And I went, “Uumph.”
And the director said, “Great. One more.”
And I went, “Oomph.”
“Great. Let’s try again.”
This was in Los Angeles, months ago, en route to my biggest moment of fame on the planet Earth and that is, of course, a cameo on “The Simpsons.”
“Great. Again, please.”
My “motivation” (as actors say) was being tossed out of a door and landing splat on the sidewalk. It wasn’t just my motivation. It was my actual part. Although I hadn’t done it. Because they hadn’t drawn it. The way “The Simpsons” works is you do your lines and then they draw the cartoon, so if you are truly pathetic they can at least draw you as pathetic and viewers don’t sit there clucking, “This guy can’t act.”
Which I can’t.
“Great. Let’s do another.” Learning all the Hollywoodspeak
This all started when “The Simpsons” writers decided to pen a show about Abe (Homer’s father) sharing his memoirs with a young journalist. The plot was reminiscent of my book “Tuesdays With Morrie,” and they even called the episode “Thursdays With Abie” and they wrote me into the show because, I don’t know, maybe they thought they’d get sued, which I wouldn’t have done because, frankly, I don’t know how to sue and anyhow, why sue “The Simpsons”? I like the Simpsons, the cartoon group, not, you know, O.J.’s version.
In the episode, I show up to try to get Abe to speak to me and he says “Never heard of you” and things get cartoon ugly and I am menacingly approached by a gang of senior citizens and six hours later, when they reach me, I am tossed into the street.
Which is why I was making those sounds.
“Great. And another Â ”
(By the way, I have learned that everything in Hollywood begins with “great.” Like, “Great script, just a few changes.” Or “Great take, let’s try again.” Great, apparently, is another word for “God help us.”)
Anyhow, I did about a thousand grunts, and I also did my lines, and all of it was into a microphone facing a blank wall.
So I did not meet Homer. Life as a cartoon character
Well, I sort of met Homer. And Bart. And Marge. At least I met the people who do the voices. They are very nice people and do not look anything like their “Simpsons” characters. And I saw my friend Hank Azaria, who does a gazillion “Simpsons” voices despite having once played me in a film, and I am very happy that did not sink his career.
And I had lunch with Matt Groening, who created the show and is about as down-to-earth and unassuming as if he drew himself into the farthest corner of the show, and speaking of drawing, I met the guy who was going to draw my character, and he was also quite nice, although I caught him looking at my face several times and I imagined he was thinking, “I do not get paid enough to do this.”
Anyhow, they were all great and upon leaving I asked, “When will this show be on?” And this was in May. And they said, “January.” So I guess it takes a while to draw that shadow on Homer’s face.
When I got home, word got out. And suddenly everyone was calling and saying, ” ÂThe Simpsons’? No way!” And I was absolutely the coolest son/brother/uncle on the planet. I had street cred – or cartoon cred – that a lifetime of writing never brought me.
Months passed. Christmas. New Year’s. And last Sunday, I was in the car on my way to a birthday party when someone called and said, “Hey, your ÂSimpsons’ episode is on.”
And I said, “Again, please?”
They never called to tell me.
So I missed it.
Apparently, however, the rest of the world did not. And thanks to DVRs, I was finally able to see the show myself. It was fun. It was clever. And I want to thank “The Simpsons” folks for immortalizing me and drawing my ears smaller than they are.
As for my hit-the-sidewalk performance? In a word, I’d say I was:
Whatever that means.
Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).