Disposable Media Whore
By Kurt Weitzmann

Staryeyed Boy

   Los Angeles, one can only see the orange cloud of smog from the outskirts. Once you're inside it's all sunshine and denial. It's where the legend of Sally Fields was born and where Elvis should have died. I have driven from San Francisco, LA's rival Sister City, into the bowels of the beast to further my career; and like anything that's supposed to be good for me, it makes me gag. In Hollywood whatever the public likes is considered art. I have come to the land of Da Da tits and existential tans to tape a stand up comedy spot on MTV; and to make sure I never want to live here.
   On my way to MTV's corporate headquarters for a meeting I spot a woman in a pink dress. Her feet are stretched out three yards from a tree, leaning into it and hugging the trunk with a freakishly content self worth found only in Californians, Taoist monks, and fanatical Christians sects about to take their life in a mass suicide. Down the road I see a man with breasts. Everything is bigger in Texas, but in California men have breasts. They're probably not even real.
   There is an ancient rivalry between San Francisco and LA as to which has the most freaks. San Francisco has great street crazies. But Los Angeles has the functional freaks. The kind that, according to Darwin, shouldn't have survived the first day of high school, but none the less seem to thrive on the streets of Los Angeles. There is a certain arrogance one finds in the functional LA nut case. They strut like Hollywood players - red-hot product, and seem quite solvent. Some may have bought Disney stock in the 70's after winning big on the Gong Show, but I assume that most of their plucky demeanor is just good old fashioned California denial. Surfs up! Time to put the colander on your head, do your positive affirmations in the nearest car's side mirror and... GOOO GET 'EM!
   But this is not why I hate LA, If anything this is what gives it its charm, the same way intolerance and incest give my hometown its je ne sais quoi. No, it's not the freaks. It's the bright young actress behind the yogurt counter. It's the manager in the B of A on Sunset with her boyfriend's framed head shot turned away from her so as not to deny access to the possible casting agent in line, who will undoubtedly use it as an excuse to ask her to dinner and late night ruffies in his bungalow. It's the 29 (always 29) year old business man in the red sports car blasting rap music with the windows rolled up to prevent a car-jacking, singing along to "fight the power". It's Chinatown.
   As I walk into the corporate offices of Music Television Inc. to be told what I can and can not say on the 'hippest' television station in the free world my eyes connect with the little cartoon man in the censorship is un-American poster for our own private joke. I am soon told by the talent coordinator, chip let's call him- my new best friend, that my allotted Worholian 15 minutes has been cut up into two tight sets of five without the word fuck in them.
   How can I describe my liaison to the Hollywood combine? Smarmy frat-boy seems too polite. A ferret with the intellect of a 12-year-old seems too cruel. Let us just say that the old Hollywood credo rings true: "never work with children or animals." This is especially true in the lower rungs of the entertainment ladder, such as comedy and porno.
   "Oh, by the way", He hums, "we checked with standards and practices and you can say... what is it? ...'I wish I were gay because my apartment would be so much cleaner'?"
   "O.K...." I did not know this was a bone of contention.
   "Right. As long as you follow it with that tag: 'See, some
stereotypes are good'.
   Jesus! Don't they realize that saying stereotypes are good is twice as wrong as some innocent little observation about gay ifestyles? Oh well, that's one for me. By the end of the meeting my Nazi psychologist bit was out but I was allowed to keep my Dr. Seuss fist fucking reference and condone the killing of a bus load of kids.
   By the time I left the office my stomach was in knots. The taping was in a few hours and my set list had been whittled down to just the type of 'outrageous' comedy the station was looking for. I felt sick. This is supposedly the edgiest stand-up allowed on the air and I can't even find ten minutes of acceptable material. I am doomed. I do not want to do this. Must I do this? I hate TV. I hate MTV most of all. They destroyed rock and roll. Wasn't that enough? Why do they have to mess with comedy? Television is ruining stand-up with its safe little, tight little perfect sets of tepid jocularity.
   But as I'm silently shouting, ranting, and obsessing there are literally hundreds of comic friends and associates cursing my act, just
dying to do the show. I know this because I would feel the same way if I were in their shoes. Although I must admit that the contempt of my colleagues may have some merit. I've been told I have a 'good look' for MTV.
   An hour and a half before show time I crash. I suddenly realize how exhausted I am. My back aches from the four hours of sleep I got on my friend's floor after driving down late last night. They don't put the comics up for this little TV party. They spend more money on the rental of smoke machines than they do on the talent for this show. It's disposable talent- biodegradable, environmentally friendly, comedy compost.
   The site of this event is a huge warehouse. To my credit I do arrive with a flurry of confidence and I must admit to a slight surge of hubristic elitism as I walk through the door marked "Talent". I'm directed to a cramped white room with bare walls, a tan loveseat, and a card table. I behold the array of celery sticks and rolled deli meats so artfully arranged on white plastic trays embossed around the edge with little daisy peddles and sigh. My first green room.
   Through skilful eavesdropping, I learn that the audience consists of actors piped in from an 'audience service', industry people, and friends of industry people. Great. A professional audience. What could go wrong? These people are professionals! Jaded, snotty, bitter professionals all sitting in the corner of a warehouse made up to look like a bistro from a bad sit-com. I watch in horror as the crew films all the introductions, reaction shots, and applause for about two hours before the show with an audience that is being paid not to leave.
   I have a long time to think about the ramifications of these observations as I am late on the bill. I also have the advantage of
watching my comrades perform for an audience who are completely entranced with the spectacle of their own images in the monitors. After wrestling with indifference the comics leave the stage defeated, or in the rare instance saunter off with the radiant glow of a bloated tick. One comic actually says to me: "It's not so bad."
   My time has arrived. I take the stage and begin my act. I can't
help thinking how synthetic this all is. What am I doing? I'm reciting a script at this point. This has nothing to do with being funny. It's just television. It's about fame and mediocrity. All through this out of body comedic experience one thought pushes through the panic ridden chaos: how did it happen that of all the shitty audiences in all the world, this one had to be the worst? But this is not about the audience. I give two shits about this crowd. This is about me and that monitor over there. And ignoring internal dialog. "You fuckers better laugh! You better not fuck up my TV spot! Laugh you sons of bitches! You're getting paid more than I am!"
   About two minutes into my set my frozen smile seems to have a slight effect on the crowd and I get my first laugh. The sound actually jolts me a little. They have accepted me ("One of us One of us"). I begin to relax and the last four minutes seem to go OK. -"Then he killed a bus load of kids!... Thank you Good night". It's over.

   Now I know how a prostitute must feel on her first day. I walk in a daze to the back of the warehouse where I am congratulated just like those who have gone before me. They assure me that they will 'sweeten' the laughs up in post and that I looked great, as if it is comforting to know that there will be a laugh track over the act I spent the worst years of my life perfecting.
   It's over. Driving up Laurel Canyon I wish it would snow as a sign from God or Disney to quit, as if the voices in my head weren't enough. "Get out of show business... get out of show business... kill Bud Freedman... get out of show business".

Drinking at the Bar.

   But first I must drink. Then it's time to go to my room and think about what I have done.

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