54 Hours To Bulletproof

by Bill Scheft

Now that Tommy Dash has found professional success, he’s focused on his personal life: a new girlfriend. 3,332 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Happy 11 days after Thanksgiving. Please email me if you would like the recipe for Charlie Sheen’s Sage-Oyster-AZT stuffing.

Here’s how you know things are different with me: 1) I’ll get to the bad stuff later, 2) Turns out it isn’t that bad, 3) Turns out I may wind up a hero.

I can hear you: “Tommy, you really need to do better than that. You can’t tease us like some news haircut on KTLA: ‘When we come back: The lighter side of a mudslide….’ We come here for your fuck-ups. And we’ve gone too long without one. What could possibly be the reason for the delay?”

Well, I think I found someone and I’d like to talk about her.

Again, I can hear you: “Look, Tommy. We all know it’s Janice. And we’re all thrilled you might have gotten laid by the HR gal at your cable network. But again, we did not and do not come here for middle-aged romance. Frankly, we’re still trying to get over what appears to be some kind of winning streak for you. And now you hit us with the word ‘hero’? And you’re not being ironic? And we have to wait? Fuck you. This isn’t the friggin’ Laemmle Noho 7 where we have to sit through some barfworthy Nancy Meyers preview before the Coen Brothers show up. Out with it!”

Okay, first of all, fuck you. Second, what did you pay to get onto this site? And third, what do you mean, “MIGHT have gotten laid?”

By the way, you know the Coen Brother you never hear about? Jeb! Speaking of which, Ted Cruz, if you’re reading this, whenever you need me to show up to help abolish the IRS, I’m available. Just let me know the time and what to wear. Call my agent, Denard Sharp at CAA. Or have whoever on your staff it is that talks to black people call him.

Can you tell that I’m a little giddy? I’m telling you, I haven’t been this excited since I opened David Spade’s medicine cabinet. Where to start? I guess we should start with the last line of that first phone call: “The kids are staying with my ex.” Who knew she had kids? Who knew she’d been married? Reminded me of my favorite Bob Newhart bit ever. How people in L.A. tell time by their divorces. “I haven’t been to a Dodger game since… Well, I was still married to Janet…”

Come on. “Janet?” Janice? Close enough for fate, my friends.

And who knew her last name? It’s Meagher. Like “Mah-HAR.” We’re having breakfast the next morning at some Jesus-take-me-now place on Sunset and Orange Grove I’ve never been to and she takes out her Visa and puts it down on the table and I pick it up, hand it back to her and say, “Your money’s no good here, Ms. Mah-HAR.” And she says, “That’s amazing. Everyone pronounces it ‘Meager.’ How did you know?” I tell her I remembered this hockey player, Ricky Meagher, who bounced around the NHL for at least 10 years, five in New Jersey. She laughed and said, “My famous third cousin from Canada.”

What a laugh on her, by the way. The kind of laugh you chase. And by you, I mean, well, you know the fuck who I mean. Ha! Ha! HAH! Hee-heeeee… Complete with the scrunched up face. Phenomenal. You know who laughs like that when I can get it out of her? My daughter Abby. And yes, I mean Abby.

Janice Meagher. She went back to it. Her married name was Castroberti. She told me changing back probably cost her some money in the long run. And I said, “Why? Are you getting your house re-stuccoed?” That got another Ha! Ha! HAH! Hee-heeeee… With a face scrunch, and a table grab.

She called me from downstairs at 1 a.m. Saturday morning and I kissed her goodbye through the driver’s side window of her Ford Edge at 7 a.m. Monday so she could get back to Glendale, change and then over to the building by 9:30. Seven a.m. on a Monday. An hour of the day that did not exist for Tommy Dash previously. You have to believe me. I have not spent this much consecutive time with a woman since 1991 in Tahoe, and that was only because the gal from the service got snowed in. Of course, now that I reread that last sentence, I don’t really think I need the phrase “You have to believe me…” But we’ll keep it in.

So, 54 hours we were together. We must have walked 20 miles, including that Sherpa hill on La Cienega between Santa Monica and Sunset. We did that like six times because I have the good taste to live on Fountain. But she would say, “Let’s go by The Comedy Store and see your name on the outside and you’ll tell me another story” and we would walk that last insane 50-degree-incline standard transmission-destroying block and I would point to my name, scripted on the lower right outside wall in between Valerie Pappas and Lance Crouther, and, after I had caught my breath (and long after Janice had caught hers), I would snicker to myself and remember some long forgotten tale. The last time, it was one about Lance Crouther trying to get cash out of the club owner in Boston after four shows on the weekend and the guy pleading poverty and telling him to stop by his house on the way to the airport. So, Lance takes a cab to Brookline and tells the driver to wait while he knocks on the door of this friggin’ mansion. The club owner answers the door and hands him the $1,200 in cash. Lance looks behind the guy and sees two or three robots cleaning his living room. Robots. The club owner then apologizes for having Lance come by, but repeats he didn’t have that kind of cash on hand at the club. And Lance says, “Well, next time, have the motherfucking robot bring the money to the club.”

You have to believe me, telling those stories outside the Store (or The Improv on Melrose, which we walked by twice) was the only time I spoke for longer than 30 seconds the whole weekend. Mostly, I kept asking questions. I just wanted to listen to her. I wanted to know as much about Janice Meagher as I possibly could. Two reasons. One, just the blessed relief of another voice in my head. Confident. Light. Calm. Unregretful. And two, to try and understand why someone like her would have anything to do with me. She told me everything, all of the stuff that is none of my fucking business, and I still don’t understand what she was doing there. But I’ll keep looking. I’ll keep looking for what I will eventually have to apologize for.

While we’re at it, I should probably start by apologizing for ever contemplating, even for a second, about the advantages of dating the HR gal. Come on. We all know that’s the racket I was looking to run. The kind of bulletproof that usually is meted out to those with, you know, talent.

I’m sure when I thought about it, dating the HR gal, I viewed it through the same victimless crime prism of dating your pot dealer (which I have done), or dating the sister of your bookie (which I have done), or dating the manager of the Laugh Outlet in San Jose because you wanted to work there more than twice a year (which I did until I stole a potted rubber tree from the condo. And which is not a victimless crime. I really should have checked.)

Sharp-eyed viewers of these posts may ask, “Hey Tommy, what happened to the 27-year-old girlfriend you mentioned early on that pissed off your daughter, Janey?” Okay, first of all, it pissed off Abby, not Janey. Janey is the one who hasn’t talked to me since 2008. With Abby, it’s just been a couple of months. Get it right. Second, that gal is in the wind, Jackson. After the second post came out, she called and screamed at me because I had written she was 27, which is not her show business age. Then, when I pointed out that it made no difference because I hadn’t used her name, she really lost it. She said she was tired of my narcissism and tired of fucking her dad. So, I hope that’s enough of an update. And I hope it proves that at the moment, I am unattached and available. Hell, I’m nothing but available.

Not that you asked, but Janice is not much younger than me. If I told you and you saw her, you’d be stunned. But I’m not gonna tell you and you ain’t gonna see her and this is nobody’s fucking business.

We walked a lot. We ate at six places within a mile and a half of my apartment, none of which I’d ever set foot in, each one better than the last. We drank at a few joints. She can drink a little bit, Janice. She likes a glass of house wine with dinner, and then, instead of dessert, she’ll go somewhere else for a couple of beers. And a couple of bummed cigarettes. (Let me tell you something. Watching Janice work a room after midnight for a Marlboro Red is more entertaining than anything they’re coughing up on Lifetime right now.) Sunday, we went to some brunch place on Robertson. She had a Bloody Maria, which if you didn’t know, is a Bloody Mary with tequila. I didn’t know. I had two and a third because I finished hers. Seriously, where has this fucking nectar been all my life?

We stopped for coffee a lot. On this, coffee, she can go cup-for-cup with anyone I’ve ever met. And I’ve spent time with guys trying to get sober. We thought about going to see Spotlight, but she said, “Why waste $30 when we’re just going to wind up making out?” I promise you, that is the only full direct quote from her you will get out of me.

You want to know the most impressive part of the 54 hours? Other than her saying, “And that’s when I started at my current job…” and me saying, “And that’s when I got the call…”? The show, the network, the people, my star fucking turn in Episode Six of I Don’t Get It, never came up. None of it.

Wait. There’s more. I got three calls in the 54 hours. One from my I Don’t Get It showrunner Danny Musselman, one from my agent Denard Sharp, one from comedian Brian Kiley about filling in for him Monday night somewhere. I answered none of them, but whenever my flip phone buzzed and I took it out to see who it was, she would smile and hold her hand out with a little display flourish. Janice Meagher Castroberti Meagher. Between that move and the making out line, honest to Christ, do we really need to talk of anything else?

She called Monday around noon to confirm my email address. “Is this right? I need to send you something,” she said.

“You don’t sound like the girl who left my place five hours ago,” I said. Which is pretty fucking suave for a guy who just woke up on his day off.

“I am,” she said. “But I’m here now. And you need to see this email before you come in tomorrow.”

It was a long long long, what do they call it, email tree? One of those things you have to read from the bottom up. Janice was kind enough to remind me of that when she forwarded the jackpot to me. She also asked me not to reply, but if I had to, for God sake, not to hit REPLY ALL.

The original subject line was “FW: Have you fucking seen this?” And it was sent by the publicity department. Some hyphenated high-heeled fixed-nosed sentence-finisher I’d seen breathing all over I Don’t Get It actor Clark Keegan at the tapings. Kimberly something. Kimberly Something-Something.  Her original email only contained a link to my last post on this site: “See Tommy Kill.” Kimberly Something-Something had cc’d a dozen network people, including the two Merediths and three Seths from that first meeting and Danny Musselman. Janice didn’t get copied until the 18th reply. “I’m looping in Janice,” Kimberly wrote. Danny replied immediately. “Not a Janice issue, and I think she’ll agree. Let’s meet at 1 p.m. in my office. Again, fuck….”

Of the 23 pre-Janice branches of the email tree, 16 were initiated by Kimberly Something-Something, five were by Danny weighing in during the course of his reading “See Tommy Kill” with “Jesus,” “Fuck” or “Fucking Jesus….” and the other two were one-word entries from network people: “Gone” and “Agreed.”

To nutshell, by posting “See Tommy Kill,” I had given away an entire episode of I Don’t Get It a month before it was supposed to air. And this wasn’t some dream sequence “Bobby was in the shower” leak two nights before in the days when there were only three networks and 50 million people tuning in. This was detailed synopses and full passages of dialogue and the big laugh lines. Well, you know. You read it. And now, thanks to Yahoo News picking it up because there’s nothing fucking else going on in the fucking world, so have a lot of other people. And the cable  network can’t get the woman who runs this site to take down “See Tommy Kill” because, well, why the fuck would she?  Suddenly, Tommy Dash is bringing thousands and thousands of people over here like they’re sitcom-deprived Syrian refugees.

Would it mean anything at this point if I said I hadn’t thought this through? I didn’t think so. But, to be fair, my previous posts had gotten me this gig, and nobody ever said anything to me about not posting. And sure, we’d taped six episodes, but the first hadn’t aired until a friggin’ week ago. In the online universe, that’s as if I was making the whole thing up. And I’m certainly capable of that. Because, let’s face it, I’m pretty damn colorful. And besides, nobody ever said anything to me about not posting. And one more thing. Nobody ever said anything to me about not posting.

That was Monday, around 12:30 p.m.  So, I made three decisions. Well, one decision and two calls. I decided to do nothing and they’d let me know if I was gone. Hey, my time is up, you’ve been great, enjoy Desmond Dekker and the Aces. I called Brian Kiley back and asked him if he was still looking for someone to fill in that night. He wasn’t. And I called my former dealer Flacco and told him to meet me in the parking lot of Carl’s Jr. on Olympic and Main. From there, it’s a 20-minute walk to Basie’s, a bar that runs Keno all day. And frankly, I gotten kind of used to walking around with Janice.

I played Keno for 10 hours and went through all of Flacco’s envelope, the $375 I had on me and maybe half a bottle of bourbon. I cashed once for $38, which was left on the bar as a bonus tip. I split when the idiots spilled in from the Laker game. Other than the numbered balls on the Keno screen and whoever was pouring, I spoke to no one.

There was a great great comic from the early 1980s everyone has forgotten about named Ronnie Shakes. He dropped dead jogging at 43. He was a line comic, like Rodney or Steven Wright, and had a thousand beautiful lines. Here’s one: “The cops came. They arrested me and threw me in jail. Told me I was allowed one phone call. Nobody called…”

That’s my way of saying nobody called.

To be fair, when I got home, just before midnight, there was an email awaiting me. From Janice. The subject line was “Gee…” and the body of the email was “…I hope he’s all right.”  So, go ahead. You tell me I haven’t found someone.

I took an Ambien with a chocolate pudding. If I told you how refreshed I felt when I woke up this morning, you wouldn’t believe me. Which is on you, because you really should believe me by now.

Here’s what else you wouldn’t believe. From the second I showed up at the building at 10 a.m., nobody all day mentioned “See Tommy Kill” or my performance as Johnny V. Nobody. Not even the writers. I got a “Good job, boy” from Curtis Clethan, the black guy writer, and then they all went back to ignoring me. Even Cindy, the gal writer. Fucking Beck, the asshole writer, wouldn’t look at me, and I mean in a different way than he usually doesn’t look at me. I got one laugh when we were working on a scene in Episode 8 where Clark is going through his fan mail and I suggested that Morty say, “Did we get an invitation to Johnny V’s funeral?”

Danny Musselman was in and out of the room in the morning and afternoon. Finally, around 8 p.m., I couldn’t take it anymore and followed him back to his office.

“Dash, you have something to ask me?”

“You have something to tell me, Danny?”

“Like what?”

Jesus, it was going to be one of these conversations. No, it wasn’t. “Like what?” I said. “Like ‘You’re fired’? Like ‘Thanks for the shit storm, Tommy’? Like ‘I told you to use your fucking head’?”

Danny Musselman smiled, “That’s four ‘likes,’ Tommy. You’re hanging around with the young writers too much.” Then he motioned me to a seat.
“Here’s what I have to tell you. The Johnny V. episode, your episode, is airing next week. It was originally Episode Four, but now it’s Episode Three. And it works there. We should be done editing it Friday night. If you want to come by and see it after you’re done with the warmup, you can. You should. You… well, you know what you did out there for us.”

I was going to say something, but the listening thing had worked so well with Janice.

“Now,” Danny said, “what you did with the ‘See Tommy Kill’ stuff? Funny thing. It turns out you did that for us as well. And when anybody asks us, we’ll tell them we all knew about it, and we knew all about it, and the fact that I Don’t Get It has been on the network a week and people are already quoting lines from a show that hasn’t aired yet, well, you want to call it a leak, we call it a promotional fountain.”

“We?” I said.

“Okay, me,” said Danny. “Hey, Tommy Dash may wind up a hero.”

“I cannot believe all these years of not keeping my fucking mouth shut could finally work for me.”

He grinned. “You know about the 80-year-old man who went to confession?”

I did, but he had more than earned the right to finish. “No, Danny. Can’t say that I do…”

Danny Musselman pushed off from the front of his desk and assumed the stance of the comic he had never quite been: “80-year-old man goes to confession. He says ‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. During the last month, I’ve been fucking my 30-year-old secretary.’ The priest says, ‘When was your last confession?’ The old man says, ‘I’ve never been to confession. I’m Jewish.’ The priest says, ‘Well, why are you telling me?’ And the old man says, ‘Hell, I’m telling everybody!’”

I took a long dinner break. Long. Kevin James long. When I walked back into the writers room, no one asked where I’d been. You know who doesn’t get asked where he’s been? A guy who’s bulletproof.

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

  8 comments on “54 Hours To Bulletproof

  1. And so the die is cast. It’s all fun and games till somebody falls in love. Epic. ‘A Comedian takes The Hero’s Journey.’ Didn’t figure the story to go all Joe Campbell on our asses. Beautiful.

  2. Since May I’ve missed your style of comedy. Thanks for Tommy and the insights to the business. Blew thru all 8 in a few hours.

  3. Billy, This is the first I’ve known about this column. Wonderful. How long have you been doing it? Hip surgery coming up soon? Hope all goes well. Love to the "A". Best, Buddy

    1. Buddy, I don’t want to tell you your business, but you, of all people, need to read this from the beginning. Too many people, places and things. Hip is on the mend. I now dream of pushing off the back foot when I get my pitch, and drifting back easily on a fly ball.

  4. "AZT stuffing" with subliminal oysters?? Stay-in-the-business funny. Glad they didn’t take the hip out of you in your hip surgery, ps.

  5. It’s always a pleasure to watch Tommy Dash’s hot breath fogging up the glass on our fourth wall! Just one word of warning: watch out with those Bloody Marias. Because, as we all know, "bulletproof" is only the third stage of tequila! The fourth stage is "invisible"!

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