Who Are You Wearing On?

by Bill Scheft

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: Politically incorrect Tommy Dash reacts post-Oscars after trying out for Chris Rock’s Academy Awards writing team. 3,175 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.

Am I too late to call the 2016 Oscars "Straight Outta Caucasia"? Was I the only one who thought Chris 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8Rock wore the white tux so at some point some guy in a bomber jacket would walk up to him on stage, hand a key and say, "It’s the red Lexus…" By the way, none of my business, but couldn’t they come up with a more empowering word for black people not showing up than "boycott?" I don’t think they’ll solve Oscars’ diversity problem by next year. But they will come up with the technology so the Teleprompter cannot contain the phrase "Rihanna’s panties." How about that Red Carpet? I haven’t seen this much side boob since Christie stood next to Trump. I’m confused. Before he started Apple, Steve Jobs was the "Sprockets" guy? Abe Vigoda was left out of the "In Memoriam" montage. But, to be fair, he’d been in it for the last 15 years. Forget his message, let me say this about Joe Biden. Clearly, he learned from listening to Jay Leno rattle off upcoming dates at the end of The Tonight Show… You can never have too many plugs. Right about now, Pope Francis’ publicist, Howard Rubenstein, is calling him saying, "Hey, you got mentioned in the acceptance speech for Spotlight!"

This is somebody’s fault, but not necessarily mine.

I thought I was supposed to be here, working on the Oscars.

Two weeks ago, I’m at the Comedy Cellar in the Village. I’m trying to get my 20-year-old ban from performing there lifted. Long story, but it involves saying “jizz” on stage. I see Richie Vos, a comic, hanging out by the steps. I’ve known Richie since he would try to barter for crack by doing $10 worth of material for his dealer. He’s clean a long long time, one of those “If life was fair, I’d be dead…” grateful pains in the ass. And he’s a regular at The Cellar. I ask him if he’ll vouch for me to the owner. He smiles and says, “I don’t know, Tommy. What’s the statute of limitations on jizz?” Jesus, does everybody know this story? I ask him if he’s working and Vos says he’s writing for Chris Rock on the Academy Awards. And he says “Academy Awards,” the correct term, in case Ed Snowden is listening in. I say, “Is Chris looking for anything?” And Vos says, “You know Rock. He’s got a dozen guys giving him pages and in the end he comes up with better shit than anything that’s been turned in or anything we’ll ever come up with.” I ask Vos if he has an email for Chris, and he says, mumbling around his cigarette, “Yeah, send him some stuff. He looks at everything. But don’t do anything about his divorce.”

“He’s getting divorced?” I say while I write the email address down on the back of a CVS receipt.

Richie Vos lets the cigarette fall out of his mouth and says, “Really? You didn’t know that? You know Robin died, don’t you? And you know Ellen came out? And you know Dylan went electric?”

“I heard Dylan went from electric to wind,” I say. And he could tell I came up with that right then and there. So, Richie Vos looks at me like comics look at me all the time. The look that says, How come a guy who can come up with a line like that in the street always is in a jam? Or a jackpot? Or a jampot?

“Funny,” he deadpans. The ultimate compliment from another comic. “Yeah, send him some stuff. Bust his balls. But don’t tell him you got the email from me.” Every time somebody does a favor for me, they end up asking me not to tell anyone else they did it. So, I wind up doing them a favor. And, like I have to tell you, never a thank you.

So, I go back to Lyndhurst, New Jersey, where I’m staying, incredibly temporarily, with my daughter Janey and her one-year-old, Sally, and I grab a bunch of napkins at the diner on the corner, and I start writing jokes for Chris Rock, Oscars host. It took a couple of days. I sent him 20. Here they are. As you can tell, I quickly settled on a theme:

  • Welcome to the Oscars. Or, as it’s now known, “White Lives Matter.”

  • The producers gave me a great suggestion. “Run around a lot,” they said, “make it look like there’s a group of you.”

  • Exactly 39 years ago, at the 1977 Academy Awards, Richard Pryor came out here and said only two black people were allowed to vote: Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Of course, that was before they tightened up the rules…

  • Richard Pryor co-hosted the Oscars. And he made it through the entire telecast without being pulled over by the cops for no reason.

  • If Hollywood was any further behind, Flava Flav would have to set his clock back to 1966.

  • People in Hollywood think Jim Crow is the less successful brother of Cameron Crowe.

  • The only way a black man can get an Oscar tonight is if he has the alarm codes for Denzel Washington’s house. Not the guest house. The Big House.

  • No black people were nominated this year. Now I know why Justice Scalia died. His work was done.

  • No black nominees. Michael B. Jordan legally changed his name to Michael B. Jobbed.

  • Fuck it. Let’s just get Steve Harvey out here with an envelope and say Michael B. Jordan won. What are they going to do, arrest him? Okay, but what are they going to do after they arrest him?

  • I first suspected the Academy had a diversity problem in 1992, when they gave a lifetime achievement award to Rodney King’s cinematographer.

  • Television has always been better about this issue. Even the black guy on Hogan’s Heroes got to take the tunnel into town.

  • Please, Diff’rent Strokes dad Conrad Bain found more substantial parts for black actors.

  • When I was growing up, the only role for black women was Esther Rolle.

  • I think I speak for everyone when I say, "We’re all Meryl Streep tonight."

  • Meryl Streep said we were all Africans. Meryl is precious, isn’t she? No, really. She’s Precious tonight. Got the fat suit on and everything.

  • The Academy is making changes to ensure there will be more diversity. And they promise these changes will be fully implemented by the time Harper Lee finishes her next book.

  • Here’s a good start. Next year, the Scientific and Technical Awards will be presented during a lunch at Sylvia’s.

  • I’m under a lot of pressure from my people. Just before I came out, I got a text from the late Paul Robeson that said, “I’ll be watching, motherfucker…”

  • I don’t want to be in the middle of a controversy. I just want to do a show. I wish there’s some way I could wake up and it would be the next day. But Bill Cosby flushed the rest of his pills…

A week ago, Chris Rock writes me back. Two lines:

Tommy Fucking Dash! Pick up your credential at the Staples Center – Will Call. Rock

Two things. 1) He must have thought I was still in LA. 2) He must have thought I knew he was kidding with the reference to the Staples Center.

No, and no.

I didn’t know Chris Rock was busting my balls. I didn’t know the Oscars weren’t at the Staples Center. Why wouldn’t they be there? I’ll be honest. I still don’t know where they are. And I don’t give a shit, except I’m here.

I flew in on my own dime, like some goober who hadn’t thought things through. I got in yesterday, Sunday, at noon, got my car out of long-term parking, got a tuxedo jacket at a thrift shop for $75. When I showed up to get my credentials at 2 p.m., a full three hours before the nonsense starts, the will call guy at the Staples Center said, “We have nothing for you,” and laughed.

So now, it’s Sunday in L.A. and I can’t get in touch with anybody to help me out and I have absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go. In other words, any other Sunday in L.A.. (My girlfriend, Janice, is in Newport, making arrangements for her dad, who is on the way out. I’ll do the boyfriend-by-her-side thing later today. Tuesday at the latest.) I decide, and it seems like a good idea at the time, to go to Gardena and play some cards for a couple of hours, then watch the Oscars at the bar and write down my hilarious musings on what is taking place at the Shrine Auditorium or the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or the Kodak Theater or wherever the fuck it is. And then send them into this site, because what else am I going to do?

Well, they only had the Oscars on one TV at the casino, with the sound off. So, I get pissed off and go back to the tables. I drop $1,200, which is what I would have been paid if I were really writing on the fucking show. When I get back to New Jersey, I’ll try to put in for my airfare to Chris’ people. And maybe we’ll all have a good laugh over the misunderstanding. Which would be the first laugh I’ve had since I landed. But the good news is I can be here for Janice and try to help her through this time. And you can’t really put a price on that. But if you did, it might be airfare plus $1,200.

scheft_trumbo_2Now, to be honest, I didn’t really prepare to work on the actual Oscars telecast. I only saw two films being touted for awards: I saw Trumbo, but I told you Janice and I made out during the last hour because you know how it ends: Roy Cohn tests positive. And the only Best Picture nominee I saw was Spotlight, which was great, except Michael Keaton did not do enough Michael Keaton for me. You know, the bouncing around, looking from side to side.

I like Michael Keaton because he will always be a comic who happened to become a movie star. He told a story somewhere, I think Letterman, about the difference between filming in New York and anyplace else. A film takes over every other location but, in New York, you’re just in the way. He’s doing the Birdman movie and they’ve wrapped for the day. One of the guys in the crew is talking to a buddy and motions Keaton over and says to his friend, “Show him your tattoo.” The friend rolls up his sleeve and his arm is covered in a perfect likeness of Michael Keaton from Beetlejuice. Perfect. But the friend is looking straight ahead and doesn’t realize he’s showing the tattoo to the actual guy. After about five seconds, he turns and says, “We done here?” and rolls down his sleeve and walks away. He had to get somewhere.

I’m happy for Michael Keaton, but I prefer comics who just want to be comics. I remember seeing Louis CK in a restaurant a dozen years ago, before he had his show. And I went up to him on the way out and said, “You know, just because you directed Pootie Tang, doesn’t make you an auteur. It makes you a headliner with a credit nobody fucking cares about.”

By the way, I don’t recall a boycott when Pootie Tang was snubbed by the Academy. Maybe one person refused to go. Maybe Jada Pinkett Smith’s personal shopper, L. Ron Cupboard.

Look, it’s Monday, we’re all tired. You know the results, you saw everyone walk and talk. So, let’s run down the other nominees for Best Picture:

The Revenant – Three years ago, I was on a flight from LA to Houston (which I did get reimbursed for, as any humane vendor would do). It was one of those rackets where they cancelled the earlier flight due to “mechanical trouble.” Which means it wasn’t full enough and they wanted to save on a load of fuel. So, my plane is chockablock full. They gate-check 30 pieces of carry-on luggage and there’s still no room in the overhead bins. The crew keeps begging us to stow whatever we can wherever we can. My hand to God, the last passenger to get on the plane is this woman carrying a giant stuffed teddy bear. Like something you’d win for knocking down the milk bottles on the Santa Monica pier or you’d buy to bribe your divorced boyfriend’s out-of-wedlock daughter. The woman refuses to check the thing and will not let them take it from her. I say to one of the male flight attendants, “Just make sure you remind her that, in case of an emergency, to put the oxygen mask over the bear’s face first, then hers.” Well, the guy screams like he was in the third row at a Kathy Griffin show.

This is my way of saying I heard there’s a bear in the film.

Bridge Of Spies – I know it’s a Spielberg picture, which means no Jews were harmed during the making of the film. And I know it’s about the U-2 incident, which gives me the opportunity to say this about Larry Mullen Jr., the drummer for U2. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but just because something was your idea, or you were there at its birth, doesn’t mean you get to stay. It’s a band, not a monarchy. If you really care, you’d move off the kit. Grab a tambourine and go nuts on your way out, but go.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Mel Gibson is not in this sequel, which disturbs me only because I already used the “no Jews were harmed” line with Spielberg. And I can’t say Fury Road was where he was pulled over by the LAPD because I already used “pulled over” for the Pryor line I gave Chris Rock.

Now I find out the movie had been in development since 1997, which is the exact same amount of time they’ve been doing the Viagra clinical trial on Bob Dole. Did anyone ever do a joke about Bob Dole’s Viagra-infused dick reaching across the aisle? Man, that would have been a honey around 1998. If there had been Twitter and I’d been on it in 1998, whew, look out. But I’m about eight years too early. Once again, I cannot catch a break.

Brooklyn – The best Christmas Eve I ever had, going away, was 1986. I’m in New York for a few weeks and booked at Rascals in West Orange, New Jersey, for New Year’s Eve, opening for Bob Nelson, and I’m able to surround it with some dates on Long Island the weekend before and after. Richard Jeni is on the road and loans me his Chevy Nova as long as I spring for an oil change, leave it with a full tank and pay any tickets. The nights I’m not working, I hang out at Catch A Rising Star in Manhattan, where you can drink for free as long as you take care of the bartenders. I get on a couple of times late. Christmas Eve, a Tuesday, the show ends early, like 1:00 a.m.. I figure I’ll go out to eat next door at the Green Kitchen with the other comics. I tell Larry Amoros (whom I’ve mentioned in a previous post, and who has already gone up and killed) that I have a car if he wants to go eat in Chinatown. “Fuck that,” he says and he goes up to Adrianne Tolsch, who emceed the whole night, and says, “Dash has a car,” and she gets all excited. I get excited, too, because I have a major thing for Adrianne. She’s great looking and can bust balls with any guy. But she’s going out with another comic. And I might have been married. Yeah, I was. Well, Larry and Adrianne get this other comic, Lloyd Skitz, who’s a funny-looking late night act they love and we all pile into Richard Jeni’s Nova and head for Brooklyn.

I have no idea where I’m going. But they’re all from Brooklyn, or had grown up there, and they just keep telling me to turn here, make a left there, no wait, that’s one way, make the next left. For a solid hour and a half, we ride around Brooklyn making fun of people’s Christmas lights. I can’t lie to you, there were dry goods involved as well. Adrianne would roll down the window and scream, “What is the matter with you?” in her mother’s voice. Larry keeps wanting to find a place called Jules Nuts, and then says, “Wait a minute. I might be confusing it with a kid I gave a nickel to at summer camp.” Lloyd Skitz keeps laughing and coughing from Adrianne’s pot.

Around 3:00 a.m., we wind up at Nathan’s in Coney Island and order an embarrassing amount of food. It’s the four of us, the counter man, the fry cook and a homeless guy. Larry keeps looking around for napkins, and finally says to the counter man, “Do you have any napkins, or should we just wipe our hands on the bum?”

Two weeks later, after I get back to L.A., I get a call from Richard Jeni. He thanks me for filling up the car, the oil change, and the half order of fried fantail shrimp on the back seat.

The Big Short – I started drinking at 16, and the day after that, I stopped paying attention to my parents. I can’t recall too many conversations between them, but there’s one exchange that would pop up every few months. My mom would get a couple of Dewars in her and start going on and on about some article she’s read about some company or some new technology, winding up with “Bert, you need to call the broker.” And my dad would look up from the Angels game and say, “If they knew anything, they wouldn’t be brokers.”

The Martian – Last week, while I was still in Lyndhurst, New Jersey — the Town Irony Forgot — my daughter Janey and Borden, her boyfriend and the father, had me babysit my, uh, granddaughter Sally while they went out to see this film. You have to believe me. Tommy Dash being left alone for three hours with a one-year-old is a higher concept than Ridley Scott will ever cough up.

They get back, and Janey tells me about the picture. How there’s this accident and Matt Damon is left behind for dead, alone on a desolate land, and he fends for himself for months before he’s rescued. By now, my eyes are rolling like a Powerball drawing, and Janey says, “It’s not like that, Dad. It’s funny.” And I say, “You know what would make it funny? If, when Matt Damon gets back to Earth, he finds out Helen Hunt has remarried…”

She. Did. Not. Get. It.

Room – I have now been in the Normandie Casino in Gardena for 15 hours. A big portion of that was spent in a men’s room stall, where I may have taken a nap or I may have passed out. Judgment call. It may be both because the second time I wake up, I have burns on my upper thighs from where my laptop was resting. So, I might have come to. I have seen no natural light since I left the parking lot. The bartender took my car keys, and then her shift ended four hours ago. She’s not answering her phone. She’ll be back in another seven hours. My phone battery died, appropriately enough, sometime around the “In Memoriam” Oscars montage, which I saw on the TV with no sound. The charger is locked in my car. I want to call Janice and tell her when I’m coming but her number’s in my phone and God help me if I remember it.

I am Room.

You know what? I still have no idea if Rock did any of my jokes. Let me know.

See Tommy Kill

This story first posted here on February 29, 2016. 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

  7 comments on “Who Are You Wearing On?

  1. I wouldn’t mind seeing Nikki Finke and Tommy Dash live-blog the Oscars tomorrow night. Just saying. (What I’d really love is seeing them talk back to the Oscars live via picture-in-picture mode– like back in the olden days when we got to see OJ and the Bronco chase plus the NBA Finals. Good times.)

  2. Was waiting for the mention of Tony Rock, Chris’ younger brother, whose "All Def Movie Awards" show taped Weds. & will air Sunday pm with categories like "Most Helpful White Person" – Def Jam behind this response to all the controversy. These two Rocks, wow, lol.

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