Somebody Shut This Girl Up #2: Your Heroes Were Probably Fired, Too

marla pacther puts it in perspective …

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It’s kind of a weird thing to be fired from a place you hated working at. A mixed bag of emotions. I hated it, sure … but the work was easy and the pay was decent, and it was my choice to stay there. It was my choice to keep hating myself every day as I walked disgruntled old people to their tables and was valued only as a human smiley face. So when my boss took that choice away, I guess it made me feel a little powerless. Even though it was almost a bordeline joyous occasion to get out of that stuffy, delicious hellhole (seriously delicious; the food is really good), I have to admit the first thing to come over me was a paralyzing sadness.

Being fired is depressing. It turns out this is true even when the job itself is depressing.

(Also I was kind of bummed that I ordered my last free meal without knowing it. I might have mentioned this already, but the food there is really good. Especially at brunch.)

So, how do you pull yourself out of that depression? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my extremely long and weathered life of almost twenty five years (if you spell it out, it looks like more!), it’s to always make the best out of a bad situation. Long before I got fired, I had already decided that this would be my last crappy restaurant job. And I realized, just because it didn’t end on my terms — it doesn’t mean I have to change my plans.

When I think about the people who inspire me, things weren’t always smooth sailing for them either. I mean, let’s face it. That’s life, right? I chose to take this bad situation and look on it as a victory instead. I mean, if I hadn’t gotten fired, I wouldn’t have this material for my column, right?

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to look at some failures of my heroes, of the people I want to be when I grow up, so to speak. This list is for you to keep in your pocket, and pull out the next time you get fired, or you fail at something, or you’re just feeling sad about your pathetic life. Let this inspire you when things are looking dim, and the paralyzing sadness wants to take over your brain. These people are awesome, and they made it through failure alive. I can do it too, and so can you.

1. Tina Fey

The ultimate lady inspiration in my life. Tina Fey is probably the biggest reason I want to be a sitcom writer. She’s a great writer, with different ideas, who knows how to pack anything to the brim with jokes. She’s a kickass funny lady, paving the way for other kickass funny ladies. Right now, life is pretty good for Tina Fey, with a Mean Girls Broadway musical in the works and a contract to come up with another show for NBC. But she wasn’t always the all-confident, can-do-no-wrong strong female icon she is today. I’m gonna start this list with a small failure. One that might seem stupid when you think about it, but if it happened to you, you’d be pretty shaken.

For her first episode of SNL, Tina Fey wrote a sketch that completely bombed in the writers room. Nobody laughed. Not even a polite chuckle. She was mortified. So, look at that. The lady does have flaws. I’m as flabbergasted by this fact as you are. But, I think we all know how that story ends. In case you don’t, instead of letting it get to her, she moved on and took criticism. Fey went on to become the first female head writer of SNL. So maybe, just maybe I’ll become the first female head writer of unemployed restaurant hostesses. I will have to create that union first …

2. Mindy Kaling

Last summer, I read Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) and was honestly surprised by how much I loved it. I spent the months after quoting anecdotes to friends and family, comparing them to things that have happened in my life. Part of what I love about her so much is how relatable she is. When I read Mindy Kaling’s story of how she got to where she is, not only did I find it funny, interesting, and endearing. It also felt attainable. After reading Bossypants, Tina Fey was still up on a pedestal. After reading IEHOWM(AOC), I felt like what I’m doing with my life could actually take it somewhere.

To tell you about one of Mindy’s failures, I’m going to give you an anecdote from her book (Surprise!). Before you knew who Mindy Kaling was, her and her friend Brenda wrote a pilot about their friendship aptly titled Mindy and Brenda. It was being produced by the CW back in 2006, which doesn’t sound great, does it? The network made so many changes to her script that by the time they actually shot the thing her work was completely unrecognizable to her and she didn’t find it funny anymore. Mindy notes that she was relieved when they got word that Mindy and Brenda did not get picked up as a series, but later realized it was a huge setback for her career.

Luckily, not being committed to a crappy, not funny sitcom on the CW (you know, I just realized there aren’t any sitcoms on the CW anymore. Not one. And I also think I understand why!) left Mindy completely open to accept a position on the writing staff of a small American adaptation of a successful British sitcom. We all know how those usually turn out. But, oh that’s right, this one actually did become a huge success. Because it was The Office. Now Mindy has her own show on Fox, and though I’m not its biggest fan, it has decent ratings. And I’m hanging on to the hope that it will get better. Regardless of my feelings towards her show, I think it’s safe to say Mindy Kaling is pretty successful right now. (And I still love her. For reals. Read her book!).

3. Conan O’Brien

If you don’t know what I’m going to say in this one, you were probably living under a bridge in 2009. Though people living under bridges probably have smart phones with 4G these days. So I don’t know, maybe you were engaging in a year of religious solitude. Whatever. The fact of the matter is, Conan O’Brien is a genius. But for some reason when he took over the The Tonight Show, its ratings tanked. To really go into why that is, and what really made the ratings tank, would take a whole article by itself. So I’m just going to skip ahead and remind you that after only seven months as host of The Tonight Show, Conan had to give up his hosting spot to Leno, receiving a very large settlement.

It was a tragedy. Or so we thought. Conan’s settlement contract stipulated that he could not return to television until September 2010. He made the most of that time, launching his, “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour,” which sold out rather quickly. If you want some better insight into what it was like for him at the time, you can actually watch his documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop. It’s fascinating, funny, and it shows us a little bit of that paralyzing sadness I was talking about. But lo and behold, Conan O’Brien is kind of an amazingly hilarious person, who was made for late night television. And so, Conan began airing on TBS on November 8, 2010. And the world rejoiced.

4. Amy Poehler

There is something about Amy Poehler that just makes her the coolest person in the world. Co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, star of what I consider to currently be the best-written show on television, and one half of the world’s funniest couple. This lady is smart, sexy, hilarious, and I desperately want to have her babies. Much like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler can really do no wrong, and often times the two do no wrong together. If you know what I mean. … I mean they pair up at public events and other funny stuff to be funny together. Get your mind out of the gutter!

But Amy’s failure is a different kind than what I’ve been focusing on. It’s the failure of her marriage. This past September, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett announced that they were splitting, which was some of the most upsetting news anyone I know has ever heard in their respective lifetimes. Literally. I’m not exaggerating. Lot’s of things affect the way we feel, the way act, the way we create. And a big breakup like that, after nine years time? I can’t even imagine what that must feel like. Nobody really knows why Amy and Will split. Somehow all the media could get was that it was “amicable.” But amicable or not, that shit stings.

Amy’s been handling it like a pro, though. I mean, you saw her being fantastic at the Golden Globes, rights? And Parks and Recreation has never been better. She’s also the executive producer for a brand new TV show called Broad City coming to Comedy Central next year.

5. Joss Whedon

Ohhh Joss. Joss, Joss, Joss, Joss, Joss. You incredible specimen of a man, you. If there was no Joss Whedon, I don’t think I’d understand the meaning of storytelling. Okay, I probably would. But I wouldn’t appreciate it the same way. As the creator of many of my favorite things, including my all-time favorite TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon has been a big influence on my life, my career choice, and my writing style. (I’m in training to become a vampire slayer, and in case that doesn’t work out I’m minoring in space cowboy. Was that not clear before?)

Despite having a gigantic fan base of loyal, culty fanbots, Whedon has had a ton of huge setbacks throughout his career. Specifically, Firefly which is widely known as an amazing show that somehow Fox managed to ruin by airing out of order, and then subsequently cancel when they realized their strategy of airing things out of order did not attract audiences. Weird, right? Another big example is Dollhouse, which did get off to a slow start and was doomed in a Friday night slot anyway. But, remember the day they announced Dollhouse was cancelled? I do. Because that was the day that suddenly the show was amazing beyond belief and we were all, “Woah. THIS is what all that setup was for! THIS SHOW IS THE BOMB.” But, you know. It was too late. Wah, wah.

Today, Joss Whedon is being paid a crapload of money to make successful Marvel superhero films. Marvel keeps him so busy, that he has said he barely has time to work on his personal projects. But I wouldn’t worry about Joss too much. He is basically living out every little boy’s dream, while raking in enough dough to make whatever movie he wants to when he finally does have a little more time.

So. Did that list make you feel better about your situation? Oh. What’s that? It made you feel behind on your life plan and incredibly unsuccessful and now the paralyzing sadness is settling in again? Well, then. Yeah … that was a slight miscalculation on my part. My bad.

Just kidding. What this list should show you is that everyone, whether a Joss Whedon or a measly little Marla Pachter has their ups and downs. My getting fired was just a bump in the road, and one that helped give me the push I needed to pursue some exciting career goals. Maybe I will be a Joss or a Tina or even a Mindy one day. For now I’m just a measly little Marla Pachter, trying to make a difference by motivating the youth of America to go push through the bad times, cause there are good ones up ahead, and hopefully entertaining them in the process.

(How’d I do??)

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