SCRIPT: The Dick Van Dyke Office


Here’s a link to a half hour sit-com spec I wrote in the not-too-distant past called “The Dick Van Dyke Office.”

For those not in da proverbial biz, a “spec” is a sample script you write to show potential employers that you can actually put words together.  Usually this is an episode of a show on the air, but since I thought that might be boring, I decided to wave my privates at convention write a spec for the 60’s classic sit-com, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”  And since I thought even that might be boring, I wrote it in the style of “The Office,” updating the characters a bit, injecting the wisdom about human nature that the passing years has brought me.

The episode is entitled “Rob’s Drunk.”  I think you can guess the tone from that.

Enjoy it.

And if you steal it, I’ll burn your house down.

ET_Dick Van Dyke Office

Random Act of Fiction: Old Grandpa


“Open that old mahogany cabinet and see what’s inside,” she said, and I couldn’t say no.

Kitty has dust on her shoes and on her shoulders, but never on her hair.  Her hair is always immaculate, and none of us have an inkling why.

But inside the Mahogany cabinet, well, tht’s a diffferent story entirely.  There’s a world of Old Grandfather in there.  It’s like he left his loves and lives in one place, hoping no one would ever stumble on them, or hoping someone would.

In 1876 Grandfather killed a bear with only a pea shooter and two thin peas.  In 1912 he rode a balloon over the peaks of Kilimanjaro and rescued a downed alien craft filled with Fish-men from Sirius B.  In 1948 he blew trombone for Glenn Miller and no man in Metropolis could match his boning.  Then in 1954 he invented time travel, then went back in time and invented it again.

I see dust and old letters and a pile of journals.  There are old photos of beautiful women and beautiful photos of old places they don’t write about in books.  Then there are devices I can make no sense of.  I’m not like old grandfather.  I live in a tract home outside a town they call Palmdale, CA.  Honestly, it’s nothing to be proud of.  There are no Fish-men in Palmdale.

Kitty sits back and marvels at the collection of Old Grandfather stacking up on the floor of the living room.  “You gonna sell this stuff?” She asks.  Kitty wants a new car and Kitty wants a new flat screen.  Kitty is my wife, despite my better judgement.

For once I look her up and down and say  no.  “No, Kitty.  No we’re not selling it.  I’m calling a museum.  Or the government.  Or the government museum,” and two minutes later I’m punching up “Smithsonian” on the Google while Kitty slams pots and pans on the stove in the next room.  “We never have nice things,” she says with her pots and pans.

The Smithonsians will come and take Old Grandfather away from me.  They’ll enshrine him in a glass case or stash him deep in a basement where no one will dare disturb his greatness.  And I will stay in Palmdale, where I sell insurance, a necessary thing in an uncertain world.

But I will sleep in a separate bedroom from Kitty from now on.

And I’m building my own time machine.

Fuck that bitch, you know?

MEMOIR: InvaderCon Memories


InvaderCon Memories
Because I can’t really call something this subjective a “report.”

The very first girl standing in line to get my autograph was nearly shaking.  She was probably about 14 years old, she looked at me, and with a quavering voice she said, “You’re the first important person I’ve ever met.”

Tell me, what the hell is somebody supposed to say to that?

A warm-yet-clever response didn’t come to me until thee days later, but believe me, it’s not something I’m used to hearing here in Los Angeles.  Here I’m used to being just another animation writer in a sea of assholes with word processors looking to make words for cartoon rabbits, cartoon robots and cartoon children with child-relatable issues children will enjoy.

So welcome to InvaderCon, the not-really-official tenth anniversary celebration of Invader ZIM, masterminded by two lunatics — one named Croom and the other named “Snackpants” — and held in a triangular Mariott in a typhoon in Atlanta.

I’ve been to Cons before.  I remember standing in line to get George Takei’s autograph when I was just a wee lad and didn’t know enough not to use words like “Wee Lad” in the same sentence as “George Takei,” but I had never been on the other side of the table, as it were.

And honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was a writer, damn it, and not really the star of this little animation miracle we’d pulled off ten years ago by any stretch.  Jhonen V is obviously the brain most desired at this affair, and there was no way he was going to cross the country for it.  (He’s cursed by a hatred of flying and blessed by a hatred of people.)  Next on this list is one-man Fist-of-Ridiculous Richard “ZIM” Horvitz, who could entertain a room full of Easter Island heads on his own if he had to.  Then there were the rest of the big cast: The beloved Rikki “Gir” Simons, Andy “Dib” Berman, and Melissa “Gaz” Fahn.  Who gives a dead hobo’s ass-cover about the writer?

Ah, I should have remembered: I did, when I was young.  And these are science fiction fans like me.  They do, too.

So even though I wasn’t feeling on the top of the bill, I got treated like bloody royalty by a shockingly generous group of fans who were genuine interested when I talked in the big panels, listened to me ramble during two separate solo talks that were just about writing, and even stood in line to get my autograph on things I wrote.  Weird.

It was strangely moving being back with the old cast again.  I hadn’t directed any of the voice sessions, but I had assisted quite frequently, and sitting on the stage doing a full reading of “Mopiness of Doom” made me “all misty ‘n’ shit.”  “Mopiness” a story where Dib gives up hunting ZIM to study “real science” with his dad… only to later realize he’s made a huge mistake and rededicate himself to his fight against ZIM.  It was dead-on appropriate for this little gathering; a story that in essence says ZIM and Dib will be fighting each other for all eternity.  The GIR-hatted crowd swooned at every line.

Honestly, I feel the bullet points coming on now.  Far too much transpired for me to assemble it into a cohesive narrative, but in summary I will say this: I owe a big debt of thanks to Tom Croom and his staff for looking after us like die-hard pros during this event, and I owe a bigger debt to everyone who showed up just because they liked this improbably ridiculous show I worked on ten years ago.

And now, them bullets:

  • People really like knowing about the stories that didn’t make it into production.  Of course I dusted off the tales of “Pants!” “Burrito King,” “Beefus Megabombus” and “Squishy: Hugger of Worlds.”  Ah, Squishy.  You died too young.
  • Richard revived an old running gag from the recording booth.  In his best Yoda impersonation, he would simply intone, “Cloudyyyyy” as the answer to every question.  It was part of a joke Rikki had about Yoda being the worst Jedi ever because he could never predict a damn thing.  By the end of the weekend, fans were holding up signs that read, “Cloudy!”  It’s even more funny because it always drove Jhonen crazy and he would hate that after ten years it still won’t die.
  • I’ve never seen more green in one place, ever.  Especially hats.  So many green hats there were.  GIR hats.  ZIM hats.  Irken hats.  Green hats aplenty.  They will destroy us all.  Drowned in a sea of green hats.
  • I was worried I wouldn’t get a chance to use the hotel gym in peace.  Rikki pointed out, “You’ll never see fans in the gym.”
  • None of us had a chance to read though “Day of da Spookies” before we read it on stage.  Nevertheless, we did shockingly well, and Melissa did a good on-the-fly Skoodge.  Jhonen commented in his blog that Richard just pinned the needle to eleven all the time.  Well… He’s Richard.  And he’s in front of a big group of screaming fans.  This equals eleven.
  • Melissa Fahn likes singing.  She likes singing show tunes.  She likes getting a car full of people to sing show tunes.  Or a table full of them at dinner.  She’s that kind of singing person.
  • Inappropriate running joke number one: We claimed we would punch Melissa in the neck to get her to sing high for the Doom song.  Then we would punch her in the neck for good luck.
  • Andy is still worried America hates Dib.  This weekend he got a dozen marriage proposals on Dib’s behalf.
  • Speaking of Dib, I’m shocked at just how many girls like dressing up as Dib.  Seriously, I saw a dozen female Dibs this weekend, and barely one male one.  It seems like Dib has almost become some kind of butch-girl icon.  I think that’s pretty cool.  And it makes me sad that I never got to write Groyna, the crypto-lesbian girl-jock character who teams up with Dib in the “Pants!” episode.  (True.)
  • The hotel was a giant triangle shape that looked down fourteen floors into the lobby.  I don’t know why I mention this except that it was cool when you looked over the ledge.
  • Inappropriate running joke number two: The best way to be creative is to eat babies.
  • There are a lot of strip clubs in Atlanta.  We passed ‘em on the way to dinner.  And on the way back.  Yep.  Lotta strip clubs.  One claimed to have a buffet.
  • There’s a group called “Soapy Waffles” who’ve started animating the episode “Mopiness of Doom” themselves.  I’d call this an impossible task, except the girl doing the storyboards is actually damn good.  Completely untrained.  And in high school.  She says she wants to go to Cal Arts.  They had better let her in or I will get Bruce Banner angry.
  • makes awesome Irken hats.  I may have to buy one, though I have no idea where I’d wear it.  Maybe skiing.  Maybe to jury duty.  Maybe over my face as I sleep.
  • Melissa is a mom now.  She and Richard spent a full half hour showing each other pictures of their kids.  It was dangerous levels of parental adorable in one place.  I had to get a hazmat suit.
  • We had a Waffle breakfast where someone presented Richard with a small bar of soap with a slice of bacon inserted through it.  There was also a Tureen of Infinite Bacon. Really.  Despite being devilishly early, we all took it upon ourselves to be entertaining.  Melissa decided it was a Bar Mitzvah and held a contest for each table to come up with a name… which we all made fun of until it successfully entertained people.  I also took the opportunity to get a photo of Mego Spock in front of the crowd at this little shindig.  I figured a room full of Waffles was as good a place as any to represent InvaderCon.
  • There were a lot of cool parents there who’d brought their kids.  I think it may have contributed to the atmosphere being so durn nice.  Rikki had told me about an anime con where the attendees had smashed a toilet with a hammer.  There was no toilet-smashing at InvaderCon.
  • One girl had come all the way from Australia to attend this thing.  She was also very cute.  I made no attempt to hit on her, as I am old.
  • I sold scripts to pay for the trip.  “ZIM Eats Waffles,” “Bad, Bad Rubbery Piggy,” and “GIR Goes Crazy and Stuff.”  I also had a few copies of “Hamstergeddon” because Tom’s wife insisted, and a mere five copies of “Mortos der Soulstealer,” because someone on Facebook had liked it.  There was this one 12-year-old-lookin’ kid who was with his parents, but just didn’t have the money to buy one.  After I’d packed up, I happened to hear his mother say to him, “I bet you can find them on the internet.”  “Seriously,” I said to him as I passed, “They’re all on the internet.”  But after I rounded the corner, I had a Mean Joe Green moment, went back, tossed him a copy of “Piggy,” and said, “If you just want to read one, take this.”  The kid’s face lit up.  Suck it, Mean Joe.
  • We went to a restaurant called “The Vortex” for dinner on Sunday night.  Richard had gone their earlier in the week and wouldn’t stop talking about the fried pickles.  This fine establishment’s featured burger is “The Double Coronary Bypass,” which consists — if I recall correctly — of a pound of beef served on two grilled-cheese sandwiches for a bun, with five slices of bacon, four slices of cheese and three fried eggs.  Tom was disturbingly insistent I eat one.  I didn’t.  But we decided it should really be served by a burly man who straps the sandwich to his fist and punches it down your throat.
  • Atlanta was hit by amazing thunder storms every night.  Tornado watches were announced on the news.  Lightning tore the sky a new asshole.  Sheets of rain slapped at the windows hoping to lash us like pirates.  It was cool.
  • The whole of the InvaderCon staff were a cool bunch of people.  Particularly Ryan and his fianceé Annie.  If you ever see them, give them ice cream for no reason.  Tom’s wife Shannon also deserves a medal.  (No, not for being married to Tom.  Though, really, who knows…)
  • It was hard telling people the truth about why ZIM was cancelled; Viacom’s stock fell, the order was given company-wide to cut the budget, and we were the problem show with the lowest ratings.  It’s one of those confusing, grown-up moments when you realize the world genuinely isn’t fair and the power of corporate reality really does trump things like “sense.”
  • It was also hard telling people why ZIM didn’t come back again recently.  It once again came down to money — or at least that’s what I’ve been told.  Nicktoons was interested, but didn’t think they had the budget to do it right.  I said to this baffled, disappointed crowd that the biggest chance the show had was to get back on Nickelodeon proper somehow.  Would it be possible?  Who knows.  But the good news is the current crop of executives know the show is popular.  They know it has a huge fan base.  They look back on it as something the network mishandled, not the problem show that didn’t know what it was doing.  Damn, you try to be anything but hopefully when you’re looking into the eyes of a few hundred fans.

I’m sure other factoids will bubble up in my consciousness as I look back on this InvaderCon thing, but all in all, I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to attend.  Invader ZIM was cut down before its time, and while I was working on it there was much pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth, but if ever I needed an affirmation that it was all worth it — that yes, people still keep falling in love with this show even ten years later, and I’m lucky to have been able to contribute to this strange charismatic flipper baby of a series — InvaderCon was it.

And it took me three whole days to figure it out, but I wish I’d said, “How do you know you’re not important?” to that girl.

I would have felt like Mr. Rogers, but what the hell.

Random Act of Fiction: The Swiss Alps


“For six years I’ve felt what I call. ‘The Void,'” he drank his coffee and spouted low.  Spouted, yes, but low so as not to let ostentation overwhelm intention and push him into the headlights of pretension.

“Why not in the Swiss Alps?” he asked on the heels of his statement.  “Why are we not sipping cocoa in the Swiss Alps, but sitting here by the sidewalk with shitty coffee?”

His partner shrugged, his eyebrows stirring like two St. Bernards lounging by a fireplace in the Swiss Alps.  The dogs shifted position, looked up to see if a ski ranger was waiting red-faced and earnest at the door to take them into the blizzard to rescue the lost ski-orphans, then fell back to the floor with a gallumph.

“It’s the Void,” he said again.  “I’ve tracked it in my body.  I’ve measured it, circum… Shit, what’s the word?  Doesn’t matter.  I’ve found its borders and I’m having a tattoo artist ink its edges on my back.”

“It’s on your back?” the other man asked.


“Not your heart?  I thought it would be in your hearts.  That’s where voids are, right?”

“It’s on my back, in the same place — at the same level as my heart, dead center in my spine.”

“The heart’s to one side, isn’t it?”

“It’s a metaphor, fucknuckle.  Don’t you care why you’re not in the Swiss Alps?  Don’t you care that traffic passes you and that’s all you see?  Birds fuck in the air over your head.  The ground under your feet holds the bones of people who trodded this earth thousands of years ago.  Day crawls over you like a fungus, and night won’t even give you directions to the bathroom, much less her phone number.

“We get older and pass into the biomass, eventually, the only animals to have invented cocoa, and who appreciate the Swiss Alps — not simply love, appreciate — them enough to build structures perfectly designed for drinking coca in their presence, and you get stuck on a point of anatomy?”

The silence hung there like a broccoli fart.  Then the man with the St. Bernard eyebrows said:

“I just need to get laid.”

“Not with those eyebrows,” said the first man, and poured more sugar into his coffee, hoping maybe he could see the Swiss Alps in the bottom of his cup.

RANDOM FICTION: Sinatra Punched a Dog


Sinatra punched a dog once, back stage at the Sands.  No reason for it.  He came off stage, shoes gleaming, stinking of whisky, and there was a cocker spaniel with a “punch me” look on its face.

Well, what’s a man to do?  You pay so much for the suits, you gota put ’em to use.  Dog-punchin’ suits, they were, and that’s what they called ’em from that day forward.

The spaniel slunk out the back, chewed his paws and cursed the Sands good, like only a spaniel can.  He passed to dog Valhalla before the wrecking ball came, but on the day the cameras recorded the Sands crumbling to dust, there were a thousand canine halos circling that site. yipping at the explosive charges and taking one last spectral whiz on the lobby carpet.

I rode a pick up truck fifty miles outside of Vegas, looking for a brunette whore I could really, really care about, call my own, shower with pancakes and cream.  I found her, but she had a spaniel in her; an angry spaniel who mistook me for Frank Sinatra.

Must have been the dog-punchin’ suit and the pork pie pants.



Jenna’s dad was a magician who ran with packs of wild gods. Sure, they started as dogs, these gods, but two decades of running with a real practicing magician can do a few things for a canine. You rise a few pegs when you cast a few biscuit offerings to the Grand Canine Forces that drive the dog world ’round.

And so Jenna would pack up in the trailer, a 1989 Winnebago with no distinguishable marks or discernible qualities, to avoid unwanted attention, and they would roll out on the highway, going from town to town to town, the real practicing magician and his pack of wild gods.

Jenna sat on the pump at the gas station, thirteen years old, pushing on the bubble of adolescence.

“Daddy, “she said, drinking a Monster through a straw, “When do I get a boyfriend?”

“Don’t drink guarana drinks through a straw,” he said and dropped another twenty dollars into the tank. Mr. Buster, dog god of thunder, lightning, rain and wet fur, watched through the back window.

Jenna slurped at her straw anyway. “I want a boyfriend who can fly, wears long green pants, and plays electric guitar with no amplifier so only ghosts can hear him.”

“Some day,” said her father, “But tonight we have to play at the Kiwanis Club of Desert Pines.” It was The Great Zarkanis and his magical dogs. He’d even trained the dogs to cut him in half. “Then we will run with the gods by moonlight across the desert, far away from the Best Buy and the Home Depot and the Jack-in-the-Box.”

“I want a boyfriend who can make hamburgers in his mind,” she said, and threw the can away, imagining green pants running across the desert of their own volition, empty legs and an invisible torso bounding toward the horizon.

ON WRITING: Bible Stories


There’s this thing in television called a Bible. It’s called this because people in television are generally deeply spiritual, love Jesus, have friendly relations with altar boys and… Aw, I can’t go on.

Now, A “show bible” — for those few of you unfamiliar — is a document that summarizes everything you would need to know about a television show in production: the premise, the characters, the kind of stories you tell, etc. etc. When you’re pitching the show, you put together a small version of this. The smaller the better, really, because the big unspoken rule in Hollywood is that nobody likes to read. (So I don’t have to worry about offending potential employers by speaking it here.)

However, once you’ve convinced the network gatekeepers to fork over a pile of cash to make your idea, you make a separate bible for the writers. This one is more detailed, outlining the ins and outs of each character, how they relate to each other, the stories you’ve already written, and whether there are guiding themes and motifs in the show… like, say, “prison rape” in the case of HBO’s hard-hitting drama “Oz.”

Some people really like to have every last element of the series nailed down before they jump into production… and by “people,” I generally mean “executives with a lot to lose.” I’ve really made a point to not be biased against the proverbial “suits.” They’re people with jobs to do just like anyone else, and I’ve worked with a lot of really good ones. Problems arise only when, like many people do in this world, they make their decisions out of fear rather than inspiration.

The other day I was in a meeting with one of the writers on the original “Rugrats” cartoon series. I’m sure remember the squiggly-drawn talking babies that kept Nickelodeon on the map throughout the 90’s. I hope I’m not telling any tales out of school here if I recount his little Bible story:

After the first season of 13 half-hour stories, the “Rugrats” staff realized they needed to sit back and take stock of how the show had turned out. They’d started with a direction and, yes, a bible, but, as things tend to happen in an uncertain world, the show had evolved in ways they hadn’t anticipated. Once the characters had been cast with voice actors, once the details of the world had been hammered out in scripts, and once they whole operation was on its animated feet and dancing its animated jig, the show took on life of its own.

And thus they decided they needed a new bible to reflect this.

And thus did the writer go back and create a truly voluminous and stunning document laying out everything inside the show they had all come to know: the character histories that now made more sense, the little details of the lives of these cartoon people, and yes, even the catch-phrases everyone loves to program into talking toys.

Years later this writer was hired to develop another show for a network which may or may not be Nickelodeon. He’d been laboring away, hammering the show bible into a finely-hammered thing, when one day the executive walks into the writer’s office and declares, “We need a bible like this!” and throws down on his desk the “Rugrats” bible. The second “Rugrats” bibe. The one that they could only write because the show had been on for a year.

“I know that bible,” the writer said, “I wrote it.”

So what are we to take away from this story, true believers? One, wash your hands after every meal as well as before. Two, never take a fistful of “E” on a bellyful of beef. Three, follow the trail of money and you’ll find your perp.

And lastly, to the thoughtful, well-meaning, good-people executives out there: Yes, your job is to be on top of things, and yes, when things go wrong it’s your neck on the block, but sometimes there’s no other way than to let the creative process run its course before you really know what you’ve got.

There. That’s my irritating wisdom for the day. If you ever use it, please send me a check and a few back issues of “Highlights” magazine. Goofus and Gallant make me tingly.