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FROM THIS EPISODE

He Thinks Young

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

A few months ago, I ran into an older writer at Peet-s coffee. OLDER WRITER
Hey. I know you. ME
Hi.

OLDER WRITER
You spoke on a panel discussion I went to.

ME
Hi.

OLDER WRITER
So, do you ever hire older writers on those TV shows of yours? This is an inevitable question, and a touchy one. Older writers often feel pushed aside by younger ones, and resent the richer deals of today-s business. -Ageism- is what they call it, with a writer-s tin ear for self-irony. ME
Oh, by all means. We like to work with writers who have more experience. In fact, we work regularly with two or three writers in their sixties. I mention their names. The Older Writer shrugs. OLDER WRITERSS
Oh, those guys. I know those guys. They-re good writers. But I don-t mean them. I mean, do you ever hire just ordinary older writers? And then my double espresso was ready, so I pretended not to hear the question.

You see, writers, in theory anyway, make their own breaks. To succeed as an actor, you need the right part and the right look. To succeed as a television writer, all you need to do is master the technology of the pencil. But success means working, anonymously, with other writers who probably hate you, or would if they knew how much you hate them. It means always trying to be funnier than the writer just below you in the hierarchy. It means that no matter how much everyone seems to get along, or how many times your bosses, the executive producers, tell you that you-re doing a great job, you still take your career temperature every night on the way home. You still replay the day over and over in your head, asking yourself why you didn-t think of the show-saving pitch, or the killer button to the last scene, and why the new kid, who looks twelve, did.

See, when you-re hiring a writing staff for a new series, the phone rings continuously with agents pitching their clients to you. A few years ago, one called to pitch his client. AGENT
Let me tell you, this guy is great. He-s - and I-m running out of superlatives here - great. Great with story. Great with jokes. There-s just one thing you need to know.

ME
What?

AGENT (V.O.)
He can-t be in The Room.

ME
What?

AGENT (V.O.)
He can-t be in the room. With the other writers. He just can-t.

ME
Why?

AGENT (V.O.)
The last show he was on, they were very cruel. There was a lot of-psychological-stuff going on. Some of the younger writers would snicker at some of his joke pitches. Say things like -I think I saw that on an old I Love Lucy.- When he didn-t get one of their pitches, they-d say it was a -generational misunderstanding.- During late rewrites, they kept ordering spicy food that didn-t agree with him. That sort of thing.

ME
Oh.

AGENT (V.O.)
He-s still a little shell-shocked. So instead of actually being in the room, he-s at home on speaker-phone.

ME
He-s home?

AGENT (V.O.)
In his tub.

ME
He-s in the bath?

AGENT (V.O.)
He finds the warm water very soothing. Look, he-s really been through the wringer. And let-s be honest, you guys need some old timers on your staff.

ME
How old is he?

AGENT (V.O.)
Actually, federal law prohibits the asking of that question.

ME
Sorry.

AGENT (V.O.)
He-s forty-two. But he thinks young.

CUT TO:

To be described, at forty-two years old, as a young thinker, is just one of the reasons that writers have it worse than everyone. That-s it for this week. Next week, we-ll sign with an agent.

For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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