Saturday I was listening to This American Life on KCRW, my favorite radio show since way back. It was a re-broadcast of a live show that featured a variety of guests telling stories and being entertaining. One of them was Joss Whedon, the uber-talented writer-director-mad genius behind such TV shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Dollhouse. The reason for his radio appearance: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, his Web sensation – which may have caused computer servers to melt (or whatever they do when overtaxed) because 200,000 people an hour were trying to download it. Joss-on-the-radio sang a very amusing song about doing commentary for a video release of this musical.
I knew Joss way back. He was a young whipper snapper writer on a little TV show called Roseanne. You may have heard of it. I worked on Roseanne, too. I was a writers’ assistant. It was Joss’s first TV production job. It was my first TV production job. He went right out of there to a gig writing on Parenthood (the first TV version; why did they resurrect it recently? Were there no original ideas this season NBC thought worthy of broadcasting? Hmm, apparently not…) and then to the movie and TV versions of Buffy… and fame and fortune. I did not.
I almost turned my radio off Saturday so I wouldn’t have to listen to the clever song – not because I wasn’t amused by the song and not because I don’t like Joss (he was a smart, kind, and funny guy when I knew him and still is, as far as I can tell). It was because of the jealousy thing. Joss’s professional life took off like a rocket and every time I see him or his work, I am reminded my professional life is more at a steady hum. It’s a nice hum but it’s not a rocket and is not accompanied by the cascades of cash that one can have in Hollywood. I sometimes just turn things like this off and get back to work.
But by keeping the radio on, I got to hear the next piece – a story by Dan Savage about his mom dying and his grappling with being a lapsed Catholic. It was hilarious and sad and I sat glued to the radio, laughing and milliseconds later crying. Stories like that remind me why I like to write – to connect to people, to move them.
So THEN I turned the radio off… and got back to work. Feeling inspired instead of jealous. A much better place from whence to write.
I’ve finished the first outline of my new full-length play this weekend.