I am not a big e-reader. I like books. I want to turn pages and feel the weight of a new story in my hands. However, Amazon offers Prime Reading which is a selection of Kindle books for free and I couldn’t not try it! I downloaded the app for my phone but didn’t want to commit to a full length book on a 6 1/2 in screen so I started with some quick reads.
Fred Stoller is the perennial “that guy” from TV but for one year in the early 90s he was a writer for Seinfeld. Despite his ambitions to be an actor Stoller, who had a background in stand up comedy, got a chance to write for the biggest show of the decade from Larry David. He put his acting dreams on hold to try his hand at the stability of being a television writer.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. The Seinfeld writers room was full of competition; Larry and Jerry were also very hard to please but had carte blanche on story approval. Stoller did get one big break while he was writing, he wrote the episode about Jerry getting the “free suit” in exchange for a meal, but his contract was not renewed. He is honest about his struggles to find his groove as a writer and that, in the end, the most joy he felt that year was when he did a guest starring role on Murphy Brown.
While Stoller’s contract wasn’t renewed he did come back the following year to do a guest acting role, as a bad date for Elaine, so it wasn’t all for nothing. Overall this pales in comparison to Seinfeldia, the exhaustive Seinfeld study I read last year, and feels like it would have been better off as a chapter in a longer memoir.
Fred Stoller is clearly a fan of the Kindle Single.
Stoller was on the 1989 episode of HBO Young Comedians with Rob Schneider and David Spade; in a recent interview Schneider discusses how that special was the breakthrough moment for him and Spade. Stoller reflects on why it wasn’t his big break in Five Minutes to Kill.
Stoller discusses his own career path as well as the other five comedians who appeared on the special. It’s bittersweet, besides Spade and Schneider, no one really created the comedic splash they were hoping to make from the appearance. I think the two most depressing outcomes were Warren Thomas, who died in relative obscurity and was in the morgue for almost a month before they found his wife, and Jann Karam who went on to be a caterer, the job she had between gigs, full time. Stoller was somewhere in between. He left stand up comedy and spent the next several decades in one-off television roles.
This again feels like an extended chapter in a longer book, I haven’t read his full length memoir so maybe it is, but I’ve always been interested in behind the scenes Hollywood stories like this.