The Phone Rings, I Answer It

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The Phone Rings, I Answer it

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

In this business, when you get good news, it almost always comes over the phone. And in this business, when you get bad news, it almost always comes over the phone. Which is why, in this business, people look at their phone a lot.

You see us in restaurants and coffee shops, twiddling and twirling and checking and rechecking it. Sliding it into a pocket and turning it to vibrate and then thinking, 'wait, I won't necessarily feel it if it vibrates' and then turning it to low, or medium British ring, or loud Coldplay, or whatever we think will cut through the ambient noise at Peet's or the Coffee Bean or 18th Street Coffeehouse and get our attention.

You see, somewhere in town, right this minute, someone -- probably in an office -- is talking to someone else -- probably in a car -- on the phone, then hanging up and calling another person, probably in an office, talking to that person, who then hangs up and calls your agent, in his office, who then calls you, at the Coffee Bean, and says, "Guess what I just got for you? A big offer from the studio! Am I a great agent or what?"

I mean, that's the way it's supposed to work, which is why we all keep checking and double-checking our cell phones. You know, because what if it's good news?

This is all a long, long way to explain myself to one person, who probably isn't listening. She works at the animal hospital where I've been taking my wonderful, brilliant, sick 11 year-old dog, my most successful, most loving, most long-lasting relationship. We're perfect for each other: most of what I say he either doesn't understand or totally ignores, a wise policy that many people in my life have found hard to really follow. But he does. Which is why when I take him to the hospital once a week for chemotherapy and acupuncture, I get all...emotional.

(Note to people who don't live in the 310 area code: I'm totally serious about the acupuncture.)

So last week I find out that the chemotherapy he's been on isn't really working. So we decide to switch him to another kind -- a little less common, a little more experimental -- which means a few back-and-forths to the vet hospital and a certain amount of me and him, in a small waiting room, me telling him that he's the best dog in the world and that I love him and him, as I said, kind of ignoring me and sniffing the magazine rack.

And then he goes in for the chemo and everyone is really nice to me as I wait outside and flip though the day-old newspapers and then, right around the time he's supposed to come out, my phone rings.

Because, of course, I've been holding it and twiddling it and staring at it. And I recognize the number -- it's the network -- and I answer it, because, again, this is how you get good news in this business, right? Someone from the network calls someone else from the network and they call you at the Coffee Bean or at the gym or at the vet's and say, "hey, guess what, we're making your pilot" and so then instead of being a guy with a dog with cancer and no pilot you're suddenly a guy with a dog with cancer who's got a pilot in contention for the fall schedule, and for some reason, for, like, a nanosecond, this makes a difference.

"Hi, Rob? Hey, you've got the whole comedy development team on the line, and we just have a few notes on the script. Okay, in the first act..."

It's a notes call. It's not a good news call. It's not even a bad news call. It's a let's drag this out call. But I'm on it, and I get out a pencil, and my dog comes out from chemo, and they have some thoughts on act two, and the vet is trying to say something to me, and I'm doing that awful "just a sec" hand gesture thing to the vet as I say, "Uh huh, uh huh, we'll take a look at that" into the phone, and mouth "it's the network" to the vet, who's looking at me with what I think is best described as a repulsed curiosity.

Because the phone rang, I answered it. Because that's the only way to get good news. And because at that moment, I really wanted some good news. And because I've been in the entertainment business for 16 years, I often lose track of the difference between fake bad news and actual bad news. Fake bad news is, we're not making your pilot. Real bad news is your dog is sick. Fake good news is, we're making your pilot. Real good news is, you're on the fall schedule! Just kidding. I know what real good news is.

This may be it. I've got to go.

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll get smart. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long