Sunday, September 16, 2018

"You Gonna Need a Box?"

“You Gonna Need a Box?”
by Marianne Curan

In my profession, which I’ll loosely call “Show Biz,” performers often describe themselves as a “working” actor/writer/host, etc —which even the least hip to that phrase assume that means you’re an “unemployed” actor/writer/host, etc—

If you do claim to be a “working” anything you better be ready to answer the inevitable, “Oh, great! Where can I see you?” 

To prevent stammering into an inelegant babble of bullshit I keep these quick shut-em-up answers handy:

1) “You can’t actually see me because I'm doing a lot of voice-overs… dubbing movies into English. I had no idea Farsi was such a musical language!”

2) “You can see me on “Law & Order.””  Here’s why this works:  Anyone who’s ever held a spear in a high school play has worked on “Law & Order.” No matter what scene or character you describe there’s an episode of it in re-runs that they’ll buy is you. You were undercover, right? I know this because not only have I seen EVERY episode but I also did an episode of “Law & Order.”  (Bet you just made the “dun-dun” noise, right?)

3) “I’m a strict Method Actor and I’m rehearsing a new project about being an unemployed radio host…the hardest role I’ve ever had. But it’s coming along.”   

Okay, I added that last one because I just became an unemployed radio host.

I can honestly say I’ve never been personally fired from a job…any job.  Yes, shows I’ve been on were canceled, pilots for new shows weren’t picked up and I’ve been replaced by younger, cheaper talent.  But, the news always came from my agent, someone on MY side, so it never had the same sting.

That was until recently. My husband and I were co-hosts of a popular morning radio show nearing its 6th full year on the air.  But, one day on our way home from the studio, the phone rang.

A few hours later we found ourselves seated across from our boss, let’s call him Mr. Boss, and the head of HR, Ms. Helfinger. Mr. Boss, shifting in apparent discomfort at the unpleasant task ahead, leaned in to tell us that they were “going in a different direction.” 

“Going in a different direction.” Ha! Why is that the only thing management can come up with instead of saying what is actually happening… you’re being fired?  

Are they really going in a different direction? Did the radio show suddenly decide to manufacture hubcaps? Are they now grooming dogs?  Running a Mathnasium franchise?  That would be “going in a different direction.”

Nope. They’re still a radio station. They still play music on the radio, only now with new hosts.  And we just got fired.

Ms. Helfinger handed us the requisite “Don’t-Sue-Us-Cuz-We-Didn’t-Mean-It-Paperwork” and asked for our keycards (i.e. so we can’t go postal and pin Xeroxed copies of our asses on the break room bulletin board).

We all stood up in awkward silence. I was wavering between giggles and grim when Ms. Helfinger asked, “Are you gonna need a box?”

I almost laughed out loud at the sudden revelation. When you get fired they give you a box! That’s when I knew I’d really never been fired before. I never got a box.

That’s when I spotted two empty file boxes behind Ms. Helfinger’s chair. They were our boxes.

Bob and I looked at each other. “Do you need a box, sweetie?” I asked.  
“I don’t know. Do you?” he replied. 

“Well, I do have my stuffed Minion doll...
 and my Daffy Duck pen holder.” 

“Yeah, I only have a couple of baseball bobbleheads but something tells me I’m not taking them home.” offered Bob.

“No. No, you’re not.” I said with a grin. 

As we gathered our sparse belongings it appeared we would need only one of those boxes. Just one. Our entire 6 years on this show fit into one box.

Mr. Boss and Ms. Helfinger made their heartfelt goodbyes to us and we headed to the elevator for our last trip home from “work.”  Before the doors opened I grabbed Bob by the arm and led him to the stairs.

“No one in radio takes the stairs!” I said. “There’s much less of a chance we’ll be spotted making the “Box of Shame” walk!”  We laughed and quietly sneaked out, my 1st Place Chili Cookoff trophy poking out of “the Box.”

It’s a few weeks later and I’m settling into unemployment. I’m certainly not missing my 7 p.m. bedtime and my 3 a.m. wake-up calls. But, there’s much I do miss… entertaining people. It’s always the first thing you miss if you do what I do.

I found out that the hardest part of my new life is remembering what day of the week it is. Although I solved that by checking my Pill Minder box each morning when I pop my anti-depressants and blood pressure pills. “Oh, look! It’s Tuesday!”

Tomorrow will be Wednesday and so on, and so on. I’ll figure it out. I always do.

By the way, did you see me on “Law & Order?”  

Dun. Dun. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

That's The Pill I Take When I Go To Visit My Sister....

That’s The Pill I Take When I Go To Visit My Sister
by Marianne Curan 

I love reading “birth order” theories. Experts say the firstborn will be a leader, responsible, focused and in control. The middle child will be the peacekeeper and people pleaser always looking for compromise.  And, the youngest, which I am,  will go from being a creative and fun-loving child to become a self-centered, narcissistic asshole as an adult.

By the way, that description of the youngest was written by my sister, let’s call her “Kay,” who is the oldest.  As I always told my parents, “God had the good sense to place my two brothers between us so no one died.”

According to the birth order experts, these are my personality traits (accompanied by my proof of their validity):

Fun-loving: Have you seen the “Farting Preacher” on YouTube? (Link:
Uncomplicated: Hmm… Just don’t ask my ex, my husband or my shrink.
Manipulative:         Gee, thanks for trying to understand me … (starts to cry)
Outgoing:               Got TSA agents to sing Fig Newton song...twice!  (Link:
Attention seeker: See above.
Self-centered: I’m sorry. What were you saying?

While we were growing up in cookie-cutter suburbia, Kay, my then super smart, responsible, older-than-her-years sister doted on me. I’m eight years younger so until I hit puberty posed her no threat. 

But, in my teenage years, Kay, now in her 20’s saw every leniency my parents gave me as a double standard. “I never did that when I was your age” I’d hear ad infinitum when I got to wear a bikini, stay out late, get my ears pierced, date and on and on. 

My parents allowed me to do these things because a) they’d learned by child #4 what will and will not kill you and 2) they’d seen my sister chase boys to the point of dropping out her freshman year of college because she only took classes that had good-looking guys in them!  Needless to say, she fell 3 1/2 years shy of getting that coveted M.R.S. degree. 
Then somewhere in her 30’s and me in my 20’s  Kay decided to hate me.  Okay, let’s change that to “dislike” since my Mom hated the word hate. “Hate is a strong word,” she’d say, hating it.

I was having the time of my life in my late 20’s. I had a dream job doing sketch comedy and getting acting gigs, I had a great group of friends…and I was thin. 

Yes, I had the audacity to like staying in shape something my sister was slowly and sadly losing interest in doing. Kay’s rocky relationship with her live-in was getting rockier, she hated her job and she was eating her way through it all. 

But, why did she take it out on me?  

Kay was then, and still is, a “Grass is always greener” kind of person. She never missed a shot off the bow to let me know how lucky I was.  Never a comment about my hard work… only constant comparisons to her lesser fortunes—as self-imposed as they were. 

This pattern got to be pretty old. I longed for the days when she was a straight A student and teen model and I was a gangly grade schooler with braces, glasses and stringy hair. She liked me a lot better then. 

Over the years I learned to expect Kay’s notions of my “grand life” and let them roll over me.  It wasn’t until my father passed away suddenly and we were in the car after his funeral that she unleashed a pent-up tirade that explained it all.

I learned that day that she tells everyone how “self-centered” I am, how I only traveled to my parents to be the “entertainment,” that I manipulated her to avoid helping take care of our parents and on and on. 

According to Kay, I am the poster child for the birth order youngest child (see above).
I refrained from telling her that she is the poster child from a Stephen King novel. 

My father’s death sent me down a black hole for quite some time. I was on anti-depressants and tranquilizers for months.  But, as I weaned off my grief and my meds I had an “Ah-Hah” moment about my sister.

I was with some actress friends meeting a director for our new stage comedy, “The Hungry & Horny Show.”  One of the gals got a blinding headache and asked if anyone had an aspirin. I pulled out my “Pharmacy Purse Pal,” emptied its contents into my hand and watched our new director shriek in horror, “What is all that?”  (I didn’t know at the time that she was sober from an alcohol and drug addiction.)
So, not knowing that, I calmly stated “the little blue pills are Alleve which I take after the gym if I’m sore.  Those pink & white caps are my anti-depressants—THANK YOU JESUS!!  Oh, and those whopping white puppies are Excedrin—probably best for your headache-since they’ve got caffeine. These tiny white ones are Ambien—I am such an insomniac!  They make me sleepwalk… and cook dinner.  I know it sounds scary, but it is so great to wake up the next day and have dinner made…even if the gas stove is still lit!”

That’s when our new director, mouth aghast,  asked, “What in God’s name is that giant orange one?” 

“Oh, that’s my fave! That’s the pill I take when I go to visit my sister!!”

Everyone laughed, even me.  That’s when I realized I was turning a corner back to humor and… sanity. 

I was determined to hold on to that last orange pill. I planned to never take it…even when I did go to visit my sister.

That neon orange life vest is really meant for emergencies…and as much as my sister, let’s call her “Kay,” makes me crazy… it’s never an emergency.  At its worst, it’s a time to remember my beloved Mother reminding me that, “Hate is a strong word.”