Summer 2010: Register

Illustration of author lying to colleagues

Illustration by Jason Raish

If You’re Going to Lie, Make It a Great One

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By Sy Rosen 69C

I try not to let people know when I’m out of work because, at my age, I’m afraid I’ll lose whatever momentum I’ve got left. Therefore, when I leave the house I always try to make it look like I’m going to a meeting.

I don’t wear shorts or jogging clothes and I never carry a cardboard sign that says, “Will work for food.” And when I’m grocery shopping in the afternoon (which is usually an unemployment giveaway), I look at my watch at the checkout line and mumble to myself that I’ve got to get to the studios. By using the plural “studios,” I’m cleverly impressing the cashier, who now thinks I have two meetings lined up. And lastly, when I’m having a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I’m always jotting down ideas on a yellow legal pad. It makes it seem as if I’m working on a script when actually I’m writing “I need a job” 1,000 times.

Anyway, there I was in Starbucks when I spotted a couple of guys I worked with years ago on a syndicated series named Throb. Back then, they were the hot, young team, but the rest of us writers referred to them as “the repeaters.” In the rewrite room, someone would pitch a joke, and one of the repeaters would change a word and then pitch it again as a new thought. His partner would then laugh hysterically.

At the coffee shop, the repeaters bounded over and pompously informed me they were producing a new sitcom, sort of a funny Othello. It sounded terrible and pretentious, but in true Hollywood tradition I told them it was brilliant. They, of course, then asked what I was doing.

“What’s ‘the vet’ up to?” asked repeater No. 1.

“What’s ‘the dean’ up to?” asked repeater No. 2.

“Vet” and “dean” were code words for “old guy,” but I pretended that it didn’t bother me as I went about answering their question.

Now, when you’re out of work, it’s important to have your story ready. I usually say I’ve got a few things in development, which is very hard to check on. However, before I knew what I was doing, I blurted out, “I’m executive producing Two and a Half Men.”

The repeaters were astounded, and so was I. This is one of the hottest comedies in America. However, for the moment, they had to believe me. In Hollywood, the most bizarre story can be true, and the most surprising people can become successful (think Steven Seagal).

Once I got going I couldn’t stop. I told the repeaters that Charlie Sheen had read a movie script of mine, loved it and insisted I produce Two and a Half Men. And in the off-season we’re going to do the movie.

“Wow,” said repeater No. 1.

“Wow-ee, whew,” said repeater No. 2.

I was really on a roll as I added, “The only problem is that Jon Cryer wants to be in it. And I like Cryer, but I really wrote that part for Will Ferrell.”

“Man,” said repeater No. 1.

“Manny, moon,” said repeater No. 2 (who was so shook up that he was having trouble with the repeating concept).

“Yeah,” I added, “I just don’t want to hurt the CryMan’s feelings.”

When telling an outrageous lie, it’s always good to make up a nickname for one of the people you’re lying about.

The repeaters then left, somewhat depressed by my good fortune. I, on the other hand, was feeling quite good about myself and my career. I called my agent and told him I wanted my salary doubled, a three-picture deal, and a shower in my office bathroom. When he reminded me that I was out of work, I dropped my demand for a shower.

Sy Rosen 69C has written for The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, MASH, Maude, Rhoda, Northern Exposure, The Wonder Years, and Frasier. He currently has a few things in development.

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