100daysoff

Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 19

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A few weeks ago, when I was particularly busy– I was writing my nth episode of $#*! My Dad Says and doing a rewrite of my pilot based on tiny notes because the studio loved it, I mean this was a sure thing*– I went through a period of a couple of days when I was very jerky to my wife and kids.  At the end of one of those days as my wife and I were watching tv together as we love to do, she calmly turned to me and said, “Do you feel really cool right now?  Is that why you’re being such a jerk?”  I responded honestly, “No.  I promise you that I will never, ever feel cool.  I’m just a jerk.”    The truth is, my jerkiness has levels, from minor jerk to full-blown a-hole.   I happened to be in the red zone that particular week because I was under a lot of pressure.  To my wife’s credit– see it came back to her again!– she never picks a fight in the moment, which is one of the reasons we rarely, if ever, fight.

One of reasons I never feel “cool” is mostly because, well, I’m not cool.  But also because I feel that my job, while apparently cool to people who don’t do it, is just what I happen to do for a living and is really pretty much the only thing I’m good at– anyone who’s read up through Day 4 probably realizes that by now.  It often takes an outsider, coming to their first sitcom taping to help me appreciate that I do, in fact, have a pretty cool job, and I’m always appreciative to get that perspective.

Another thing that keeps writers from feeling “cool” is that the system is designed to make you feel like crap at any given moment.  I mean, there’s no way three weeks ago Sitcom Giant Chuck Lorre would have ever imagined that everyone in America would know his Hebrew name– or that he had one for that matter.  I guess that beyond the sitcom world, life is pretty much set up that way, too.  I’ve tried to incorporate these lessons into my life.  Six years ago I wrote my first pilot on my own called “Mr. Nice Guy” about a guy who’s personality ranges from minor jerk to full-blown a-hole.    I remember the exact moment when the studio and network called together to tell me my pilot was getting made (they only call together when it’s good news).  I was elated.  And I actually did something I seldom do– I recognized at the moment that this may be the best it gets, so I should appreciate the feeling.  A few weeks later we cast two “name” stars as the leads and it was a sure thing * that my pilot would be picked up and go to series.

I try to remember that moment whenever I get good news– that this too shall pass– and to enjoy the moment.  Today I had such a moment when my agent called me and told me that he got a call from a studio that wants me to write a script for them.  Additionally, another network wants to get reacquainted with me.  Additionally, my friend for whom I’m doing a freelance script liked my idea and my creative juices are flowing.  It’s very easy for me to get carried away in either direction– that this will be the project that turns out to be the brass ring, or it will be another sure thing that goes nowhere.  Instead, I chose to feel happy and grateful for the opportunity and anxious about the potential pitfalls.  But what I didn’t feel, was cool.

The other big event of the day was another session with a family therapist– the Expert as I called this person a couple of weeks back. As you may recall, the Expert made what I thought was a huge gaffe in calling out one of our children on their problem which resulted in a huge emotional scene at home (also from the child).  Despite this, my wife and I decided to go back to see The Expert by ourselves since The Expert had given us expert parenting advice the week before.  This time, without the distraction of our children, The Expert looked at me and said, “Can I be perfectly honest with you?”  “Yes”, I lied.  “You’re extremely controlling.”  At that point I got up and announced, “This meeting is over!” and stormed out.  I didn’t really do that, but the sitcom version of me thought to do it.  (I often see my life as “The Jeff Astrof Show”, starring Jeff Astrof.  I might want to deal with that over the next 81 days, too).  Anyway, it was crushing for me to hear that the problems my children face– and again, thank God they’re not major– but their personality foibles, let’s say, are– at least partially (let’s face it, mostly)–a result of how I raise them.  Somehow I always thought that my wife’s calming presence would offset my emotional storm system, but I guess it doesn’t work that way.  I, of course, disagreed with The Expert’s assertion that I was controlling– I suppose if I weren’t so controlling I would go along with it– but I did take away some helpful pointers (ie: be less jerky).

After therapy as I drove to do some errands, I got the call from my agent, “Good news!”  I smiled, thankful for the good news, knowing that the news will get better and better until it gets worse, but also knowing that I have bigger fish to fry.  When I got home, I was greeted by laughing, happy children, freshly bathed, eager to talk about their days and their dreams.  And that felt pretty cool.

*The pilot didn’t get picked up, there is no such thing as a “sure thing”.

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Written by 100daysoff

March 4, 2011 at 6:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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