The casting process, according to Mulholland Drive

The tiny man, Richard Nixon, the film composer, the cowboy.  These men run Hollywood.  In your dreams.

A pair of Italian brothers are financing a motion picture.  It appears to be the story of a fictional or semi-fictional girl singer from the early sixties.

These Italians are tough customers.  They know what they want, and they have extremely high standards for their espresso.

How do we know they’re tough?  Because one of them is Richard Nixon (not to mention a Texas bar-owner) and the other is — I can barely even say it — a film composer.

Whatever you do, don’t mess with a film composer.

The tough Italians want an actress named Camilla Rhodes to play the girl singer.  They are adamant about this.  They are so adamant about it they can barely speak.  They tremble with fury at the thought of anyone opposing them.

The director of the picture, a young man named Adam, doesn’t yet know who he wants for the part, but he knows he wants a say in the matter.

The studio is willing to put on a show of compromise for the director, but ultimately the decision has already been made — by a tiny man who lives in a windowless dark room.  No one may touch the tiny man, who doesn’t even have a desk or a television, only a telephone and a glass wall with an intercom that faces a pair of double doors.

The tiny man seems to be the studio head, and he seems to be sympathetic to the Italians’ choice of girl.

It seems to be a bleak existence for the tiny man, but he appears to be content.  He has, it seems, immense power and the few people who speak to him do so in stammering, gasping tones.

The director balks at the Italians’ behavior.  No one’s going to tell him who to cast in his picture.  He walks out of the meeting and trashes the Italians’ limo.  I guess no one told him — the Italians are Richard Nixon and a film composer.

It’s nice to think that, in the world of David Lynch, a film composer outranks Richard Nixon.

The director soon feels the wrath of the Italians.  They freeze his bank account while the tiny man in the dark room shuts down production on his movie.  They strongly urge him to go see a cowboy who lives at the top of the Santa Monica mountains.  The director (who has problems of his own) goes to see the cowboy who dishes out folk wisdom with an eerily calm demeanor and obliquely threatens the director’s life.  The Italians, it seems, don’t know any Italian hit men — they must rely on eerily calm cowboys to do their dirty work.*

The director, humbled, awed by the displays of power from the Italians and the tiny man, goes to the next day’s casting session.  Casting sessions in Hollywood, it seems, are expensive propositions.  Sets are built and actors are put into full makeup and wardrobe.  (Across town, a young actress, freshly in town, goes to try out for a picture and finds herself in the room with the lead actor, who apparently has made it his priority to attend every audition.)  The Italians’ choice auditions and the director wisely points to her and says “This is the girl.”

And young actors ask me every day how to get an agent.  If they were to only watch Mulholland Drive, they would know that agents have nothing to do with it.  You are either chosen in advance by Italians working in concert with a tiny man in a windowless room, or else you walk in the door and get an audition with the star.

Of course, in the latter case, the elder, visiting casting director indicates that the producer (Alcott faveJames Karen) is going about his production all wrong.  “He’ll never get this picture made,” she sighs.  It makes perfect sense — he hasn’t made the proper arrangements with the Italians and the tiny man.  It’s like they always say — it’s who you know.

Who the burnt guy is who lives behind the diner and owns a small blue box I have no idea.

*Wait a minute — they know some Italian hit-men after all.  They send one mountainous one to the director’s house.  He is unable to find the director, but he punches the director’s wife and her lover unconscious anyway.
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The Happy Ending Shakespeare Company, Volume 1

The Happy Ending Shakespeare Company presents:

by William Shakespeare

     (A street in Verona.  ROMEO sits, looking sad.  MERCUTIO enters.)

MERCUTIO.  Romeo!  What’s the matter?
ROMEO.  I’m miserable because Rosaline dumped me.
MERCUTIO. Why don’t you go fuck a prostitute?
ROMEO. (immediately brightens)  Hey!  Great idea!

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Ad Men

(An ad agency.  AD MAN and four lackeys.)

A.  Guys, good work.  We finally have our first million-dollar campaign.  Let’s hear it for us.


A.  Enough gaiety.  We have serious work ahead of us.  We hit a bullseye on this, we’ll be sitting pretty for the next one thousand years.  We have to write nothing less than the catchiest jingle ever written.  Can we do it?


A.  The product is Hot Dogs.

1.  What?

2.  Hot dogs.

3.  What?

A.  Hot Dogs.  Armour Hot Dogs.  Jim, whaddaya got?

1.  Hot dogs are a very popular product.  We should have no problem identifying our market and pitching to it.  But here’s the job: The Armour corporation wants to skew their demographics to a more youthful profile.  It is their desire that Armour Hot Dogs be the primary choice among young humans age three to eleven.

2.  Kids.

A.  Precisely.  But they also want to identify specific elements within that demographic and pitch directly to them.  So as you can see, we have our work cut out for us.

ALL.  Hmmm.

2.   Hot dogs.

3.  Armour Hot Dogs.

4.  What kind of kids like Armour Hot Dogs?

A.  That is precisely the question we need to ask.  “What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?”

2.  I have no idea.

3.  Geez, this is a tough one.

4.  It’s maddening.  What kind of kids do eat Armour Hot Dogs?

A.  That’s what we need to figure out.  We have to sharpen our brains, roll up our sleeves and TOUGH THIS THING OUT.




1.  Fat kids?


A.  Fat kids.  Fat kids?  Fat kids.  Yes.  Fat kids probably eat Armour Hot Dogs.  Obese children, in all likelihood, have a predilection for eating Armour Hot Dogs.  Good.  Good!  Who else?

2.  Skinny kids?

A.  It’s a little obvious, but good.  Skinny kids, sure.  Who else?

(Long pause.)

3.  Kids engaged insome sort of activity?

A.  Damn it Kyle, we have to deal in specifics here!  WHAT kind of activity?

3.  Kids who, kids who — build furniture for a living?

4.  Kids who collect rare specimens of insects!

2.  Kids who write provocative first novels!

1.  Kids who manufacture internal combustion engines!

A.  No, no — these are all good, but we have to keep it simple.

4.  Kids who defecate.

A.  Not that simple.

3.  Kids who grow old and die.

2.  Kids who do their own shopping.

A.  NO NO NO!  These are the lamest ideas I’ve ever heard in my life!  NOW COME ON!  WHAT KIND OF KIDS EAT ARMOUR HOT DOGS!


1.  Kids who…climb…on…rocks?


A.  Okay.  I’ll buy that.  Who else?

2.  Tough kids.

A.  Good!  Now we’re cooking with gas!  Who else?

3.  Latent homosexual kids!

A.  Hm.  I like the direction, but it’s got too many syllables.

4.  Potentially homosexual kids.


1. “Maybe gay” kids.

2.  “Kids who might be gay”.

3.  “Kids in doubt of their sexuality”.

4.  “Kids who go both ways.”

A.  Hm.  That’s close.  Let’s come back to it.  Who else?


1.  Kids with infectious diseases.

A.  Jim, don’t be a jerk.  What did I say before?  We can’t give them a phrase like “Kids With Infectious Diseases.”  What the hell does that mean?  We have to be SPECIFIC!  What KIND of infectious diseases?

2.  Cholera?

3.  Bubonic plague?

4.  Amebic dysentery?

1.  Not infectious.  Epstein-Barr Virus.

A.  Wait.  That’s good.  “Kids with Epstein-Barr Virus love Hot Dogs.”  Man.  That’s so close.  But it’s not good enough.  Don’t you see? This jingle has to be PERFECT.  And if we have to stay here all night, we will MAKE IT SO.  So roll up your sleeves and grab a cup of coffee, because we’re in for a bumpy ride.

(Blackout.  Pause.)

(Lights up.  Much later.  It’s been a long night.)

1.  Polio?

A.  No.

2.  Spanish influenza?

A.  No.

2.  It was real big in 1918.

3.  Yellow fever?

A.  No.

4.  Anthrax!

A.  Better but no.

1.  Malaria.

A.  No.

2.  Whooping cough.

A.  No!

2.  No, we could even say it funny: “WHOOPing cough!”

A.  No.

3.  Rubella.

A.  No, they have a cure.

4.  Swine flu.

A.  No no no.  These are all bullshit.  We have to get serious here.  This should be a disease that’s essentially harmless to children, but extremely dangerous to their parents.

1.  Measles.

2.  Mumps.

3.  Spastic colitis.

4.  Blastomycosis.

1.  Botulism!

2.  Diphtheria!

3.  Encephalitis!

4.  Gonorrhea!

1.  Hepatitis!

2.  Herpes simplex!

3.  Histoplasmosis!

4.  Hookworm!

1.  Mononucleosis!

2.  Pertussis!

3.  That’s whooping cough.  Scarlet fever!

4.  Spotted fever!

1.  Syphilis!

2.  Tapeworm!

3.  Toxoplasmosis!

4.  Trichomoniasis!

1.  Chicken pox!

2.  Typhus!

A.  Wait!  Go back.

2.  Typhus?

3.  Toxoplasmosis?

4.  Trichomoniasis?

A.  No!  No!

1.  Chicken pox?

A.  Chicken pox.  Chicken pox.  Wait.  “Even kids with Chicken Pox Love Hot Dogs.”



(General disappointment.)

What was the last one I liked?

1.  Lyme disease.

A.  Fuck it. We’ll go with that.  Let’s get the hell out of here.

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The Great Debates

    Candidate number one, your opening statement.

    Apples are better than oranges.

    Candidate number two, your opening statement.

    Oranges are better than apples.

    Candidate number one, your rebuttal.

    Apples are American.  We put them in pies.  And we call it Apple Pie.  As in Mom and Apple Pie.  We do not put oranges in pies.  There is no  such thing as Orange Pie.  No one will ever say “Mom and Orange Pie”.  Or even “Mom and Oranges”.  No one will ever mention oranges in the context of America.  No one will ever say “It’s as American as fresh squeezed orange juice.”  Apples are better than oranges.

    Candidate number two, your rebuttal.

     Apples, as candidate number one knows all too well, are covered with a red or green skin which can cut into the gums when one happens to bite into an apple.  This hurts.  It hurts me, and it hurts you, and it hurts America.  Oranges come safely wrapped in an Orange Peel, which one removes easily and then one can eat the orange in individual sections.  Or one could give half of the segments to charity.  No one would ever give half an apple to charity.  Only an orange.  Only an orange represents the democratic ideal.

    Candidate number one?

     I would like to ask candidate number two a question: have you ever peeled an orange when you have a hangnail?  Hm?  Hurts, don’t it.  Hurts.  Hurts like the Dickens.  Why?  Because, as candidate number two knows all too well, Oranges are Filled With Acid.  It says so right on the label.  And yet some Americans, I won’t name them, give them to their children.  To eat at lunch.  They feed their children GLASSES OF ACID for breakfast.  This is not American.  Nowhere in the constitution does it say “Oh yeah, and go ahead and feed ACID TO YOUR CHILDREN.

     Candidate number two?

     I promised the American people that I would never stoop to negative campaigning.  And yet candidate number one leaves me no choice.  It is a known fact that apples cause cancer.  It is also a known fact that apples have shady financial histories and ties to organized crime.  It is also a known fact that apples were brought here by creatures from another planet for the purposes of enslaving the human race.  I am not going to address these points.  I am simply going to hold up this piece of paper.  This piece of paper shows Candidate number one engaging in kiddie porn while eating an apple.

   Candidate number one?

   Well.  I am embarrassed.  Yes I eat apples.  Yes I have had sex with children on videotape for money while eating an apple.  Does the American public care about that?  I say that they don’t.  And let me just say one thing: Apples come in two colors, “Apple Red” and “Apple Green”.  Oranges come in only one color: orange.  How’s that for simplemindedness?  “What is it?”  “An orange.”  “What color is it?”  “Orange.”  My fellow Americans, God made the little green apples, just as he made the space creatures who brought them to us.  God did not make oranges and candidate number two knows it.

    Candidate number two, your closing statement.

     I believe in the United States of America.  And you can call it hope, or faith, or blind devotion, or paranoid schizophrenia, but when my voices tell me to eat an orange, I do it.  I do it.  I don’t “doubt” them.  I don’t “question” them.  And you should not question me.  You should merely vote for me and then do my bidding.  And that is what America is to me.

    Candidate number one, your closing statement.

     Let me just say this: I am so incredibly high right now.

     Thank you candidate number one and candidate number two.  Please join us next time on “The Great Debates”.
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What the hell happened to The Onion?

I moved to Santa Monica six months ago and it just started showing up at my local record store.

First, I notice that it’s been re-designed.

Second, I notice that it’s now unfunny and stupid.

This is the Onion, the august, revered Onion, the paper a grateful nation once turned to each week to make sense of the world? 

Let’s look at the front page: “New Oliver Stone 9/11 Film Introduces ‘Single Plane Theory’ — Jesus, an Oliver Stone conspiracy joke?  Really?  Is that the best they came up with this week?

Below the fold: “Condoleeza Rice Holds Bathtime Talks With Undersea Representatives.”  The story goes on, about Rice having talks with the toys in her bathtub.  What?  Huh?  Skewering what burning public issue, exactly?

Other headlines: “Hasbro Concedes World Not Ready for Rubik’s Chicken” — again, huh?

“Millions Of Americans Buying Floyd Landis-Inspired Bracelets” — with a photo of said bracelet, yellow rubber (referring to the Lance Armstrong bracelet), which reads “Cheat to Win.”  On the nose, unfunny, landing with a thud.

“Twin Mysteries Of Missing Hamster, Clogged Sink Solved Simultaneously” — honestly, these are the kinds of headlines I would expect from a group of high-school students trying to imitate The Onion.

On Page 4, “Abusive Husband Has Sense of Humor About It” — I’ll admit, the headline got my attention, but the story is almost unbearably unfunny.  The “joke,” apparently, is that the abusive man, who is described as breaking his wife’s jaw, beating her with a wrench, giving her a bloody nose, and biting her on the head, is able to  laugh about his predicament.  There is no attempt to explain why “Abusive Husband” and “Laughing at Life” should go together in humorous juxtaposition, and as the article trudges on, it seems we’re just supposed to laugh at the way the wife is being beaten and humiliated.  Indeed, mere inches away is a new feature, “Unsung Heroes,” where a woman named Sheila Kessler is described as having “had her third abortion Wednesday, but didn’t bitch about it so much as she did the past two.”  I can’t think of a time of my life when I would have found that funny, but having it next to the piece that supposedly “pokes fun” at the abusive husband, it made my skin crawl.

There are many new comics in the new re-design.  They’re all unfunny, and some of them are so unfunny that I can’t tell if they’re supposed to be satires or or not.

Where there used to be the irreplaceable Jackie Harvey, there is now the eminently replaceable Amelie Gillette, who writes a completely straight-faced, ordinary, slightly-bitchy, Entertainment Weekly-style “Hollywood tidbit” column.

The only headline I laughed at was “Road Trip Ruined by Illinois.”

“American Voices” continues to hit the mark, however.  The subject is “Universal Health Care for San Fransisco” and Henry Gaven, Historian, opines “First they make a mockery of my bitter, loveless marriage, now they make a mockery of my restrictive, overpriced health care.  Is nothing sacred to these monsters?”
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Don’t Stop Now!

1. Would you like to read Candide?
2. In the best of all possible worlds, yes.
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Keep this sketch going!

1. Have you read Gone With The Wind?
2. I’m going to think about that tomorrow.
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New contest

Idea for a sketch, which I never developed. Memory jogged by the Memento joke from a few days ago.  How long can we keep it going?

All ideas will become my personal property.

1. What did you think of Hamlet?
2. I can’t make up my mind.

1. Would you like to read Bartleby the Scrivener?
2. I would prefer not to.

1. Did you read Waiting for Godot?
2. My copy hasn’t shown up yet.

1. When are you going to get back to reading Poe?
2. Nevermore.

1. When are you going to finish King Lear?
2. Never, never, never, never, never.

1. Do you want to read The Merchant of Venice?
2. Can I borrow your copy?

1. You should read Othello, it’s really good.
2. What proof do I have of that?

UPDATE: Excellent work everybody!  Keep going!
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