A lot of people report what’s happened. Only one man has the balls to report what hasn’t happened yet.
Andy Borowitz has won multiple awards for his humor. He has produced successful programs for film and television, his daily internet column the Borowitz Report attracts millions of readers and is a leading source of political satire. His satirical op-ed pieces permeate web, print and television media. He is one of the most respected satirists living, and so it is a testament to the savagely fickle and judgmental world of the entertainment business to learn that Borowitz was unceremoniously fired from one of his earlier comedic writing gigs. Why was he fired? For not grasping the depth of characters of a television sitcom.
Early in his career Borowitz was briefly employed as a writer for the Facts of Life, a television sitcom that ran from August 1979 to September 1988. Borowitz just wasn’t cut out for the job. The program’s producers constantly criticized his work and eventually told him he just didn’t “get Tootie,” which was probably a true statement, even if it was like saying you just don’t “get” your pet rock. “Tootie,” played by Kim Fields, was the token African American character on what was an otherwise all white television show. About the only thing there was to “get” about Tootie was that the network felt there was a need for upscale, boarding school girls to make occasional non-sequitors regarding African American culture. Millions of dedicated fans who followed the show during its eleven year run may disagree, but that’s pretty much how Borowitz saw it. He referred to Tootie as the “sarcastic black one,” and the other characters as the “sarcastic fat one,” and so on. Borowitz had no respect for the program’s characters or their development, so while it was probably true that he didn’t “get” Tootie, the problem was a bigger one than just that.
Although Borowitz hated the Facts of Life, that emotion didn’t lessen his sense of humiliation and failure. In an interview for Annabelle Gurwitch’s book, Fired, that includes his story, Borowitz explained, “…there’s this moment where you realize ‘I’m writing this really hacky show, but I’m failing at it. How bad does that make me?’” So what did Borowitz do when he realized he was failing? Did he fight for his own creative integrity? Did he assert himself and the quality of his unique brand of humor? In a word, no. He was a young writer and the Facts of Life was a major television show. “I got Stockhold syndrome,” he said. “I wanted to please my captors. I wanted to really prove that I ‘got’ Tootie, but it was to no avail.” At the end of the season, Borowitz’s contract was not renewed. Getting fired stung. In the interview with Gurwitch, Borowitz called the Facts of Life, “…the worst television show every produced,” referred to himself as a whore for every having been involved with it, and alluded to the middle-aged producers’ lack of connection to reality.
Not long after being fired from that job, however, Borowitz co-created the Fresh Prince of Bellaire, which helped launch Will Smith to mega-stardom. The Fresh Prince of Bellaire also propelled Borowitz to a successful career. He stopped compromising to authority and has since made a career out of satirizing those in power.
“My only agenda is to make fun of the guy who is running the show.” – Andy Borowitz
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“I have a fine sense of the ridiculous, but no sense of humor.”
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