This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
One of the odd things about working on a writing staff of a television show is that you enjoy a kind of closeness with your colleagues that isn't really, when all is said and done, terribly pleasant.
I mean, you're close to the people you're close to, right? The people you care about that you've collected over the years -- friends, family, that sort of thing -- by choice or blood, they know you pretty well, and you know them. But on the job, with its weird hierarchies and the sub-woofer throb of how-much-does-he-make and how-much-less-do-I-make? You can make friends, of course -- and maybe, over time, good friends -- but you first have to overcome the venue, you first have to break down the workplace barriers.
Not so on a TV writing staff. You're in a room with a dozen other people for most of the day -- no retreating to mini cubicles; no hiding in the Xerox room -- and so personal information -- the kind that usually comes out slowly, in bits and pieces as a friendship develops -- often comes tumbling out at 11pm, over takeout from CaBrea and a glass of too-warm red wine.
So you end up knowing more about the people you work with than is really... um... hygienic, I guess is the way to put it.
On one of my first days ever on any staff, I remember getting in early, having a cup of coffee, and then sitting quietly in the writer's room, flipping through the trades, when another -- way senior -- writer sauntered in, flopped on the sofa, and said, "Man, I just had a great therapy session. I mean, you know how when you're molested as a child it makes you feel guilty because one some level you kind of enjoyed it and loved the adult attention? Well, we got into a lot of that this morning -- 'cause, you know, my stepdad molested me for, like, years -- and it was really clarifying. Anyway. You know, I've forgotten your name, I'm sorry."
"Hi, Rob. Are you done with the Reporter?"
"How come you eat like that?" a writer on our staff once asked another writer, as they both were shoveling down a dinner from Marino's.
"Like, you eat all of your vegetables? And then you eat all of your potatoes. And then you eat all of your meat. What's the deal with that?"
"It's how I eat."
"Yeah, but why? I mean, why do you have to finish one kind of food all the way before you move on to another kind of food?"
"I don't have to."
"But you do."
"I like to eat neatly, okay? I'm just a neat, orderly person."
"Do you think maybe you're nuts?"
"Are you in therapy for this?"
"What? No! Look, I just like to eat this way. It's how I eat. It's not a... I don't know... a thing, okay?"
And they went back to their respective meals. Until the first writer couldn't stop himself.
"Wait. Stop. Why don't you just try, just this once, to eat differently."
"What do you mean?"
"Just take a bite of the potatoes, and then a bite of the spinach. And then a bite of the fish."
"W- w- why would I do that?"
"Just for fun."
"How would that be fun?"
"Just try it!"
"What do you mean? Just bounce all around the plate? Like, just all around the plate? Without any organization or plan or restraint at all? At all? Just whore around the plate? Whoring all over the plate like my mother?"
In a business that specializes in awkward silences, that one was perhaps the most awkward.
The writer went back to his plate, make angry but specific stabs of his fork, and the rest of us coughed a bit, shuffled things around, and exchanged baffled glances. We now knew more about this guy than we had any right to. And we were only on episode four.
Lucky for us we were cancelled at episode nine. But from that night onward, whenever we ordered out, the guy ordered soup. Pureed soup.
That's it for this week. Next week, we won't get a phone call.
For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.