Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ricky Gervais Ain't Got Nothin' On This

Being a freelance writer, my average working week is a bit of a Frankenstein’s Monster. Bit of retail, bit of hospitality, bit of being an extra on a popular Australian drama. That’s okay, because when part of your freelance output is writing observational pieces, you need something to observe.

When I arrived in the green room on the set of said popular drama, I was confronted with a motley collection extras of several ethnic backgrounds, one or two genders and a wide variety of ages. All were dressed as the kind of people you are likely to encounter in the emergency wing of a hospital. You know, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, patients and visitors.

A few extras seemed to know each other and were chatting amongst themselves. Others didn’t know each other and had The Extras Chat, invariably beginning with “Been doing this long?” or “Been getting much work?” or “Is this your first job?”

A few others were reading books or magazines and that was okay. Many hours ahead and you pass the time away however you like, within reason. I decided, for now, to be a reader. Plenty of opportunity for The Extras Chat later in the day.

Cut to later in the day and I’ve chatted to a few people. I see this one old guy who made a little joke earlier that made me think about how we under-estimate old people. My natural tendency is just to gravitate to younger, more fun-sounding people, and that, I decided, was fucked up. This old guy had been young once. He’d lived a full life, yet no one was bothering to talk to him (or any of the other wrinklies, other than the other wrinklies). Everyone else, it seemed, also just wanted to hang out with the good looking crowd. I decided to correct a little injustice in the world and talk to the old feller. I decided that I was going to talk to this old guy dressed as a patient, with his little funny slippers and his daggy robe and his rheumy eyes, papery skin and his liver spots because one day I might be old too, and fuck it, I’ve got loads of funny stories I hope I’ll be able to share with the young folk. I felt an inner glow that almost brought a tear to my eye. “Yes,” I patted myself on the back, “you are a really nice guy after all.”

Let me say here that, sure, there might be some old folk out there with rollicking tales to tell, but there are some you should not under any circumstances encourage because when all is said and done, they are boring old cunts of the highest order. Guess which category this old fucker fell into? Christ, he looked harmless enough, but talking to him was like poking a terrier with a stick, and he was about to attempt to savage me with the most relentless onslaught of boredom I’d ever encountered.

For space reasons, I’m going to condense this into one monologue. What I am not going to do is embellish... or unembellish, as is probably the correct term when speaking of such mind-numbing tedium...

Me: “So, you do much of this kind of work?”

Boring Old Twat: “Well, I’ve only just started doing it again after a break of five years, but before that, yairs, I used to do a lot. Speaking parts are the best and they’re more interesting because they make things more interesting. But they’re not always that easy to get. In fact they are very hard to get. I... I have had speaking parts but just not all that many because you know, things can let you down. Things like people always let you down. You know, sometimes I got a late call once and had to stay up late learning my lines, and it was an early start oh by geez by the time you learn your line you’ve forgotten that you have to act it. You have to act it as well as say it y’know, and anyway, after that they never called me back.

“And this other time my wife and I were going to do a ballroom dancing scene and at the last minute the wife couldn’t make it so they teamed me up with a woman who SAID she could ballroom dance but ooh she was awful, so I didn’t get that job because of her. It’s all about the people you work with, they can all let you down.

“My son has written this script and y’know? I think it’s pretty good. A lot better than most of the rubbish on today. It’s drama – with some comedy... hehe... but mostly it’s a really good drama. He launched it very successfully on his website and lots of people have told him that they think it’s a good idea, and all the production companies have said it needs to be half hour episodes or one hour episodes and they’re minor quibbles. They don’t seem to be able to look past the minor quibbles to see what a good idea it would be.

“He even flew to America to a conference with it and someone at the conference who was from England said come to England and we can have a meeting about it so he flew to England and they said, ‘Did we say come to England for a meeting? We don’t remember saying that.’ It doesn’t seem to be about how good it is so much as who you know. My son has also gone for so many jobs as a TV presenter and do you think he ever gets the presenter’s job? No way. They always give it to someone who’s been a presenter before or is an actor of good repute.

“He’s reluctant to show many people the script or tell them too much about it in case they steal the idea. So far he’s lucky because after showing it to all the people he’s shown it to, no one has stolen the idea.

“My son always wanted to be an actor but he thought we’d say it wasn’t a real job. So he was a hairdresser for a while and a cook and one day he started a magazine that’s still around. It’s called Flower Fragrance and it caused a bit of a stir. It’s about funerals. It’s about how much different funerals cost and the kinds of coffins you can get and he’s pretty smart, my son. Saw a hole in the market and started a magazine.

“Then he started another magazine that caused almost as big a stir as the funeral one. This one was a medical diagnosis book called Medical Diagnosis – maybe you’ve heard of it? No? You write all your ailments in it and it tells you what’s wrong with you so you don’t need to see a doctor. Some people didn’t like it, but you know, all sorts of people were giving it to people as presents and things...”

This is a truncated version. I was lectured on a word definition at one stage and informed knowledgably that theatre reviewing probably consisted mainly of making sure the right adjective was used and that I must check Roget's Thesaurus a lot. Wot? Miserable and bitter old prick just would not shut up. Early on I’d made the mistake of telling him that I was a freelance editor and writer, and that’s how the whole sorry business about his son’s brilliant script came up, and at the end of his life story he asked for my card because maybe the script needs to be completely re-written. Fucker followed me into the green room. I had my nose buried in my book – a Do Not Disturb sign if ever there was one because I simply was not going to have my day ruined like this, and this diabolical knob stood over me and kept talking and asking for my card. Christ in a Zimmer frame – why hadn’t I ever thought to keep a few fake business cards handy for just such an occasion?

Anyway, lesson learned. Don’t talk to old people. They suck.


Margarita Milongita said...

I could have told you that Lee.
Next time, iPod AND book...
Be organised!

If all fails, tell the old fucker to fuck off.

Quick said...

iPod. Yes. I suppose it was a bit lo fi of me to clap my hands over my ears and go "LALALALALAAAA, I CAN'T HEAR YOOOO... LALALALALALAAAA..."

gin said...

sweet Jeebus. Don't ya hate people who are never to blame... Perhaps I'm just jealous because I make so many mistakes all the time.

Quick said...

Hello Gin. You would be Boy Wonder's Fraulein? Or have I got that horribly wrong?

Yes, listening to this guy I was shaking my head and thinking can you hear yourself? Every time something has not gone your way, it's someone else's fault. Staggering.

gin said...

you bet your britches, I am...

Quick said...

Haha. Britches. Funny word.

Amra Pajalic said...

Yep, old people. Got heaps on my street. There's a lonely old guy who fixes things up and down the street. I made the mistake of thinking he was a sweet guy. And he is, in a dirty old man's body. So beware. Anyway I spend most of my time avoiding my grandmother, so I feel no guilt at avoiding other oldies.

Quick said...

Read about your old guy Amra. Weird.