A few months ago, Bronwen and I went to a bar/club called Chetty Red to check out a band that was performing a WonkOpera - doing rock versions of the songs from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. After they finished their set we were walking out when I saw Dave Attell sitting at the bar. Attell is the host of Comedy Central's Insomniac, and one of my fave comedians. Bronwen said I should talk to him.
"Because you like him."
"So? What am I gonna say...'Uhhh, Dave, I just wanna say that I like you?'"
"Yes," Bronwen replied way too seriously, "That would be a fine icebreaker. Then offer to buy him a beer..."
"Offer to buy him - I don't have enough conversation for a beer with friends, much less someone I don't know. What the heck are we gonna talk about?"
"I dunno..talk about where he's from...how long he's been in the business before he made it...you'll think of something. C'mon, maybe you'll make a connection."
"Not happening ...can we just go?"
"Not until you go over."
"Look," I said while pointing in Dave's direction, "He's talking to someone...let's just go."
"I can't believe what a chicken you are."
"We've been going out for a year...you should know by now that I'm a chicken...besides, ...I just don't see the point."
"The point is you'll meet someone you think is funny and maybe, you'll make a connection."
"Can we go?"
"Not until you go over."
"I'm not going over."
"I already told you, I know I'm a chicken, but that's not even why I don't wanna go over."
"Well, I'm not leaving till you go over...even if just to say 'Hi'."
"Umm, hi, Dave? Sorry to bother you...but I just wanted to tell you that I really like you...I mean your show. I really like your show," I stammered as Dave turned towards me.
"Thanks...I appreciate it," he replied between drags on his cigarette.
"I also saw you at Caroline's a couple weeks ago...great stuff."
"Thanks again...you wanna join us? This is Fred...he's a comic too."
"Hi, Harris," I said.
"Hi, " Fred replied. I extending my hand and then motioned to the bartender for a beer. "Either of you need another?" They both shook their bottles and then their heads.
"I can really use some sorbet."
Upon handing me the beer from the bartender Dave said, "Fred and I were just discussing a sitcom idea that we wanna work on together and pitch to Comedy Central."
"Really?" I squealed, much louder and tinnier than I'd have liked. Lowering my voice I continued, "Well, if there are stunts involved and you need a double, I'm here for ya."
"That's funny...you do look kinda like me...a used book store owner version."
"You picked me out of the audience and said the exact same thing at Caroline's."
Dave looked at Fred and said, "At least now I'm stealing material from myself."
"You want some sorbet?"
"So what's the sitcom about?" I inquired.
"It's basically about my real life...a widowed dad trying to raise his teenage daughter the best he knows how." I looked at him suspiciously.
"Okay, it's actually gonna be about a comedian who tries to juggle his family and career on the road."
"Put in a domineering mother in and you've got Romano's show," I threw in.
Ed perked up. "We're hoping to promote Dave as the anti-Romano. You know, coarse, unkempt, very sarcastic - "
"It's gonna be quite a stretch for me acting-wise," Dave interjected, and then took another drag on his cigarette.
"Why don't you also give your character a drinking problem? That way all your booze will be on the network's tab."
Dave's eyes lit up. "Hey, that's not a bad idea." He turned to Fred. "Then I can also make them pay for my visits to Betty Ford." He looked back towards me. "...And sue them for making me into a drunk. You got any other ideas?"
"Well, I would put in a sex-obsessed grandmother who isn't Bea Arthur and a precocious child who's vocabulary is well beyond their years." We chuckled.
"Yeah, maybe I should have a gay black best friend as well. If I'm gonna sell out, I may as well go all the way."
"Besides, It would suck if you sold out and the show got cancelled after three episodes," I added.
"Hello? Do you want sorbet?"
"Like he would care," Ed interjected, "He'd get a gig on one of his friends' shows...I'm the one who should worry -I'd be back to eating all my meals at Bob's Big Boy's and opening for Carrot Top at The Funny Factory in Topeka."
"I got a sure fire way to have a hit - get Paris Hilton to star as your daughter...and maybe Ashton Kutscher to play your son."
Ed piped in, "Too bad you can't use extortion to get her compliance since everyone already has naked pictures of her."
"Maybe I can ply her with alcohol and seduce her, " Dave added, "Then you can take pictures of us...now THOSE would be pictures she wouldn't want to get out."
"Anyway, I should be gettin' back to my girlfriend. It was nice meeting you guys."
"Before I started walking away, Dave spoke up. "Ya know, we're gonna need some help writing the scripts." Ed nodded. Dave continued, "Would you have any interest in meeting with us to throw ideas around?"
"Are you serious?" I screeched, my voice almost cracking. Playing it cool just wasn't in my repertoire.
"Sure, you seem like a bright funny dude...can't be surrounded by enough of them...right Ed?"
"I agree. Do you have any experience writing sitcoms?"
"Good.. He'll work cheap," Ed said while looking at Dave. We all chuckled.
"Harris! DOOOO YOOOOOU WAAAAANT SORBET?!!" I immediately stopped walking turned towards Bronwen, who had stopped walking about five seconds ago and was standing by the entrance of the corner deli.
Fast forward to last week - Rob and I went to The Moth, where people get up to tell a story around a theme chosen in advance. Yesterday's theme was "Liars" - whatever. People who want to get up put their name in a hat - 10 people get selected and they have 5 minutes to tell their story, after which their story is judged by volunteers from the audience and the top scores win. Whatever. They do get some famous people to get up along with the hoi polloi (people like Margaret Cho, Spalding Gray, Ethan Hawke, Rosie O'Donnell, Jim Bouton, etc)...got the idea?
Anyway, the host was McSweeney's fave and author of Loser Goes First (a quick, funny read if anyone cares), Dan Kennedy. He's also the editor of www.reallysmalltalk.com, the site I just got that little Subway Story posted. I had never met Dan but thought maybe I should.
"You think I should?"
"Of course...you already have something to talk about. This is a perfect time..you have fifteen minutes for intermission...you can certainly talk for fifteen minutes!"
"Yeah, that doesn't seem too bad."
"And you have something to talk about!"
"I do, don't I."
"If you don't go up, I will."
"Huh? What are you gonna say?"
"I'll point you out and tell him that he just posted one of your stories on his site."
"No, you won't," I said threateningly. We stared at each other in silence for a few seconds then he made a motion to get up.
I immediately sprang to my feet and exclaimed, "Okay, okay...I'll go say 'Hi'."
"Do you want me to come with you?"
"No, thank you." He plopped back down. I walked uneasily to the bar area, where Dan was hanging out. I started to sweat.
When I got to Dan, he was at the bar talking to one of the "storytellers", Mark Katz, who worked in the oval office during the Clinton admin and worked for Gore as well (I knew from his story).
"Hi, Dan? Hi, I'm Harris Bloom. I wrote -- "
"Oh yeah...Subway Story guy! Nice to meet you"
"Yeah! That's me." I was pleasantly surprised he remembered my name. Maybe this won't be so bad after all.
"Nice to put the face with the writing." He turned to Mark. "Mark, this is Harris...Harris, Mark."
"Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you." Mark drank his beer, Dan, drank what appeared to be soda, and looked into the audience. I hadn't brought my drink over, so I just crossed my arms.
Eventually, Dan turned to Mark and said, "Anyway, I got the meeting with Sony next week."
Mark replied, "Good luck with that...I may have a meeting with Kerry's people." I stood there with my arms folded, nodding my head every so often to make it appear to anyone watching me from behind that I was talking.
Dan - "I think you'll have your work cut out for you there. Making him appear funny may prove harder than Gore" I looked at Mark.
Mark - "Yeah, we'll see...did you see Jimmy last night?" I looked at Dan.
Dan - "Nah...missed him. We were long gone by the time he got there. Why, what'd he say happened?" I looked at Mark.
Mark - "You know Jimmy...he got totally trashed and ended up getting kicked out." Dan shook his head and smiled a knowing smile. I smiled an unknowing and nervous smile.
They took a another sip. I continued to stand there with arms crossed.
Dan looked at his bottle and asked Mark," Want another? I looked at Mark.
"No, I'm cool."
Dan looked at me. "Can I buy you one?"
"No, I got one at my table, thanks." Dan turned to the bar and waited for the bartender to notice him. Mark and I stood in silence, him drinking his beer, and me with my arms folded trying to think of something to say. I felt sweat dripping down my back.
After a minute I said, "Your story was funny."
"Thanks." More silence. We looked into the crowd. They mocked us with seemingly free-flowing conversations and intermittent laughter.
Dan, new soda in hand, rejoined us, looked at me and asked, "Do you think it would be rude if I got back onstage and read a newspaper." I had no idea how to reply.
Feeling pressure to say something I replied, "Slightly." After that, silence reigned again. They drank...I stuck with my Mr. Clean impersonation.
"So how was your LA trip?" Mark asked. I looked at Dan.
"It was fun...did a reading....met up with some friends. Weren't you out there recently?" I looked at Mark.
"No, not since December..or maybe January."
Feeling more than slightly stupid, I spoke up, "Well, it was nice meeting you both...maybe I'll submit something else soon."
Dan responded, "Good to meet you too...and sure, anytime."
I walked back to Rob.
"Look at you!" he cried out. "You da man!!!"
Dripping with flopsweat, I reached for the beer in front of me. It was empty, naturally.
Yeah, I'm da man.