The Not-So-Special Special
The Not-So-Special Special stories

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Another memory from the life of Bobby Sunshine.

The Not-So-Special Special

In 1978, I signed a contract with one of the three major television networks.

I had to move to New York because the broadcast facilities for all three networks for the East coast were located in the Empire State Building.

Being in the same building as the other networks, I met a lot of the people that wrote, acted in and produced shows.

I had friends from all three networks because of our proximity and sharing the same elevators (lifts).

When I had to relocate to California, I thought that I may never get to socialize with people from other networks again.

Fortunately, the bonds that we created held fast for years, just as they held us together in New York.

One day, a friend that I met in New York invited me to go to a party at the home of a network executive. I wasn't sure if I should go because it wasn't one of my bosses.

In the end, I accepted and would deal with the fallout later, if there were any.

The party was at this executive's penthouse apartment. It was huge, with ornate, expensive decor. It was equally impressive and intimidating.

Fortunately, I knew some of the people at the party so I relaxed.

As the party continued through the night, people began to perform. There was a large amount of talent present and entertainers love to show off their gifts.

As I enjoyed the entertainment, the executive approached me.

He had spoken with my date. She had told him that I was a comedy writer, as well as an accomplished stand up comedian.

We chatted for a few minutes before he asked me if I would like to perform some of my routines.

Normally, I would jump at the chance to perform among other comedians and actors. This was different because I wasn't a full time stand up comedian.

I did it mostly to have fun and make people laugh. This, however, felt different.

I was in the penthouse apartment of another network's executive. I was mingling among the executives and talent that was employed by that network.

I thought that if I was going to perform, I should do it for my company.

This executive convinced me that I wasn't being disloyal. He said I was simply at a party. He told me that everyone liked to laugh and that I shouldn't worry about who I made laugh.

After reflection, I agreed and said I would perform.

I didn't have a strict number of minutes that I should perform. That was left to my discretion. As long as people laughed, I would be allowed to continue until I saw fit to stop.

I had always wondered if my comedy would make everyone laugh and now I had my chance to find out.

When I took the raised area used for a stage, I began my routine. I omitted all of Bobby Sunshine's routines because I was afraid that the audience was too high brow.

Instead, I focused on human affairs that would apply to everyone.

I did about twenty minutes. I wanted to do more because everyone was laughing. I didn't run out of material, I just didn't want to monopolize the stage.

There were some famous people that hadn't performed yet.

I didn't give it another thought after the party. I didn't see that executive again, after that night. About three years later, I wound up at a different executive's party for my network.

I did some different routines and they loved it.

While other people were performing, a man came up to me and asked if I was the person that performed at the party I just told about. I said that I was.

He asked if I had ever considered doing television.

I said that I preferred writing because I wasn't comfortable with fame. He said that his network was looking for fresh new talent.

He told how they wanted to do a test pilot with different comedians.

I said that I was flattered but I would rather not do a television show. He asked if I would like to do a special. Today, people call it a "one off."

I told him I would have to think about it because I worked for another network.

The next Monday, I approached Terri, my personal assistant, and asked her what she thought. She asked if I could perform as Bobby Sunshine.

She said that, with the clothes, wig and makeup no one would recognise me.

I gave her the card the man gave me and told her to find out if Bobby could perform. Terri was also to check with my agent to see if I was allowed to do it because of my contract.

I asked her to call my boss and talk with him.

By the end of the day, Terri told me that my contract did not forbid my working for another network, as long as it didn't interfere with my regular job.

She also told me that my network was fine with it. I said okay.

I agreed to do a special. It was to be taped at a theater in Los Angeles. I had one hour. I assumed the role of director and Terri got an associate producer title.

That's when the network people sent in the censors.

I hate censors. I do not feel that speech of any kind, no matter how offensive, should be limited. Luckily, the censors were understanding. They explained the concerns of the FCC.

They told me topics to avoid.

They were very nice and I thought that, since they were playing nice, so would I.

I agreed to the topics that should be avoided under the condition that I didn't have to present a script to them. They agreed.

The date was set, the theater booked and people were allowed in after signing waivers to allow us to show them on tv. I was doing one hour and fifteen minutes.

That allowed fifteen minutes to be cut if any jokes fell flat.

I showed up backstage and changed into Bobby Sunshine. When I hit the stage, I started with my strongest material.

I joked about hippies, my hippy friends, drugs, alcohol and transitioned to women and how they think.

That led me into jokes about how men and women are different. I followed that with jokes about children. I was nearing the hour mark when things went a bit sideways.

Since the show was not scripted, I read the audience.

I could tell that they were a good audience and that I could be a bit more liberal with my jokes. Then I went too far.

I was telling a joke about taking my girlfriends daughter to a farm for a school trip. As the girl was petting a rabbit, the bunny bit her.

I was trying to describe the trauma that she was feeling but got a bit carried away when describing it.

I said: "Here's a little girl, petting her first bunny and it bit her. The only thing worse that could have happened to her would have been being raped by Santa Claus!"

The audience was rolling in the aisle. I looked to the wings and the tv crew looked like a herd of deer caught in a truck's headlights. I tried to make things better. I really tried.

But, instead, I made things worse.

I started doing my routine about child molesters. The audience was peeing their pants but I knew the network would never approve it.

I decided to go long (perform more material than originally planned) and edit it out later.

Unfortunately, for every crude or lewd joke I would tell, the audience laughed and guffawed even harder. My instincts took over and I began playing to the audience.

I pulled out all the stops and my jokes became more sexual.

I did nearly two hours of comedy to a crowd that brought down the house at the end. I had to take three curtain calls. Of course, I knew the special was cancelled before the show was over.

All I wanted was to make people laugh.

Maybe it's good that my special never made it to the air. I'm sure the Federal Communications Commission would have pulled it, even if the network didn't.

Bobby Sunshine was still topical, he was still funny.

He wasn't past his time. He wasn't just a funny hippy. He was a phenomenon in Atlanta and he was a hit in Los Angeles. He was just too advanced for the time.

HBO would have aired it after editing, maybe, but it never got to them.

The network paid me and everyone involved, then told me that it just didn't work out. The tape was destroyed and no copies were ever made.

That was the Not-So-Special Special that I made. Yeah, I made a lot of money making people laugh. Yes, I had fun. No, I never wanted to be famous anyway.

Maybe, it was my fear of fame that had me sabotage my special.

Not so special was I?

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