Blake The Idiot
I've known for some time that my legacy will be. Here it is: I can introduce specifically chosen strangers and there's a good chance they will become really good friends. For example, my god sister (our mothers were best friends and became god mothers for the other's kid) became best friends with a woman I introduced her to at a party celebrating my divorce. My ex-wife and my ex-writing partner became buds (that wasn't my favorite pairing or time, but it supports the hypothesis). Folks who met in my wedding frequently comment on each other's FB and Instagram, like the extended family I always wanted. So anyway, that's what I'm good at. That's not the legacy on my wishlist, though. My wishlist legacy follows.
For years, I've been a playwright and screenwriter. The thing is, I can never seem to achieve my real dream: to get a creative group/collective/unit together to become a force to be reckoned with. I always envisioned a Monty-Python-sized collective of four or five wild and comedy-driven creatives that would collaborate on writing, directing, acting, whatever. A group that could be brutally honest with each other for the benefit of the group's output. I've never gotten there. Close but no (exploding) cigar.
I have read many books about the Monty Python comedy group with awe and wonder. Four TV series, four movies, stage tours. One of the team, Eric Idle, once opined, 'Python is a good writing group. We were never a good party group.' Another member, John Cleese, has remarked how great it was to have aggressive disagreements about the material that led to better material (for example, did you know that the 'dead parrot' sketch was originally about a car dealership?). All of the group disagreed on the points made in their film 'Life of Brian' and were vocal about disagreeing with each other all over the place on their final film, 'The Meaning of Life.' Two members Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam both directed 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' and were vicious with each other's style - leading to, you guessed it, a fantastic film.
Once the group went solo, their individual indulgences led to stuff that just wasn't as phenomenal as the material they did as a whole. Nobody remembers Rutland Weekend Television, 'Fierce Creatures' and 'American Friends.' Occasionally, the individual members would knock it out of the park - 'Brazil', 'A Fish Called Wanda' and 'The Rutles' come to mind - but more often than not, their group work always tended to outshine the individual pursuits.
Why, you ask? In Python, there was always a struggle, a tension that took each of the guys out of their ideal individual path and onto a path that needed all six guys to equally co-pilot. Make sense? That struggle/tension can be applied to a number of groups: the Beatles for you older folks, NWA for you slightly younger folks. It can be applied to any relationship. The group dynamic, when done well, pushes each individual member to exceed.
[Side note: I often despair at diary entries that can be summed up by the phrase 'I like him/her so much but he/she doesn't seem to like/notice/care about me.' I always think liking someone who doesn't return the favor is a breathtaking waste of time.]
I have tried forming groups for years and years, and they never really lasted. For a long time, I thought it was me - something I did wrong. And, I admit, in a creative collective, I'm a strong personality - but, at the same time, you can't really be passive and still be a full team member. Try putting 25% into your relationship and watch how quickly it falls apart. But, despite my abilities and dedication, keeping a group together has always evaded me.
While I would not discount my personality as being a factor, I know we're in a whole new world these days when it comes to being in a team. In the last decade, people tend to put more work into being offended and wanting to be heard/respected/understood far more than they are willing to put in the work. And comedy (my chosen genre) is not, nor should it ever be, a safe space. It's a place for hard truths.
For example, in the last film I directed, I brought together three other established and professional writers to collaborate on the script. Writer #1 didn't write a thing, but did text me about how much $ it took him to take an Uber to our meetings. But he wanted a role in the film. Writer #2 didn't write much and would text me 'let me know how I can help' once in a while, to which I'd reply 'write something'. Writer #3 was very involved and re-wrote great chunks of the script. So Writer #3 and I struggled and fought each other - respectfully - and created what I think is a pretty fun little film. So, while I got a good film out of the deal, I was very saddened by Writer #1 and Writer #2 just being as useful as tits on a bull.
I wish I could have had a Python-sized group. By all accounts of my talent and time, I should have gotten one. But I guess that's why they say success is half what you can do and half luck. And I guess I'm not terribly lucky.
I guess that's the only point of this entry (until I figure out what I'm trying to accomplish by writing it).