Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Make 'em laugh AND cry

Thanks for your great response to my unsold spec, SATISFACTION. If only any of you had money. But almost as good as seeing my movie on the screen is posting segments of it on a blog.

I love writing serious emotional scenes and still sneaking in comedy. Making an audience laugh when they don’t expect it is a hoot. I’m not always successful but love the challenge. The key is that the comedy comes out of the characters. People react to stress and heartache in different ways, often unexpected, unpredictable, and sometimes funny. Finding that balance between comedy and drama can be tricky but when it works it’s really worth the effort. Here’s an attempt to do that from this script.

Set in the world of Bakersfield radio -- where contests and promotions are king -- longtime local oldies DJ, Jimmy Lizard (Steve Martin), has just died. His closest friend and former colleague is Barry (Jason Alexander). Lizard’s boss was Sandy, someone way too young to be running an oldies station.

********

INT. BARRY'S APARTMENT – DAY

Barry drags in, dumps his suitcase, hits the button on his message machine as he goes to the fridge for a beer. A BEEP, THEN:

LIZARD
Barry? It's Lizard. Thanks again for coming up. Listen, if I should, y'know ..."go", I left an envelope for you. This is my dying wish. You'll know because it says right on the front "dying wish". It's a gift to my listeners, and it would mean a lot to me. I hate to place this burden on you but hey, I can't get Halle Berry on the phone. Anyway, I really appreciate it, and hopefully you'll never have to open it. Thanks.

Another BEEP, then:

RAY
Barry, call me the minute you get this.
(can hardly say the words)
It's Lizard.

Barry falls into a chair, knowing.

INT. HOSPITAL RECEPTION STATION - LATER THAT DAY

Barry signs for Lizard's envelope. He dreads having to open it. He finally does. He shakes his head. How is he going to pull this off?

INT. SANDY'S OFFICE – DAY

Sandy and Barry. Sandy clutches the letter.

SANDY
I can't do this.

BARRY
But it's his dying wish, man.

SANDY
I'm sorry, Barry, no.

BARRY
Why do you think people listen to this radio station? For the same twelve records they've heard a jillion times? Bullshit. They listen for the connection, to when their lives were young and exciting and it was all still out there ahead of 'em. That's what Jimmy provided, man. He was their connection. For 32 years. As long as you heard Jimmy's voice there were still "Big Kahuna Luaus", and "Drumathons", and endless summers, and "Daddy could never take the T- Bird away". But now it's gone. We've lost a helluva lot more than just some schmoe who played old records.
(beat)
To honor his memory... and all of ours -- this is what he wanted.

Sandy looks down at the letter. Barry knows he's got him.

EXT. BAKERSFIELD – DAY

VARIOUS BEAUTY SHOTS OF THE CITY AS THIS PLAYS ON THE AIR:

SANDY
All of us at 88/KBF were saddened today by the death of our longtime friend and colleague, Jimmy Lizard. He was a great broadcaster, a greater human being, and this station will never be the same now that he's gone.
(beat)
In accordance with his last request, Jimmy would like you, his listeners to attend his funeral tomorrow. He realized that there wouldn't be room for everyone so, again -- according to his wishes -- when you hear Gabriel's horn blow be the first caller on the Bossline and you'll score two passes to the service.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hah!

Now that's funny!! Ya got me on that one, I wasn't expecting it...

Anonymous said...

That was great!! Way to turn tears into laughter...

Dave Olden said...

It works, Ken.

(it sparked a quick, big grin, and that grin stayed.)

-- Dave O.

Michael Ruschena said...

Man, I just gotta say... that's hilarious.

Anonymous said...

The only thing...I have a problem with the name "Jimmy Lizard".

For me, the name just doesn't work, even as a stage name.

Sharone Rosen said...

sitting here in my little broadcast booth at 6 am... reading your blog as I get ready to warn the world of sig alerts... LAUGH OUT LOUD at Jimmy's last wish!!!!
Now THAT was radio!!!

That WAS perfection in writing!!!!

The Curmudgeon said...

The first Lizard entry -- not so much.

Today, though; today, I laughed out loud.

Thanks.

The Minstrel Boy said...

drat! 8.

Anonymous said...

That was fantastic. Funny, unexpected and beliveible.

Anonymous said...

Really, really nicely done. Proves the old adage, "less is more." And I have no problem with the name "Lizard."

Vlad Tepes said...

Ha ha. Even though you told me that it was coming, it still caught me off guard! Nicely done!

Ken Levine said...

Jimmy Lizard is a goof on the kind of names disc jockeys had back then -- Charlie Tuna, Jimmy Rabbit, Earl Trout, Cat Simon, Tony Pigg.

zazupitts said...

...and,um, Johnny Lizard, too, as I remember. :)

Anonymous said...

I never thought "Chuckles" was as funny as (evidently) everybody else did.

Jimmy Lizard's dying wish? Now that's funny!

benson said...

Funny scene!!!

Your screenplay certainly makes me feel better about my career choice than Harry Chapin's "WOLD".

You know the Hollywood world infinitely better than I do, but don't you think this kind of role would win a Steve Martin an Oscar? He can do serious and funny really well (but for gawdsake, don't let him do a self indulgent "Steve Martin shtick" scene as in Father of the Bride).

One thing though, and again, this could be changed if this marvelous screenplay got produced- I think the title is wrong. Satisfaction makes me think Rolling Stones song or 60's afterschool kids dance show.

hepwa said...

That was hysterical. I worked in small town radio for thirteen years and left it to become a screenwriter, so that one hit a home run for me.