Twitter Facebook Instagram Google+ Tumblr YouTube E-Mail WhatsApp Sign In Check Close snapchat
Search
Exit Clear

How I Got Fired From Writing a Porn-Star Reality Show

How I Got Fired From Writing a Porn-Star Reality Show:

When the phone rang, as is customary, I answered it. A gig. A writing gig. Good. Because that’s how I make my living. I’ve been writing for Esquire since 1999 and have written numerous pieces for Vanity Fair, Psychology Today and Details. I had a regular column called “Hollywoodland” on the back page of Los Angeles Magazine for four years. Working in magazines has become less than less-than-lucrative but I’ve managed to continue working in other venues: reality TV, game shows, websites, corporate videos, a book for Simon & Schuster, writing jokes for stand-ups.

Because I haven’t lived with my parents in about 30 years and have bills I need to pay, I can rarely afford to turn down a gig. So when the phone rings or the email pings with a job, I happily start a folder on my desktop, open a document and get to work. Even when no money changes hands and I (like many other Hollywood writers) ostensibly work for food, punching up sitcom pilots in vast conference rooms with other hungry sitcom writers in exchange for a lunch and bottomless iced teas — and potentially a job if the show gets picked up and if the person who called me is still involved and if I can get approved by nine Disney execs.

This job would be writing two episodes for a new reality show. Great. Like I said, I’ve done reality TV. I met my wife writing thought-bubbles on the syndicated show Blind Date. Although Blind Date often resulted in a pair of inebriated daters making out in a hot tub, I was warned that this would be a little racier than that. This show was more like American Idol. But — instead of discovering the next platinum-selling pop singer — we’d be finding the next up-and-coming porn star.

“Sure. I can do that,” I replied as I clicked open a new folder on my iMac.


The pilot episode had already been shot and was in the process of being edited. I drove out for a meeting in North Hollywood to watch some of the footage and negotiate the money. When I pulled up to a warehouse at 3pm, the neighborhood was so scary, even in broad daylight, my 1988 Volvo was begging me not to leave it alone on the streets.

The makeshift offices were filled with a variety of thirtysomething men; some seemed so excited about the show that they were already convinced they’d look back on this and declare it the peak of their lives; others, including the friend of a friend who had recommended me for the job, seemed embarrassed and humiliated to be associated with the project. As I watched about 15 minutes of footage to get an idea of the tone of the show, I realized I was definitely part of the latter camp. Even though the production value was excellent — nice lighting, great sets, high def — no amount of money was worth being subjected to watching naked, flaccid men jumping up and down and women aimlessly spreading their legs for inspection and evaluation. After viewing this in the dimly-lit offices (so the evidence of excitement in the enthusiastic staff members would be less conspicuous) I was asked if I was interested in going to Vegas for their next shoot at AVN — The Adult Video News Awards, which is basically the Oscars of porn. I told them I’d pass on the travel. Frankly, the thought of being around people who make a living fucking makes me a little uncomfortable. I’ve never been a strip club guy, either. I had my bachelor party at an English pub and was home by 10pm, the two Guinness drafts I’d downed still floating in my bladder.

I went on several “brainstorming” meetings as three of them and one of me tossed around ideas for episode three. “Jimbo,” the executive producer, a chunky Silicon Valley software guy who put up the money; the high-energy producer (like me, married) who was so hairy I swear his five o’clock shadow turned into a full beard by the time I’d left; and the low-key location scout who wore T-shirts that he’d either bought two sizes too small or had accidentally left spinning in the dryer for an entire weekend.

I was informed that the four judges were each to have specific “characters” — the businesswoman, the party girl, the optimist, the villain — which was easily doable. Then, content that we were all on the same page, I went home and spent a week writing a script for them. I even had my wife (also a writer but whose experience watching porn is invariably dwarfed by an eighth grader) watch the pilot they’d just sent over and had her dutifully read my script before emailing it in to my bosses. I then eagerly awaited their feedback as a conference call was arranged for the following Monday.


“Too blue for us.”
“Too blue?”
“Yeah, Jimbo is freaking out!”
“What were you thinking?!?” the producer yelled, explaining that Jimbo (who was too angry to even participate in the call) was three stages beyond pissed.

writing porn opener

Seriously? I was just watching footage of a male contestant fellating himself. I was just watching footage of a DP (double penetration) in which two guys had been assigned orifices as if it were a pick-up basketball game. I was just watching footage of two girls 69ing for the (allegedly) “first time.” In fact, the executive producer had just proudly told me that one of the contestants had (off-camera, of course) “Gone out on a gang-bang last night.” And I was the disgusting one? For crying out loud, the EP was even using a pseudonym, I guess so nobody at his church hassles him for backstage passes to his next shoot!

“What the fuck were you thinking?!” the co-producer scolded.
“Huh?”
“Your jokes were just too racy,” the producer interjected.

The lone male judge on the show actually has his penis insured for a million dollars. So in my script I had him quip that he’d “have to check with Allstate to see if his balls were covered under the policy.”

“Yeah, Jimbo is freaking out. That’s in really poor taste.”
“Really? How is that in poor taste?”
“This isn’t Comedy Central or The Onion. This is pretty serious stuff here.” “Are you guys fucking with me?”

The prize for this contest is that the winner will (allegedly) take home one million dollars. So I’d had the host comment that the money would “not all be in one dollar bills – that’s how the winner of So You Think You Can Lap Dance gets paid.”

“Tiffani* would never say that, dude. Never! That’s demeaning!”

I actually scanned my home office to see if there was a mysterious Teddy Bear placed on a shelf that was videotaping my conversation for a prank show.

“And that fat lady joke just ain’t gonna fly,” the producer was practically yelling at me now. “Wayyyy too harsh, dude!”
“The one where she says, ‘It ain’t over until the fat lady pulls the dildo out of her ass’?”
“Yeah, dude. Jimbo’s freaking out!”

I’m sure that at least one of my bosses were aware that at least two of their judges had Fleshlights molded to resemble their specific vaginas. But my Triple Penetration joke — for the Porn-cabulary segment of the show where the aspiring porn stars are quizzed on “the lingo” so they can be fully acclimated to the biz — in which I had one of the judges remark that “You have to fill out three W-9s for that” was somehow offensive.


Bottom line: they were not happy with my script and I was not happy with their notes and their accusations that I had totally missed the tone of the show and everyone else was on the same page and how could I have been so off with their incredibly subtle and uplifting project. So we agreed to part ways with partial payment for my disgusting services rendered.

For a brief moment, my confidence was shot. Was I not “good enough” to grasp a simple concept, albeit a filthy, disgusting one? Was I missing something in my DNA that these three jerk-offs all (allegedly) had that helps them breakdown smut for the masses? Does Jimbo have some kind of refined eye (like an artist that can pick out a counterfeit painting) that enables him to see things that I can’t? Wouldn’t they be just as frustrated with the next writer they brought in? Or would my name be used as a metaphor for “the sucky guy who just didn’t get it?” The point is, rejection never feels good – whether it’s from the New Yorker or Jimbo the porn executive.

Then part of me talked another part of me into thinking that maybe I was simply “above” these three slime-bags. Which, based on the reactions whenever I mentioned the story at a party or the dog park, supported my theory. Until I told it to my friend Laura. I expected her to praise my cleverness and wit. Instead, she was 100% on the pornsters side. According to Laura I had mocked their industry and hadn’t done justice to their project. I had not taken their profession seriously. At first I thought she was as crazy as they were. But after sleeping on it, I realized that Laura actually had a solid argument: I was writing the show I wanted to see, not the show they wanted — and the one they had hired me to deliver. I then felt like I had missed out, not only on future paychecks, but perhaps a gig that could go on forever. Or at least what qualifies as forever in Hollywood, meaning anything over 13 weeks.

After admitting to Laura that she was right, I texted the friend of a friend who got me the job to see how things were going on the porn show. “They’re shooting six more starting tomorrow!” He seemed excited. “How many do you have in the can?” I texted back. “Four in the can. No sale.”

Maybe all of us had made a mistake.

*All names have been changed


Playboy Social

Never miss an issue. Subscribe and save today!

Loading...