Monday, May 19, 2008
The Effexor Effect: After GOP slogan, comedy writers stay home. Too depressed to work
The offices of comedy writers across the country were dark this morning. Almost none had come to work. No, it wasn’t the usual Monday morning slacking; it was something far more ominous.
And no, they had not gone back on strike.
What was emerging was a widespread depression among the writers so profound that they could no longer get out of bed.
They just feel they can’t compete with the Republicans on the Hill in humor or irony-- what should be the writers’ stock-in-trade.
Their condition is being called the “Effexor Effect.”
In the wake of three recent and spectacular special election losses, the House Republicans, who are panicked about more losses in November, announced early last week an effort to rebrand the party. Their new slogan: “Change you Deserve.”
At first, the only thing funny about the slogan to the writers was that it was an only slightly modified version of presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s slogan “Change We Can Believe In,” proving to them that the GOP had no new ideas to offer, let alone change. But they didn’t really think it was that funny.
But what sent the comedy writers over the edge was that “Change You Deserve” turned out to be the trademarked slogan of the Wyeth anti-depressant, Effexor XR.
The disconsolate Harry Smithers, a writer for The Onion said the realization of how he no longer had anything to offer dawned on him slowly. It wasn’t until the weekend that he realized he had been licked. “I do satire,” he said glumly, “I make s*%# up. But of all the s*%# that I’ve made up, I’ve never come up with anything as funny as that. I just can’t face the other writers now. And I can’t even think about writing.”
Danny Versito, a writer for Jay Leno said, “Look I’m supposed to do stuff that is out there. You know what I mean, topical, but OUT there.” When this reporter called on Versito, he had a three-day growth of beard, his apartment was littered with vodka bottles and pizza boxes, and his plaid pajama bottoms and Raiders t-shirt were thick with tomato sauce and congealed cheese – all signs of depression. “But hell, how can I be out there, man, when the Republicans steal a slogan from a drug company? And it really happened. That’s just too rich. We couldn’t make up anything that good. So what’s the point?” He glumly hung his head and shook it back and forth. “I can’t compete with that. They’ve won. They’ve won.”
One of Dave Letterman’s writers, a gloomy Pascal Gletch, said, “It’s been hard, really hard. I tried to find some humor in it, but can’t. It’s just gone. All these years we’ve been making fun of the Republicans and now they turn out to be funnier than us. That’s just not right.”
The pall on the writing community has set in on East Coast as well, where the writers from Comedy Central who picked up their phones today expressed shame and embarrassment. “We tried a piece mocking the new GOP slogan for Stewart last week, but you know what? It wasn’t nearly as funny as the fact that the Republicans had stolen it from a drug company.”
The depression took awhile to spread throughout the comedy writing community. “Like everyone else, I went to work last week as usual, like we hadn’t lost our bearings,” said Tommy Grinns, a writer for Late Night’s Conan O’Brian. “But Friday night, I couldn’t sleep, I felt worthless and guilty, kept thinking dark thoughts, even of suicide, and worst of all, I tried everything I knew to get out of it, even going back to my William Hung CDs.” Grinns paused. “But the laughter was gone. The Republicans had robbed me of my laughter, nay my will to live.”
The executives who fought the writers throughout the three-month strike earlier this year are expressing dismay over the absence of writers this morning, perhaps succumbing to the Effexor Effect themselves. Stanley Trueshoes, a spokeman for Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, said, “Even management is feeling it – you know, a loss of interest in normal activities, irritability, fatigue, the whole canoli.” Trueshoes said he’d talked to his counterparts at NBC and CBS, who had also only recently been bashing the writers during the strike. Now they were more sympathetic he says, “or as sympathetic as one can be when irritable and massively depressed.”
According to psychiatrist Pamela Fountain, the writers and executives have all the classic symptoms of depression. “From what Mr. Grinn himself said,” she advised, “he is experiencing virtually all the symptoms for which a psychiatrist such as myself would prescribe Effexor. Sure it’s no quick fix, and there are side effects such as constipation, dizziness, insomnia, loss of appetite, sweating and impotence. But isn’t that a small price to pay? And anyway, think of the up-side. Writers could use a little insomnia – it’ll keep them up and churning away more humor,” Fountain said with a sunny smile. “I think he and the others would do well to start taking it right away. Americans can’t afford another dreary humorless period as they did during the strike.”
As for the Republicans, they are holding fast to the slogan. John Boehner (R-Ohio), defending it this weekend, said, “This slogan, like everything else about the Republican Party reflects our commitment to the things Americans deserve, especially change. We believe they deserve a change. You know, change is good. Change is what we’re for. For that’s what Americans deserve. Because change is good and we’re good.”
Asked for a specific change the House GOP had I mind, Boehner offered, “For one, a change in the way we do business in Washington – a change that gets things done – starting with getting that bridge built in Alaska. That’s a change Americans deserve.”