebody’s sister waiting for a ride, or some good sport waiting for her roommate to finish fucking the guy she’d picked up so she could go back to the apartment. She looked like anything except someone who might be married to a comic. She was too bright for that. And way way way too bright to be married to a smoke and mirrors factory like Tommy Dash.

But there’s no accounting for chemistry and nothing but accounting for biology, and here we were. First came Abby, then Janey – I mean Janey, then Abby – and suddenly no more Perrier and poetry at the bar. In fact, on those rare occasions when I would get to introduce her to another comic, the response was either, “Honey, blink twice if you’re being held against your will.” Or “Did he get you in trouble, ma’am?”

The gig at the Adolf Zukor country club was booked by this guy, Dom Anthony (not even close to his real name), who was this mob-fronted former boy singer who got too old and not cute in the same week and wound up booking club dates. He also did some acting on the side. Way way on the side. You know the “Go get your fucking shine box!” scene in Goodfellas? He’s two stools over at the bar from the guy who says it. I think he was in Casino, too, over-gesturing the finish of a muted song in the lounge. Or it may have been an episode of Crime Story. Or Vegas. Dom Anthony was always a bit of a fake tough guy, a quarter-gangster. A lot of cufflink and cologne. But he booked some decent rooms – $500 on a Tuesday when I hadn’t made $500 on a Saturday in eight months.

So, we go to the country club and I do the gig. And I kill. You have to believe me. I had like five golf jokes that I opened with and they went crazy for them, and then they were mine for 50 minutes, just anticipating that I had one more golf joke, which I did. (“I took a nine on this hole!”) Dom Anthony was one of those bookers who shows up in the middle of the actual job, which is not common and a little off-putting, but you get the check that night so it more than evens out. He comes over to me at the bar after I’ve come off stage. Well, first his Aramis came over, then he followed.

“AAAAAyyyyy, Tommy Dash, you made me look good, you Jew bastard,” he starts. He hands me an envelope, then puts $20 on the bar and snaps his finger at the bartender, which doesn’t move the bartender but startles my wife, who has returned from her walk and is sitting two stools down (like him in Goodfellas).

“Tommy Fucking Dash. Would you be interested in working my celebrity charity golf outing next month?”

“Sure,” I say. “What’s it pay?”

“It pays fucking exposure,” he says, and before I can fully laugh, he goes on. “All right, let me take you through the day. You get to the first tee – any kind of omelet you want. We play a four-man scramble. There’s booze, there’s broads, there’s broads with booze. We finish up, we shower. We go upstairs for the auction, the hors de oeuvres, dinner and the show. And it’s some fucking show. That’s when the wives join us. Now, if you do not want to bring your wife, if you want to bring a business associate or a whoo-ah, you can.”

From two stools down: “Hey, did you hear that, honey? You can bring a whoo-ah!”

Dom Anthony was unperturbed, and went on to tell me if I played my cards right, I could go on in between Rosalind Kind and Frank Stallone. Something like that. Who was listening? “Did you hear that, honey? You can bring a whoo-ah!” That was the last great laugh my wife and I shared before it all went even further south than it had already gone.

This is the long long way of telling you Janice got fired a week ago. She got fired for failing to report to HR that she was dating a co-worker. That’s right. She forgot to tell herself. Well, to be fair, with all that was going on, and it being a weekend and the holidays, she just never got around to it.

I’m sorry for being so glib. I feel awful. This is entirely my fault. Well, not entirely. Let’s give some credit to the dickless wonders at the network.

We are now in the middle of our two-week Christmas hiatus at I Don’t Get It. Except Janice, who became the first recipient of the Tommy Dash Guilt By Association Severance Scholarship.

We taped Episode #8 of the show Friday, December 18th. The three-day work week had been my smoothest yet. I don’t remember one condescending remark from fucking Beck Franklin or any behavior from the other writers that would hold up in court. And the audience warmup during the taping went great. They laughed at hello. Most of them recognized me from Episode #3, which had aired two days before. When I asked for questions the first time, two people yelled, “Do the Hitler joke!” So, I did. Because I am many things, among them a whore. Which is worlds different from a whoo-ah. Worlds different. You don’t believe me, ask the nearest greaseball.

The writers worked two days on Episode #10, the finale. We had fleshed out the return of Morty’s old partner, my character Johnny V., who claims he was let out of rehab early for good behavior. He shows up on the set of Clark Kogan’s sitcom within Clark Keegan’s sitcom during the last rehearsal, gets paranoid, and dumps 100 Adderall into the craft services guacamole. The second to last scene is a 23-minute episode in seven minutes. The only one talking at regular speed is Morty because his character is allergic to avocado.

By the way, everything I just mentioned is not going to happen. The actual plot of the finale is completely different. I just made that one up. I can’t post plot summaries here anymore for obvious reasons. I know not to do shit like that anymore. That lesson I learned. That one.

We were done by nine p.m. Friday, and I was walking in the parking lot trying to call Janice on my flip phone. I’m about 20 feet from my car, I hear her phone ringing, and then I hear her over the ringing, “Look up, Einstein….”

She is standing next to my car, wearing sweatpants and a bomber jacket. Smiling. And wiping her eyes.

“What did I do?” I said.

“You did some things,” she said, but she was still smiling. “Follow me out.”

Every time you get in your car in LA, you will be driving for too long. That’s the deal you must agree to when you live out here. There are two elements that make a drive that is too long even longer. Following someone to a place you’ve never been. Following someone to a place you’ve never been for a conversation you don’t want to have.

I’m stalling. We get to Janice’s house in Glendale and I help her take two Banker’s Boxes out of her Ford Edge before we sit out on the deck so she can smoke. She had bought a pack earlier at the Mobil Mart. Yeah, you heard me. Bought. A. Pack. As if I needed any more indication this was serious.

“I’m going to resign Monday,” she said. “It never occurred to me that you would post again on that site, let alone write about us. I just assumed shutting down your blog or whatever you’re doing on that site was a condition of them not firing you.”

“I think I told you Danny said it was promotional.” The second those words came out of my mouth, it might as well have been Dom Anthony saying, “It pays fucking exposure.”

“Yes, you did,” said Janice. “And we laughed. And I thought it was all in the context of you dodging a bullet. But I also thought you would understand that we were on sketchy ground, especially with how I sent the emails.”

Huh? “How you sent the emails?”

“Yes. I wasn’t using my office account when I sent you that chain. I copied and pasted it and sent it from an old personal account.”

Right. It was something like thecastrobertis@aol.com . Castroberti. Her married name. And aol.com, which is as relevant now as Zima.

“I completely missed that, Janice. Me and my flip phone,” I said, again, trying to be glib. “But I’d never gotten an email from you. I had no idea you had copied and pasted anything, or that it was a personal address.” This is quite a switch for me. Usually, I make excuses first. Then, I go with glib. Because if you don’t know by now that when the lights go down and all the funny stories are over that I am, at my core, more than a bit of a pussy, you need to go back and start over.

“Tommy, this is all on me,” she said. “I’m the alleged professional. You are the talent.”

“Alleged talent.”

She flashed a little anger. “Please shut the fuck up and let me finish. I took too many things for granted, probably because everything jumped off hours after I left your place. And once I was looped in and out of the company email chain, it all became about giving you a heads up. Which, you may not know, is not my job.”

Another Marlboro Red flared. “I was absolutely sure you were going to get sacked. And although it was absolutely the last thing I wanted, I’m sure at one point I thought, ‘Well, that will solve the messiness of us maybe dating.’”

I have no idea what the expression on my face was, but she saw it and said, “Hey, you ain’t the only narcissist here.”

She went on. “Then, you got away with it, you got away with giving a fucking entire plot of a new fucking show away, and I guess I felt like I had as well. And that lasted all the way until this afternoon, just before the taping, when my assistant, Kerry sent me the link to your last post on that site. The site where I had, again, assumed you were told to no longer post.”

“I left after lunch and didn’t come back until now. I spent the afternoon checking my email, waiting for the hammer to come down from upstairs, and re-reading your post. Nothing happened. I would give anything to be angry at you, and if I hadn’t read what you wrote about me 38 times, I probably would be. But this is on me.” Her eyes were drenched, but that was it. She was trying desperately not to cry. And succeeding. Of all the impressive things about Janice Meagher, this was right up there. Let me tell you something. When you’re a pussy, which we have established, this does not go unnoticed. She wiped her nose and coughed a little, which meant the smoking part of the evening might be over.

“So, here is the plan, such as it is. If I don’t get fired over the weekend, I’ll go in first thing Monday and offer to resign or ask to be considered for the position in corporate gifting in Studio City they’ve been trying to fill. That’s the thing about being in HR… You know what jobs are open.”

I had nothing. “What’s in the Banker’s Boxes?” I asked.

“Personal stuff from my office. Just trying to beat the Christmas rush.”

Her ex-husband was dropping off the kids the next morning at 9:00. If I could be out by 8:00, I could stay. Eight AM on a Saturday. I know I’ve said this before, but that is a time that has never existed for a conscious Tommy Dash. Okay, maybe when I’ve flown back from New York and it’s the first morning and you come to, sure it’s close to noon, but then you look at the clock, smile and roll over. Maybe that happened twice. But that’s it.

“I’d love to stay, Janice,” someone who sounded like me said.

We stayed up until 2:00 talking. When I saw she was beginning to fade, around 1:00, I drank her last beer and ate her last three Benadryl. Kicked in perfectly. You have to believe me, I never have this kind of luck with women or over-the-counter shit. We talked about everything except what was going to happen, which was fine with me. As for what had happened, she asked me twice if I meant what I wrote about her. The first time, I said “Of course!” The second time I said, “You know I did. But I regret that I didn’t just read it to you over the phone.” And then I tried desperately not to cry. And pretty much failed.

“If you’d read it over the phone,” said Janice, “I know you would have been trying to work me. We HR people are very skilled at detecting that.”

She managed to get me up and out before 8:00. She said she’d call if she heard anything from the network, but otherwise she was going to be busy the whole weekend doing Christmas crap in Newport Beach with the kids and her parents. Next weekend, the ex did the same thing with the kids and his parents. Rita Rudner used to do a great line in her act about the holidays in LA. “First, they bring out the turkey. Then they bring out the step-turkey.” Janice said she didn’t want to talk because she wanted the distraction of focusing on her kids. But she did encourage me to text frequently, and suggestively. That made me blush. Tommy Dash’s face turning red before 9:00 am is as close as I come to the holiday spirit.

I drove back to my place on Fountain wondering how I was going to stay out of this all weekend. How I was not going to try and push this shitstorm out to sea. You know, fix everything. It seemed impossible to stay out of it, even though in 60 years on this planet I had never fixed anything other than a sandwich and the flush handle on a standard toilet.

And then God, or whoever books dates for God, intervened.

My sputtering flip phone woke me at noon. Some 415 area code I didn’t recognize. I figured Janice was using somebody else’s phone. “Couldn’t control yourself?” I answered. It got a nice laugh, but a man’s laugh.

“Is that how you answer the phone, Dash? I have to steal that.” It was Clark Keegan. He was doing Saturday-Sunday at the Tempe Improv and his regular opening act, some song parody idiot with a guitar and spiked hair, had decided to try a new menu item at Chipotle: the Norovirus Verde. Could I be at Orange County Airport by 3:00 to Netjet out with him? Four shows, $2,000.

“Did you clear it with the owner?” I asked. I hadn’t worked the Tempe Improv since 1990 when I made the inspired choice of opening my last two shows by saying, “Any Injuns in the audience?”

“The owner asked for you. He saw the Johnny V. episode.” Clark said. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know what this means? New owner!

You may ask, “How could a couple of your little comedy routines sidetrack you for two days?” Well, you haven’t opened for a big act on the road. The only time you get a break is when you’re on stage. Dick Capri, one of the underrated comics of all time, opened for Engelbert Humperdinck for 20 years. All over the world, 200 dates a year. Big halls and first class travel. Finally, he quits. When anyone would ask him why he gave the gig up, he would say, “I ran out of compliments.”

You are on call all the time. Your job is to listen, laugh hard when you know better, ask questions and suggest other stores in the mall the guy may not have plunked down his black Amex. Yeah, you heard me. The mall. Arizona Mills. The Sunday before Christmas. 11:00 am-4:00 pm.

I’m ahead of myself. Saturday, I was an audience of three (me, his manager and a business associate or a whoo-ah) on the plane ride, the ride to the hotel, supper at some seafood joint, backstage, backstage between shows, then back in his suite, where I had to watch Trumbo again (a screener) and like it this time.

Oh, yeah. Clark Keegan does not drink. I guess he had a problem. Why that is my problem, in addition to my legitimate problems, is beyond me. So, you can’t drink around him. Weed, however, is fine. So, it wasn’t a complete Turkish prison.

Man, can this guy talk. What energy. And it’s that thing where it’s not a conversation, it’s him giving a continuously unscheduled interview. I will say this. I utterly get why he’s a big act. I get it when he’s on stage and the material is light, but he behaves as if it cannot be anything but brilliant and the audience goes right along with it. And he has a couple of honestly funny bits. You just need to be patient. And I get it when he’s off stage and the focus must be on him but he’ll let you feel as if he’s letting you in on something, even if it’s just a story about helping to hide a mic battery in Taylor Swift’s dress backstage at the Kids Choice Awards.

And he’s hip enough. One of the few times I was allowed to speak, I said, “Do you know how a comic introduces his fiancée to his parents? He goes up to her and says, ‘Hey, what do you want me to say about you?’” It took him a second, but he gave a real comic’s response. Deadpan, he said, “That’s hysterical.”

The only time he spoke about the show, other than to tell his manager what to tell the MC when the kid asked, “What does Clark want me to say about him?” was a few instances when he would turn to me and say, “Your buddy Danny thinks I play to the camera too much.” Or “Your buddy Danny has yet to use one of my line rewrites.” Every time, I answered, “Yeah, well…” Which was pretty much how I answered everything.

Did I mention Clark Keegan encored all four shows, then came out and did the lawnmower joke? Remind me to mention that.

We landed at Orange County around one Monday morning, and Clark Keegan did not stop talking until he rolled up the window on the driver side of his Escalade. I had the good sense to wait until I was back in my apartment before I let myself drink what I couldn’t the last two days. It worked a little too well. I missed the first three calls from Janice. She had a meeting with a vice-president or two at 10:00. Then it was pushed back to 11:30. Then 1:15. So, she was sitting there, waiting. She had decided against resigning because if she did that, and they accepted her resignation, it would cost her six weeks of severance and two months of health insurance. So, what a break there. She was, however, going to ask if she could apply for the corporate gifting position in six months. She laughed about that on her last voicemail, but I know a fake laugh when I hear one. I’d been doing it for the last two days.

The last voicemail was 12:30. I had 45 minutes, and one play. I called Danny Musselman’s cellphone, which he picked up on the second ring. I told him to make it clear to whomever he needed to make it clear to that if Janice Meagher was fired, I was not showing up after the hiatus and they could find someone else to play Johnny V. in the fucking finale.

“Tommy,” he said after exhaling, “you have the timing of an open-mic guy. I just left the people I need to make that clear to. And they just shitcanned me from my own show for the last two episodes. Take up your chivalry with your new showrunner, Beck Franklin.”

Click.

I made it to the parking lot in time to be waiting for Janice to come out of the building. “I was hoping for this,” she said. “But when I envisioned it, you had showered.”

So, here we are. It’s now been a week, and I was back and forth about posting this before Janice offered the very un-HR advice, “What the fuck are they gonna do to you?” The only thing I’ve heard is that Danny got fired because, after all the “We did it on purpose!” promotional buzz of my previous post here, Episode #3 did one-tenth of a point worse in the demo than Episode #2. More total viewers, but as we know, that don’t matter anymore. It’s like the earthquake that hit LA two years ago. 5.4, but only 0.8 in adults 18-34.

Oscar®, Academy Award®, and AMPAS® are registered trademarks of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, ©AMPAS.

Bill Scheft on twitter
About The Author:
Bill Scheft
Bill Scheft was a 16-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman from 1991 until May 20, 2015. He spent 12 years touring as a stand-up comedian until he was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night With David Letterman on NBC. He has authored 4 novels: The Ringer, Time Won't Let Me (2006 Thurber Prize For American Humor finalist) , Everything Hurts, and his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft

About Bill Scheft

Bill Scheft was a 16-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman from 1991 until May 20, 2015. He spent 12 years touring as a stand-up comedian until he was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night With David Letterman on NBC. He has authored 4 novels: The Ringer, Time Won't Let Me (2006 Thurber Prize For American Humor finalist) , Everything Hurts, and his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft

  2 comments on “It’s Just An Honor To Be Implicated

  1. She does not drive a Ford Edge, seriously? Janice is better than that. Tommy Dash resets us all back to Normal, like the holidays never happened, merci!

  2. Good times Tommy Dash is fun to read, but bad times Tommy Dash is fucking brilliant! It’s fascinating to see how corporate policy screws over lives AND tv shows. Unless fucking Beck knows more than we think he does! But this ain’t over yet by a damn sight!

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