Friends in the Room
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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I was having lunch with a friend of mine the other day. And he suddenly looked up from his Cobb salad.
"Oh, here's something I forgot to tell you," he says. "You know who I ran into the other day?"
And he mentions the name of a writer that I'd worked with almost ten years ago. Eight years. A nice guy. Good writer. We had hired him to work on the staff of a show we were doing back then. The show was cancelled eventually -- do I really have to specify that, each time? Look, let's just stipulate, at the outset, that when I refer to a "show we were doing back then" it's a show that was cancelled. You'll know when I have a show on that's not cancelled because instead of talking about the minor disappointments and tiny humiliations and petty little rebellions I've noticed or enacted in my career, I'll start talking about the "art" of writing and the "craft" of storytelling and start sharing my idiotic political beliefs in an vaguely English accent. Oh, who am I kidding? You'll know I have a successful show on the air when I'm suddenly not here. When I'm suddenly in Mauritious.
So. Back to the story. My friend runs into a guy who used to write on the staff of a show we had on the air.
"How was he?" I ask.
My friend shrugs. "Not so good. He's working, I guess, so that's good, but he asked me if I knew why it was that you hate him."
"I don't hate him," I say.
"He thinks you hate him."
"Does he have a show on the air?"
"Then why on earth would I hate him?"
"Well," my friend says, "I guess he thought you guys were friends, you know, you worked together for a year, and then I guess he's called you a few times, or something?"
"Well, I guess it just seems to him like you, maybe, hate him."
You see, this is the problem with our little corner of the business. Comedies are a staff-intensive business. You work with a staff of writers --- sometimes, a dozen or more of them, packed into a room -- all day, and occasionally into the night. So you get to know them all pretty well. There's not a lot about each other that at the end of a long season of 22 episode you don't know, and don't know well. I mean, I know things about certain divorces, certain legal proceedings, that it's just not normal for a person to know about another person he's not related to or suiing.
It certainly has the outlines of friendship, of course. It's collegial. But it's also way too intense to be sustainable after the show is -- inevitably, in our case -- cancelled. I mean, you've already talked about everything there is to talk about. You've stripped the tree of friendship of all of its leaves. There's not much left to say.
My friend looks up from his salad again. "Did you just say ‘stripped the tree of friendship of all of its leaves?'"
"Pretty pompous for a guy with no hit on the air."
Look, I don't hate this guy at all. I like him. He's a nice guy. But it's just... I don't really make friends in the writer's room. It's too much of a psychological hothouse. I have colleagues, sure. People I'm fond of that I've worked with. But there's always the moment when you go over to another writer's house, or out to a restaurant with someone you've worked with -- just socially, just as friends, not for business -- and there's this moment when you're suddenly both just exhausted by the artificiality of it all. I mean, you've been in the room together for a year. You've already shown your worst side. Every day. I've seen you naked. Don't try to suck in your gut now.
"So what do I do?" I ask my friend. "Do I call him and say, hey, listen, I don't hate you? God, that sounds so awful."
"What does it matter?"
"He just sold a huge show to NBC. From what I hear, it's going to be a big hit."
"What's his number?" I ask.
That's it for this week. Next week, we'll find out what they want. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.
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