Sunday, July 05, 2015

Near Tina Fey's Comedy Writer's classroom

The Comedy Writer's Dream/Nightmare 

Yes, I know the most boring statement in the world begins: “I had the funniest dream . . . “

But really, I had the funniest dream . . .

Somehow I ended up taking a comedy writing class in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. (Don’t ask me why on any of this. Welcome to the private hell that is my brain)

There we were, 20-or-so-way-younger-than-me-and-hipper comedy writers in this funky, old-school brick-walled and hardwood floor classroom. I was dumbfounded and delighted to discover our professor was no less than the incredibly awesome Tina Fey.

Yes, that Tina Fey. 

What a joy. Tina Fey and I would become great friends, Virg – my lovely wife in real life – and I would have her over for dinner to the delight of my daughter, in real life, Ann Caroline, and all of our friends. In real life. 

Tina Fey was just like you thought Tina Fey would be: brilliant, warm and delightful. (Though much tinier than I thought) And she dressed funkier than I imagined she would, sort of like a Bohemian lady with lacey sweaters and shawls. And her hair was funky with a blonde Mohawk streak dyed in the middle.

But besides that it was Tina Fey being Tina Fey in all her Tina Fey genius and beautiful glory.

Well, it turns out Tina Fey is one tough comedy writing teacher. “This class will be a breeze,” I thought incorrectly. “I will get by on my comedy wits,” thought I even more incorrectly. "The other students will be carrying me out on their shoulders," I thought as wrong as any human being as ever been. 

One of our first assignments was to build a comedy prop product. This was to give us an appreciation for the production staff on a comedy TV show. The backstage prop engineer folks who have to build the ideas the comedy writers come up with. (Excuse my two prepositions)

So I built a paper-mache combination gas grill and laptop computer. It was a red grill with a keyboard and a screen. When you were grilling a steak, you had to Google it first. I called it the iGrill. You had to download apps like “Medium rare” and “Oak smoke.” There was even an app called “Oh crap, I got drunk and burned the damn hamburger buns.”

Next came a comedy essay test.

And it was brutal. “Name the producers of the “Lucille Ball Show.” “Where was Jack Benny born?” (I happened to know that one: Waukegan, near and North of Winnetka where I grew up) “How many cameras were used on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and why?” “Why are so many great comedians small town types and or Midwesterners, like Johnny Carson, who have moved to Los Angeles and or New York?”

Suddenly this is turning into an “Oh, crap, I did not read the material for this class,” anxiety dream. So I sheepishly raised my hand;

“Hey, hey, um, Tina Fey, ha, ha. I hate to bother you, but, uh, um, was there a textbook assigned for this class?  Because, ha, if there was, funny story, I did not know about it.”

The rest of the 20 or so serious-looking hipster comedy writer students angrily turned in their seat/desks and shot me shocked and dirty looks.  Gulp. Tina smiled nicely and silently nodded her head, more than a little embarrassed for me, and then she lifted up from her desk a “Comedy Writer’s Textbook” the size of “Webster’s Dictionary.”

Oh crap.

This has now turned into a full-blown “How do I get the hell out here without getting caught” dream. It was crushing to know I had let down one of my comedy idols and let her down in such a big way. (So much for the grilling parties and games of Charade with Tina Fey at my house. And I don’t think Conan, my litigant, is going to swing by the house when he is in town for “Comic Con” either)

But there was no stinking way I was going to stick around and flunk a damn comedy writing class and have that go on my record. “Ruined you would be,” said Yoda. (Yoda was in the “Nerds and Science Fiction’s Influence on Comedy” textbook chapter)

So now I am trying to find my way out of this funky old labyrinth of a huge building. All hallways seem to lead right back into the classroom where Tina Fey brightly says;

“Oh, there you are, Alex. We were just having a group discussion on the use of rhetoric and Socratic irony in 16th Century literature, specifically Dante’s “Devine Comedy.” What are your thoughts?”

“Uh, my thoughts are I’ll be right back.”

Exit stage left, eeeveeeeennn. (That was a Snagglepuss reference in the "Bert and Ernie" chapter of the our comedy textbook titled “The Gay Comedy Influences In Children's Shows.”)

The end of the dream had me running for my life along the bay up towards the ferry to Alcatraz from AT&T Park.

And then I woke up.

So sorry, Tina Fey. Next time I promise I will have read the “Comedy Writer’s Textbook.”