recent_fossils_600

Recent Fossil Evidence

by Tom Musca

A TV exec hears a comedy pitch from a couple of over-50 showrunners she’s never met. 5,110 words. Written by Jay Abramowitz & Tom Musca. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Calling in his last ancient chit, Warren had talked a former junior colleague into issuing a drive-on to get them through the front gate. The rest would be up to him.

He piloted his old BMW convertible, its torn roof folded down out of view so as not to humiliate its occupants, toward the visitors’ lot. Fifty-eight and no longer an athlete –- he was even done with pick-up basketball, the risk of injury now far outweighing the pleasure he got from playing — Warren wore a sports jacket, faded jeans, and a bright new T-shirt with a hip (his son Clay had assured him) image of an audio cassette above the slight paunch that poked over the top of his seat belt. After extensive experimentation with hair coloring he’d left the gray specks in his beard, which he’d carefully trimmed to look untrimmed. Just this morning he’d noticed the beginnings of what he’d assumed were facial warts. Warren, once a Golden Boy, had begun to believe he’d be an odd-looking old man.

Mitch, four years younger, nearly a foot shorter and more informally unshaven, with hair another former colleague had described as “bozine” after her favorite frizzy-haired TV clown, wore red Converse sneakers and a flowery Hawaiian shirt that most people who’d never known a joke writer would consider antithetical to his dignity. Under the shirt, on his left shoulder, the Charlie Chaplin tattoo he’d treated himself to upon moving to Hollywood decades earlier had aged to look less like Chaplin and more like Hitler.

Mitch glowered at the dashboard clock. “We’re over an hour early,” Mitch said. “I told you there’d be no traffic.”

If Warren had told his partner the real reason he’d picked him up at 9 AM for an 11 AM meeting less than half an hour away -– that there was no 11 AM meeting and they were in the midst of a con job that Warren had been meticulously planning for months in an effort to resuscitate their drowned careers -– Mitch’s pride and rage would never have permitted him to get into the car. “I knew they’d make us park out where the slaves are picking cotton,” said Warren as he drove them farther and farther from their destination on the lot. “And you have to get into costume.”

Mitch let it go. Mitch rarely let anything go. He’s in Snit Mode, Warren recognized, but Warren would take care of that, he took care of everything.

He and Mitch getting a staff job on Bingo Town after busting their asses writing three spec scripts their first month together to get an agent. Delighting in the high of the writers’ room, collaborative and competitive at the same time, a stimulating mix of the lowbrow and highbrow, of cracking jokes and spilling guts. Quickly getting good enough to clandestinely rewrite a senior colleague’s script as a huge favor to the showrunner, and in only one day. Becoming Executive Producers on Annie Alive! in just three years, showrunners themselves, writing the words they wanted and hearing those words spoken to millions, sometimes just days after they wrote them. In a remarkably short time, their own shows on three networks simultaneously -– broadcast networks, with broadcast network money, $75G for each of the twenty-four episodes that comprised a season –- times three! — as opposed to Disney-Channel Yes-I’m-a-has-been-and-thank-you-for-fucking-me-in-the-ass pay. All-they-could-eat sushi dinners brought in on show night. Naming characters after high school friends and hearing how excited their friends’ kids were when they watched the show. Dinner at Norman Lear’s beach house, Woody Allen’s girlfriend hitting on him, Warren turning her down and her threatening to run into the ocean and never return. Wannabes laughing at all their jokes, complimenting Warren on his socks, wanting to be him and fearing they never would be. Taking a cue from John Sebastian and Welcome Back, Kotter, Warren had even had the pleasure of hiring a couple of his 1960s rock ‘n roll gods to write and perform the theme songs for shows he and Mitch created. (Maybe Buzzy Linhart wasn’t quite in the pantheon, but Dylan hadn‘t been available.) Where most members of the Writers Guild of America sold one script before withdrawing in bitter disappointment to soul-sapping jobs for the rest of their lives, he and Mitch, while never producing shows that won critical acclaim, much less steered the national conversation like Lear’s All In The Family, had worked solidly for two decades plus.

With Mitch, Warren had always been a hyphenate coach and player at the same time. Player-Coach, like the great Bill Russell, whom Warren had watched win championships in his youth. Warren had utilized all his powers of management and manipulation to make this morning’s pitch happen.

Most impressively, he’d done so without exposing his desperation. People in the entertainment industry contributed their talents and time to telethons for the defeat of cancer, cerebral palsy and, most famously, muscular dystrophy. But there was no telethon for desperation. Desperation you fought alone, because desperation was contagious. The only cures were a preternatural emotional equilibrium or success.

He’d begun in the spring. Warren had quizzed their longtime agent about the networks’ needs, and then emailed the three peers of his who were still working regularly — out of how many? 150? 200? — and confirmed that two of the broadcast networks were looking for a series that combined “edgy” humor with nostalgia, and that those same two networks were also seeking a character who was “cuddly.” So he and Mitch had come up with a show that Warren strongly believed hit the edgy/nostalgic/cuddly trifecta.

Then he’d forced himself to phone a production guy he hadn’t spoken to in a decade to get the pass onto the studio lot. He’d struggled with new technologies so he could scour two social networks four hours a day for five weeks until discovering that the assistant to Candace The Studio Development Exec was dating the younger brother of an incompetent writer he’d fired 16 years earlier, a man Warren knew hadn’t worked since. He’d called the incompetent and suffered 11 minutes of invective and weeping before having to promise the guy a job with at least a Supervising Producer credit if the show Warren was about to pitch got picked up.

He’d paid $1,300 he could no longer afford for the assistant and the brother to sit in the fifth row to see Lady Gaga in exchange for daily emails notifying Warren of Candace’s impending meetings with writing teams of two. He’d extracted from the assistant the key intelligence that Candace drank tea constantly and typically took a bathroom break before 11 o’clock meetings.

Most critically, he’d made absolutely dead certain to give his partner no reason to think they didn’t actually have a pitch scheduled today, as Mitch’s ego was such that in college he’d made regular contributions to the local sperm bank but, considering his seed a sacred donation to the future of his country, had refused the weekly $30 stipend.

No detail had been too small for Warren, no humiliation too big.

He parked in spot 2174, pulled himself out of his car and peered into the distance toward the unfamiliar buildings of the studio lot, the very lot where he and Mitch had begun their career together. Mitch drew a long black clothing bag off the back seat and petulantly slung it over a shoulder.

The guys hiked through the heat, 98 in mid-October, which bounced off the black asphalt at their feet and gained another degree or two by the time it hit their faces. They trudged past row upon row of parking spaces, 1174, 1074, 974, numerals partially expunged by rubber, sun and age. Warren recalled the moment he and Mitch first saw their names stenciled onto their own parking spots nearly half a mile ahead of them and thirty years behind. The names had been pure, fresh white, and so had the numbers, 6 and 7. 6 and 7! Mitch had joked about getting stoned off the smell of the fresh paint but Warren’s high had been natural. At spot 874 Warren’s back started to ache but he channeled the pain into desire, an old trick from his days of playing point guard for Stanford; back then he had to control the game, too.

For twelve minutes he and Mitch heard nothing but the rhythmic scratch and flop of their feet on the blacktop. Then, finally, people. Soon, buildings too.

They passed under a second-story window from which Mitch had once leaped to get a laugh in the writers’ room, knowing there was a large, forgiving hedge below. When Mitch didn’t bother to trumpet this memorable comedy triumph, Warren understood his partner’s funk was acute.

The guys reached their destination, a new three-story structure –- new to Warren, anyway — that was so wide and meandering that Warren had to ask directions to the main entrance. He pushed open the double glass doors and he and Mitch stepped into the shiny, air-conditioned lobby.

It was freezing in there and Warren, having been unable to sleep in advance of a pitch for the first time, welcomed the cold air as a revitalizing ally. The huge television on the wall, which Warren guessed had been turned on when installed and never extinguished, was running a current sitcom. Mitch scoffed at the show and, as Warren had known he would, stomped directly to the TV to further denigrate it, permitting Warren to slip away to the front desk without him.

Warren smiled at the guard and quietly and with a convincing false confidence stated, “Danny Pizzolato and Paul Birnbaum to see Candace.” No surprise Warren didn’t recognize the guard — which meant the guard didn’t recognize him — but a relief still. The man pulled up the appointment list on his computer. “You guys are early,” he said genially, and pushed the sign-in log toward Warren. Warren signed for himself and Mitch, taking great care to spell the names correctly.

“My partner’s got a thing for Jasmine,” he joked, invoking the name of Candace’s assistant to help further persuade the man that he and Mitch weren’t interlopers. Plus, Warren thought, it would behoove them to get through their pitch before the real Pizzolato and Birnbaum show up.

“Hey, Warren, check out the physical comedy,” Mitch called. “It’s worse than Saget diapering a Monkey Girl.” The partners had worked on Full House, where the writers, with a sensitivity common to their kind, had formulated a pet name for the Olsen twins.

Good, Warren thought, he’s starting to come around.

To demonstrate to the guard what a busy working writer/producer he was, Warren pretended to check his cell phone for a text message as he accepted the “Danny Pizzolato” and “Paul Birnbaum” nametags. He thanked the guard and discreetly pocketed the tags as he joined Mitch by the bigscreen.

Mitch was eager to point out more of the sitcom’s deficiencies so Warren had to lead him into the empty elevator.

Typically Warren climbed stairs, even with the bad back, considering staircases as battlegrounds in his war of attrition against gravity and time. It helped that few buildings in town were taller than eight stories, because at five stories his legs felt like sandbags and at six like midgets were clinging to the sandbags. (“Midget” – Warren mourned the loss of that funny word, and of “dwarf.” Fuck political correctness.)

At seven stories, the feeling in Warren’s lungs would bring him back to the halcyon days of the early 1970s and the two-minute hacking coughs that inevitably followed his repeated toking of mediocre reefer. Mitch, on the other hand, never climbed stairs unless there was a woman in a short skirt climbing them above him.

Warren pushed the button for the top floor and commenced their first Elevator Pitch Ritual in four-plus years. “Who’s first?” he said.

“I was, with your wife, so it’s your turn,” said Mitch. Warren punched him lightly on the shoulder.

“Too hard!” Mitch said, and rubbed the sore spot.

Warren found it funny that Mitch, even with his physical weakness, was the only man who passed what Warren called his “Cliff Test”: if Warren were hanging over a cliff, barely grasping the edge, who would he trust to grip his hand and never let go?

Warren punched Mitch’s other shoulder, harder. Mitch winced in pain, cowered and, using his arm but none of the body parts that provide power to a punch, hit Warren’s right biceps with all his might.

“Pathetic,” Warren said. “The blow of a desperate man.”

The elevator stopped, the door opened. A four-foot eight-inch tall cafeteria lady walked in, pressed a button and, as best she could in a tiny room with walls made of mirrors, looked away from the two men. The elevator jerked upward. “And,” Warren continued, “we are not desperate men. You walk into that room and you roar.”

“Dinosaurs did not roar, Warren,” said Mitch. “Recent fossil evidence indicates that dinosaurs were, in fact, birds. Hence, they cawed.” Mitch flapped his arms and cawed wildly, like a crow taunting a pit bull tethered to a fence.

“Better. Now tear flesh from the bone, damn it, bite me, hit me!”

Mitch dropped his garment bag and pummeled Warren’s stomach with both fists, not using his hips but at least leaning in with his shoulders.

“Harder! Harder!”

The cafeteria lady cautiously reached for a button, any button. Mitch stopped punching and pressed the red STOP button and the elevator, unlike the people he habitually aspired to dominate, obeyed. As short and unintimidating as he was, he peered down at this tiny woman. “Do you know that in any elevator built in the last thirty years the door-open button doesn’t work?” he said. “It’s there to make you think it works.”

“Excellent, Mitch. Now save it.”

The woman glanced surreptitiously at the roof.

“And the escape hatch,” said Mitch. “It’s always locked, bolted shut from the outside ’cause the safest place to be is inside the elevator.” He smiled at the woman benignly. “Do you feel safe inside this elevator?”

Warren slapped the START button and said, “Don’t waste your gift on a civilian.”

It was easy for Warren to stash Mitch in a bathroom stall, as Mitch knew that roaming the halls in costume would ruin his entrance in the pitch and even Mitch could exercise minimal self-control when his effectiveness in making people laugh was at stake.

Warren had brought one of Mitch’s favorite back-issues of Mad from his collection –- a classic from 1965, with Alfred E. Neuman standing atop the Empire State Building and King Kong flying past in a biplane scratching his head in puzzlement — to occupy and perhaps inspire his partner until it was time to suit up.

With Mitch safely hidden away, Warren found a discrete corner from which he could survey the doorway to Candace the Development Exec’s office without being seen. He waited ten minutes, his stomach churning unfamiliarly, for the exec to emerge for her promised bathroom break. Ten became fifteen. After eighteen excruciating minutes Candace stepped into the hallway. When she strode out of the Ladies’ Room, Warren pounced. Or rather, he pretended he was heading toward the Men’s Room and that his nearly bumping into Candace was a coincidence that was incredibly lucky –- for her.

Knowing a young studio suit would otherwise laugh at the notion that it was in her interest to hear a television comedy pitch from a couple of over-50s she’d never met who’d been out of the loop for years, he convinced her how fortunate she was that he and Mitch were in the building for a feature pitch, that they were early for said pitch and, because they’d heard such wonderful things about her, that they’d consider sharing with her an idea for a comedy series. (It was credible that they were working in features. In television you typically hired the writers of a pilot to run the series and work closely with the studio and the network, possibly for years. In film you could buy their script and never have to see the pains-in-the-ass again.)

Warren believed, even in this era of Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and other new media he hadn’t even heard of, that nothing was more important to any entertainment corporation than a hit sitcom was to the network that aired it, and that nothing was rarer. He was betting big on Candace’s fear of losing a series that had even the tiniest chance of becoming a precious hit.

He won. Having achieved the inner sanctum of Candace’s office, Warren sat on a leather sofa across a glass coffee table from the 28-year-old executive. Never removing his eyes from Candace’s, Warren, with the peripheral vision that had helped him lead the Pac-10 in assists for the first three weeks of his junior season before a future NBA guard surpassed him, still managed to note her tiny dress and repeated crossing and uncrossing of her legs. Which made him glad Mitch was outside the door waiting for his cue to make his entrance, as Mitch lived by the creed “If it can be seen, it will be looked at.”

Warren had had to apologize for his partner’s behavior many times but only once -– the legendary Allenroe Incident — had that behavior been extreme enough to cost them a job, and Warren hadn’t been in the room to prevent it. Too much was at stake now for Warren to allow Candace to be offended by his partner peeking at her underwear and making a joke about its color, its texture or, in the most horrific scenario, its absence. Because if Warren and Mitch could convince the studio to support the show they were pitching, the studio would use its considerable power to help them sell it to a network and thereby reclaim their professional life from the toxic waste dump in which it was interred.

Pretending to be relaxed, Warren riffed about the latest blockbuster movie and the shark attack off Malibu, then eased adroitly into his pitch. A minute later he casually placed a hand in his pocket and pressed a button on his cell phone and Mitch burst in, finally set loose inside the dinosaur costume he’d been lugging around all morning, and happily pranced and pirouetted around the office.

“A whole generation that grew up with a friendly purple dinosaur,” Warren said excitedly –- his excitement being the first thing he hadn’t faked since getting into his car that morning — “gets to see what happens when that dinosaur grows up and has to face real-world problems.”

Flames shot out of the creature’s snout, a little trick with a lighter Mitch had been practicing for the past 49 years or so.

“Mental illness, crime, STDs –- nothing’s off-limits for Bertie. Especially female dinosaurs.”

“Female anythings,” Mitch answered in high-pitched Purple Dinosaurese. “Ever fuck a camel?” he asked Candace with enthusiasm.

“Mitch,” Warren said, “we’re discussing the character, not you.”

Candace laughed, an honest one. These old dudes, she thought, are surprisingly entertaining. And clever, the way they lied their way in to see me. Warren knew she knew about his con from her self-satisfied smile, and was encouraged she’d gotten her job for being smart as well as young and pretty.

“But Bertie’s also sympathetic,” he continued. Every network TV hero had to be “sympathetic”; this one, in addition, was “cuddly.” “He’s vulnerable. He’ll go to rehab, like every former child star.”

“For?”

“Name it.” Warren believed in pulling the buyer into the pitch, and in demonstrating that he and Mitch could think on their feet.

“Crystal meth,“ said Candace, unashamedly aping a recent hit cable series.

“I get all manic!” Dinosaur Mitch shouted as he ran crazily around the office. “Zits everywhere! And my teef fall out!”

“Try chewing brontosaurus meat now, motherfucker,” Warren said. He turned to Candace, thrilled. “That’s a story! Bertie’s hyped on amphetamines, he’s killing everything in sight but he’s starving ‘cause he can’t rip his prey apart!”

Beaming enthusiastically at the exec, Warren sensed the pitch had reached its critical moment. Candace would embrace their project — put her scent on it and adopt it as her own — or sink it and his shot at a comeback.

“Barney meets Breaking Bad. I love it,” Candace said. Warren masked his elation, spiced profusely with relief, with the appearance of bored certainty.

As Candace picked up her telephone, he met Mitch’s dinosaur-suited eyes and the partners shared a discrete look of triumph. “Send in Ronnie and Dodge,” Candace ordered her Lady Gaga-loving assistant.

Warren was flying, he’d almost forgotten how, damn, this business could be great.

“It’s okay to show her what you look like now, Mitch,” Warren stage whispered. “We made the sale.”

Candace giggled. But Mitch didn’t stir, and Warren’s Mitch-antenna instantly went up. When the Mitch-antenna went up and the partners were sitting together, Warren could surreptitiously kick Mitch or step on his foot to stop him from saying or doing whatever he was about to say or do. Now Warren could only shoot Mitch a look, carefully calibrated to project control and not terror.

Two guys slouched in and Warren instantly understood what Mitch was thinking. They were in their early twenties. One looked like F. Scott Fitzgerald but with a crew cut, thick black glasses and a shirt buttoned to the top, hipster-nerd, so geeky he was cool. The other was so grievously unsightly that he’d decided to flaunt it, sporting a bad beard over bad skin, uncombed hair he’d clearly cut himself, and a dirty T-shirt with the words “I Don’t Care What You Think of Me” printed on it even though the man underneath believed the opposite. Comedy writers.

“Warren and Mitch,” Candace said, “Ronnie and Dodge.”

“Hi, fellas!” Mitch said in his pseudo-dinosaur voice. “Wanna fuck?”

“No thanks, I only fuck humans,” said Ronnie, the crew cut guy, with a friendly smile. “You can blow me, though.” Laughter all around, except from Mitch, who’d laughed at another person’s joke just once, and then because he was stoned and thought he’d made the joke himself.

“Brace and Flomenhoft,” Dodge, the bad beard guy, said, shaking Mitch’s claw. “It’s an honor. You guys were everywhere. The priests used to repeat your jokes in homeroom.”

“Then touch us inappropriately,” added his partner.

“Those were the days,” smiled Dodge.

“Sit down, guys,” Candace enthused, and all but Mitch did so. “Ronnie and Dodge are coming off Modern Living. The networks are dying for the perfect project to attach them to.”

“Fantastic,” Warren exclaimed quickly through his dread. He was sweating now but, hoping no one would notice, resisted wiping his face. Instead, discretely keeping an eye on Mitch, he leaned toward Ronnie, beaming, the consummate team player. “We can all sit down and brainstorm,” he said. “Come up with something to pay for your therapy.”

“You just pitched something to pay for his therapy,” said Candace, enjoying herself more each second. “The networks’ll kill each other bidding for this. You’ll all get rich and I’ll take the credit.”

Ronnie, Dodge and Warren laughed professional laughs. Mitch didn’t. In his happy dinosaur voice, Mitch said, “But this is our show, Candace.”

“Exactly,” said Candace. “And Ronnie and Dodge are so hot, selling it’ll be a slam-dunk.”

Warren had been presented with “hot” writers so many times that he’d formulated an equation: Heat equals perceived talent minus time. “What Bertie means is, we’ve created lots of shows,” he said agreeably. “And we’ve always run them.”

Ronnie and Dodge were young, but they were seasoned enough to know not to exchange glances at that moment, glances that could only mean: Sure you did, when real dinosaurs roamed the earth. “Not to mention,” Warren added, “the shows we used our special comedy CPR on to bring back from the dead.” Just like, he thought, we’re trying to do now with our careers.

“Warren, I’m a big fan,” Candace said. “I’d be honored to go to the network with you. But it’s not up to me.”

Warren hesitated. He was on new ground here. He decided to pretend to confide in Candace and, feigning sincerity, leaned in close and lowered his voice. “They drop us from The List?” he said. “’Cause I have a way to fix that.”

This was a stalling tactic, Warren’s improvised attempt to induce Candace to take their project up to the next level in the food chain until he could think of something better. In other words, an absolutely-acceptable-everyday-Hollywood boldfaced lie.

Candace pretended to adjust a shoe which, Warren understood instantly, meant the lie hadn’t worked. While she wanted to appear to have the power to speak to them in confidence, there were some things Candace could get shit-canned for talking about and the networks’ confidential list of acceptable showrunners was one of them. A person didn’t risk getting fired from a sweet job like hers unless she absolutely had to, and Candace didn’t have to.

“We must be too ugly, Warren!” Dinosaur Mitch said. He turned and surveyed Dodge’s acne scars through the kid’s patchy whiskers. “Nah, can’t be that. Lots of writers are physically unappealing, right, Dodge?”

Warren rose and edged toward Mitch to calm him down and, Ronnie and Dodge assumed from the stories they’d heard, to restrain him.

“Why, Warren, I’d love to dance!” Mitch said, and took Warren in his claws.

Warren played along, spun Mitch around, dipped him and smiled, charming as ever — it’s all part of the pitch! “Come on! Everybody!” Warren exhorted Candace, Ronnie and Dodge, none of whom budged.

“Seriously, Candace, why can’t we run our own show?” Mitch said, still in character. He tried to get closer to her but Warren, stronger, boxed him out as if positioning himself for a late-fourth quarter rebound.

“Come on,” Mitch said to Candace, “tell me to my snout.”

“See, Bertie’s cantankerous,” Warren said gaily. “He’s charming, but he’s a major pain in the ass.”

Mitch would not be diverted. “You’re not allowed to say it, are you, Candace? I’ll say it for you -– we’re too fucking old.”

Now believing there was no longer the faintest chance he’d have to work with Warren and Mitch, Ronnie said, “I think Bertie forgot his Prozac.”

“Another episode!” Warren exulted. Again Candace was impressed -– this guy was quick, relentless, and looked pretty good for someone his age even with the few extra pounds and the sweating. But everything she’d heard about the partner was true.

Mitch jerked away from Warren and threw off his dinosaur head, his frizzy hair wet with perspiration. He spoke in his own voice.

“Nice pedophile priest joke you opened with, Ronnie. What’s next, a fat joke about your mother-in-law? How about a guy dropping soap in a prison shower? Or here’s an idea — drop in the word ‘vagina’ and call it a punchline.”

Warren decided not to intervene. At this point it was either let Mitch vent or physically throttle him, and with the former he’d have at least a tiny shot at spinning Mitch’s craziness as audacity and brilliance and thereby raising the sale from the dead.

“I understand,” Mitch said to Candace. “They were funny when you met them. They’re young. They’re hot. They ran the Harvard Lampoon. And not only are they on a hit show, they’re on something even rarer — a hit show that wins Emmys. Their boss was probably stuck with them on a two-year deal and wanted to dump them after one so he told you how great their First Drafts are, how absolutely essential they’ve been to the show’s wild success. You believed him. You convinced your boss to give them bushels of money to sit in a room down the hall, play darts and come up with hit shows.

"When they pitched you their first shitty idea you were mildly let down. ‘No biggie,’ you thought, ‘a swing and a miss from gifted professionals.’ But then they pitched another shitty show, and another, and another. You felt light-headed, nauseated, because you realized that while they know how to make you laugh, they don’t know how create their own characters or stories. And now, in a doomed attempt to justify the absurd money you’re paying them to fail with their own shows, you want to make them our boss and let them fail with ours.”

Mitch went back to his high-pitched Bertie voice. “Sorry, ma’am!” he exclaimed. “No hit dinosaur show for you!”

“Back to our darts game,” Ronnie said with the smile of a man with a guaranteed contract. The young partners ambled out the door.

Warren fought for calm. He was pleased to note that Candace was keeping her cool, which meant: she wasn’t blowing smoke up their asses and did honestly like their idea; she was aware that effective comedy writing/producing teams often consist of an adult and a child and that there wasn’t a joke man in Hollywood who wasn’t annoying at best; and she was, like all effective TV execs he’d met, craven enough to not care whether a writer was emotionally disturbed if she believed he or she or it could provide her with a hit comedy.

After all, this was a business where one star’s no-talent gravy-training “writer” boyfriend spun a loaded .45 on the conference table in the writers’ room and told the writers sitting around it that “anyone who fucks with her, fucks with me” and got away with it because the studio needed 12 more episodes to reach the magic 100 mark for syndication riches and didn’t want to risk the famously unhinged star’s fury.

“You have lots of guys under contract,” Warren said to Candace. “Maybe you could partner us with someone a little more seasoned.”

It was a reasonable proposal and he knew Candace knew it.

But as she clicked the Address Book icon on her computer, in his own voice Mitch told Warren, “Pull your lips out of her ass,” added that he wasn’t going to work with a shitty seasoned writer either, then whipped his dinosaur mask back onto his head.

“My incisors!” he continued in his dinosaur voice, and felt around his mouth in wonder. “They’ve grown back!” he marveled, and fixed his carnivorous gaze on the executive.

“Meat. Meat!” he cried, and in a sing-songy rhythm chanted “I’m gonna eat a Candace! I’m gonna eat a Candace!” as he skipped merrily toward her. Then he stopped short, scrutinized his prey and said, “Medium-rare, I think.”

Mitch shot fire from his proboscis toward Candace and Warren saw the cool in her expression replaced by honest fear. Warren lunged to tackle his partner but crumpled in pain –- another back spasm. As Warren labored vainly to get off the floor, Mitch moved to clamp his claws around Candace’s neck – and she expertly discharged a stream of Mace into one of his eyeholes.

About The Author:
Tom Musca
Tom Musca is the producer and co-writer of Stand and Deliver which garnered six Independent Spirit Awards, an Oscar nomination and selection to the National Film Registry. His credits include Tortilla Soup, Gotta Kick It Up!, Money For Nothing, Race, Little Nikita, I Hate Sundays and Make Love Great Again. He recently wrote, produced and directed the comedy Chateau Vato. He heads the MFA Screenwriting Program at the University of Miami.

About Tom Musca

Tom Musca is the producer and co-writer of Stand and Deliver which garnered six Independent Spirit Awards, an Oscar nomination and selection to the National Film Registry. His credits include Tortilla Soup, Gotta Kick It Up!, Money For Nothing, Race, Little Nikita, I Hate Sundays and Make Love Great Again. He recently wrote, produced and directed the comedy Chateau Vato. He heads the MFA Screenwriting Program at the University of Miami.

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