Salute the Monkey

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Salute the Monkey

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

A few days ago, I was talking to a writer friend of mine. He had a meeting scheduled the next day with a senior executive at one of the networks.

"I don't even know why I'm going," he told me. "Everybody knows that --" and here he mentioned the name of the executive -- "is getting fired next week. I mean, it's a total waste of my time. I go to the meeting, I pitch my idea, exec buys it in the room, exec gets fired that afternoon, idea dead. You know what I should do? I should go to the meeting, tell" -- and here he mentioned the name of the executive again, which I amnot going to mention because I'm not really sure yet if that particular executive knows that that particular executive's contract isn't being renewed -- I mean, things like this happen all the time in Hollywood -- the only person unaware of the total lack of upper management support for that person's continued employment is usually that person. I once heard of a guy who was summoned to his studio boss' office for what he thought was a pat on the back and a bonus check, only to be terminated. And when he got back to his office, his stuff was all packed up -- turns out his assistant had been discretely boxing his belongings for the past two weeks, leaving out just enough items to create a kind of comforting Potemkin-village of an office.

But I've lost the thread of this. Where was I? Oh, right: my friend wanted to go to the meeting and tell the executive what everybody knew, and say, "Hey, no hard feelings, but why don't we just sit here and drink our Diet Cokes and talk about the weather, and I'll just save my pitch for your successor, who we're all pretty sure is--" and here my friend mentioned the name of the person that everybody knows is going to replace the person that everybody know going to get fired, which I'm not going to do, because I'm not really sure that is the person, yet, and I don't want that person to think that some kind of big offer of big money is surely on its way and do something silly like buy a house north of Montana with one of those jumbo 40-year interest-only crippling balloon-payment adjustable interest-rate mortgages because, hey, I'm the new VP of network comedy development! I'm unstoppable! I will succeed at this job! Despite the fact that no one has ever succeeded at this job! Ever! So by the time that balloon payment comes due I'll be running the damn network myself! Not teaching at the Learning Annex! Where do I sign the escrow papers?!

See, I won't do that to that person. Because it would be, at best, premature, and at worst, cruel. And I, as you know, love people.

But my writer friend does not love people. And he doesn't see why he needs to go through the weird Kabuki of taking a meeting he knows will be useless. Interesting existential question, really. Because when you get right down to it, all meetings are useless -- all executives are doomed -- and any pitch can get sucked into that sticky, sweet-smelling development dumpster.

But I was curious about his predicament, so I called a wise, older agent friend of mine. I put the dilemma to him. He sighed the sigh of a very rich -- very, very rich -- man.

"You know what I'd tell him? He asked, richly.


"I'd tell him to shut up and pitch," he said, wealthily.

"Really? Even to an exec on the way out?"

"Yeah. Look, you go in there, and you salute the uniform, okay? What do you care who's wearing it? They put a monkey in the uniform, you salute the monkey." And then he hung up, with great affluence.

I was going to call my friend with this advice, but then another friend called me to say that that friend didn't know it yet, but wasn't going to get his studio contract renewed. So the exec who was about to be fired was only having the meeting with the writer out of courtesy. Talk about Kabuki.

I didn't tell me friend what I heard. Because I, you know, love people.

That's it for this week. Next week, we make a series of mistakes. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long