by Robbie Jones Saturday Night Live
producer Marci Klein SNL
Sara Seth glanced up at the marquee
on west 68th from the inside of the Hilton Hotel. 10 minutes to show time! Famous
comedian famous comedian am I said she to the empty bar. She watched as the
stepladder was placed in front of the marquee – the workman in
white pulling each letter from the metal marquee. New film, new star.
Every Friday a new picture.
“Film star, all of us could be film stars.. I just know it – SARA
IF YOU WOULD TRY HARDER –“ Sarah sipped at a coke and
Bacardi rum to the end sucking nosily. Her Mother’s voice echoing.
Try harder. Do better. Useless all of you except for Sara. Sara did a
show and brought in 50$. Mrs. Seth lighting a cigarette and shifting
in the heavy upholstered chair. Her pudgy face turning as she shook
her dark hair. “I just want what’s best. For all of you.” She inhaled
and looked around at her handsome husband and daughters. She
dismissed Shelly and called for Sara to sit with her. Lesley left and
the other arm went around Sara. There was nothing to do at this point
except to hear the crickets and kids playing from the open window at their
New Hampshire home. It was late. Sara had gotten a gig doing stand up.
Shelly her Dad had found a 5 day job bricking up a wall at a rich neighbors home.
Lesley had handed over her babysitting money to her Mother, reluctantly.
All the cash was in her hand as she counted and recounted. Everyone
had to hand over their cash to Mrs. Seth.
“Baby do you need something?”
Sara nodded yes and stared out the window to the trees, the roads
to town, the night sky with a star shining. Her long brown hair was parted
to the side and her face was small and handsome. Everyone said she
resembled her father with his ‘handsome movie star looks’ and it was true Shelly
was the most handsome man in town. As Sara had grown up and watched as
woman after woman threw themselves at Shelly. She had also watched as
he, at times had indulged in some back seat fucking behind his wife’s back.
Sara had learned one thing. Women would do anything for sex from a handsome man.
And the more he played them, the more they wanted it.
Shelly always had his pudgy devoted wife and in the New England town
on Fridays and Saturdays while they were all at the movies or the
Lakeshore diner he escaped his drab life in a 20$ hotel room with
a bar maid. Or in the backseat of a car with the wife of a friend
“Baby do you need anything?”
“Mommy I want 25$ half from my gig. Please.”
“You were funny?”
“He said I’m really funny and I rocked the house. I did Mommy.
I can do another show next Friday. I get a free drink and a meal $50”
“You’re kidding me-“
“No Mommy he hired me- I want my 25$”
“Darling you got hired?”
A huge grin appeared on her face and her pudgy arms wrapped
around her daughter in a hug. ”Hired. 50$ every Friday. Finally!
One of you has some guts. I knew you were a somebody.
Lesley will never amount to anything! Shelly is shit. You
my angel, are something.“
Sara rocked in her Mother’s arms. The room exactly the same as it had
been since she was a child. Same chairs, same bookcase with
scattered chipped teapots and cups and plates. A framed photo on the wall.
A lumpy sofa at the wall. The window open to a New England summer night.
Sara had sex with the manager after her show. It was over quickly.
And he had hugged her in much the same way her Mother was now.
He was handsome and married but he gave her the gig and
looked and looked at how beautiful and smart she was. He
had kidded and joked with and hired her to bus tables and host.
It all ended up in back room with a single bed and creaking bed springs.
It didn’t matter it was job security and she knew she was funny and the
crowd at the bar had actually liked the show. Goodbye cleaning hello affair
with a married man and hello stand- up comedy. The Friday before her
Mother had slapped her face hard when she mentioned money. Sarah Seth
was making it. 35$ 100$ Hiding it, giving her Mom some and feeling better.
New shirts, a new skirt. Cologne. Anything seemed too expensive.
Shelly had finally admitted he had spent all his money on food & beer.
“Hired. A real comedian.”
“Yes Mommy – and I want 25$”
“Sure kid here.”
Her Mom folded the twenty and five into her hand and kissed her.
Hugged her again. Finally her Mother wasn’t angry every day.
The old 3 bedroom home was paid for and it was just
utility gas and food they needed. Sara was seventeen and had
a closet of clothes. Her sister had the same but her Mother had
been beyond angry all week. Finally she was happier.
“Come on baby, let’s have a drink an celebrate”
Sara stood and looked out the window. Her Mother led her to
the back kitchen and pulled her inside, softly locking the door.
The marquee back on 68th street was changed to HippyLand.
Same as she called her summer house in New Hampshire.
Pot, hot tubs, bring your little brothers and sisters up.
All welcome and all of us best friends. Forever Hippies.
The new poster up and the ladder being turned. Sara Seth was
looking out the window. Her Mother had died earlier that month.
Lung cancer and a fight over some bags of pot on the table.
A lump on her neck, a tumor behind. Her Father Shelly had died as well.
As soon as she started dealing they had gone. Dead. Sara thought quickly of a joke.
Mommy, what zodiac sign smokes the most. Cancer. She smiled and
laughed. Finished the Bacardi and shook the ice. 11pm and showtime!
Let them wait a few minutes. Sara Seth was always funny.
Her show always rocked the house. The Marquee had changed
and her Mom was gone. Woodstock and now HippyLand..
A new star, new film every Friday. Sara looked at her list
of ten jokes and quickly left the empty bar.
Sara Seth glanced up at the marquee
in Vegas 10 minutes to show time! Famous comedian famous comedian am I said she
to the empty bar. She shook her hair back and ordered a quick rum & coke. The
bartender winked at her and she looked at her list of ten jokes. Winner winner winner –
talk while – look at room – winner winner winner talk winner winner winner
annnnd end joke. Holy shit Vegas crowd! Sarah shrugged. Sarah Seth was
always funny. She thought back earlier that day up in her hotel room.
She woke up at 12 ordered breakfast, ate and went to the pool and wasted an afternoon
on the phone and looking at the staff. Ordering anything and everything. More ice, colder
glass, another water – keep them busy Sarah thought. Vegas Vegas Vegas. Ooooh
babyyy playing thumping in background. She looked at her ten jokes. Play this crowd –
play them same as the Comedy Cellar crowd. Deb her waitress was near. Deb Mimosa!
For awhile I thought that was her name. Sara looked at the email from Sydney. Her
screenplay was being done. Compromise, some days we play Abba some days we play
Neil Diamond. We must all melt a bit and not be so cold . Sydney always said
that. Later Sydney. As she looked at her fragile face in her hotel mirror
she had thought of her early days in comedy. So happy walking down Macdougal street
in Manhattan. To all the comedy clubs and cafes. Everyone out, couples everywhere.
She got gig at the cellar right off, shaking hands and talking her way in.
No back rooms it was just be funny. It was always crowded at the cellar and a strict 2
drink minimum kept it busy. Pressured to perform she took the stage and bombed with
her first joke and just kept talking. The crowd hardly noticed and finally she said
something funny. A wave of laughter rocked her and she got right back on. Dirty jokes.
Fine got them and she just kept on. She had her guitar and could always play a bit and
talk to her crowd but it was crowded. They wanted to laugh and she always knew a few
dirty jokes. Two minutes into it she relaxed and kept being sexy dirty and
quick. Laughter. Applause. Laughter. They loved her and finally the host waved, set done
and she waved and applause. A moment to savor and she stood and grinned. Hopped off
the stage. Asked for a free drink at the bar. Got a draft beer and went to the back.
Got it. Got it.
On the phone and a call to her Mother. Mom. How was it baby? Come home tomorrow.
Mom. The years had gone, gone where. Seven years later in her hotel room in Vegas
thinking of the comedy cellar. Looking at a stranger in the mirror. Sara Seth.
Her face was hard. Her eyes pools of black. Shark eyes. So much had happened.
Her face was hard. My Mother is dead. She said aloud. Shot in the head. I should
have stayed in bed. She looked around. View. Cool breezy Vegas. Big bed
and towels on the floor. She had the cash and could have a party later that night.
Her hand hurt. She had thrown a glass in anger earlier. Sure. A party.
She looked again at the stranger in the mirror. Forget it. She smiled and
took a deep breath. Sara Seth was always funny. The marquee said headliner
and she was making good money. Funny. That was done. She had learned that
way back at the comedy cellar. Seven years gone. Gone where.
Sydney this is so funny you wrote this?
But yes, of course. Really?
It’s so funny – it’s hilarious. Did you get your bonus?
Sydney Lewis waved her check at her co-worker at the silicon valley start up.
A program built in Gerard’s parents basement went to 3 people working in his garage
shrink wrapping packages to a 200+ company with Gerald in sunglasses constantly
talking on the phone and his high school friend Sydney marketing itune APPS
to teens in California. Text to Guru Gerard, let’s do a Mork and Mindy APP.
And a POPE APP. SOAP ON A ROPE WITH THE POPE Sydney Happy APPY
Lewis. Annnnnnnnnnnnd Send !And Sydney pulled her hair back into a
pony tail and pulled on a worn sweater over her button down shirt. A tan skirt and
Outside to the warm California evening. It was a long day, they had done it.
They had sold the company. All the meetings and handshaking and meetings
and phone calls paid off. Meetings and meetings!
A thirteen million dollar sale and Gerard was happy driving off to meet his
masseuse whom Sydney was sure was gay and Gerald well, he built the program.
If he wanted a massage from a blonde surfer guy – for sure. Gerard was so lonely.
All he did was work and Sydney was happy he had a friend. Everyone in the
company had gotten a bonus from the sale and it was over. Namesdomain Inc.
was over. Swallowed up acquired by large looming shark Ashton-Tate. Emails to
everyone. All Gerard’s friends back from MIT in Boston. The ring
bearer has fulfilled his quest! My kingdom for windows DOS! All the worlds
a stage and we are just world of warcraft players. What did Diana Ross say to
her tech support team- where are my back ups! All Sydney did all day long at the
hippy computer company was make jokes. Jokes riddles puns limericks long rambling
jokes short witty remarks – as if it were Wisecracks Inc. all day. Sydney had a strange
ability to get people laughing so hard tears came. They fell off chairs and sometimes
they laughed so hard they peed. It was a unless talent in the software industry
but it was also becoming apparent Sydney would rather be writing jokes than device
driver code and answering never ending tech support calls.
This is funny. You should be in comedy.
They always said that and she just always smiled and looked down.
Comedy. The big C. Laughter, like a tumor it was, humor. Mary Tyler Moore moments,
joke books and all the television. Sydney had watched every sitcom ever.
The green backyard at her Mom’s house with it’s sliding glass doors.
The television room and a tv guide. Peaceful and tranquil for devoting herself to
watching, detailing, analyzing every sitcom ever. Newhart Sanford and Son
Maude The Jefferson’s Mary Tyler Moore Rhoda Sonny & Cher Good Times
Faulty Towers Benny Hill Mash Barney Miller Facts of Life Family Ties
Prince of Bel Air The Courtship of Eddy’s Father Bridget & Bernie
One Day At A Time Donny & Marie The Smothers Brothers Laugh Inn.
Every cheap and cheesy thrown together or perfectly produced show
that had aired Sydney had seen most of. Most episodes. TV dinner I am there!
Her Mother read all the time, her Father traveled with an executive job
and Sydney had only two sisters and they kept busy with boyfriends and
high school teams.
Boring, banal, hours upon hours of nothing but television and cups of tea,
soda, coffee, a large open patio with crickets to walk and take a break and
then back to it. More tv. Episodes of Twilight Zone. Late night Mary Hartman
Mary Hartman. Johnny Carson. His guest hosts including Joan Rivers. Hilarious!
A cat curled up near Sydney. And of course SNL every Saturday night.
WPIX channel 11 news with it’s harrowing accounts of New Yorkers braving
everything! Hookers in Times Square, junkies in the village, dow market
crashed again! The same newscasters, same hair, suit tie coats
and 11:29 pm channel 4 NBC the peacock and those tense moments.
A bowl of popcorn near. Is Saturday Night Live on? Is it a good one? A rerun?
Moments and then Chevy on stage and laughter a pratfall and Live From New York!
It’s Saturday night! Theme music and the not ready for prime
time players! Garrett Gilda Jane Larraine Chevy John Dan Bill Murray!
And Don Pardo announcing your host for this evening is Buck Henry!
He hosted all the time and usually had a funny crawl in his
monologue. Hello I’m Buck Henry da da da da and then these words would
start on screen – ‘ a crawl’ on the screen saying totally opposite of what he was
saying. ‘Oh tonight’s show the actors are such and such and really you wouldn’t
believe the lunch they gave us today’ on and on and on – so funny.
Saturdays were important to Sydney. Starting early in the morning with
every Bugs Bunny cartoon, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd, Speedy Gonzalez
and Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner episode she could cram in.
Then helping her Mother with shopping. A drive to the supermarket
and walking around talking and picking up TV dinners and cereal, milk butter eggs salads
having fun and shopping. Her Mother was so popular and she let Sydney watching TV
all the time. Later on Sydney had seen an ABC television ad jokingly saying
8 hours day of television a day, that’s all we ask – and Sydney had agreed.
There was no such thing as too much television if anyone had ever asked Sydney
growing up. If anything, more cheesy Solid Gold Dancer shows.
Television! Her childhood had been a summers at a tennis & swim club,
playing cards & picking blackberries, frisbee and endless pizza parties.
Year after year with the same kids same friends same parents same blackberry
bushes near the same swim club. Her bike parked with the others, never locked.
The white stone wall of the club and entrance. Sydney knew almost everyone at the club.
She went alone or with her family and there was always something to do.
Ping pong. Cards. Swim team. Sitting with the diving team and throwing
tennis balls at the boys. Everyone was friends and there were rows and
rows of lawn chairs. Everyone in a swim suit. Relaxed. Smoking. Reading the paper.
Tennis gear out. Reading magazines. It was a mellow club. Mostly Jewish but
with a few Scandinavians and Italians and us leprechauns Sydney thought
with a laugh. Riding down the path near the grass and past the back drive
chain and up the hill to her Moms home. Hair wet and a towel around her neck.
Bike in garage and door to playroom to walkway to patio her Mother
siting reading a book, smoking and a smile as she entered. How was the swim club?
Sydney’s mother was always happy. A sexy Sagittarius with dark hair to her
shoulders, in shirts and a short skirt. She had escaped Ohio with a good marriage
bought a home with 10,000$ down 200 feet from an elementary school and
had three kids. Done. She played tennis, swam, shopped at Lord & Taylor
and did an occasional acting part at the Sterling farms golf theater. She had
stenography training growing up and could memorize a short book word
for word. Sydney’s Mother was sensible and funny. She loved her husband,
her daughters and that was it. She graduated high school and had the
steno thing wrapped up. Everyone liked her she waved to everyone in
the supermarket and flirted when she cashed checks at the supermarket office,
talking with the men. They all laughed and she waved and shopped and
drove away. A actress who had somehow skipped ahead and went right to
a happy home in Connecticut. Always smoking and laughing.
‘How was the swim club Sydney? and a hug and cups of Lipton tea everywhere.
Regina. Twenty years later Sydney looked at the Malibu coastline as she
took PCH up to Topanga. The bus was empty except for some spanish workmen
and one surfer. 8000$ and free. Her Mother had passed away from lung cancer
years back. All those cartons of Benson & Hedges. Lighters and ashtrays.
Sydney had joked in her stand up routine ‘Lung Cancer – it’s the way!
You can smoke to the very last day and it keeps you thin. Here’s my ashtray
‘I’ll quit tomorrow!’ Sydney had smoked and then stopped. California was
so healthy and there was wheatgrass everywhere. A few shots and the
craving was gone. After three days she just let it go.
And she kept busy Sydney had always worked in offices. She got into computers.
Her sisters had married and her Father re-married briefly before lung cancer
got him as well. Sydney thought of a joke.
If only you had watched more television Dad. The Malibu coastline loomed,
beautiful and wild. She was living with a guy she was designing a front end for.
His program was getting noticed and his Father had put up some seed
money for his on-line dating site. Sydney had a knack forgetting things done quickly
and smartly. She had free rent from him. A sofa near the window. She talked over
the design with him and they worked beautifully together and Neil was aiming
for a big sale and needed a coach. Sydney was a pretty good coach and
had a knack for telling jokes and being mellow and not clingy. She had finally
found a coffee bar in Santa Monica where she pushed herself on stage and got
through 10 jokes with her friend Cynthia at the bongos. The crowd laughed
she had re-enacted an episode of Hawaii 5 O. Book ’em Danno was her last joke.
It got laughs and applause. Done. Sydney had a coffee after with a shot of tequila in it.
Comedy comedian comedy. She was drifting into it and liked it. Software
was a breeze and there was a job offer up in San Francisco. Sydney would fly up,
book into a youth hostel. 25$ a night breakfast included. Find a cute guy from
the Netherlands or Australia and get laid. Have dinner with him and everyone at the
communal table later and never say a word about it. Go out to the pub crawl
and talk with Europeans and complain, laugh joke and stay up all night.
Adios LA. Hello beautiful Swedish accents, cable cars and long breakfast at
11 am or 12. I’m a night owl honey – I sleep all day long. A Carly Simon sketch.
Carly would love the hostel! For sure Carly would. Comedy. Sometimes Sydney
thought of New York. She had met a extra on SNL and written sketches for him.
She dated him and loved his name, Evan a 6 foot tall African American.
He was funny and young and Sydney had even thought what a good couple they
were walking in sheep’s meadow Central park. She fell sort of in love with him
and his funny t-shirts thick black glasses and New York preppy aggressive style.
She wrote him into some sketches and they were good. She knew it. And they got
along so well she just thought, marry this guy totally! Well, sort of err yes.
He had liked acting and then some neighbor told him all sorts of things about Sydney
and the whole thing was swept away by a flight he took to LA. He just went with another
woman. The sketches were left. Sitting there ready and waiting for SNL.
Funny, printed, neat. They lingered in her west village flat until her last day
before the flight. She had gone to Rockefeller center on a lark and gone ice
skating all day. Then took the flight back. Wondering. Comedy. Well, computers
were stable. Everyone had a Mac the internet would go on forever and she
had called the company in San Fran and was interviewing this week.
Travel. Fly. Up in the sky. Bye. A fly guy. Try. Yet Sydney wondered.
She looked a list of 10 jokes. Had worked it down to ten. Rambling on in the
middle about Stonehenge and druids. How many hobbits does it take to screw
in a light bulb? One but you need a wizard air freshener. Were there
any blacks in the Hobbit? Just a Tolkien black. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Sydney printed her boarding flight and went outside and sat in a lawn chair.
Night sky and a Pepsi near. Neil inside up all night coding. A 30ish hippy
with a beard and long hair and hidden bags of pot. Yet it worked. Sydney cleaned up
and coached his design. The TV flicked on in the home.
Live from New York and opening sketch. Sydney looked at it, the simple bizarre
SNL humor. She had been watching the show since Chevy and Gilda days.
Live from New York.
Sydney sighed and shook the ice in her drink. Comedy. Comedy on the rocks, neat.
Who do YOU THINK YOU ARE?
Another night with Mrs. Seth and Sara was hiding near the back wall
of the kitchen. Her sister Lesley got the brunt of the Who Do You Think You Are lecture
followed by the Not One Of You Has Anything Going For you lecture followed
by the You Are All ShitHeads theory and then a grande finale of If You Were A Somebody
You’d Make It lecture. Then some tears and Mrs. Seth hugging after all the
screaming and sometimes hitting. Sara always moved her face and quickly said
‘Stop it stop stop it Mom – STOP!’ But Mrs. Seth was a big woman and heavy
and strong. She had her hands around Sara’s throat at some point and shook her
hard. Fucking bitch! Fucking bitch! Get OFF! A lamp thrown. Shelly yelling
and Lesley crying in the corner.
Shelly leaping onto them and it was comical and Sara would laugh out loud.
Her Dad tackling Mrs. Seth and then uuufph – it was comical and tears and hugging
and some laughter.
It’s alright it’s alright Shelly come here baby –
Saturday night to Sunday then Roman Catholic cross on the wall and mass
and Sara in confession. Confessing she wanted a flight to Miami and a new
Mother. And 6 hail Mary’s, not a hundred.
Father O’ Brother. Long sigh. Sara in her worn sweater and white polo shirts
and brown cords and boots. Her brown hair at her shoulders and cups of coffee.
Her Mother getting into it with the Church janitor and Shelly getting in the
middle of their on-going name calling every Sunday. Lesley talking to a guy
and laughing and then running to the Chevy everyone getting in and the old car
creaking back to their house. Shutters falling apart the roof with grey shale pulled off.
Hands in pockets and eyes down Sara went inside away from the constant back
and forth with Mrs. Seth and Shelly. He was spitting at me. He didn’t he did not!
He said we were behind on our payments. So what! He gets paid after we get paid.
They found the bottle of Jack Daniels hidden behind the alter. Shit. That bag of
pot was mine from bingo. That Fucking Priest. Free dinners on Friday nights, thank God.
Free booze from the booziest parish to ever hit New England. Father O’Tequila and
his margarita mix and Fridays were good for the Seth family. Poor but honest.
Drunk but sober. Laughing but crying. Sara shaking her head and making a
margarita for herself at age ten.
Lesley dancing with the church deacon. Shelly laughing and Mrs. Seth selling
phony raffle tickets to men all night smoking and drinking away the weekends.
Mass on Sunday and they’d haul out Monsignor Guam a Filipino man who spoke
in a high tranquil voice and brought tears to everyone eyes. Have faith!
Kindness is the way! Simple sermons and his tender voice covered
everyone and protected the parish. You felt relaxed and free after his Sunday
mass. Lighting a few candles, stuffing a few dollars to the poor. Monsignor talking
and hugging. Friday dinners with real plates, glasses, round tables and
terrific baked yams, fish, corn. Cobb salads. Crispy fried chicken, baskets of
warm bread with butter, plates heaping with food and Sara ate and drank
50 cups of coffee, talked and had unseen margarita after margarita.
The grassy courtyard and sometimes a band, a movie with popcorn for everyone.
Sleepy kids on their moms shoulders drifting off to station wagons and Volvos.
All the local family together for a night and then night time New England crickets and
driving home. Upstairs to bed and pajamas, reading late at night or just staying up.
Mrs. Seth in a good mood. Shelly happy. Other nights Sara watched as Shelly took
a single woman behind a shed at the dinners and fucked her quickly and without much
effort and then both of them walking back inside as if they had just had a cigarette.
Mrs. Seth had started an affair with the church janitor. All to get his keys and his job.
It was the seventies and la dolce vita, the good life. He was coming over in the day when
Shelly was at work and Sara and Lesley at school. Only Sara came home at 1 o’clock to
watch All My Children and saw them getting stoned all the time and smiling and laughing.
It worked and he was fired for drinking on the job and Shelly got his keys and access to
their goal all along. The poor box. An extra 150$ every month and freebies
from the church kitchen. Mrs. Seth had finally figured out a somewhat honest
way to live. She just figured, they were the poor. Let us have the money and there,
everyone was sort of being good. She didn’t know what else to do. Thanks to the boxes
set strategically around the church and a devoted parish they always had some money.
Cash in hand. 30$ 40$ 20$. They had everything but they always went to bargain
basements, thrift stores. She had begged her Mom and got a few comedy tapes
hidden in her bedroom. Lilly Tomlin, Flip Wilson, Monty Python, Benny Hill.
She practiced routines out loud and in front of a mirror. She read books on comedy
and books of jokes. Actors monologues and plays. She brooded over it and
then stomped through the house and found her sister and talked and talked
and talked to her until she made her laugh and laugh and was standing up
making all of them laugh. Shelly and Mom. Lesley all laughing and Sara
going on and on.
Twenty years later Sarah looked in the mirror in Vegas. It was 3 am and the party had gone
on after her show. She had cash and was wearing a 600$ blazer & t shirt & slacks and a five
thousand dollar Rolex wristwatch. 3 AM the boozy coked up hooker was looking at her
after kissing a guy with a Mercedes Benz t -shirt on and a bathing suit. Hey honey Sara get me
a drink – and that was all it took. Sara hit her to the ground and pounded her. The guy
kept swearing and saying Yeah yeah get her ! and Sara ended with a punch in her
She went to the wet bar and made a drink and threw it at her.