By John Saleeby
July, 16, 2001
other night some jackass was talking about a movie (Jackasses are always
talking about movies.) called "Almost Famous" about a teenage kid in
the seventies who got a gig writing for Rolling Stone and I told em
"SHUT THE HELL UP!!!", went outside, set their car on fire, and went
on a three state "Pokin' People In The Eye With A Corn Dog" spree. Why
this intensely negative reaction to a movie about a teenage kid in the
seventies who gets a gig writing for a national magazine? Because I
was a teenage kid in the seventies who got a gig writing for The National
Lampoon and it Ruined Me For Life. I mighta made something of myself
if it hadn't been for that damn National Lampoon. But instead I had
to spoil it all by saying something stupid like "I'm going to be a comedy
writer" and just look at me now - Sitting at the counter of the Waffle
House at one o'clock in the morning drinking coffee nasty enough to
have dripped off of Stacey Keach's ass, surrounded by exactly the kind
of yokels you visualize every time some hack New York stand up comic
starts bitching about his last booking in Kentucky, and scribbling foolishness
like that bit about coffee dripping off of Stacey Keach's ass on Post
It pads because I'm too damn poor to even afford to buy paper. I'm such
a loser folksingers make mean cruel fun of me (That's why I had to leave
The seventies seem to be
in fashion these days but not quite as in fashion as the fifties were
in the seventies. I remember a lot of guys who were teenagers in the
fifties telling everybody in the seventies "Hey! I remember the fifties
and they SUCKED!!" so please allow me to be the first guy today to say
"Hey! I remember the seventies and I SUCKED!!". Boy, was I a moron in
them days. What made me so pathetically out of touch with reality in
the seventies? The notion that by the year 2001 I would be rich and
successful if I became a comedy writer for one thing. That and smoking
pot. But everybody smoked pot in the seventies. That explains the eighties.
In 1978 I went through this
dorky fan phase where I sent out letters to Big Time comedy writer guys
in New York and Hollywood receiving in return a nice guy note from Tom
Davis of the "Saturday Night Live" writing team of Franken And Davis
and an actual TV sit com script for my Mom to show all the neighbor
ladies from Tom Patchett of "The Bob Newhart Show" writing team of Patchett
and Who The Hell Cares, he never sent me nothin' - Why should I bother
remembering his name? He never even wrote a book about Rush Limbaugh
or a movie about Meg Ryan being an alcoholic (Al Franken jokes!) But
the best thing I got in response to my stupid adolescent letters was
from Chevy Chase. Now, I know all you young whippersnappers out there
have a hard time imagining such a thing but, yes - There was such a
time that Chevy Chase was considered a really funny guy. I know, that
makes me sound like some old coot talking about the Good Old Days when
we thought the world was flat, but - Swear To God! - We really thought
Chevy Chase was one of the funniest guys in the whole flat world back
then. Anyway, Chase took the letter I sent him, picked up an ink pen,
and proceeded to GRADE my punctuation and grammar errors as if he was
one of my English teachers, gave me a C-, and sent it right back to
me. At the time I thought "Oh, ha ha, Mister Hollywood Wise Ass! Very
funny! Very, very funny!" but now I can see that for what it truly was
- A strangled cry of warning from a tortured soul whose existence would
soon be revealed as the miserable nightmare it truly was: "Noooooooo,
stay away! Don't make the same mistake I did! Don't be like meeee! Be
a doctor! Be a lawyer! Get outta comedy!" And perhaps I could have escaped
that horrible fate, if only I hadn't sent that damn letter to The National
Lampoon, The Letter That Ruined My Life. Oh, Damn You, Letter To The
National Lampoon! Damn you straight to Hell!
But I was too young and
foolish to understand what Chevy Chase was trying to tell me and look
at me now - As screwed up and pathetic as he is - Yeah, I'm not as rich
and famous as he is, but that's only because I'm not as tall and good
looking as he is. I'm a little skinny guy with glasses. How come I'm
not as rich and famous as Woody Allen is? Hey, are you trying to get
your ass kicked with all those questions? Do you mind? Hillary is on
"Fresh Prince Of Bel Aire" right now and I'm trying to work up a stiffie
for a little interracial masturbacial. CRAP! They cut to a scene with
Will and the fag butler! Crap! Crap! Crap! I hate being a comedy writer!
I HATE IT!!
Saleeby grabs a pile of
spiral notebooks full of his stupid comedy routines, runs out into the
parking lot, sets the notebooks on fire, and jumps up and down on them
screaming "Shit! Shit! Shit!" while the little black kids cheer and
applaud. "Yeah! Go on! Cheer and applaud! They cheered and applauded
when I auditioned at the Comic Strip and The Improv, too! And a lotta
good that did me, a lotta goddam stinking good it did me! A lotta good!
Ha!" Saleeby falls exhausted onto the pavement. The little black kids
look on with pity. "What the heck are you guy's looking at? Hillary
is on 'Fresh Prince Of Beverly Hills Or Bel Aire Or Wherever The Shit
All The Rich Black People Live' right now! Maybe you'll be able to bag
a babe like that one day, but it's too late for me! Stay outta comedy!
Be a doctor! Be a lawyer! Stay outta comedy!"
So . . . Back in the seventies,
one day I was reading The National Lampoon and particularly enjoyed
an article written by a Lampoon editor named Ted Mann ( Many years later
Mann created the ABC cop show "NYPD Blue" with Steve Bochco ). Still
in the midst of my letter writing frenzy ( If you were a pro comedy
writer in the seventies and never got a letter from a kid named Saleeby
you weren't shit! Yeah! You, Gary Marshall! You ain't shit!!! Ha ha!
You ain't worth the price of a late seventies postage stamp! Eat me,
hack! Eat me!! ), I fired one off to Ted Mann.
The National Lampoon was
showing evidence of being past it's prime at this point, it's most influential
writers Henry Beard, Doug Kenney, and Michael
O'Donaghue having left and the not all that funny P.J. O'Rourke
having been appointed Editor In Chief. Yes, something was wrong, The
National Lampoon was in desperate need of something new - A fresh new
voice to bring the magazine out of the seventies and into the future!
And at that crucial moment Ted Mann sat down in his office, opened a
letter which had been sent to him in the mail, and read "Hey, Ted -
Screw that shitty magazine. Let's get together and make a new TV show!
Get outta comedy! Be a doctor! Be a lawyer! Be a TV producer! Get outta
comedy! Your Pal, Steve." But the day before that Ted Mann sat down
in his office, opened a letter which had been sent to him in the mail,
and it was the same one I had already sent to Franken And Davis, Patchett
And What's His Ass (Only thanks to Chevy Chase's expert editing I had
polished it up a bit), and now . . . TED MANN!! Damn that letter! Damn
- Oh, I already did that bit. Sorry.
In a shining display of
the kind of spiritual generosity that would one day prompt "NYPD BLUE"
star Jimmy Smits to call him "The only white man I could ever spend
more than one hour with before I wanted to slice him open and dance
barefoot in a puddle of his blood.", Ted The Mann set me up with a sweet
deal contributing bits to The National Lampoon's "Letters From The Editors"
column at fifty bucks a pop ( Fifty bucks in the seventies was worth
one hundred thousand dollars at 2001 rates. Really. ). "Letters From
The Editors" was a phony letters column full of joke letters like this
one that I wrote - "Sirs, Elvis Costello is me in a bad mood and a cheap
suit. Sincerely, Bruce Springsteen." Hey, that was funny twenty-three
years ago. Guess we were still bummed out over that Vietnam thing. Hey,
we'll see how funny all those Puff Daddy jokes are to people in 2024.
Or you will, I will certainly have been thrown off of a cliff or something
by then. Probably by Puff Daddy.
So, everything was cool
until my parents got the bright idea for us to take a vacation to New
York so I could go to The National Lampoon office and do whatever the
hell they thought was gonna happen when I went to the crazy place. I
think they were hoping The National Lampoon people would give me a full
time job and let me live in a storage closet and then they wouldn't
have to put me through college. I dunno what the hell goes on inside
those people's heads - They don't even like Blue Oyster Cult, for Christ's
sake! So, we're in New York ( Don't wanna talk about the car trip up
there from Louisiana. I already messed up and told those National Lampoon
freaks all about it when I went up to their office and next thing I
know the bastards are making a whole series of Chevy Chase movies out
of it. I can't prove that to ya, but my lawyer says he might do something
for me after he gets me out of trouble for sending that videotape to
Reese Witherspoon. ) and when I get up to The National Lampoon office
they just looked at me like I was a pizza delivery boy who had shown
up with an empty box and anchovies spilled all over the front of his
shirt. Apparently Ted Mann had forgotten to tell anybody that I was
seventeen years old. This is how the biggest business meeting of my
entire career went -
"I thought you were the
pizza delivery boy."
"No, I'm John Saleeby."
"From New Orleans."
"Oh. How old are you?"
"Is that the pizza delivery boy?"
"No, I'm John Saleeby. From New Orleans."
"How old are you?"
"Love was meant for beauty queens."
Okay, that last part never
happened. It took me twenty three years to come up with something funny
to say to those douche bags. If you ever want to get rid of a teenage
kid just make a big goddam deal out of how they are a teenage kid and
it won't be long until they spontaneously combust in a bright orange
mushroom cloud or say "Yeah . . . well . . . I gotta go . . . um . .
According to Wil Forbis,
Acid Logic Editor And Leading Authority On Everything I Don't Want To
Fuckin' Know About, at the end of "Almost Famous" the teenage kid who
has been writing for Rolling Stone through the mail turns up at the
Rolling Stone editorial offices and - Even though everyone is shocked
that he is just a kid - he becomes a regular member of the staff, gets
to hang out with all the really big rock stars, writes "Fast Times At
Ridgemont High", gets married to the really hot looking Wilson sister
from Heart, writes and directs "Jerry McGuire", wins the Academy Award
for the "Almost Famous" screenplay, makes a hundred million dollars,
and every little bit of it just to PISS ME OFF because when I turned
up at The National Lampoon editorial offices everybody just stood around
looking tense and nervous and once I went back to New Orleans I never
heard another word from them again no matter how much stuff I sent em.
I mean, I may not have been Doug Kenney but I was at least as funny
as Cameron Friggin' Crowe, shit! Yeah, yeah, yeah, everybody loves the
"Fast Times At Ridgemont High" movie, but do you think it's possible
to WRITE a pair of titties as pretty as Pheobe Cates' in that swimming
pool scene? Man. I've got a dozen comedy scripts full of the prettiest
bounciest funniest tits ever written, but I can't get anybody to read
em anymore than I can get Pheobe Cate's tits carved onto Mount Rushmore
( One set of Pheobe titties for each one of the Presidents up there.
An entire metropolis will sprout up at the foot of Mount Rushmore overnight.
We'll call it "Hooterville". ) Aw shit, I just remembered how funny
Sean Penn and Ray Walston are in that movie. I get more depressed the
more I work on this damn article. Damn you, Wil Forbis! Damn your black
So, there you have it -
John Saleeby, the funniest comedy writer of our time, BLACKLISTED because
of AGEISM!! Dumped by The National Lampoon because I was only seventeen,
not hired to take over "Late Night" from David Letterman because I was
only seventeen, passed up as Cameron Diaz's love interest in "Something
About Mary" because I'm only seventeen! That's why they didn't want
me hanging around those comedy clubs in New York - I was only seventeen
years old and if they put me onstage regularly they'd lost their liquor
license. Yeah, yeah, that explains everything. I'm not any better than
I was in 1978 because I've been a seventeen year old kid the whole time!
You know, after all the time I've spent writing comedy routines in the
past twenty five years you'd think I'd have learned by now when I have
pushed a premise about as far as it will go but, you know how us seventeen
year old guys are, nothin' gets through our skulls - Nothin'! Uh oh!
My girlfriend's at the door! She needs help with her algebra homework.
Yeah, I'll help you out with your algebra, baby, heh heh heh . . .
(Saleeby looks into the camera with a sinister smile)
(MUSIC: Ominous, foreboding chords)
(Fade to black)
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