entry locked until 04.01.12
8:15 PM, Thursday, March 29th, 2012:
Waiting for 2:00 to see Tammy & Steve was an anxious couple of minutes for me. I sat at the MSNBC lounge at 30 Rock and watched the ticker outside... What the fuck Spike? Tweeting Zimmerman's address is stupid enough, but then it isn't HIS ADDRESS? Goddamn.
Anyway, it was finally 1:50 and I could go up there without looking ridiculously early even though I was sitting down there for close to an hour. LOL.Met with Tammy, we went into Steve and I handed them both the blu-ray of The Journey. Ahhh, Steve. Was good to be back in his office. Been over 4 years since I had.
The story of Steve Friedman is a long one. He's the man responsible for Katie Couric's career and singlehandedly made The Today Show what it is today and eventually moved onto CBS where he tried to do the same for The Early Show. He did a lot of things right, but as I found out in the little over a year that I worked with them... it isn't the tightest ship. To illustrate that I always love telling the story of how I saw the 3 acts I had to write about for The Egos. All I had to see was the submission tapes that they selected in New York. Didn't need a copy of them until later, but to write the bit I had to just witness the submission tape. What would've taken anyone with a webcam in New York a few minutes to do required this:
1) Tammy (producer) had to give her tapes or files to someone in a control room at CBS News.
2) They set up a live feed with a control room in LA. That took some doing.
3) The control room would tape the feed in LA.
4) Someone else would then transfer that to a DVD.
5) A messenger drove to CBS, picked up the DVD and drove it to my house.
6) I put the DVD in my DVD player and hit "play".
Maddening. This was 2007, not 1997. Point a webcam at your TV, it's done in mere moments. This happened weekly and it held things up incredibly. Then of course I had to stay up for 48 straight hours to meet their deadline for Monday morning which was artificially noon on Sunday because they simply couldn't do things any faster... yet I'm editing what should take WEEKS in hours. It was quite a battle, but I loved the challenge and am very proud of the results.
Once Steve was fired of course everything was scrapped and he moved on. He started his own production company and we had a meeting about producing something Egos related. Was very excited ('round 2008). His idea was to marry the content with advertisers ahead of time and sell it that way. Of course in the middle of a recession, new ideas are worthless and after spinning his wheels for a few years he took a stable consulting gig at MSNB, and for the past 2 years has executive produced The Dylan Ratigan show. He brought Tammy on board (who went on a TV hiatus after CBS) and the team is back together. We still have a great relationship, would all still love to work together, it's simply a matter of how.
Meeting up with her again was great. She's sooooooo much happier. The end of CBS (which went another year after Steve was fired) was hell. You can read all about it in the gossip rags. Shelly Ross's tenure at The Early Show was the stuff of legend and completely expected. It's why we were all surprised at the hire... everyone at ABC's Good Morning America knew this about her - and it was quite public - so why bring her on? And when they got rid of her 6 months later, some of the ABC anchors were caught saying:  "How were they able to get rid of her so FAST?" LOL. The politics of morning TV is almost as fun as late-night TV. Now of course The Early Show is dying. They lost their studio, their talent... it's a shell of what it was before and although ratings were never that great? They just seem lost.
I had to go back there and see it. Totally empty now with the CBS sign still up there because no one else has the space. Kinda eerie. They changed their name too, and I can't place it. It's funny I think it sounds like ABC's Good Morning America now? Why change your name to something reminiscent of the competitor? LOL. "CBS This Morning". <shrugs>
The only way you're gonna beat The Today Show is hire a HUGE talent. If "Ellen" headed "CBS This Morning"? You'd be in the running to beat The Today Show. Why the hell Ellen would do that is beyond me. Anyway, who cares? Why am I talking about this? Let's get back to MSNBC.
So we giggled about CBS for a bit, and I asked Tammy how things were going. They're in a great slot on MSNBC because it's not really part of the morning or primetime so they don't have the pressure those slots do. They've been pretty left alone and have done well. The problem for me of course is that their show is barely political. It's financial first and of all the shows on MSNBC it's the least fit for me to even do a tiny piece. I gave Tammy the Gingrich video and though she liked it, there's just nothing there for them to use. Chris Mathews? Sure. Hell any of the primetime shows could've used that to intro into a bit about Newt, etc. but not Ratigan. And there's very little interplay between the shows. They don't even see the other people... ever. Everyone has their own little section of 30 Rock and rarely do they meet. So this will take some doing to find any fit...
...but I got to sit and talk with Steve alone for a bit and it's a guy who has seen it all. We talked about the state of news, how it's working now, what works. Talked about Maddow who is now not only the flagship of the station, she's becomeing an outright celebrity for, gulp, actual journalism. If you think she's just the "liberal" equivalent to Fox News you really, really, really aren't watching. Of course she has a bias and expresses it, but she's incredibly smart and remarkably thorough. And when/if she makes a mistake? She will address it immediately and apologize. She's rare and she's getting the credit she deserves.
But talking about her brought up a good line from Steve. "You Gotta Be You". Obvious, right? But it was in the context of who you are. Your life. It doesn't just mean "If you're liberal, do a liberal show." It said to me: "If you're a singer, sing. If you're a comedian, make me laugh. Just follow your heart." None of this is new advice (Hell, I wrote "Listen to My Heart" at 19), but something about telling him I was gonna be a dad, us talking about kids and then him saying that? Struck me. Who am I really? Something I never really answer because I'm happy doing so many things. I was no happier doing "Adam & The Egos" on CBS than I am writing and recording a great song... because I know I can always do the other thing. But to be successful on TV, in the mainstream, you have to be easily labeled. And I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean for viewers? It's more comforting for them to see what you do, and be able to put it in a place in their head that they "Get". Understand what the entertainer's priorities are. We know Jon Stewart is funny first, progressive second. We know Ratigan is financial first, political neutral. Rush Limbaugh is right-wing first, second and third. Who are you? What do you do? While thinking about that I made this video...
It doesn't really matter if I was good at announcing the winner of that season of Living Room Live... is that me? People hear my voice and assume that's what I should do... but then they hear me play piano and that's what they assume I should do... then they watch an Egos epiosode and their head explodes. They can't even process that I'm Spencer let alone wonder what I should do. I've officially LOST the audience because they can no longer relate. It's literally too much. Although impressive? In the end? It hurts me. My brand is completely scattered. On the flip side though? Artistically? I've never been happier... but "The Journey" is, not, sellable, to the mainstream audience. It's too goddamn much. So we watched some baby eagles.
Wait, what? Sorry, there's no good way to segue into that pic. The entire office was watching a live feed of this Eagle having babies and screaming when one would poke its head out of the shell. It was pretty funny. Every sentence with Tammy would alternate from the show to the Eagles. Ha. Back to Steve...
He wants to help. But he was clear: you gotta be yourself. You just keep thinking up angles and scheming. It's what I've said and done for decades now and when it works it's beautiful, when it doesn't it makes you feel pretty lost. When I did 4tvs in 2000-2002 I had a night where I said "Choose My Career" to the people in the audience. Watch this bizarre show and tell me what you think it equals? You know what they all said? "Just keep doing THAT. THAT was cool." That drove me NUTS. But guess what lead to my big break on CBS? 4tvs. Ya know? Gotta Be You. So who am I now? Or more importantly for me, who am I not?
I am not Daniel Tosh. The more I watch him, the more I happily admit I could never do what he does. I cannot tell you how good it feels to say that. To be able to see the spark he has to make every WORD funny, and the niche he has found making fun of the idiots on the internet. It's brilliant. It's much like the niche Jon Stewart found in pointing out the audacity of politics. I am neither of those people. I could not fill in for them, I could not copy them, I simply watch them and enjoy them. When it comes to funny? I have to be subtle, or it comes off arrogant. Because of how I look, I almost have to be in character to do what I think is funny. As "Adam"? It doesn't come off well. When I look my best weight-wise, hair, etc? I come off egotistical when trying to be funny. I don't have that likeability quality unless in character. For example, my "Caviar" dream if I ever got famous was to remake "Skindeep", the unbelievably underrated John Ritter vehicle. But you know what? I'm no John Ritter. I don't have that quality. He plays the loveable womanizing drunk. If I did the role? I'd be that drunk womanizing asshole. He has an intangible quality to him that you love no matter what. It's funny, he has a beard in the movie and it makes him somehow dashing? I have a beard and I look homeless. It just is what it is. Knowing that is 85% of the battle. So who the hell am I?
Clearly I'm a singer-songwriter. I want nothing to do with that business, so it's almost a moot point. I love singing and writing though, and that'll never change. My political view is rooted in common sense no matter the issue. I have no political or religious affiliation, no bias, I have an uncanny ability to think without emotion/bias actually. But how does it translate on TV without a character being involved? Or is a character involved? That kitchen rant I did about politics got some traction and it really was just a disheveled me talking shit in my kitchen. After speaking with Steve (and watching a few daily rants on Ratigan's show) I can see me doing a few weekly rants throughout this season and try to feel where my voice is. I do know that it's not being heard often. My big pet peeve is that people confuse "conservative" with Republican when that party has been anything but conservative for decades. Sides are now, absolutley, corporation vs. people. And although it isn't black and white, Republican vs. Democrat? It's most certainly black and grey. There is far more "Corprate" strongholds on the right. I love pointing that out while keeping a balance as most "liberal" values annoy the balls off of me. But considering their history? Uhm, if you're gonna spend all our money killing people in war? I'll choose health care and welfare you fucktards. I like Ratigan in that respect, and we do agree on those points so, bottom line after all this rambling? I'm gonna do a few rants, long and short, and I will have an audience that will watch at MSNBC and give me feedback. Can't ask for anything more than that.
I mean, I'm just happy. Steve was excited for the coming baby and told me the first 2 years were the best times. Kinda cool to hear that as I never have before. I guess he likes babies too. I just feel so lucky. So lucky to have the family I have, the contacts I have are good people... you know? Considering how transient the Comedy Central folks were (and 3 Arts - WOW), Tammy & Steve are just good people. As I left, Tammy told me to watch a satirist they're gonna have on the 5ht and 19th of April and she pulls out a post-it note to write down the dates. I said "What the hell am I gonna do that, post it to my phone?" I guess a little of that CBS 1980s dysfunction is still in her veins. LMAO. I wrote a note in my iPhone and I made her promise to watch the blu-ray of my documentary. Then she has to strap down Steve and make him awtch it. More because, they singlehandedly made it possible.
Good day, good times. Unlike DC though. Poor Talya is friggin' miserable. That 2nd trimester cannot come fast enough...