It's been about two-and-a-half months since I got let go from the monolithic studio where I worked. While I have enjoyed the time off immensely (going to Paris, writing a little, working out a lot), I am aware that my fun time will eventually need to end.
It's because of this that I am grateful that so many of my friends have been looking out for me, checking in on my well-being, mentioning job opportunities for me, making sure I haven't lost all of my money playing cards (it's been a roller coaster, but I am slightly up, I believe - thank you), etc. Two of my friends mentioned to me that there was a job at a pharmaceutical company where they may need a creative manager, and I agreed to talk to them.
Now, I never saw myself working in the pharmaceutical industry. I just went through an "employment strategy" seminar where there were a lot of pharmaceutical people there, and I have to say I didn't see a direct connection with them. One woman was particularly frustrating, needing continued explanation on every topic, her "fifty-yard looks" (her beauty was best seen from fifty yards away; any closer and you've got issues) I found were slightly off-putting, and her general faux-enthusiasm is something I never have cared for. I'm not putting the whole industry into one bucket, but let's say that I wasn't left impressed.
I showed up at my friends' agency dressed in shirt, tie and slacks, only to see the interviewer dressed in a T-shirt and cargo shorts. I realized I may have overdressed for the moment, but that's okay - it's always better to be safe. I had brought a portfolio of my previous work; had a practice interview I did with the seminar people, seeing I hadn't interviewed for a job in ten years; and I was in good spirits and had an open mind. Whether or not I was taking this job, it wasn't going to be because they didn't like me.
Anyway, I realized pretty early on that this wasn't going to be like any job I've done before. I was being asked to help market a pill that, well, let's be blunt, was made to increase the girth of your penis. I have worked on racy material before - still proud of my tagline for the film Zombie Strippers, "They'll dance for a fee, but devour you for free" (let's say that I had stronger lines that the MPAA wouldn't allow) - but this was taking it to a new level.
After having about a ten-minute meeting, I agreed to meet with the rest of the management team at their office next week. In order to prepare for the visit, I started writing some radio script copy and some slogans for the product. It almost makes me sad to say that this might be some of the best copy I've ever written. I felt like I hit a gold mine. A saying I use quite often is "Puns are your best entertainment value." While, admittedly, I don't believe it 100 percent, I have to say that a good pun can be valuable in ad copy.
Avoiding the full scripts I wrote, here are a few of the lines I wrote for the project:
"So long" doesn't have to mean goodbye.
Show them how you've grown as a man.
Turn "smaller and quicker" into "stronger and thicker".
Turn wee-wee into "Oui, Oui". (I saw that one for the French-Canadian market)
The results you require. The pleasure she desires.
The bigger you are, the harder she'll come.
Now, I have to admit, I doubt the last one would make it through any kind of censor, so I changed "come" to "fall", but let's just say that I was only beginning.
I went out to their office the next week, into a part of North Hollywood that I never had been to before. I sensed I was near where a lot of low-budget pornography was being filmed. The office was in one of those combination business parks/warehouses that reminded me of the film Punch Drunk Love - no interior decorator here. I was hoping for a potential Luis Guzman sighting, but no luck. As I was led into a conference room there was a plastic cup sitting on the table that seemed to have a combination of wheatgrass and industrial fuel. It was promptly thrown away for my benefit.
There I was, sitting in a room with three men - the one I previously met, wearing a UFC cap and muscle shirt; a young kid (maybe 25, at most), who was the marketing manager; and a dark-haired man who I sensed handled the money and was looking at me like I was a hippie freak, maybe saying afterwards, "I hate those artsy-fartsy types". I spent the next 20 minutes talking about, well, penis pills, only being interrupted by a young kid there to ship boxes of the pills and to say that he had an audition for the show "Leverage". I was told that they loved my copy, but that they needed one that was even racier. I was trying to figure out where in the hell this would air as they were saying, "we need you to focus on the words 'girth' and 'width'", as I was taking notes in my old-school notebook, realizing that at the studio I never had to write "girth" in the entire time I was there.
When money was discussed, I realized that I should only look at this moment for the experience and for the absurdity of it all, not as a dramatic change to my career or a financial windfall. In fact, for a moment, I had one of those sad "this is what my life has come to" feelings, but then I didn't take it too seriously and appreciated it for what it was - a potential paying gig that would give me a potential anecdote in the future. I've had jobs that have given me less.