My friends are filming a new spin-off of Ed’s late night talk show in a giant storage room in Hopkins hospital. I get there early while they are still setting up and start drinking some of the horrible Estrella Merlot I got from work the other night with ice and club soda. The room has a really high ceiling and a very dusty concrete floor— it looks more like an unoccupied space at the Copycat than something that would be in the hospital. Hardly anyone is there but the people involved in the show. They explain that this spin-off is more of a crazy game show than a talk show. They run through a bit that has to do with metal fans, it’s pretty funny. They offer to let me play the role of some guy who holds nonsensical cue cards, and I declare my desire to wear some kind of headset, vaguely remembering a similar character from a show I saw when I was little— maybe YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON TV?
A lot of people I know slowly start to arrive, ready to party. Folding chairs are set up across from a broad makeshift wooden stage, on which there is a desk and behind that, a bed with pink sheets. Karl shows up and asks for some of my wine concoction, handing me a nice glass mug. I try to give him exactly half. He says it’s not that bad.
I take off my shoes and put them near the entrance to the room, where I spot Morgan Freeman coming in, looking around, putting his coat on a chair and then leaving again. I race to the back to tell Connor about it. Connor is at the desk, busily preparing with Ed and Adam, and doesn’t seem to believe me. I aimlessly walk around, on two occasions cracking unintentionally very corny jokes: the second time Lexie and Waz, who are eating take-out food at a table in a far corner of the room, holler me down for the corniness (in good humor) and I holler back (slightly embarassed.)
It seems to be taking a long time to get the show going. I haven’t drank much but I feel tired. I get into the bed behind the desk and pull the covers over me. It seems like everybody involved in the show is too busy to notice or care, and I fall asleep. I figure it will be taken as a gag when the show starts and I wake up. It’s hard to tell when the show starts, though. At some point some girl I have never seen comes back trying to find someone to operate “the light table.” Not knowing what else I might/should/could be doing, I volunteer. “What exactly is a light table and what am I supposed to do with it?” I ask on the way across the room. She’s thin and conventionally pretty and total type A personality.
She shows me a strange, budget-looking contraption that basically seems like a long overhead projector covered in little carved wooden characters, each of which has a square wooden block on top of it. I am supposed to remove the squares to reveal words. The letters don’t seem to be arranged in any order, though, and I get confused fast— how will I know what squares to remove if I can’t see the letters until after the blocks are taken away? She is too busy to explain thoroughly, but I get the sense she doesn’t know and is just trying to fulfill her assigned duty. There are some other younger, conventionally pretty girls hanging around the light table talking to each other. I admire them for a moment before returning to the task of trying to figure out how in the hell me revealing random letters is going to be entertaining.
The show begins and a very familiar theme song is played. The room is big and I can’t quite tell what’s going on by Ed, the desk, and the camera. Other people far from that part of the room continue to talk and carry on, as well. Some of the characters under the blocks I reveal aren’t even letters or numbers, but just simple letter-like shapes, most of which seem to be crude variations on the simple heart shape. I come to understand that have to re-take the opening part of the show two or three times, but I don’t really hear why. The girls around the light table continue to talk of unrelated things.
Jeremy plays a familiar-sounding song on an acoustic guitar. I didn’t know he did singer-songwriter stuff. The song is quite long. Then it’s time for my part. I’m hoping that only the projection of these letters will be seen on camera and not my confused fuddling with them. I nervously keep pulling blocks off the letters, revealing nothing that even comes close to a word. Ed talks while I do this, and occasionally the audience in front of him makes noise, but none of it is intelligible to me. I try to crack jokes about the strangeness of this game to the girls— they’re friendly enough.
Mercifully the light table bit ends, me still clueless as to whether I completely bungled it or not. It appears that Jeremy is playing the song again now. I decide to go find my shoes and snoop around to see if Morgan Freeman came back.
I find neither of those things, and then the show seems to be over. Everyone is milling about and talking quite loud now. I return to the light table and one of the girls there, a platinum blonde, starts talking to me. I can’t hear her so I have to put my ear right up next to her mouth. She laughs about how confused she is about what kind of show this is, and I agree, and she puts her face really close to mine, and I assume she couldn’t hear what I’d said and go to repeat it, but she kisses me. I freak out a little and disengage without trying to seem freaked out. I mumble something about needing my shoes, intentionally using the room’s noise to obscure what I’m saying, then take off into the crowd.
I still can’t find my shoes, but Adam from the west side is near the entrance, and so is George from Oakland, and we have to go clock out, apparently, so we can get paid. The office where we do this is in another building of the hospital, and it is then that I realize that we are 24 floors from ground level. Riding the elevator I try to imagine Swearingen and Bullock talking during a long elevator ride and decide that tall buildings are both a cause and a symptom of the pussification of the American male.
We get to a lobby. The girls from the light table are there and they all greet us warmly. One of them has a leather jacket on now, the back of which bears a hand-scrawled message something along the lines of “I got titfucked on Goatse.cx” and I realize that this girl is either some kind of aspiring netporn star, or netporn journalist, or something along those lines. (Some intuition causes me to discard the idea that she’s one of those dimeadozen dirty autobiographical sex columnists, fake Sex-in-the-city types or whatever.) We hang in the lobby for a bit, waiting for something. Three jocko dudes come in the front door and one of them immediately begins loudly talking shit about the girl in the leather jacket. I tell him and his friends to keep moving, to go do whatever they have to do in this building, and after giving me a triple stinkeye (but no backtalk) they all do. I watch them join a group of about 20 other jockos that I hadn’t noticed before, congregating at the other end of the lobby. I get nervous. Adam and George bid farewell to the girls and we walk outside, into the snow, to walk over to the building where this office we need to get to is. I wonder if that huge mob of jockos will fuck with those girls again. My socks get really wet but it’s not as annoying as I expected it to be.
We take another long elevator ride to a classic office, cubicles and computers and all that. It’s crowded with people from the show— all trying to get paid for participating in some way, I suppose. Some round black lady shows me how to log in and out of the computer and I get the impression that I am expected to be doing this often.
Not sure what else to do, I wander about the office and find an unoccupied computer that seems to be in the middle of some ancient trivia game. The graphics are unmistakably EGA, which charms me, and I try to play it a little. It’s asking questions about a movie I know I have seen but only vaguely remember, the demon-themed movie by the same guy who directed the 1942 flick CAT PEOPLE. One question involves the shape of a huge flying beast that resembles a demonic inside-out uterus, a part of the movie I don’t recall but which seems extremely interesting. The next question involves a floating mass of deformed breasts and another asks which character’s semen was stolen to create the floating mass of deformed penises which flies about shooting poisonous sperm. The simple EGA animations of these characters look absolutely amazing.