Tuesday, February 14, 2017

They say it's my birthday

Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s also my birthday (so good luck getting a restaurant reservation).

When you’re on staff of a show you generally are working on your birthday, sometimes many hours.

I remember turning 40 in the WINGS rewrite room. As the hour approached I said to my fellow merry men, this is it, after 40 I am officially too old to get work. Use me now because in a couple of hours I will no longer be funny, no longer be in touch with the youth of America, and no longer able to eat take-out from Taco Bell.

But that’s not my worst night-before-my-birthday story. That came the evening I was about to turn 55. I was home watching this documentary on the porn industry that HBO was running. In one segment they were asking porn stars what they wouldn’t do. One said animals, another said three guys, another said golden showers, and finally they got to this one perky young lady who said, “Hey they’re paying me. I’ll do anything… as long as it’s not with, y’know, some 55 year-old guy.” Great! Sex with goats is peachy but someone my age is where you draw the line. Happy Birthday to me.

When you’re on staff (and people in the office like you) they will often get you a cake. Their intentions are wonderful and I love them for the gesture…

BUT…

Twice it has resulted in co-workers wanting to kill me.

The first was on CHEERS. We had just had a disastrous runthrough. The room was David Isaacs and me and the Charles Brothers. We had to re-break the story. We were looking at a 3:00 AM rewrite session. And just when we started getting the germ of an idea for how to fix the story the assistants burst in with a cake for me. We then had to stand around for twenty minutes while everyone ate the cake. I could see that Glen Charles was seething. That was awkward.

And then there was the year David and I were showrunning the MARY show starring Mary Tyler Moore. Normally we shot the show in front of a studio audience but this particular episode required lots of pre-shooting so we all decided to just block and shoot the entire show without an audience. That meant a long day of filming that began at 9:00 AM and ended about 11:00 PM. Plus, there was a horrendous storm that day. Flash floods, the whole deal. As luck would have it the stage sprung a couple of leaks. One was right over where Mary sat in the office set. It was the Chinese Water Test, dripping right onto her head. Needless to say, she was not pleased.

We finally wrap at around 11:00. It’s still pouring. Everyone is exhausted and knows they have long drives ahead of them. And guess what? Out comes the cake. Since I was the showrunner everyone felt obligated to stay and eat cake for a half-hour, the LAST thing anyone wanted to do. And to her credit I will say this, Mary stayed. And she was diabetic. She couldn’t even eat the cake. I spent the entire party sheepishly apologizing to our star.

When I hear MacArthur Park and "someone left the cake out in the rain" that's what I think of. 

This year, no show so no cake. But many well-wishers, which is way better and I’m most appreciative. I do feel bad about Facebook though. Lots of friends are wishing me a Happy Birthday and I don’t check Facebook every day so I rarely wish other people Happy Birthday. So I feel a little guilty. Just know that I wish all of you the Happiest of Birthdays. Except that porn star.

46 comments :

slgc said...

Happy Birthday Ken!

Mitchell Hundred said...

My favourite piece of media about having your birthday coincide with a famous holiday is still this song.

Stephanie said...

Happy birthday!

Joseph M. said...

Happy Birthday, Ken!

Roseann said...

Happy Birthday, Ken. And many more. She doesn't deserve you.

VP81955 said...

Happy birthday from the lady in my avatar, who notes today also is the 123rd anniversary of the birth of her final cinematic leading man, a Mr. Benjamin Kubelsky. All of you should know who we know him as ("Hamlet" and radio are hints).

Chester said...

Happy Birthday, Ken. Make a wish and blow out a candle. (If Trump magically disappears, we'll have you to thank!)

Johnny Hy said...

Happy Birthday Ken! Best wishes and I hope you and your wife have something great planned!

Michael said...

Happy birthday, Ken!

I happened to read the following about the Epstein twins and Jack Warner this morning and thought you would enjoy it.

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/224701/epstein-twins-jack-warner

Michael said...

Happy birthday. In celebration of it, husbands throughout the world get into hot water for forgetting to buy candy.

Jon H said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! I have a coworker who also has a birthday today, and as I've told her before, her husband never has any excuse to forget her birthday! I'm sure the same can be said for your wife & family.

Kirk said...

Happy birthday, Ken.

404 said...

Happy birthday, Ken!!

YEKIMI said...

Happy Birthday. Buy now that porn "star" is at the age where no one wants to do her....except guys who are into geriatric sex.

Rory W. said...

Happy Birthday to you, Ken,

Charles H. Bryan said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! Y'know, someday that porn star will be 55 and .... well, I have no idea what that will signify, really. She'll do AARP fetish porn, I guess. You can't even tell her to go fuck herself because she probably already has, in ten different positions, seven different outfits and two different warehouses. So forget I even brought up any of that. I'm not entirely sure that porn star opinions need to be attended to.

Have a Happy Birthday!

Melissa C. Banczak said...

Happy birthday! Today was my dad's birthday too. He would have been 88. My fondest memories as a kid are watching comedies with him. He loved to laugh.

Roger Owen Green said...

Happy birthval.

Brian said...

Happy Birthday, at least you can keep trying 'til you run out of cake.

This is a reference to a game called Portal, in which you (as the heroine) find ways to escape a very smart-alecky AI called GLADOS, who, at times, promises you cake (all the time calling you stupid and/or fat).

When you defeat it, you hear this song by Jonathan Coulton.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ljFaKRTrI

Dan Reese said...

Happy Birthday, Ken!

richfigel said...

Hau`oli Lā Hānau from Hawaii, Ken! On a more serious note though, you sort of joked about the fear of getting work after you turned 40. How real is ageism today in the TV writing biz? With all the talk about "diversity," shouldn't older voices be included in the writers room as well? I mean, come on, who is really watching mainstream TV shows these days -- isn't it mostly people who are over 40-50 years old? Would love to see your thoughts about the changing landscape of viewers compared to the makeup of TV staff writers, and if that might account for the lack of substance or real comedy in most of the newer shows.

Aloha,
Rich

LouOCNY said...

Happy Birthday Ken! Thanks for ALL of your wonderful contributions to our entertainment - but especially for this blog and its offshoot the podcast! Many a time both have picked me up when I have been down. :) I'm still waiting for a time to be able to meet you - my copy of ITS GONE! has a space reserved for your autograph,

Minezzy Bee said...

Happy birthday, Ken!

Brian said...

Well, happy birthday, Ken! Sorry I didn't remember. I would have gotten you something, like a comment yesterday. I should have known with as long as I have been reading your blog.

I like the podcast. I also like movie reviews and TV insider info.

Here's a Friday question. What is it like when you film in an empty studio? Have you ever filmed before a half-empty studio audience?

Tom Asher said...

Happy birthday!

Peter said...

Happy Birthday, Ken!

I turned 40 last week, so I guess it's too late for me now to make it as a writer. If I think about it too much, I'll just get depressed, so instead I'll wish you a terrific birthday/Valentine's Day. And thanks for making us laugh every day. Keep the witty observations coming. I hope you'll be reviewing Fifty Shades Darker with your brand of brilliant snark.

Mazel tov!

Gary said...

Happy birthday Ken! I thought you might find this intriguing -- last night on the Antenna TV network the Tonight Show rerun was from 1986, and one guest was Oprah Winfrey, when she was just starting to get famous. In the course of her interview Johnny asked her what her favorite TV shows were when she was younger, and guess what she answered: Leave it to Beaver!! I was stunned -- no mention at all of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which she has often said inspired her and changed her life. Considering how Oprah dominated the MTM tribute special on CBS, I found this very interesting. . .

B McMolo said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! Many happy returns.

Judy Hughes said...

Happy Birthday Ken! Hope your next spin around the sun is fantastic.

Buttermilk Sky said...

You're over 55? Incredible! You must truly be young at heart. Have a wonderful birthday.

Joel Perry said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! (Though I really don't understand why you get all the congratulations on this day, when obviously, your mother did all the heavy lifting!)

Victor Velasco said...

Happy Birthday, Ken!

Craig Nesbit said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! I always start my day reading your blog. Well, weekdays at least...

michael said...

As soon as I decided to write professionally for television I hated my birthday. It was a reminder that one more year had past and all I had to show for it was more autographs from people like Ken Levine on rejection slips. The slight success I had writing was nice but I never made it to a TV network writers room (aww).

Now I realize Mom should get the birthday cake as she did all the work.

But I will forever feel about birthdays like this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-28jAoTPFw

MikeK.Pa. said...


Forgot it was your birthday, but had cake anyway. Hopefully no HBO porn specials to ruin your night. BTW, as much as I love Natalie Wood, I'm not crazy about musicals. However, last weekend I saw GYPSY all the way through for the first time. I was surprised how much the movie was Roz Russell's and not Natalie's. Russell had great delivery and so many clever lines. As I watch, I wondered how many were from the playwright and how many were added by the screenwriter? Karl Malden is always a treat to watch as well. A very underrated and gracious actor and married for over 70 years! He helped Michael Douglas learn the ropes in the first few seasons of STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO.

Myles Warden said...

Happy Birthday man! Have a great one!

joanneinjax said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! When I checked your birth date, I was thrilled to know you're a year older than me. For some reason, I thought you were a '51 baby, like me, and was weirdly delighted. Maybe it's your 'oh, so young' yet worldly writing.
Hope you have a marvelous day!

Anonymous said...

You say it's your birthday so Happy Birthday to you!Janice B.

Terence Towles Canote said...

Happy birthday! I hope it was a good one!

Cap'n Bob said...

Benjamin Kubelsky is Jack Benny.

Happy birthday, Ken. I'm glad there's something worthwhile to celebrate since I don't like Valentine's Day. Well, there was that minor incident in a Chicago garage...

Doug said...

You were able to eat Taco Bell? I'm impressed. Happy Birthday.

Jeff Maxwell said...

A very Happy Birthday! Age is just a state of mind. I stay out of the state.

Love the Podcast!

Ken Levine said...

My extreme thanks to everyone for your Birthday wishes. Is there an emoji for really touched?

Jason said...

Happy birthday! I'm too late to be included in that "thank you" just above, but I'll pretend I'm not.

RockGolf said...

@VP81955: And a belated happy 39th birthday to Benjamin Kubelsky. (For the 8 people old enough to understand that joke.)

Tudor Queen said...

Happy birthday - a day late, but sincerely wished! As for age, I find humor is like all those other things that age well. You're smarter, more experienced and you've heard a lot more jokes.