The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 229 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters, except not today because today is very special. Today is not like all other days.
Craig: No. Today we’re going to be doing this interesting thing. I think we’ve only done it once before where we answer questions not about screenwriting, per se, but about life, because you and I are wise.
John: Mm-hmm. And we are alive and we have experience with life.
John: I’ve gone through 45 years of life and I feel like I have some things to share. But I don’t know enough about certain topics. Like people wrote in with some really sophisticated questions that were beyond my level of expertise. And so we thought we needed a medical professional to help us out on —
Craig: A real doctor.
John: A real doctor. And so we searched far and wide for who is the biggest doctor we know.
John: And the biggest, brightest, kindest doctor we know is Doc McStuffins, which is why we’re so excited to welcome to the program, Chris Nee, creator and executive producer of Doc McStuffins.
Chris Nee: I think we’re all hoping that everyone is taking their medical advice from Doc McStuffins these days.
Craig: Yeah, exactly. Doc McStuffins, I don’t believe, has ever been sued.
Chris: Not yet. No.
Craig: Or maybe a settlement?
Chris: Well, I mean if there’s a settlement, we don’t have to disclose it.
Craig: Got it. Got it.
Chris: She has a good lawyer, for god’s sakes. [laughs]
Craig: Doc McStuffins is constantly being dragged into court, like, oh, it was great on the show but then afterwards, my —
John: My teddy bear exploded.
Craig: My stuffed limb fell off.
Chris: I mean, we would have a disclaimer on the show but kids can’t read it, so what’s the point in having it?
Craig: You should do that, by the way, like a crazy long scroll at the end of every show just like in the pharmaceutical ads. [laughs]
Chris: The pharmaceutical ad version of our show is perfect.
Craig: It would be awesome.
John: So in case you don’t have children, you may not be aware of what Doc McStuffins is. It is a phenomenon. It is one of the most popular television programs for the younger kids in the world. It is a Peabody winner. It is an NAACP Image Award winner for Best Children’s Program. It sold $500 million worth of merchandise in 2013.
Craig: Was that a million? 500 million?
John: $500 million worth of merchandise.
Craig: And obviously, Chris, you get —
Chris: And that’s what they’ve admitted. [laughs]
Craig: You get about what? 90% of that?
Chris: Oh, definitely, like a straight 90%.
Craig: You get a straight 90 of —
Chris: It doesn’t even go to Disney. It just goes straight into my bank account.
Craig: 90% of 9% of 0.01% of fourteenth one millionth of a percent.
Chris: Yeah. And I mean, I think the clear thing in this episode is we’re not talking about writing, but if you want to make money in this business, animation.
Craig: Right. Animation for Disney in particular. [laughs]
Chris: Definitely. [laughs] Animation writer. I mean, right there, you are solid.
John: Perhaps people without the visual will not know that she’s being —
Chris: That I’m smirking right now? [laughs]
John: Totally sarcastic. So I do, at some point, want to have you on the show to talk about animation and children’s television and writing outside of a WGA contract, which is what your show would have to be written under. But today, it’s all about other things. And so I think we should just start off with a question.
John: Because I always screw up when we try to read questions aloud, Craig, would you read this first question from Alex?
Craig: I will, yeah, because it’s lengthy.
Chris: I was going to say, it seems like an entire hour’s worth of question right there. But go.
Craig: Well, watch how expeditiously I mow through this. Alex writes, “I’m 29 years old. My partner and I are in a long distance relationship. He is in Central Florida, I am in Miami, about four hours for non-Floridians. We’ve been together nearly two years, and for the most part, our relationship is good. We love each other and make lots of sacrifices to make our scheduling work out and still live a seemingly normal life. Our friends constantly forget we are long distance because we make the impossible seem so possible.”
So far, I have to say, I don’t see the question. Everything is working out great.
John: Alex, congratulations.
Chris: I also don’t see love or — sorry, I’m jumping ahead.
Craig: We’ll get there. We’ll get there.
John: All right.
Craig: Alex continues. “I currently work full time at an ad agency in Miami but I also attend a local university as I work toward my bachelor’s degree, first generation college student in my family. I won’t be taking classes this spring as I will be applying to out of state schools to start in the fall.” Ah-ha, and so the worm turns, out of state schools.
“My partner is in news and he just got a job in the Northeast Boston, so our long distance will become much longer distance. He wants me obviously to move there with him at some point this upcoming year. But as I’m studying film and want to write for television, I don’t feel like this is where I want or need to go. I advise that I will apply and if it makes sense, I will make the move but only if it makes sense for me career-wise. He understands that.”
Oh, okay. I don’t see the question. There was a hint of a question but then he undid the hint. Well, let’s see what happens.
“My questions are,” ah-ha, “One, I’m 29 already,” hmm, he’s getting his bachelor’s degree at 29, all right.
John: First generation college student.
Craig: Fair enough.
John: He took care of some things.
Craig: Yeah. He took care of some business before that. “I’m 29 already and still not anywhere near Hollywood or building that crucial foundation of experience from those early mid-20s that I hear so much about on your show. I wasted — ” there we go, “I wasted many years doing a lot of nothing.”
So your theory that he was busy working, apparently he’s wasted a lot of years doing nothing. [laughs]
Chris: I also want to say, the clear sign of a 29-year-old is thinking that 29 is old.
Craig: I know.
Chris: That is so 29. [laughs]
Craig: God, I wish I were that old. “So I wasted many years doing a lot of nothing and the past few years have been great regarding my school work and overall financial work stability, and most of all, my drive to succeed. What advice could you give me regarding this situation?” That’s question number one.
And question number two, “Sometimes I feel like my partner doesn’t get my goals or doesn’t quite grasp how much I want to create and write for a living. He wants as much time as possible together. But I need plenty of alone time to write and create and study, obviously. But working full time and being in a long distance relationship makes that really hard, especially when the relationship depends on that one-on-one time that we get so little of.”
Well, I think we know everything. We have all details.
John: We have all details. So, Chris Nee, where do we begin with Alex and advice for Alex?
Chris: That’s a really good question. I mean, I’m just saying there’s so much detail in this letter and I’m not seeing the reason for the relationship. If you’re going to give me that you’re a first generation college student and four hours between Miami and Central Florida, I haven’t heard anything about the partner that makes this feel like the relationship that is worth changing your life to make work. I just noticed the absence of.
John: All right.
Craig: Divorce McStuffins over here. [laughs]
John: So I also noticed that lack of like, well, what is the nature of that relationship? So that’s why I Facebook stalked them and figured out who they were.
Craig: Oh. Wait, hold on, hold on. I have a prediction.
John: I want you to predict who Alex is and what this —
Craig: Well, if he’s famous, I can’t predict that. But I suspect that his partner is a bit older than he is.
John: You are incorrect.
Craig: His partner is what, like 16? [laughs]
John: His partner, they seem to be matched in age.
Craig: Oh, okay.
John: They look very, very cute together.
Craig: Okay, all right.
John: So Alex has a tremendous number of tattoos and he’s sort of a big, not bearish, but sort of bear-adjacent, sort of like Miami kind of bear.
Chris: Interesting. Yeah, sure.
Craig: By the way, I got my beard now.
Chris: Bear-adjacent. You are a bear-adjacent.
Craig: Would I qualify as cub? I don’t think I’m big enough for a bear.
Chris: You’re like teddy bear adjacent.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Craig: I’m teddy bear, yeah.
Craig: I’m in between cub and bear. [laughs]
John: So I should say Alex does not look like you but his boyfriend sort of — if you were to shave your beard, he looks sort of ballpark of you.
Craig: Got it.
Craig: So very handsome. Well, Alex, don’t let that guy go.
John: So I think just reading the question, I was sort of like, Chris, I was like, well, is it really worth, you know, trying to bank everything on this relationship? But I also feel like you’re in Miami, you don’t want to be in Miami, you want to be someplace else, Boston’s not a bad place to be. And if you’re going to jump, jump now.
John: If your relationship’s going to work, you’re going to have to live together at some point. Try living together in Boston. If it doesn’t work —
Chris: But you know that when you live together is when you don’t have alone time. I mean, someone in a long distance relationship complaining that they don’t have alone time and that’s why they aren’t writing —
Chris: Seems like there are a lot of reasons why this person is not writing and is expecting someone else to understand their need to write, which is to me such a classic — that person who dreams of being a writer but isn’t actually doing the work. That’s on you.
Craig: I’m a little concerned here. Here’s what concerns me. What Alex professes he wants to do is be a writer and work for film or television. I think he mentioned television — no, but studying film, and wants to write for television. Then do it, right?
Craig: So that’s number one. He says that he wants to now apply towards additional education. I’m not sure why. I don’t think additional education is required. John went to —
Chris: You already won with your family.
Chris: You are the one who graduated from college.
Craig: Right, exactly.
Chris: Done. Check. So move on.
Craig: Move on. Exactly. And screenwriting is one of those wonderful gigs where you actually don’t need formal education. I didn’t have it. John did. I don’t know if you went to film school or —
Chris: I was an acting major.
Craig: Oh, lord.
Chris: [laughs] That’s a whole other story.
Craig: Well, that explains so much. But I think that what’s happening here is Alex is creating roadblocks that don’t need to be there. Look, unless he’s planning on moving to LA tomorrow, which doesn’t sound like he is, why not go to Boston? Why not hang out in Boston? It is an awesome city.
Craig: And start writing. I feel almost like he’s asking for permission to break up with his partner.
John: Yeah. We have one of those questions later on and —
Craig: Where someone literally asks for permission.
Chris: I think they actually want you, Craig, to be the one to do the breakup.
Craig: Well, we’ll get there.
Chris: Can you get on the phone and do that live?
Craig: Well, that’s I think the one straight relationship that we’re asked about in our questions, so I’ll give him my straight expertise on that one. [laughs] But I feel like Alex, he says he’s 29. The question feels a little young to me.
Craig: It feels a little young for 29 and I think that he needs to ask himself — look, he says, “We love each other. For the most part, our relationship is good. We love each other.” And they’ve already put in all this work. My feeling is, Alex, give it a shot to have a regular relationship where you’re actually living with this person —
Craig: And spending time with them. And I got to tell you, this whole issue of your spouse or significant other not understanding your need to write and all the rest of it, that doesn’t go away. You’re going to have to find the person that kind of gets that. And maybe, Alex, your partner will get it once you write something.
Chris: I was actually going to say the exact same thing. I feel like often that question of people not understanding your being a writer, means that you aren’t really writing and you aren’t getting out there and putting — it’s the dream. It’s the thing you talk about. I wish, I think, I might, wouldn’t it be great if. And they don’t believe in it because you kind of don’t believe in it in some inherent way, I think.
John: I think staying in Miami is a bad choice. I’m glad that you’re not staying in Miami. Whether you apply to schools and get into a great program or you move up to Boston, I think they’re both better choices than staying put. I think you do owe it to yourself and to this relationship, if you like this guy, move up there and see how it works. And no harm, no foul. If it doesn’t work out, great.
John: And you’re in Boston. If this guy was moving to Topeka, and it’s like he wants me to follow him to Topeka, it’s like, well, that’s Topeka, that’s a red flag. [laughs]
Craig: That’s their city motto, by the way.
Chris: Yeah. [laughs]
Craig: Welcome to Topeka. We’re a red flag. [laughs]
John: But Boston is great. And so, try Boston. If Boston is not for you, if that relationship is not for you, you haven’t lost much.
Chris: And either way, it’s about moving forward. I think with both questions, you’re exactly right, there’s a roadblock and that he’s putting up and he needs to take action.
Craig: Also, Alex is attempting to continue his education. What a shame that his partner wants to move to Boston which is bereft of school. [laughs] I mean, it’s like the biggest college town in the world practically. I don’t know, Alex. You’ve never experienced what it means to be in a full relationship with this guy —
Craig: Because of the long distance issue. So I would recommend giving it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised. And if it doesn’t work, well, pull the plug.
John: You have three votes for try.
John: Annie Hayes who was our assistant in Austin —
Craig: Oh, Annie.
John: Austin Annie.
Craig: Austin Annie is great.
John: She wrote in to ask, “What tips do you have for dealing with the obnoxious black sheep member of the family who likes to stir up trouble at holiday gatherings?”
Craig: All right —
Chris: Well, the question is, are you the one? And, Craig, I’m looking at you. [laughs]
Craig: Well, that’s the whole thing. Like look around the table —
Chris: What’s your family say?
Craig: If you don’t know who the sucker is. It’s you.
Chris: Well, I mean I always think like, isn’t this the reason why all of us moved 3,000 miles away from home? I feel like so many writers —
Chris: Are far away. It’s that classic, we’re the ones who move to New York and LA and, yes, some of us, our family’s from there. But most of us are the people who don’t live at home and go home. [laughs] Take it in. Know you’re getting on your plane. And then write a scene about it.
Craig: But Annie, she lives in Austin? Because I know she was Austin Annie.
John: No, no, she lives in East Coast. I think she lives in New York.
Craig: Okay. So she —
Chris: What if the advice to every question is move? [laughs]
Craig: Move. I know. Just keep moving. The worst —
John: Never stop.
Craig: Why do people keep asking us these questions? We’re so broken as individuals. [laughs] Well, let’s say that Annie lives in New York year round and her family is there in New York and everybody gets along great, but it’s just that cousin Brenda shows up from out of town, so she’s the us, so Brenda’s the us.
Chris: Right. [laughs]
Craig: So she shows up out of town and is a jerk. Everyone has somebody in the family that we can all agree to roll our eyes over. And I think sometimes if you just put them in that box in your mind, then they can’t really upset you anymore. It’s sort of like, yes, you’re absolutely playing the character that you were meant to play.
Craig: And there you go. And it’s happening, just like it always does. And I can’t get upset because it’s like you’re a wind-up automaton that must do this.
Chris: Yeah. First of all, alcohol. Second of all, find your person at the table that you can talk to them about —
Craig: Classic Irish advice.
Chris: Sure, exactly. [laughs] Whiskey. Whiskey and moving are my two — emigrate and drink are the two things — [laughs]
Craig: Sometimes people see the name Chris Nee, N-E-E, and they’re like is she Korean? No, she’s Irish.
Craig: She’s leprechaun Irish.
Chris: Although, I was famously hired on a show for Disney because they needed an Asian male voice.
Craig: Chris Nee.
Chris: And we didn’t say anything because, frankly, why would you? Take the job. I worked for two seasons on that show.
Craig: And they kept waiting for you to provide that perspective. [laughs]
Chris: No, there was just a beautiful moment where like at some point they realized they couldn’t say anything —
Craig: Right. Oh, that’s amazing. [laughs]
Chris: In the actual room. The showrunners were friends of mine and they kind were like, “Do we say something?”
Craig: You didn’t look — no, I thought you would be a little taller or —
Craig: Black hair. [laughs]
Chris: Or with a penis.
John: Or a man.
Craig: Or a penis.
Craig: Or Asian.
Chris: Or Asian.
Craig: But not —
Chris: No. But famously did say it in a final speech, as the head of this part of Disney was leaving, said, “Chris Nee who is neither Asian, nor male,” into a microphone, and everyone just kind of — and I was like, “That is going to be my tagline for the rest of my life.”
Craig: Neither Asian —
Chris: Chris nee, neither Asian, nor male.
Craig: Nor male. But as a fine, proud Irish woman, your recommendation, number one, drinking. [laughs]
Chris: Drink. Yes.
Chris: Number two, find someone else to make fun. And number three, realize that that person is always the most unhappy person in the room.
Craig: It is true. It is true.
Chris: Just be happier than they are.
John: The good thing about holiday gatherings is they are, by definition, short. They’re like a once or twice a year thing. And you’ll just get through them. Craig, you probably know what the term for this test where like you stick your hand in ice water and basically how long you can stand being —
Craig: The cold pressor test.
John: Yeah. And so essentially, like it’s how long you can stand to have your hand in that ice water. And it’s like, at a certain point, you pull out your hand and you’ll be done — but you know your hand is not actually being hurt.
Craig: No. It’s like for the nerds out there, if you’ve read Dune, there’s the test they do where the Bene Gesserit — Chris, of course, you’re familiar with this. Bene Gesserit —
Chris: I’m all over it.
Craig: Yes. They are searching for the Kwisatz Haderach and part of the test is that he has to put his hand in this box where he experiences terrible pain. And what he repeats to himself over and over, “Fear is the mind killer.” And I think when you are stuck in these torture situations, you just remind yourself that fear is the mind killer, it will be over.
Chris: I like that we just took this slightly obnoxious aunt and turned her into the fear box. [laughs]
Craig: Yeah. The pain box. That’s right.
John: A few other practical suggestions. Have some handy topics to switch to if the aunt goes on her crazy tirade. There’s always some neutral things you can talk about that no one ever —
Craig: No question. And you’re probably really good at that. I’m not good at that because I’m everything in me, all of my DNA says do the opposite of that. But what I have always made it my business to find one person that I can make secret looks with —
Chris: Yes. That’s my person in the room.
Craig: That’s your person in the room.
Chris: You and I would totally be the person in the room.
Craig: We would be the person —
Chris: Except we’d be so obvious. [laughs]
Chris: Because I’d be drunk.
Craig: You know what? The black sheep is being really obvious, too. So I don’t care. I need to be able to look at my friend and just go, “Hmm.”
Chris: I just want to clarify that the black sheep and the obnoxious person are often two different people.
John: That’s true.
Chris: I say that as a black sheeper.
Craig: Right. Well, Annie defined it as the obnoxious black sheep in the family.
Chris: Oh, I understand. Yeah, she did.
Craig: The way I look at it because of me is I’m fine, all of my family are all black sheep.
Chris: You look at it like a straight white man.
Craig: Exactly. My privilege is that I’m fine and everybody else is broken.
John: So on Facebook when someone’s being obnoxious you can click the ignore button and they disappear from your feed. And I was at a holiday gathering with my husband, Mike, and I saw him sort of click the ignore button in real life, right. [laughs] It’s like he mentally like hit that big button and just like that person just no longer existed in his world. And it was just sort of amazing.
John: It was amazing.
Craig: Well, it’s like —
Chris: Eventually, we’ll be able to do that in —
Craig: Yeah. Like if they have mute on Twitter, there’ll be an implant and I can just mute you.
Craig: And you won’t know.
John: Yeah. [laughs]
Craig: And my implant will allow me to respond pleasantly to you.
Chris: And then they’re going to say, “God, you’re such a good listener.”
Chris: That’s fantastic.
Craig: And I won’t even hear that.
John: The last trick, I think Chris had mentioned this at the start is, you know, when people are terrible, they’re generating material for you.
John: So just let that little red light in the left-hand corner light up and like just record what they’re saying and use them as a character. And then it becomes useful that they were a terrible person.
Chris: And never piss off a writer.
Craig: It’s a bad idea. You will see yourself one day — although, that’s the problem. The idiots never realize it’s them.
Chris: No, they don’t. [laughs]
Craig: They’re just like, “Oh, my god. I saw your movie. That person was the worst.”
John: Worst. Craig, our next question.
Craig: All right. Peter writes in, oh boy, “Our boss has spent all of our allocated Christmas party budget on ‘something else.’ Subsequently, we are the only department to have to pay for their own Christmas party this year and while I am aware of the first world problem nature of this, I am not going to take umbrage with having to spend a few of my own dollars on food and booze. But what I will take umbrage with is budget mismanagement. This isn’t a case of illegality, simply being bad at your job. Is it worth pursuing and making a fuss about?”
John: Chris Nee?
Chris: I think this is going to work out really well. [laughs]
Craig: I have written up the following complaint —
John: And I’m going to read it at the Christmas party.
Chris: And I’m delivering it to you, my boss.
Chris: It’s about you but —
Craig: The following memo policy I have —
Chris: That’s how it is. [laughs]
Craig: In triplicate, I have lodged a description of your mismanagement.
Chris: And you’re Jewish but I’m worried about the Christmas party. Like it just, it seems wrong all around.
Craig: So, wait, why was the cheap boss Jewish?
Craig: So much for my privilege. Shot to hell.
Chris: Yeah, you just became one of us.
Craig: One of you.
John: Yeah. You have white privilege whenever it’s handy, but then the rest —
Craig: I have white privilege until people find out I’m Jewish. And then it’s like, “Nah, pick up that penny.”
Chris: No, but I did wonder where the Christmas party was happening, that it wasn’t a holiday party. I’m just asking the question.
John: Well, the Christmas party clearly was happening at Dunder Mifflin because this is very much an Office plot.
Craig: Yeah. It feels Dunder Mifflin-y. I mean, it does suck. I mean, look, it’s unfair I think that there was once a time in this great land where, you know, second half of December, your work place treated you like a human being.
Craig: You had a party. People felt like, “Oh, you know what? You’re not just a cog in this machine. You’re not a human resource. I know your name. Let’s have a drink. Let’s actually know each other as people, something good might come out of this. We might even be better at our jobs.” And then it just became, you know, corporate and lame.
And this is really bad because he’s in a department. I’m already —
Craig: I hate a job where I’m in a department. And now, everyone else’s department is like, “Tralalalala,” and I’m like stopping on every floor, looking at all their mirth. And then I get to my floor and it’s Scrooge and Marley.
Chris: Peter doesn’t get to make bad mistakes at the Christmas party.
Chris: And that’s wrong.
Craig: It’s wrong.
Chris: One should be able to do inappropriate things at your Christmas party so that people can talk about it all year long.
John: I have a hard time believing that this Christmas party fiasco was the worst case of mismanagement from his boss.
John: If this boss misallocated this money, this boss is making other mistakes and karma will catch up with this boss.
Craig: Or the boss was like, “Well, one of our employees, their child is incredibly sick. The health fund doesn’t cover all of it. I’m going to take the Christmas fund so that little Billy doesn’t go blind.” And Peter is like —
Chris: And that’s going to be really awkward.
Craig: Yeah. Peter’s like, “I kind of don’t care.”
John: I don’t care.
Craig: There’s nothing to see in the world for Billy. Where my champagne?
Chris: Here’s the thing. This is a ridiculous complaint. [laughs] That said —
Craig: Welcome to the Chris Nee Show, Peter.
Chris: Yeah. But that said, I do believe in this idea of humanizing the people you work with, parties are important, gatherings are important, meals are important. I work with a company that’s in Ireland. And in animation, we do a lot of overseas work. And a lot of those shows, you never meet them. And one of the things I love about the company that I work with is that we very regularly, things start to get a little — there’s a little friction between us and I will get a call and they’ll say, “You know what? It’s time for you to come to Dublin.”
Chris: And it is about the face-to-face. And it’s as much about being in the room as it is about being in a pub — this is all about drinking — is the point.
Craig: You said Ireland.
Chris: But it is. It’s being in a pub and getting to know people as human beings. And we’re making art and it’s hard and it’s a war. And you got to know the people that you’re with.
Craig: I agree.
Chris: That’s a department. It’s a different thing.
Craig: No. And look, Peter —
Chris: For god’s sakes, quit your job. [laughs]
Craig: Yeah. Ultimately, Peter, you —
Craig: Certainly pursuing a different job will get you a Christmas party quicker than the memo.
John: So I don’t know if you guys are listening to Serial season 2. So Bowe Bergdahl —
Craig: Of course not. [laughs]
John: Bowe Bergdahl, the —
Craig: The traitor.
John: Yes. The person at the center of this thing, he leaves his apartment —
Chris: I’m glad you haven’t passed judgment.
Craig: He’s a traitor.
Craig: Flat out.
John: He leaves his unit because he wants to create a DUSTWUN situation which is basically like create a big enough stink that like he can really report his management, people will have to pay attention to things.
John: I think Peter is in a DUSTWUN situation and he really wants this Christmas party to be his DUSTWUN where like essentially everyone’s going to see like this is a huge ball of chaos. [laughs]
John: And it’s just not.
Craig: No. No one’s going to follow him.
Chris: Everyone’s like, “Thank God we don’t have a Christmas party this year.”
John: Yeah. Don’t start walking —
Craig: Or also like, thank God that they were going to fire somebody and it’s Peter now because he DUSTWUN’d and he’s out there alone and the Taliban just picked him up. [laughs]
John: Yeah. So it’s going to be a couple of years of sadness for him. But maybe they’ll make a podcast about him.
Chris: I was about to say maybe somebody will eventually make a frustrating and unending podcast.
Craig: Thank you for describing it that way because — ugh, I got all sorts of issues. [laughs] Never mind.
John: Chris Nee, how about a simple question?
Chris: Craig hates eggnog. Good, it’s about drinking. So I think I can do fine. “Craig hates eggnog but has he tried coquito? Puerto Rican version of eggnog will change his mind.”
Craig: All right.
John: That’s Stephen from Brooklyn Heights writing in.
Chris: It is.
John: Have you tried coquito?
Craig: No. I have not tried coquito. And I love this. “Puerto Rican version of eggnog will change his mind.” No, no, it won’t because it’s a version of eggnog. Unless the Puerto Ricans have managed to make a version of eggnog that does not contain any of the ingredients —
Chris: That’s like whiskey.
Craig: Of eggnog, yeah, then sure. But then it’s not a version of eggnog. This is always like, I can remember when I met my wife and I hate mayonnaise. I hate it. And she’s like, well —
Chris: Is it wrong to say that’s a Jewish thing?
Craig: Not at all, because it is.
Chris: It is. What is that?
Craig: It’s because we’re God’s chosen people and he spared us the misery of that nonsense.
Chris: But mayonnaise in a sandwich —
Chris: It’s the best thing that ever happened.
Craig: It’s not even a food.
Craig: I don’t even know how it was invented in the first place. Terrible accident. Regardless, she said, “Well, maybe you would like Miracle Whip.” [laughs] “It’s a better version of mayonnaise.” And I was like, “You stop right there. You stop right there or this is over.”
John: So I think we need to be fair in like actually discuss a recipe for Coquito because maybe it’s actually a different thing.
Craig: All right. Run it by me.
John: It requires two egg yolks beaten.
Craig: I’m out.
Chris: Done. I mean I’m just going to say it is eggnog.
Craig: Yeah, no. I’m drinking egg yolks. Next.
John: One can of evaporated milk.
Craig: It’s okay, no.
John: One can cream of coconut, so there’s a coconut aspect.
Craig: Okay, fine. So it’s a coconut eggnog.
John: One can sweetened condensed milk.
John: Oh my god, it’s all — basically all of those kind of things together.
John: Half cup of white rum. Some water, some ground cloves, cinnamon, vanilla.
Craig: Yeah. There you go, there’s the spices that make it like basically, it’s a —
Chris: It’s drinking potpourri?
Craig: It’s drinking like a cup of spiced fat with — I don’t like any alcoholic drink that has fat in it. Like I don’t do the white Russians. I don’t do the — I like an old-fashioned.
Chris: I like an old-fashioned, too.
Craig: I bet you do.
Craig: You Irish —
Chris: And anything else.
Craig: Yeah. We’re just basically going to be the — we’re like Don Rickles-ing each other.
Craig: It’s like Jew and Irish jokes the whole time.
John: So we’re recording this at 1:30 in the afternoon. So we’re not drinking, but it sort of feels like we’re drinking because we keep referencing alcohol.
Chris: You know, you guys just need to put a little like Walla in the background that has the tinkling of a glass.
Craig: Well, and Chris always drinks in the car on the way anywhere.
Craig: So it’s fine.
Chris: I work in preschool television. What else am I going to do?
Craig: What else are you going to do?
John: Pam Stucky asks, which is worse, moving in the wrong direction or not moving at all?
Craig: Very Zen question.
Chris: Not moving at all.
Craig: I would say not moving at all is worse.
Chris: Inertia. Yeah, you need to have movement.
Craig: If you move in the wrong direction, there is a possibility that you will learn from mistakes.
Craig: And you won’t go down that path twice.
Craig: So you’ve gained information.
Chris: And you know what it is to move.
Craig: And you also know that you can survive moving in the wrong direction.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
John: Absolutely. So I think that paralysis that comes with fear and indecision is worse than going the wrong way. Now, there’s a concept in D&D — Craig and I play D&D — of deferred action which is basically —
Craig: Getting hot yet?
Chris: Oh, this is exciting. [laughs]
John: Which is basically choosing not to move but it’s actually a conscious choice, where like I’m choosing not to move and keep an eye on the situation. And I will move in these circumstances. And that I think is a valid thing. Basically or at least you’re really taking stock of a situation. And, you know, you’re setting triggers for like when you’re going to do things. But otherwise, it’s just apathy and you’re —
Chris: I was going to say, active choice is a thing.
Craig: Holding your fire is a good strategy. Not doing stuff because you’re not sure how it will turn out, bad strategy.
John: Yeah. And that was our advice to Alex, I think.
Chris: Yeah. I was about to say, it all comes around.
Craig: That’s right. It’s exactly right. Oh, great, greatest name ever. Breton Zinger. Zing. Breton Zinger says, “What do you think of the tiny house movement?”
John: I’m a huge fan of the tiny house movement.
Craig: Of course, you are.
John: Of course I am. The tiny house movement is of course, that idea of building really tiny little houses, sometimes portable houses that are just big enough for your needs and nothing more than that. And I think the reason why I’m a fan of the tiny house movement is I actually grew up in a motor home. Every summer, we would spend, you know, months in a motor home. So I spent a tremendous amount of time in a very small space with my family. And it was actually kind of great. And you also recognize the things you don’t need, which is basically most stuff. And only having enough food just to fill that little refrigerator. It’s great.
Craig: Well, you need basically a socket to plug yourself into.
Craig: Your nutrient paste.
Craig: And that’s pretty much it, I would think.
John: Yeah. Basically, it’s it. Every once in a while, I need, you know, a little conditioner.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Craig: You need some coolant.
Chris: I mean, I think that in theory, but in reality, I think I would not be able to figure out what the stuff to keep and what the stuff not to keep was. I would have a hard time putting my life into a fairly small house. That said, I lived in Manhattan until I was 30, so —
Craig: Like everyone in Manhattan lives in a tiny house —
Chris: Yeah, you are — totally. Yeah. I mean, like we act as if it’s a movement, but that’s how everyone lives in Manhattan.
Craig: Yeah, no. I mean I remember when I first came out to LA, I had, you know, my — I shared a tiny, tiny apartment with a friend of mine and I had my tiny, tiny room. And everything was — it was a very tiny house. But, you know, I have children. There’s no tiny house.
Craig: My god. [laughs]
Craig: There’s no amount of space — they are like a gas. They can fill any space. If my house were 1,000 acres, there would be crap all over the floor in every room.
Chris: Yeah. And they’d be in whatever room you were in.
Craig: Yeah, totally. And that’s the other thing. It’s like, oh my god, why are you — why did you have to come here to fart? That’s what it means to be a parent. Like you walked across my property to fart next to me. I’m not a huge house guy and I’m not a tiny, tiny house guy. I think there’s a basic decent size for things.
John: The Goldilocks principle.
Chris: I’m a Venice liver, so it’s like we’re 2,000 square feet and near the ocean.
Chris: So our backyard is the ocean. Fantastic.
Craig: That’s pretty good.
Chris: Well done.
John: So I would say, I’m a fan of the tiny house movement, but I feel like it’s unrealistic for certain people. And certain people will approach it with like this zeal and this passion that borders on obsession and like when it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.
Craig: If you’re building a home out of some sort of idealistic principle, I don’t know, did I send — or I think I tweeted this great essay somebody wrote where they were just complaining about Thoreau and how Thoreau is just a dick. And I’m totally in agreement. Thoreau is the worst. That whole nonsense is the worst, going, I went into the woods. Good. Stay there because you hate everything. You hate pleasure. You hate people. You hate progress.
Chris: If you went into the woods because you love the woods, fine.
Craig: Right. No. But it was all —
Chris: Don’t do things because of the negative.
Craig: It’s like, yeah, like oh my woods are great. And everybody else is stupid.
Craig: Tiny house. [laughs]
John: With your tiny house.
Craig: Yeah, exactly. Watch what I do to your tiny house?
John: Pam Stucky asks, Ham asked a couple of questions that were all really good, so I put a few in. W.H. Auden — is it Auden or Odin?
Craig: I think it’s Auden.
John: Auden. Writes, if equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me. Is that good advice or fool’s advice?
Chris: That is a good one.
Craig: What do you think, Chris? I have an answer.
Chris: I think it depends on how much of a sap you are as the more loving one. [laughs]
Chris: Can you tell him that I write a loving, loving show —
Craig: Yeah. [laughs]
Craig: For small children. I mean I think it depends. Be the more loving one, be the one non-vindictive one, fantastic. Keep your heart open, fantastic. But if you’re pining for someone who is not there, that’s a different thing.
Craig: Yeah, no, I agree with that. I would say, if I had to choose, I would want to be the more loving one.
Craig: I think that there is a joy in that sort of thing. And two, I don’t know, it’s also uncomfortable I think to be in a lopsided deal where someone is just way more into you than you are into them. It makes you turn into like an agent that is, oh I’m not, no, no, I’ll take that later. Yeah. Just tell them I’m out.
Craig: I don’t like that. I find it’s more fun — I think the whole point of love is to go outwards anyway.
Chris: I would agree.
Craig: So I’m a sap is basically a good deal.
John: Aw, Craig’s a big sap. The other thing I would want to clarify is that love isn’t just one thing. And so there’s a sort of different aspects of love. And so even if you’re not perfectly equal in certain different aspects of it, the overall quantity, the overall sort of net effective of it could be much more balanced out than it might appear on first glance. There’s a great Livingston Evans song called Let Me Be Loved which is sort of a sad plaintiff cry like let me be loved, let someone care for me.
John: And that is the sad manifestation of that where like —
John: That pining for somebody and like you don’t get anything back.
Craig: Unrequited love is miserable.
John: It is miserable.
Chris: It is miserable.
Craig: Isn’t it the worst?
Chris: It is. [laughs]
John: Yeah. I mean it can foster a lot of great art because it’s a true human emotion. I think a lot of our great love stories have sort of come from that unrequited love.
Craig: That ache.
John: That ache.
Craig: It’s the worst feeling. It’s the worst feeling. But we’ve all felt it. I mean that’s the thing.
Craig: I don’t —
Chris: And you carry it with you for a lifetime.
Craig: That scar is always there.
Craig: It’s so true.
Chris: I can see it in you.
Craig: Yeah. Well, it only happened once. Most of the time when I love somebody, they’re like —
Chris: They love you back.
Craig: Thank god you’re here.
Chris: Hardcore, too much.
Craig: I’ve been waiting. Yeah.
John: But it’s interesting being on the other side of that sometimes. I’ve been the one person who’s been loved much more than I loved them back.
John: And that is a weird burden you feel.
Craig: And I don’t like that because then I really do feel like, oh, yeah, you know, it’s not for us. We did really like the writing, just not terrific. It’s like you feel manipulative. You feel fake. You feel like you’re pandering someone.
Chris: I also think it’s harder as a friendship relationship because — I mean if you’re talking about a love relationship, if you’re not equally into each other, you end up in the breakup place. And it’s a clear delineation. What happens in the friendship world is when someone wants to be more of a friend or considers you a better friend than you consider them, that is such a — and it puts you into the horrible place of actually, you kind of at some point kind of have to be a not great person in that moment.
Chris: To clarify where you’re at because the relationship doesn’t inherently clarify itself.
Craig: Is that why you talk to me the way you do?
Chris: It is why I talk to you. I mean I’m trying to hint to you.
Craig: It’s not going to stop me.
Chris: That’s okay.
Craig: Because I —
Chris: You can spend all your time reading up on my issues.
Craig: I love you.
Chris: I love you too.
John: Dave hanging out in Fontana. Craig, you ask this question.
Craig: Oh. Oh sure, give me the straight one. Okay, fine. Dave — by the way, what’s straighter than hanging out in Fontana? I’m not gay. I’m hanging out in Fontana. Dave, hanging out in Fontana. How does one end a long-term relationship without leaving a scar? It’s funny. I think we just asked that.
Chris: Yes, I think we did.
Craig: Asked and answered. My girl of seven years wants marriage and kids. I want to keep my dirt bike collection. This guy really is literally on the cover of Straight Dude Magazine.
Chris: [laughs] He is.
Craig: My girl of seven years wants marriage. It doesn’t even like, wants —
Chris: And he’s from the 1940s.
Craig: And also like, she doesn’t want to get married and have kids. She wants marriage and kids. I want to keep my dirt bike collection.
Chris: I do think you should write, this guy.
Craig: I know. Thought about cheating just to give her a permission slip to leave. But I love her —
Chris: That was nice of you.
Craig: I know. But I love her too much to thermo nuke bridges. Okay, again, straightest man in history.
Craig: He doesn’t —
Chris: Maybe too straight.
Craig: He’s literally too straight for me. He thermo nukes bridges. Not enough to burn then. Nuke it from orbit.
John: Absolutely. He’s basically like he’s playing Call of Duty with this relationship. [laughs]
Craig: He literally is like, should I call an airstrike down on this or what? Then he continues, respectful side question, are gay breakups any different than straight? Oh my god, dude, you have no idea. Last random advice episode, Craig’s marriage proposal, fly to Alaska, that’s true, had a whole other vibe to John’s pickup paperwork at the courthouse. But John is a robot, you have to understand like John’s proposal has nothing to do with being gay. That was John plotted the most efficient path to proposal. [laughs] It certainly didn’t involve traveling.
Chris: Either that or I mean I don’t know about you, John, but we ended up considering our marriage, it was the year of forced gay marriage because like, we were already completely committed to each other. We had built our house together. We had a child together and then marriage became legal. And we were kind of like, you know, we’re already there.
Chris: We’re legally taken —
Craig: The window is open.
Chris: We’re legally taken care of. Like what difference does it make? And then it was actually a health insurance. It was —
Chris: Writers Guild health insurance at some point said, well, your domestic partnership isn’t going to work anymore and so by the end of the year you have to get married. What I love is like, you know, we’re sneakying, backdooring into gay marriage and then like we were forced to get married. And we were kind of like, well, I guess, we have to get married.
Craig: That’s a great — like how has somebody not done that movie where —
Craig: A gay couple is together and they’ve been like, we’re married and then someone is like, oh yeah, no, you can get married so have to or there’s no more health insurance and then one of them is like, ahhh.
Chris: Yes. [laughs]
John: Yeah. There was a nice sort of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle where it was like, you know, or Schrödinger’s cat.
Craig: Schrödinger’s marriage. Yeah.
John: And so where it’s like, you were sort of married but not kind of married. And when you actually had to get married, I think there probably were some breakups that happened because it was like, well, are we actually going to do this thing or are we just being heteronormative by getting married?
John: All that stuff. But let’s get back to Dave’s question.
Craig: Okay. Dave. Straightest man ever.
John: Straightest man alive. Because I actually have a straight friend who did essentially what Dave suggested which like deliberately had the affair to nuke the relationship. And then it didn’t work. Because then had to sort of like —
Craig: Oh my god. [laughs]
John: Stay in the relationship like another two years after that.
Craig: Okay. Look, Dave, straight guy to straight guy, Dave.
Craig: Dave, here’s the deal. This is kind of a bunch of bull, all right? First of all, you can be married and have children and also have dirt bikes, did you know that? It’s not like the license is connected to being single.
Chris: Apparently, she’s already let you have the dirt bikes.
Craig: I mean she’s already the kind of girl that lets you have dirt bikes. So I think the problem here is you just want out. You don’t want to do this.
Craig: You say you love her too much to thermo nuke bridges. Do you know how little love that requires? That means I love her too much to not do the worst possible thing, right? So it doesn’t sound like this is working out here. You want to be a gentleman about this and not be passive. Cheating on her and hurting her doubly so that she dumps you? You think that that’s going to tickle and feel okay as opposed to you sitting down and going, listen, here’s the deal, I don’t want children. And I don’t want to get married. And just saying that right now, I’m comfortable the way things are and if you’re not, you have to make a decision. That’s what a man does, bro.
Craig: So bro up, okay? I mean, come on. And yeah, I don’t personally — I’m just guessing that gay breakups aren’t any different than straight. I mean the marriage part — you got to understand about gay marriage proposals is that — I mean when I proposed to my wife, we’d been together for five years, were fairly new in our relationship, you know, relatively speaking. But most gay couples I know that are married, that was like already after 12 years.
Chris: That’s right. They were already married and committed that moment had passed.
Craig: You don’t do romantic stuff like that. That seems stupid. It’s like, why would I do —
Chris: 15 years in. No one really wants to throw a party.
Craig: Yeah. Like you say to Lisa, you know what, um, a surprise trip to Italy. And she’s like, wait, what? How much did you spend on that? I don’t want to go there. Can we go somewhere else?
Craig: And then you’re like, screw it. So I think that your respectful side question asked and answered. But it sounds like you just got to bro up, bro.
John: He’s going to bro up and breakup in the proper way. But he was to breakup. He can’t —
Chris: Oh yeah, you don’t want to be in this relationship. It’s clear.
John: There’s no question. Like you have to break up. I mean you can’t allow the status quo to continue because if she genuinely wants kids and you don’t want kids, don’t let her think like she’ll be able to convince you to have kids down the road.
Craig: Right. I mean, there’s a mild chance I think where you she would say, you know what, I’m okay with that. I’ll stick around with you and no marriage and no kids. I don’t buy it.
Craig: I don’t think so. I mean, generally when one person wants —
Chris: And ultimately, if you love her enough to not blow it up, then you love her enough to let her be free or give her honesty or have a real relationship.
Chris: I mean, the fact that he’s writing you two before having a conversation with her —
Craig: It’s kind of —
Chris: I’m just going to say —
John: I want to say that this is the crappy boyfriend in a romantic comedy. And so like where the woman is actually the lead and he is the guy who like leaves at the start of the movie and like sets her free and then she becomes a great character.
Craig: And then he comes back.
Craig: On his dirt bike —
John: So Dave in Fontana, we want you to go away so that she can actually become who she is supposed to be because she’s not becoming who she’s supposed to be because you’re around.
Craig: That said, this guy does sound like you’d be awesome to hang out with in Fontana. I mean, I totally would. He’s got dirt bikes —
Chris: Next time you’re in Fontana, look him up.
Craig: He throws thermo nuke around.
Craig: Like a general verb.
John: Get a 12-pack of Tecate and hang out and talk through some stuff.
Craig: I mean, I would bro it up with him.
John: One thing I will say that is different about sort of gay breakups is that obviously there’s a cliché like lesbians never really break up and that they stay friends forever. But that’s actually sort of I think more true in gay guys as well, definitely like you break up with people and like they stay friends in ways that like men and women can never really sort of stay friends that way, so —
Craig: That’s interesting.
Chris: Yeah, I agree.
John: There’s a person I broke up with who I still see out all the time.
Craig: Right. You’re like, hey, and he’s like, hey.
Chris: Yeah, agreed.
Craig: You know, that’s a really interesting point because the only kind of gay break up I’ve ever had was with my former writing partner. And that’s like, that’s a marriage and a divorce.
Chris: Yes, it is.
Craig: And it was traumatic, you know. But yeah, totally cool. I guess I’m like, whatever — we hang out and he’s a great guy.
Chris: But don’t you think, marriage kind of played into that? I mean there is going to be a whole new generation of gay kids and gay adults and that will be a whole another story in 20 years. But I feel like there is that paradigm of straight relationships that they both have an idea that they are supposed to get married. Here’s something I never understood, I never understood the straight relationship version of I’m going to ask her to marry me, and if she says no or it’s the woman who says, if he says no, if he doesn’t want to marry me, we’re breaking up.
Chris: And I feel like, gay relationships, we don’t have that. We were together because we wanted to be together and there’s a friendship there.
Craig: Isn’t that tied to the baby thing?
Chris: I think it is totally tied to all of that stuff.
Craig: I mean, there’s a lot of baby pressure on straight women.
John: Yeah. But I think this baby pressure obviously for women because there’s certain years you can do it.
John: But I think even for gay guys at a certain point, like, do you want kids or not have kids? And you have to decide about that before you’re 40.
Craig: Well, there’s another thing with straight marriages I think. And that is for straight men, I don’t think this exists, but for straight women, there is a status issue attached to marriage. This is a common complaint you’ll see like, the mothers, why aren’t you married yet? Well, your sister is married and my younger sister just got married and all my friends are getting married. And everyone is like, you’re a loser because you’re not married. And I don’t know if that’s necessarily true in the gay community for men or women.
John: I think it will be increasingly true, though. I think —
Chris: Yes, I agree. I think, yes.
John: I think they have normalized — that pressure will be normalized as well.
Chris: I totally agree.
Craig: Because I think that’s why a lot of women are like, if you say no, I’m breaking up with you, because I got to find somebody that says yes because marriage is —
Chris: Right. But I think what it means is that often — I think there are a lot of straight couples who end up together in a way that isn’t just about we love each other and we love hanging out with each other.
Chris: They’re working towards this goal which is, I got to find the person who’s going to say yes, put the ring on it and all of that. And I feel like straight relationships, that’s where they differ from gay relationships and why I think often gay relationships form friendships afterwards.
John: There’s also this weird sort of cultural power disparity where in straight relationships, there’s an expectation that he’s going to ask and she’s going to answer.
John: And then they’ll be married.
John: And that there’s no norms yet for what that is like in gays.
Craig: Well, you know, I can only speak for my experience, but also in just thinking of my friends. Once people kind of got passed the whole, I’m going to ask your father, he’s going to give me permission and then you’re marrying me whole thing, it’s a formality, but, you know, like I remember that Melissa said to me, “Okay, starting on this day, it’s, you are — it’s open season. You may ask me at this point. I’m ready now. So you may ask me from this day forward.”
John: Oh, that’s a nice way to put it.
Craig: There’s no one really — I mean except for those dingbats at basketball games.
Chris: I was going to say, who do the basketball games.
Craig: Morons. Nobody really — I feel like —
Chris: When you ask, you know.
Craig: Yeah, if you’re popping the question truly without knowing, the answer is going to be no because you’re the kind of person that does that. That’s crazy.
Craig: You got to know. I mean I think everybody does.
Chris: And I’m just going to say the other difference between the straight and the gay relationship is there’s no When Harry Met Sally idea that a man and a woman can’t be friends.
Chris: Two women can be friends and two men can be friends after the relationship.
Craig: Yeah. I will say that for straight people, it’s hard for men to be friends with women when they’re not married. When you are married, you can be friends with them. I have lots of female friends because I’m essentially — I’m a gelding, I’m neutered. I pose no threat to anyone. [laughs] I’m smooth down there like a Ken doll.
Chris: Pete in Fontana doesn’t want to hang out with you anymore, by the way.
Craig: I know. He’s like, bro, we’ve got to thermo nuke that. Should we give another Pam Stucky question?
John: Let’s have another Pam Stucky question.
Craig: All right.
Chris: Thank god for Pam.
Craig: I know. Pam was just lobbing them in there.
Chris: Pam Stucky asks, what are some of the best lessons it’s taken you until your 40s for you to learn? And were they things you should have learned in your 20s? Craig.
Craig: You know, as Stuart Smalley says, “I don’t shit all over myself.”
Craig: There’s no should. I think that, yes, there are some lessons I’ve learned. One of the big ones was this one. That when you feel things, it doesn’t mean that the feelings mean anything. When you feel scared, it doesn’t mean you’re in danger. When you feel like a loser, it doesn’t mean you’re a loser. When you feel like you’ve done great, it doesn’t mean you’ve done great. They’re just feelings. They’re very powerful things. Emotions are very powerful. But they ultimately don’t have any meaning. They are disconnected from truth more often than that. And they are really bad at predicting the future. And that’s the big one. Like I’ve learned like if I feel like things are going downhill, they’re probably not.
John: All right. I would say that I’ve learned some insight and sort of like some sympathy for the monsters in my life. And so when people are behaving terribly, it’s understanding that like, there’s a reason why they’re doing that and they’re probably aren’t even aware of the reasons why they’re doing that. And so what you’re actually seeing is the echo of something that happened a long time ago. And so it’s not necessarily about me, it’s about them being crazy people.
And just to take a step back and it’s sort of like an emotional patience and just like, okay, this is their process, they’re going to go through their process. And when you start to see that, then you can anticipate the future a little bit better. You can sort of anticipate like how this is all going to play out. And it’s made me much more mindful about who I’m in business with.
John: And sort of like, well, that is monster behavior and that’s going to keep coming back.
Craig: Monster behavior. [laughs]
Chris: I know a couple of monster behaviors.
John: Yeah. There’s no good reason to enter into that —
Craig: Who’s left, John?
Chris: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
John: Or sometimes like I see some monster behavior but I know — I have a sense of how that’s all going to play out. It’s going to be fine. And I’m like, these are the steps that I’m going to have to go through and burn through but then it will be fine.
Craig: I don’t even think I understand who’s the monster anymore because I worked for Bob Weinstein for so many years.
John: It broke your meter?
Craig: I literally don’t know what — is that bad? Is this a bad person? I can’t tell.
Craig: He’s not as bad as Bob.
Chris: Yeah, no.
Craig: Yeah. Well, what did you — ?
Chris: That hole has been dug.
Chris: Yeah. I mean I think for anyone as you get into your 40s, fear is the great block in our lives, I think. And as you get into your 40s, you start to be less afraid and less afraid of being afraid. And I think I just, in my 40s, I’m out in the world as I am in a way that I was just too fearful of my impact in the world in my 30s. And I’m not sure if there’s a way to speed that process up. It is all — I mean it’s the classic, the 29 question. When you’re 29 years old, you ask questions like a 29-year-old and you have to get to your 40s to have seen the highs and lows, to have crashed and burned, see that you’re going to come back from those things. It’s all of that experience that gets you to the place where nothing seems quite so scary anymore.
Craig: I’m with you.
Chris: You kind of know what the real shit is.
John: Yeah. I will say, though, I sometimes look at the incredibly successful 20-somethings. And I think part of the reason why they —
Chris: Oh, they have no fear.
John: They have no fear.
John: And that’s what it is. So I look at Lena Dunham, I look at the Taylor Swifts, I look at the Mark Zuckerbergs and like they just they don’t have any of the fear that was holding me back in my 20s. And because of that, they have all the energy of their 20s and none of the fear.
Craig: You know, I can’t compare myself to anyone. I mean, that’s the truth because this is all I got.
Craig: So I’ve always noticed that — and this is another thing that kind of took me a while to see. I would sometimes look at other people and go, why is that person moving so much quicker than I am?
Craig: Why is that person moving slower than I am? Why is that person — why does everyone seem to know that person? And a lot of why, why, why, why, why. The truth is, it doesn’t matter.
Craig: What you got is what you got. What people think about you is what they think about you. The way you move, your speed, I can remember when I was in my 20s, I would never go to Hollywood parties ever. And then people would always talk about them like, I think I’m screwing up. I don’t go to any of these. No one asks me to go them and I don’t want to go to them. I don’t even know where they are. Like people would talk about these hot clubs and things and like I don’t even know where that is.
Craig: I think I was okay actually.
John: John and Craig, what do your spouses do for a living if anything? Moreover, how are their lives affected by your careers as screenwriters and as writers in general? Let’s talk about our spouses.
John: You start, Craig.
Craig: Well, Melissa is actually a stay at home mom. When I say she’s a stay at home mom, she’s also on like I think three different boards of three different charities and was the president in sequence of three different community organizations in our town. And she’s kind of amazing that way. It’s funny, you know, Melissa and I met at Princeton. She’s obviously a very, very smart person. She got a —
Chris: She married you, didn’t she?
Craig: That was the first indication of her divine intelligence. But she’s got a master’s degree in Latin American studies. She’s fluent in Spanish. She’s traveled, she’s brilliant. You know, she actually — it was kind of like I learned a really important thing from her early on. She’s just, she was never ambitious about money. She was never ambitious about like working her way up some sort of corporate ladder. She just had no interest in that. What she was interested in always was community work and charity work. And so she was — she actually worked on the south side of Chicago right after college, community organizing which is like, you know, dangerous actually. And she’s been involved with an orphanage in Honduras for decades. And she worked at APLA here in Los Angeles for quite a few years. So she’s been that person, you know. And she’s kind of remarkable that way.
And how is her life affected by my career as a screenwriter? I think it’s nice that I’m around a lot, you know, because there are times when you’re a screenwriter and suddenly you’re living in Bangkok for a month, you know. But most of the time, my hours are pretty flexible so I’m around. We can kind of watch each other’s backs when we need to get stuff done. And we have a great system. I mean, we’re coming up on 20 years.
Craig: Yeah, 20 years next summer. How about you?
John: So my husband, Mike, is a stay at home dad. And like Melissa, he’s on boards and sort of runs the parents board at my daughter’s school, the public school and has done a great job with that. He’s an MBA, but before that, he used to run all the movie theaters in Burbank so there’s 30 screens there. And so he comes from exhibition. So it’s been so fascinating to hear that whole side of the movie business because, you know, as we’re going into Star Wars, like he remembered he had to live through Titanic and what a nightmare Titanic was —
John: And so he’s like, oh, he feels so bad for all those poor theater folks and having to deal with 24-hour screenings with Star Wars.
Craig: Oh my god.
John: This could be a nightmare for them. So anyway, Mike is great and smart and very — he’s actually, on most topics is much smarter than me. Like he’s the smart one in the relationship for most sort of practical things. And I think I probably seem like a practical person, but he’s much more practical. He’s the one —
Craig: My god.
Chris: Wow. [laughs]
Craig: He’s the singularity, that is.
John: He’s the singularity.
John: It’s also fascinating and you guys may have experienced this, too, is that when you’re in a long-term relationship, you start to just, you know, abdicate certain responsibilities. And so like, all responsibilities over like the calendar are Mike’s. I just don’t even engage with it because like, whatever he says, we’re doing that.
Craig: I’m so there with you on that one.
John: And so that, some budget stuff, you know. We make big decisions together, but there’s stuff about the house that he runs and rules. And sort of like Melissa, you know, because I’m here, I’m working out of the house most of the time, we can get to sort of co-parent more and sort of run the house together much more than I think most people would be able to do. So while I will be off, you know, in New York doing Big Fish for months at a time sometimes, most of the time, we’re just around. And so we have lunch together every day. And that’s great.
Craig: Yeah. You know, we got our whole system down in terms of division of labor. And it is interesting like how the division of labor occurred. You know, there are things that she’s just in charge of. There are things I’m in charge of. That’s been a great side effect of being a writer. And it never occurred to me. But, you know, look, a typical guy is going to get out there at, you know, I don’t know, 7:30 to get on the road to commute. And then he’s back, I don’t know, at 8 pm, there’s hours on either side of school. So a lot of women are left with kids there and no father and there are a lot of dads who are staying at home and the mom is out doing that and they’re left at home with those two handle bars on either side of the school day. And those are the worst. Like it’s easy taking care of a dog when the dog is tired.
Craig: It’s easy taking care of a kid when the kid is tired.
Chris: Which is never.
Craig: Yeah. But when they —
Chris: Basically never.
Craig: When my kids come home between that and like, you know, 8 pm, that’s like, it’s good to be around. What about you?
Chris: Well, I will say that because I’m in TV versus in doing screenwriting, I am in an office —
Chris: All day long. Although, I made a decision really early on, I was, at this point, I’m the boss. And it is so true that you want to work for someone who has kids because we are out of our office at 6 o’clock. Every night I have dinner with my son every night because what I don’t want to do is create a show that brings joy to millions of children, while mine is in therapy.
That just seems like a terrible, terrible idea. I don’t want him to hate Doc McStuffins more than anything else on the face of the Earth. And I do find it interesting that we all have, yes, you guys are home but you have high profile careers and you have stay in home parents at home. And I do as well. Lisa has been a stay at home mom since our son was born. She had spent years as a filmmaker and a trailer editor which is a really intense lifestyle to cut trailers.
And around the time that we were having our son, she actually probably made more money than I did, but she didn’t want to be doing what she was doing anymore. And I was on the trajectory that I liked what I was doing. And so we made the decision for her to stay at home and be the stay at home mom and for me to go ahead and work. And obviously, that kind of worked out very, very well for us. It is a whole other thing when you have two working parents. And I’m very grateful for my son that he gets to have a parent at home all the time.
Craig: Do you guys ever — you know, because I feel like — I don’t know, I could be wrong. But in L.A. or maybe just in the circles that we move, it seems like usually both parents are working. Do you ever feel that weird like, oh, you know, and what does your wife do? Oh, she’s a stay at home mom. Do you feel like a hitch when you say it? Do you feel the weirdness in their eyes? I sometimes get that.
John: I do sometimes. That little sense of like, oh, that’s why you’re able to do all these things. And it’s sort of true. I mean like my life would be so much —
Chris: It is sort of true.
John: More complicated if Mike was working at a different full time job.
John: And there’s things where like I don’t have to worry about like, who’s going to pick up our daughter after school?
John: Like Mike is going to do that.
Chris: Look, it’s a much better line for me than it is for you. But when people ask me, how do I do everything and juggle the whole thing? And I say, well, you know, it’s really helpful to have a wife. [laughs]
Chris: Which is a laugh line for me but it’s true. It’s just that it’s true.
Craig: Yeah, but for me, it’s just like, sometimes I feel like, oh, so you’re like, you beat her? Like it’s like they’re —
Chris: I think they go exactly right there.
Craig: It’s like literally the line from you have a stay at home wife to —
Chris: No, it’s from joke to — yeah.
Craig: So you’re a bad person and you beat her.
Chris: It’s because of the beard they think that you —
Craig: The beard is new it’s always been —
Chris: I know.
Craig: I think it’s just mostly people —
Chris: Now, you look like a wife-beater.
Craig: Now, I do look like a wife-beater. Well, good. That’s why I grew the beard because it was weird —
Chris: That’s why she likes it.
Craig: Yeah. It’s like well if you’re going to beat me —
Chris: Right, look like it.
Craig: Look the damn part, yeah.
Chris: Yeah, exactly.
Craig: I think that’s really funny what you said about Doc McStuffins because there’s this class of movie where the character is a dad whose kids are like, “Dad, make sure you come home. It’s Christmas” And he’s like, “I will.” And then he doesn’t because he works too hard like Liar, Liar, the Santa Claus. There’s so many of those and it’s all about like I just got to realize that I got to be there for my kids. I’m working too hard. And every man working on that movie is that guy to their kids.
Chris: Oh, totally.
Craig: It’s like every man. They’re all doing it.
Chris: Yeah, that’s right.
Chris: But I will say, one of the other things that I learned in my 40s is that my career matters. It’s part of who I am. And because I set it up right in the first place and because I actively went after the things I wanted to do in life, I do what I love and I love what I do and I do something that as it turns out, kind of matters. And I think we’re trained to want to say, “The thing I learned in my 40s is that career doesn’t matter.” It does.
John: Yes, it matters.
Chris: It matters. It matters and if you did everything right leading up to it and if you moved in with your boyfriend in Boston and then followed your writing career and did all and broke up with the woman.
Craig: Right. Thermonuke.
Chris: Do all those — if you just take those actions that set you up in the right place, your career does matter and it is a part of your life.
Craig: I like to use — I use the word vocation. Because vocation is like it’s something you’re called to do.
Craig: And you know, I do this because — I mean I’m lucky and that the thing that I want to do is the thing I can do —
Craig: And that’s great. That’s a great confluence of things.
Chris: That’s right.
Craig: But this is a funny business that way. It’s not a career in a weird way. It’s kind of a vocation.
Chris: No. It is a huge part of — yeah.
Craig: Yeah. It’s like this other weird thing. It’s like a priesthood or something.
Chris: And you win every high school reunion and that’s the important thing for me.
Craig: I have yet to show up to one but I —
Chris: Oh, yeah. No, I won an early one because I was already at Sesame Street. And I was like, “Done.” Solid.
Craig: When I go back, I’m having my 25th college reunion in two years, and I will win because of the Ted Cruz thing. I’m the winner.
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Craig: I’m the winner. Like I should get — I should get my own parade.
Chris: I think you’re going to get an ambassadorship.
Craig: I might.
Chris: And where would you like to go? Do you know that the Ambassador to Ireland is an animation guy?
Craig: Oh, really? That’s helpful to you.
Chris: Yes, it is.
Craig: I would think that —
Chris: So where are you going?
Craig: There are a number of sensitive issues between the United States and French Polynesia.
John: You would actually go back to French Polynesia after your experience there?
Craig: No. I love it there. You’re thinking of Jeff Lowell. No, I love — I went back. Melissa and I went back for our 20th — I’m sorry, our 15th. Bora Bora, outstanding.
Chris: And a very difficult ambassadorship.
Craig: Well, just a lot of issues like —
Chris: I mean, yeah, there’s a lot to negotiate.
Craig: Import-export of coconut byproducts.
John: Chris Nee, where are you going to be ambassador?
Chris: I’m going to be the ambassador to — I’d got to go with Italy. I mean, doesn’t that seem like a fantastic place to be an ambassador to.
Craig: It could be. Have you spent a lot of time there though? It could be frustrating.
Chris: Except that I might be killed by the mafia.
Craig: No, no. It’s frustrating. There are no lines.
Chris: That’s true.
Craig: No one ever lines up in Italy.
Chris: I think I’m going to have a house out in the countryside.
Craig: Okay. You’ll turn like Amalfi coast or something.
Chris: Totally. Yeah, yeah ,yeah.
Craig: Well, that works. Yeah, that works.
Chris: On a lake eating pasta. I’m not going to do my job very well.
Craig: Listen, you don’t want to say that out loud.
Chris: Oh, right. Sorry. I said that too soon.
John: Yes. Let’s ask a final question from Pam Stucky. Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night absolutely certain you’re about to die? The answer for me, is yes.
Craig: I don’t need to wake up in the middle of the night. It’s a fact. I don’t know what the — why would I need to wake up to acknowledge a fact?
John: That you’re about to die?
Craig: Well — oh, you mean seconds away from dying?
Craig: Oh, no. I’ve never woken up in the middle of the night thinking that ever.
Chris: I was going to say no. Why?
Craig: No. So sometimes you wake up and you’re like, “This is it, I’m going down.”
Chris: You do?
John: I’ve had panic attacks. And that sort of really feels like —
Craig: You’ve had a kernel panic.
Chris: But is it like the pulling out of a dream moment where you’re not quite sure —
John: Sometimes it is. Sometimes it just feels like, “Oh, I’m having a heart attack. This is a heart attack right now. Let me Google the symptoms. Oh, it’s a panic attack.”
Craig: It’s a panic attack, yeah.
Chris: It’s a panic attack at times.
Craig: Do you have sleep apnea?
John: No, no.
Craig: That’s really interesting.
John: So I actually know the triggers for it is if I have caffeine after like 3 p.m. it’s going to happen.
Chris: Then you’re going to die. Immediately?
Craig: Really? That’s really interesting. It’s incredible how fragile our minds are. You see, that’s the whole point, feelings are not facts.
Chris: Right. That’s right.
John: But it’s not even emotions, though. That truly is a physiological thing where like, it kicked in your fight or flight —
Chris: Well yeah, and panic attacks are the most horrible thing. I was just telling someone the story of getting a root canal. Oddly, my wife and I ended up having emergency root canals on the same day. We have different dentists, but we ended up at the same endodontist. How bizarre is that? So anyway, she went first and she came out and said, “It really wasn’t that bad. It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry about it.” And when I came out, she was like, “Well, how was it?” And I was like, “It was the worse thing that ever happened.” And we started talking about the dentist. And I said, you know, that horrible stutter that he has. And she said, “What stutter?” I had had such a bad panic attack. I had kicked him. I’d hit him. We had to process in the middle and he kept saying to me, like, “You have to stop fighting me.” And I said, “But the whole point of a panic attack is I can’t control it.”
Chris: He kept telling me to stop with a stutter that had come back that I brought back from childhood because it was so terrible.
Craig: Wow. Chris, you’re such a bully.
Chris: Because I was panicked. I was so panicked.
Craig: No, panic is —
Chris: It’s a terrible feeling.
Craig: I had one —
Chris: You can’t control it.
Craig: Years and years and years ago at the tail end of a very difficult production that I think was kind of the result of, like, being over adrenalized for so long and then the adrenaline stops and then your receptors are starved for adrenaline. So anytime you might go, “What?” And I was down for a week. And for about three days, I couldn’t leave my room.
Chris: That feels like a Harvey story.
Chris: All right.
Craig: Wait. We have to ask this question because this is the best question of all.
John: Sure. Ask the question.
Craig: Clint asks, what is the deal with women and throw pillows? What is the deal with women and throw pillows?
John: What is the deal with women and throw pillows?
Chris: Ask Craig.
Craig: I mean honestly — yeah.
Chris: Ask a woman.
Craig: I get it. I’m the most feminine one here. They frustrate me so much. I just want to sit on my couch.
Chris: Because all you do is move them out of the way.
Craig: They’re not just pillows. They’re always scratchy. They’re the worst pillows. They’re piled up in such a way that you can’t sit on a couch. You’re literally forward as — if you were about to be jettisoned into space. I hate them, and yet every couch in my house must be stacked. My bed. What do I do when I want to go to bed?
Chris: You have to put everything on the side of the bed.
Craig: Literally, you know what I do to get the pillows off my bed? I bitch slap them off my bed. I backhand them off.
Craig: No. They’re the only ones I really hate. And I just, “Get off my bed.” What is the deal?
John: I believe a couch should have two pillows that can be adjusted for napping or for, like, putting it behind your back if you want to sit a little differently.
Craig: Two corner ones.
Craig: I’ll buy that.
John: Two pillows in the corner that you can move and use as appropriate. But more than that, no.
Chris: No, there’s no need for it.
Craig: It’s just outrageous.
Chris: Women suck.
Craig: Look, man, sometimes I come home and I’m looking at my couch, I’m like, “Well, someone went over to T.J. Maxx and had our — what is it, Home Goods? Home Goods.
Chris: Does she just randomly buy more?
Craig: Yeah. Sometimes there’s just — I’m in so much trouble now for this.
Craig: Because the thing is, I was doing great and then I —
John: You were doing great. It was all a love fest.
Craig: And then this pillow thing happened.
Chris: Yeah. And it’s all over now.
John: See if you can pull it out in the One Cool Things.
Craig: I forgot to do one.
John: So I specifically emailed about One Cool Thing.
Craig: I know. My One Cool Thing is — do you know what my One Cool Thing is? Throw pillows. Love them.
John: My One Cool Thing is gut bacteria.
Craig: That’s a cool thing.
John: It’s a pretty cool thing. So I’ll link to an article by Moises Velasquez-Manoff about recent findings in gut bacteria. But essentially making the case that all the stuff that exists in your gut that helps you process food and helps you — helps your ecosystem survive and thrive, has gone away to the degree that we may not even have some of those microbes left anymore. It’s an interesting challenge I think because those things probably evolved with us in order to process the foods that we are eating. And without them, we are kind of screwed. So I think it will be interesting to see over the next 10 years whether we can get some of those things back if we can start to supplement those things or find other ways just sort of regrow that inner stuff.
Chris: So do you take regular probiotics? Is that — ?
John: I don’t take regular probiotics — but I’m careful to try to eat a diversity of things and to try to get more stuff in there. And we have our own garden and so we try to eat as many as greens at our garden as possible.
Chris: Well done.
Craig: Just wonderful of you. I don’t know if you guys had been following but fecal transplants —
Chris: Yes. It’s fascinating.
Craig: They’re kind of like magic.
John: I think they’re kind of —
Chris: They’re kind of incredible.
Craig: Seed of a seal used to be this — I mean it’s called seed of a seal because it was that difficult to cure. And fecal transplant, done, fixed.
Chris: Yeah. And it feels like you’re going to be able to get people who want to donate, which is a perfect segue because my One Cool Thing is Be the Match because what is cooler than saving someone’s life?
Craig: You’re the second person that made Be the Match be a One Cool Thing on the show.
Chris: Oh, I did not know that.
Craig: But go for it.
Chris: But I’m going for it anyway.
Craig: Can’t be repeated enough.
Chris: It is — Be the Match is for bone marrow transplants, and it is so easy. It’s just a cheek swab. You don’t have to do anything. By the time you get to the point where you have to make a decision as to whether you’re going to deal with the needle or anything like that, there is a human being’s life in the balance that you get to save, which is the coolest thing ever. That will be your meeting story for the rest of your life. It is your guarantee on a date that they think you’re a good guy or gal. You’re going to get laid if you join Be the Match. So that’s —
Craig: Women don’t need that, but the men, do.
Chris: No, they don’t.
Craig: The men need that extra push.
Chris: The men need it, yeah, you know —
John: Dave hanging out in Fontana, he needs to Be the Match.
Chris: He needs Be the Match.
Craig: My God, he would kill it out there.
Craig: No. Be the Match is amazing and it covers —
Chris: And basically in life, I think you want to be karmacly covered. You want to know that you’ve done all the things — not because you want to help other people, but because you want to make sure if you need a pair of lungs, that you’ve said yes on your driver’s license —
Chris: You need blood, you need platelets that you’ve put it out in the universe —
Craig: Do it.
Chris: To do it. So Be the Match. Be the Match.
Craig: Honestly, going to bethematch.org.
Chris: It’s so easy.
Craig: Is compulsory as far as I’m concerned. It’s that simple to do. There’s nothing else like it.
Craig: As far as I’m aware.
Chris: And it only works by critical mass.
Craig: That’s right.
Chris: And that is if you’re not — you’re never doing Be the Match for the person — don’t wait for the person who’s going to ask you and you’re like, “Oh my God, I’m totally going to donate and I’m going to give my stuff to you.”
Craig: Do it now.
Chris: It never works that way. You got to be in the system for the system to work.
Craig: Yeah, it’s the best One Cool Thing. It really is.
John: Hooray. That’s our program. So thank you very much, Chris Nee, for joining us.
Chris: Thank you so much for having me.
Craig: That was great. You did a good job.
Chris: I’m really sorry that I didn’t swear as much as Malcolm Spellman.
John: We’re delighted. We don’t have to put a little E in our explicit language —
Chris: I know. But I kind of wanted it to be like the pre-school writer who needed the E. Like that felt like a thing. I’m going to go after it next time.
John: Next time.
Craig: Are there any porn spoofs of Doc McStuffins yet?
Chris: There have been from the beginning. Because frankly —
Craig: Because the McStuffins.
Chris: Yes. I —
John: Both words lend themselves to puns.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, I knew when I came up with the idea, I was like, yeah, hi. And I’m sort of proud I got that through.
Craig: What does doc rhyme with you guys? I don’t get it.
Chris: Yeah. I’m saying yes. And I also — you know, there’s a whole other show that will happen in 20 years called Doc after Dark where, you know, obviously, you follow Doc and it ends up that she fails out of medical school.
Craig: Oh, boy. We’re going to have Disney lawyers over here.
Chris: It’s all downhill. It’s all downhill from there.
Craig: I would watch it on Cinemax, I presume.
Chris: I think, yes.
Craig: Friday night after dark.
John: Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel, as always, and edited by Mathew Chilelli. Thank you, Mathew.
Our outro this week is by Rajesh Naroth. Thank you. If you have an outro for us, write into firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s also where you could have written into to send in your questions. But you can send in your screenwriting questions there, and we may get to those on a show. On Twitter, I am @johnaugust, Craig is @clmazin. Chris, you are?
Chris: Yeah, because there’s a Chris Nee already.
John: Is that an Asian man?
Chris: No, there’s a football guy.
Craig: Football? There is a football guy?
Chris: Well, there’s Chris Snee which is my nickname is Snee.
Chris: But there is a guy who tweets about football, Chris Nee. He got my name.
John: He got your name. We have a live show on January 25th. It is starring — well, me and Craig will be there, but we’re not the stars.
John: Jason Bateman is a true star. And Lawrence Kasdan wrote a little movie called Star Wars.
Craig: Opening — so by the time this airs —
John: It would already be open.
Craig: It will have already have opened. I’m going to get — I’m just going to go out on a limb here. I think it’s going to make $15 million or $16 million this weekend.
John: I think that’s absolutely a guarantee.
Craig: With highs up to 20 — think about it guys, $20 million in a weekend.
John: It’s facing some tough competition. Like the second week of In the Heart of the Sea —
Chris: That’s going to be tough.
John: Yeah. And Amy Poehler’s movie is up against it but I just want to —
Craig: Well, but also just like life. I mean like people love reading books for instance. So there’s that.
John: They do. Absolutely.
Craig: So there’s that.
John: Yeah. And the holiday hubbub.
Craig: There’s holiday hubbub going on. By the way, when are you — I’m seeing it on Saturday.
John: I’m seeing it on Friday.
Chris: I am waiting a week. I’m a big wait-a-weeker.
Craig: Okay. I’ll call you and tell you what happens.
John: We’re recording the show on a Wednesday. But already the reviews have started to come out. And so I have to, like — I’m basically out of Twitter until — I don’t want to see any —
Chris: No, you don’t want to see anything.
Craig: Reviews didn’t stop me from seeing The Phantom Menace. Reviews aren’t going to mean anything to me. I will go see this and judge for myself.
Chris: But did you read the entire article where a dad was trying to explain to his kid what the big deal was about Star Wars and he used Doc McStuffins coming back in 20 years as his example?
Craig: You mean —
John: Oh my God.
Chris: Because that was a good —
Craig: Doc McStuffins after dark?
Chris: Yes. Like, if it — yes. He totally went for the Doc McStuffins after dark example.
Craig: It’s really — all roads lead to McStuffins.
Chris: Yes, they do.
John: They do. You’ll find the links to that article and everything else we talked about on the show at the show notes at johnaugust.com. And Chris Nee, thank you again for —
Chris: Thank you.
John: A very fun episode.
Craig: Thanks, Chris.