A criticism an old boyfriend used to give me (I’ll leave out his name so that it doesn’t look like I’m complaining) is that I go too far back in time to start my stories.
“I ask you when did you return the video,” he’d say, “and you start with, ‘Back when I was six, I had these shoes, and…'”
But I still believe that sometimes you have to go a little farther back than you expected, so that the retelling has a similar emotional experience for you as it had for me when it happened.
So, back when I was six, I had these shoes, and…
Okay, not that far back. But it does start with me taking a bath.
I was in the bath a couple of weeks ago, and for some reason I started thinking of my TWoP bio page, and how I think I was supposed to update it about a year ago. (What? Don’t you get into the bath and think about all the things you were supposed to be doing instead of keeping your head underwater to drown out the reality of life? Just me? Oh.) Anyway, I was thinking about my TWoP bio page, because I’m weird. I was thinking, for some reason, about my list of likes and dislikes.
Likes: Johnny Depp, John Travolta, John Cusack, John Henson, Jon Stewart, Johnny Rotten and John Waters
Dislikes: Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, John Stamos, Johnny Mathis, Johnson and Johnson, John Q. Public, Johnny DrinksTooMuch and John Tesh
… I realize now that probably I was in the bath originally thinking of Johnny Depp, and it kind of went to this place. Probably it went in this exact order. “I sure do like Johnny Depp. I still haven’t seen Hairspray with John Travolta.” And so on.
The point is, I started thinking about John Henson. And how when I lived in Austin, when I was in college, there was a time every day when I would sit down to watch Talk Soup. I even remember the first time I stumbled upon John Henson’s hosting skills. I was in my boyfriend’s apartment in West Campus, pointing at the screen, giggling, going, “This guy is so funny!” I watched every day. Man, he made me laugh.
So I’m in the bath wondering where I can watch John Henson some more, and if he’s still hosting something on the TV Guide channel, and how I once saw him in a movie theatre when I first moved to Los Angeles, where stee debated going up to him and saying hi, because John Henson once saw stee’s comedy troupe and really liked it. (stee decided not to go up to him. Unnecessary trivia: I think we had just seen Blow.)
(I’m starting to see why my ex-boyfriend complained about my storytelling length.)
It’s Pencils Down, so I don’t really get to write these next two words all that often. But:
The next night, I’m at an (affordable) bar/wine-tasting thingy in Eagle Rock with stee and a few friends, all writers commiserating over our strike lives. It’s raining outside, and as the night progresses, more and more people are starting to shove into this tiny little room. Then, suddenly, Tess, Christie and stee straighten up, staring at the door. And Christie says: “John Henson just walked in.”
Now, come on. Twenty-four hours after pondering John Henson’s daily life, he’s standing right behind me in a tiny room? This is why Los Angeles makes you go insane!
“Oh, my God!” I say, a little loudly because at this point I’m tasting my fifth wine. I lower to a stage whisper. “I was thinking about him just yesterday!”
Chris raises his eyebrows. “You were thinking of John Henson yesterday?”
“Yes! In the bathtub. When I was in the bathtub. Do you think I should tell him?”
An immediate, unanimous response: “No.”
“But I was thinking about how funny he is! Wouldn’t he be flattered?”
“No, Pam. He would be creeped out.”
Suddenly John Henson is standing right next to me as Chris re-introduces himself (they’d met before and have a mutual friend), and introduces his girlfriend Tess (who currently works on The Soup, so they have mutual friends), and Christie, who somehow knows him from something somewhere in the past, and then he gets to me and says — “And this is Pam. She’s… a fan.”
I’m blushing and kind of looking at my hands as Chris continues introductions and gets to stee, who also has a history with John Henson that elevates him above “fan” status, and they shake hands and John Henson kind of chuckles and remarks that it’s kind of crazy that he just walked into a room and found a table full of people who are kind of sort of people he knows.
…which is when I laugh and shout, “JON STEWART, THIS IS YOUR LIFE!”
I have no idea what happened after that, or what was said, or if anybody did anything other than politely ignore what I’d just said. I was busy trying to keep my blood from rushing permanently out of my body, melting into a pile of dumb right there on my chair. I do remember John Henson saying goodbye to me as we left, but I did not make eye-contact with him, as at that point, the only way I could recover would make myself sound even crazier, by explaining that he’s on a list of my likes next to Jon Stewart, which is posted on the internet, which I was thinking about when I was in the bathtub the day before.
So I left. Later, after dinner, I drove home slamming my forehead into my (borrowed car’s) steering wheel like the composer on Sesame Street, knowing I’d never let myself forget this moment of dumbassery. But there was still more dumbassery to come! See, I thought I’d fixed the borrowed car’s leaky passenger side window problem, so I assumed it was safe to put the paper bag of wine bottles I’d just bought at the tasting beside me, but within three seconds of stepping outside the car, the bottom of the bag opened up like my stupid mouth and all the bottles shattered at my feet, right next to the wheels of my borrowed car. So I had to clean up a wine-soaked mess o’ glass in the dark, in the rain, which is exactly what I get for calling John Henson Jon Stewart.
Recently, Sara, Liz and I decide to get post-picket lunch. We end up meeting at a sushi place where we’re informed it’s closing in five minutes, so we have to order quickly. We agree, and as I walk to the restroom to wash my hands, I see the only other occupied table in the restaurant. It’s Jimmy Kimmel, with some friends.
When I get back to our table, there’s some light, quiet joking that the women dressed in full-on Strike gear could potentially end up in a rumble with Kimmel and his co-workers. (“That’ll get Nikki Finke posting again!”)
After we’ve placed our order, Jimmy Kimmel and his friends get up to leave. We quietly watch them go, wondering if this is awkward or just Hollywood these days.
“Jimmy Kimmel looks tired,” Liz comments.
“Jimmy Kimmel drives a nice car,” I say, watching him climb into his vehicle.
The waitress approaches us. “By the way,” she says. “That man just paid your check.”
There’s a moment of stunned shock as the three of us stare at each other. Then I ran out to the parking lot, waving my hand, shouting, “Thank you! Seriously! Thank you!”
He laughed, said no problem, and drove away.
Now. We start, of course, immediately texting our friends to tell them we’re eating Kimmel Sushi, joking that all the AMPTP has to do to get us smiling again is give us free raw fish because we’re just that easy. Sara calls Russ, who was supposed to be eating with us, but instead was eating lunch with another House writer, who happens to be friends with the head writer for The Sarah Silverman Program, who then called his head-writer friend, who happened to be with Sarah, and from what I understand, Jimmy Kimmel then received a text from his girlfriend along the lines of, “You’re so cool for what you just did. You’re my hero,” to which Jimmy responded, “What the fuck? That happened like, eight minutes ago!”
And the fact that I even know about that text exchange shows just how small this industry really is.
So I get home and call Anna Beth to tell her about my weird day, and as I tell her about running out on the street to thank Jimmy Kimmel for the sushi, she interrupts me to ask, “Did you shout, ‘Jimmy Stewart! This is your life!’?”
…Which is the best callback of all time.