Now that CBS has officially added "Listen Up" -- a situation comedy based on columns I wrote in The Post -- to its fall lineup, the first question I am asked is:
"How does it feel having Jason Alexander play you?"
Here's how it feels, in one word.
Okay, that's two words. But then I've always overwritten.
The next question I get is: "Who's going to play me?"
My colleagues at The Post ask me that. My co-workers at "Pardon The Interruption" ask me that. People on my block, people I went to junior high with 40 years ago (who I don't remember even after they tell me we were in metal shop together, and how could I ever forget when Freddy Quartuccio tried to make bullets for his zip gun), people I see in the bank, my mailman, the UPS guy, the guy in the liquor store -- everybody thinks they should be in the show, and that Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts should play them.
And I tell them all the same thing: "You should live so long."
See, I'm just here to hold out my hands and catch the money. I have nothing to do with the series. I don't write it. I don't cast it. I'm not in it. Nobody asks my advice. Nobody wants me around. I don't even get my parking validated. I have no authority over this TV show. If I did, Brad Pitt would be playing me.
Actually, I'm thrilled and honored Jason Alexander is playing me. I knew the toughest part of casting the role would be finding somebody as hot looking as I am.
But like I said, it's very weird having someone -- anyone -- play you on TV. The other day, when CBS announced its fall lineup at a shindig for 1,200 people or so at Carnegie Hall in New York City, they showed a few clips from "Listen Up." And as I was watching it, out of the blue I began to sweat uncontrollably. I don't mean I got a little clammy; I mean I was dripping wet. Gary Williams wet. You could have gotten your car washed just driving past me.
Afterward, I asked Jason what I could do about this. He said, "Wear terrycloth underpants." (Did you notice how I referred to Jason Alexander as "Jason," to imply he and I are now best friends? Yeah, pretty soon the whole "Seinfeld" gang -- Jason, Jerry, Larry David -- will be coming over to my crib, hanging out with me and my peeps, chillin'. That's how we do it in the business. And by the business, I mean the industry. Ciao, baby.)
Of course my timing could be terrible. Just this week I read a story saying sitcoms are dead. Reality shows are in. Franchise dramas are in. (Like "Law, And Order A BLT," and "CSI: Scaggsville.") Animated shows are in. Sitcoms are out. ABC dumped a sitcom with Jessica Simpson. If a hot babe like Jessica Simpson can't get her sitcom on, what chance does a sitcom about an old, fat bald guy have? Unlike "Seinfeld," which succeeded by being about nothing, my show is about something -- unfortunately it's me. I don't have any of the staples every successful sitcom has: I don't have a wacky neighbor. I don't have incorrigible in-laws. I don't have an alien in the attic. I don't have a stripper in the basement. Oooh, that would be sweet. Sadly, I've just got Paul Wolfowitz in a French maid's outfit. No, I'm kidding. It's a tunic and lederhosen.
Like I said, I didn't write the script for the pilot. A man named Jeff Martin did. He was one of the original writers for "The Simpsons," so you know he's funny. Anyway, there was one line in the pilot that cracked me up. My son's character is offering to drive my daughter to school, explaining he needs "to get enough points" for a full license. And Jason says, "How do you get enough points? You hit the people, but you don't kill them?" I told Jeff I loved that line.
"You wrote it," he said. "I took it right out of your column."
"Really?" I said. "I don't remember it. I must have lifted it from Dave Barry."
I've tried to convince myself it's not really me on TV. After all, they've made a lot of changes to my life to make the show. They've made my son older than my daughter. They've given me a wife -- she never appeared in the columns -- and made her an interior decorator. If it was up to me I'd have made her an heiress, and I wouldn't be working two jobs, newspapers and TV.
But everybody who sees the show will assume it's all true. Which is why I didn't want them to use my last name. The stuff I wrote wasn't my real life; it was an exaggeration of my real life to entertain readers. I don't have a wife or kids. I live alone in a small apartment in Gaithersburg. I'm really a woman. A stewardess.
After the Carnegie Hall deal, CBS threw a dinner for the people on their new shows, and their biggest sitcom hit, "Everybody Loves Raymond." John Goodman was there, because he's starring in another new sitcom. At one point he stood up and began gesturing in my direction. Since he's a very large man, when he gets up and starts gesturing, you can pretty much see him in France.
I was at a table with Jason and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who's also in "Listen Up." (He plays Wilbon, but I'll let Wilbon write about that in his column.) Behind us, at the next table, were Ray Romano and Rob Lowe, who's in a new CBS show. I assumed Goodman was flagging one of them down. But as he approached it became clear I was the object of his attention.
"Great show," he shouted at me. "You've got a great show. I watch it all the time."
Obviously, he couldn't be referring to "Listen Up," which hasn't been on yet. It had to be "PTI." I smiled and thanked him.
Then, as if he were Moses coming down from the mountain with the tablets in his hands, Goodman solemnly said, "God bless baseball." He paused, then said it again, this time louder, "God bless baseball."
I waited for some other words to come out, so I could understand his context and perhaps offer a response. But there were no more words. That was all he had to say: "God bless baseball." I guess anything more than that and I would have had to pay him scale.
By the way I should confess I wasn't unaffected by where I was and who I was hanging out with -- all these Hollywood stars. Mr. Tony tried to go Hollywood himself. (Notice how I referred to myself in the third person? Get used to it.) All through dinner I had on sunglasses. I thought I was way cool, wearing shades indoors at night. Had I been more accustomed to that look, however, I might not have excused myself from the table and walked straight into the ladies' room.
One last thing: Some friends have offered to host a party the night the show debuts. They say we can all watch it together. But I've already declined. I can't imagine going to anybody else's house wearing a towel.