Stephen Tobolowsky The X Factor, Part 2 – The Awl

StephenTobolowsky:TheXFactor,Part?

2

byStephenTobolowsky

AreyouasubscribertoTheTobolowskyFiles?

Thepodcast,aprojectofactorStephenTobolowsky-theyoungswillknowhimasSandyRyersonon“Glee”andfrom“Heroes”andtheoldswillknowhimfromfilmsasdiverseasGroundhogDay,ThelmaandLouiseandBasicInstinct-withDavidChenatSlashfilm,justputoutits38thepisode。

Writinghere,hepreviouslydiscussedMementoandthethrilloftryingoutforcharactersnamed“MasochisticGayMan”-todayhewritesabouttheadventuresoftimeandthewaiting?

room。

Igotanauditionwithoneday’snoticefor“Californication,”acomedyonShowtimestaringDavidDuchovny。

Therewasnoscripttoread,justtwoscenes。

Ibridledattheideaonnothavingaclueastowhatthischaracterwas,butIrealizedtheonlyweaponIwouldhaveistolearnmylines。

IgottothecastingofficethenextdayandIsawthateveryolderleadingmanintownhadreadforthispart。

Itwasthea€?gambler’stell’thatnoonemyagewasworking。

AtfirstIwasoverwhelmedattheamountofcompetitionandthenIfocusedonthementhatwereactuallysittingintheroomwaitingtogoin。

Iknewthemall。

Noneofthemrememberedme。

TherewasJohnGetz,DanielBenzaliandPeter?

Strauss。

AtonemomentIwasthinkingaboutthescenesandmylinesandnowIwassideswipedbymemories。

JohnGetzwasatleasttangentiallyinvolvedwiththefirsttimeIevergotfired。

Itwas1984。

Ihadauditionedforashowcalled“MaggieBriggs”starringSuzannePleshette。

Johnwastheleadingman。

IwasvisitingMomandDadinDallaswhenmyagentcalledandtoldmeIgotthepart。

Itwasmyfirstrecurringrole。

Iwouldbegetting$1500aweektoplaythereligioneditorforanewsstaff。

WecelebratedwhenIheardthenews。

Ihadbeendoingchildren’stheaterintheschoolswith12thNightRepertoryandhadacouplesmallpartsontelevision-untilnow。

ThiswasthefirstmoneyjobIhadevergotten。

IhadtoleaveDallasthenextdayandgetbackforrehearsals。

Ifeltlikemydreamofbeingaprofessionalactorhadbeenvalidatedrightbeforemyparents’eyes。

Thatwasabigdealasmanyofyoucan?

imagine。

Igotbackto“MaggieBriggs”onthedayofthenetworkrun-through。

IrehearsedthatmorningwiththescenesthatIhadauditionedwith。

Everythingwentsmoothly。

Thenthewriterswroteanextraspeechforme。

Itwasveryfunnyinacompletelynerdishway。

Werehearsedthescenewiththenewspeechoncebeforethenetworkpeoplecamein。

Abouttwentyorsoexecutivescametowatchafullrehearsalandevaluatewherewewere。

Westartedtheshowfromthetop。

Iwasinthethirdscene。

Everythingwasgoingwelluntilwegottowheremynewspeechhadbeeninserted。

IopenedmymouthtobeginmynewfunnystuffandJohnGetzforgotthere-write。

Hecutmeoffmidsentenceandjumpedaheadwiththeoldversionofthescene。

IstoodtherelookinglikeIhadnoideawhatIwasdoingandhadmadeagiant?

blunder。

LaterthatdaymyagentcalledandtoldmeIwasfired。

Iwascrushed。

Theproducerscalledandsaidthattheyweresorry;itwasanetworkdecision。

TheysaidsinceIwasundercontractforthisoneshowifIwantedtogetpaid,Icouldstayon-asanextra。

Theyunderstoodthatthiscouldbeembarrassingformeandtheywouldletmeoutofmycontract。

Iwouldn’tgetpaid,butIwouldn’thavetodealwiththeindignitiesoffacingtherestofthecastandwatchsomeoneelseplaymy?

part。

Isaid,“Payme。

I’llbeanextra。

”Imademy$1500thatweek。

Johnneversaidawordtomeaboutskippingovermypartduringtherunthrough。

Thatwas26yearsago。

Hewasnowsittingacrossfrommeinthe“Californication”waiting?

room。

PacingaroundtheroomwasDanielBenzali。

Herewasahappystory。

DanielwastheactororiginallycastasthepowermadColonelinthesci-fitelevisionmovie“NightVisitors”shotinCanada(whichIgointoingreatdetailinmystory“AWagerwithFreddy”)。

Yes,itwasDanielwhowascasttoplaythelunaticwhohadtogetthealienawayfromFaithFord。

ButDanielhadafitofgoodjudgmentanddroppedoutofthe?

show。

AsaPlanB,theproducerscalledme。

Igladlytookthejob。

Whatwasparticularlyfunnywasthemakeupandcostumedepartmentsnevergottheword。

TheystillhadDaniel’s810onthewallastheColonel。

TheykeptaskingmewhatStevenBochcowasreallylikeandhowmuchtheylovedmeon“MurderOne。

”ItoldthemIwasadifferentguy。

Theylookedathispictureandthenatme。

True,webothwerebald。

Itriedtopointoutthatthenameandthefaceweredifferent。

TheycouldnotunderstandwhatIwassaying-thatIwasinfactadifferenthumanbeingthantheythoughtIwas。

TheystaredatmeasifIwassuggestingasortof“X-Files”transformationhadoccurredinthehotel。

ItoldthemtheyhadbeenworkinginVancouvertoo?

long。

PeterStrausswasanotherstoryaltogether。

Itwasoneofthoseepisodesthatseemedinsignificantatthetimebuthasstayedwithmemyentirelife。

Itwas1981。

IwasinBuffaloactinginaplaywrittenbymygirlfriend,Beth。

WegotaninvitationtocomeintoNewYorkonadayofftoseetheopeningofaplaycalled“EinsteinandthePolarBear。

”TheplaystarredPeterStraussandwasdirectedbyJRanelli,whohadpreviouslydirected“CrimesoftheHeart”inNorthernCalifornia。

WecameintothecityandvisitedJathisapartment。

Besidesbeingawonderfuldirector,healsoplayedtheflute。

HehadalittlepetbirdthatflewfreelyaroundtheapartmentandwhenJplayed-infact,evenwhenJstartedputtingtheflutetogether-thebirdseemedabsolutelydelightedandperchedonhisshoulderandeventuallystoodboldlyontheendoftheinstrument。

Jseemedveryrelaxed。

Hefelttheshowwasingoodshapeandreadyforopening。

Hestartedtalkingtousaboutlife。

Hesaidoneofthegreatadvantagesofbeinginyourfortiesinsteadofyourtwentiesisthatyoutendtotakecontrolofyourspace。

Youdon’tletpeoplepushyouaround?

anymore。

Wewenttotheplayanditwaswonderful。

IamnotexaggeratingwhenIsaythattheperformancewasinterruptedwithapplauseabouttwodozentimes。

PeterStrausswasabsolutelyheroicplayingtheJ。

D。

Salinger-likeauthorwhohadlosthisfaithintheworld。

Theplayendedwithastandingovationthatseemedtogoonforever。

IwassohappyforJandfortheproduction。

BethandJandIwentouttoeatwithPeterafterwards。

Peterwascharmingandfunny,tellingstories。

ItwasagreatnightinNew?

York。

OnthewaybacktoJ’s,anoverweightwomanintearscameuptomeandaskedfor$33。

50,thepriceofabustickettogotoBaltimoretoseeherboyfriend。

Igaveherthemoney。

PeterwaslaughingastowhatapatsyIwas,butwegotintoaspiriteddebateastohowshearrivedattheexactfigureof$33。

50。

Wedecideditwastheinexactnessofherstorythatgaveitvalidity。

ThenextdayIrushedbacktoBuffaloandtomyowninexactperformanceattheStudioArenaTheater。

Inthedressingroom,puttingonmakeupbeforetheshow,Itoldmyfriendandfellowthespian,Bob,about“EinsteinandthePolarBear”andtheeveningwithPeterStraussandJRanelliandthebirdthatsatontheflute。

BoblookedatmehardforasecondandtossedtheNewYorkTimeshewasreadinginmydirection。

“It’sDOA,bro,”hesaid。

“Theymurdered?

it。



Ilookedatthepaperanditwasareviewfromthenightbefore。

Theplay,J,Peter,weredestroyedbythereview。

Therewasnomentionofthelaughterortheapplauseorthestandingovations。

Ishookmyheadindisbelief。

ItmademewonderaboutJ’stheoryoftheadvantagesofbeingforty,andhowyouareincontrolofyourspaceandyoudon’tgetpushedaround?

anymore。

Inthewaitingarea,PeterStrausshadjustfinishedhisauditionandwasleavingtheroom。

Hewaslaughingandshookhandswiththecastingdirectors。

Helookedatmebutnothingregistered。

Thecastingdirectorssmiledpleasantlyandsaid,“Stephen,we’reready。

”InoddedatPeterasheleft。

IguesshefiguredIwasanother“RichMan,PoorMan”fan-anartifactfromdecades?

past。

Isatdownintheroomandoneoftheladiesaskedthestandard,“Anyquestions?



Isaid,“Thewaitingroom’sgottenso?

hard。



Felicia,theheadofcasting,smiledsympathetically。

“Thenerves-orthefolding?

chairs?



Ilaughed。

“No。

Theyears。

Thewaitingroomhasbecomeharderthantheaudition。

IneverknowwhomI’mgoingtoseeorwhatit’llstirup。

Iamnowcarryingthreehugememoriesfrommylifelikegiantrocksonmyback。

AndIhavebroughttheminherewithmenow-to?

you。



Theladiesleanedforwardandsaid,“Well,nowyouhavetotell?

us。



AndIdid。

ItoldthemaboutthenightwithPeterandhowgreathewasinawonderfulplayandhownoonewillknowbecauseofonehorriblereview。

Thatnighthashauntedmeforalmostthirtyyearsinthatitdemonstratedthatyouneverknow。

Andalltheworkandeffortandpassionyouhave-canbefor?

nothing。

Theladiesbecameveryquietandsad。

Isaid,“It’sallright。

We’rehere。

AndtotellyouthetruthIthinkthereasonisbecauseweenjoytheleapmorethanlandingsafelyontheother?

side。



Ipickedupthesceneandsmiled。

“SoFelicia-shallwe?

jump?



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