WORST PITCH EVER - RUNNER UP
In the mid-80's, I was a staff writer at Saturday Night Live. On Tuesday
nights the producers would shepherd the guest host from office to office to hear
possible sketch ideas.
One week the host was Danny Devito. He came into my office with his wife, Rhea
Pearlman. We chatted for a while. I made everyone laugh and feel at ease, which
is easy for me because I'm so damn funny.
Thus I began my pitch. I was pretty confident. I had a killer, can't-miss
idea. As I spoke, I bounced a tennis ball off the wall. I used to bounce tennis
balls all the time because I thought it looked cool. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
My idea was about tether ball. It'd be funny to see Devito play tether ball
because the game is all about height-the tallest guy always wins. The joke of the
sketch was that Devito was the world tether ball champ because he makes his
opponents feel guilty. They're too embarrassed to try. He always wins because
he's so damn short! HA! HA! HA! HA!
Those ha-ha-ha's were me laughing. Nobody else laughed. After I finished there
was a long, tense, embarrassed pause. Mr. Devito averted his eyes. He was
obviously hurt. All he said was, "I'd rather not do any height jokes."
I was crushed. While I was thinking about how to apologize, I nervously
bounced the tennis ball again. This time it took a bad bounce and careened off
the wall and THWACK! Hit Rhea Pearlman squarely in the face! She fell backwards,
holding her nose, eyes tearing.
Danny Devito, who I had just insulted, and his wife, who I had just whacked in
the nose, hobbled out of my office. He's now a big producer in Hollywood.
Funny-he's never called me.
WORST PITCH EVER - THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER
I guess everyone remembers where they were when they realized Joe Piscopo was
nuts. Here's where I was: IN THE MIDDLE OF A PITCH FOR UNIVERSAL STUDIOS!!
For a brief shining moment in the 80's, Joe Piscopo was hot shit. He was Eddie
Murphy's pal. Together, they had saved Saturday Night Live. So I was flattered
when Piscopo called and asked me to write a movie with him. I would ride his
shirttails into the heart of Hollywood.
Together, we worked out a story. It was something about Piscopo being chased
by the mob and having to adopt different disguises. It was basically an excuse
for Joe to do a dozen of his "lovable" characters.
We pitched the story to Universal. All the big studio execs were there. They
really wanted to do a movie with Piscopo-so far so good. We took turns telling
different parts. Joe did a few of his characters. Everyone listened politely. A
few chuckles. When it was over, Sean Daniel (then head of production) said
something like, "Thanks, but we don't think it's for us. Do you have anything
We didn't. But before I could say anything, Piscopo said, "Yes! Andy and I do
have another idea! We've been working on it all year! We're very excited about
it." He turned to me and said, "Do you want to tell them, or should I?"
I was stunned. What the hell was he talking about? I managed to mumble,
"Uh,...why don't you tell it, Joe?"
So Piscopo pitched "our" other idea. It wasn't really a pitch. It was more
like a therapy session. He'd always been obsessed with Frank Sinatra. "Our" pitch
was really his own twisted Sinatra fantasy. He wanted to do a sequel to Ocean's
11. We'll reunite the Rat Pack; Frank, Dino, Sammy, Peter, Joey, Shirley. We'd
bring 'em all back from retirement. Even though they're all in their mid-70's and
hadn't made a movie in 100 years, the old magic would still be there! But this
time, there'll be a new member of the Pack-Joe Piscopo! The plot will be about
how Sinatra takes him under his wing and they all learn to love and respect him
and let him join the gang. He had a few Sinatra/Piscopo bonding scenes worked
out. The New Improved Rat Pack would return to Vegas and rob another casino. It'd
be like the old days, but better because our man Joe would add some 80's style
hipness to the group!
Total silence. Everyone listened, stunned. I was more stunned than anyone. It
was as close to an insane rant as I've ever heard.
As we left, I could tell these important, powerful, well-connected executives
couldn't wait to crack up and tell everyone they knew or would ever meet about
this Pitch From Neptune they just heard. And how-as far as I was concerned-it was
Two bad pitches with the same lesson: try, if at all possible, not to be me.
Andy Breckman is currently employed writing top- secret comedy projects for
The Disney Corporation.