Two Thursday afternoons ago, I was walking down Brainerd Road in Chattanooga, looking for the Food Lion so I could buy groceries for KilBaby and me. We’d just flown in from Los Angeles, I was working at the Comedy Catch. KilBaby and I were hungry for, respectively, cawwots and an Amy’s Pot Pie. The Food Lion was a short walk in a walking town, but Chattanooga is not a walking town. The sidewalk on Brainerd Road stopped abruptly and we were on gravel. I held KilBaby’s hand and took the side nearest to the road so if a texting driver drifted over, she would run over me, not my son. That’s what mothers do. In fact, if you are not prepared to get hit by an unregistered red Nova in Southeastern Tennessee, perhaps you shouldn’t have children.
I was in a dream state, hardly able to believe that yesterday had happened.
About a month ago, I’d done a packet for a late night comedy show. This was the fourth packet I’d done for these guys since 2005. A packet is a writing sample, usually a collection of jokes and desk/sketch ideas. My agent let me know they were taking packets again and I cooked one up, quick.
I’ve mentioned before that reading message boards during my brief run on Last Comic Standing made me despondent. People thought I sucked, that I talked about my kid too much, that my outfits were awful. Someone on Hulu hated the shape of my face, which is a problem that has no solution. To regain my sanity, I guess, I began to write monologue jokes and post them on Facebook. The instant feedback made me feel funny again. I kept it up after LCS ended. When it was time to put the packet together, I was able to sift through a sizeable collection of monologue jokes, and the final 25 were pretty good.
On Tuesday, I got an email asking if I was available for a meeting. I said yes. I was going to Chattanooga on Thursday, and would be back the following Monday. The meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, at 1:30. Tomorrow. I plowed through the tops in my closet. Nothing was right. Too feminine, too tight, too comedy-clubby, too mom-ish. I needed something dykey yet professional. Lumberjack with a pedicure. At Target on Wednesday morning, I found a tailored shirt with sleeves designed to roll up. Hello, I am ready to write some motherfucking jokes. Let’s do this. I also bought an iron. It’s time I owned one of those things. And if I didn’t get the job, I could return it.
The meeting was surreal. For comedy writers, this show is the Holy Grail. I chatted with the head writer like my life wasn’t on the line and after about 15 minutes, the iconic host popped in. The next 30 minutes are ones I have replayed in my head a hundred times since. Comedy, jokes, my background, people I knew who worked on the show, hometowns. Despite that I said at least five dumb things, I was made to feel completely at ease. At the end of the meeting, hands were shook and “see you laters” exchanged.
I drove home thinking if that was as far as I got, I would be ok. “Later” could mean fifty years from now, not next week. Don’t read into anything. I didn’t want to want anything more than what I already had.
Around 6:30 PM, my cell rang. I didn’t recognize the number. The caller asked for Laurie Kilmartin. I said I was speaking. The caller wondered if I would be interested in coming aboard. I screamed or something, I may have replied in French, which I do not speak. Yes, yes indeed. I can come back tonight if you guys want! I threw KilBaby under the bus, also my gig in Chattanooga and Christmas Day. Yes, yes, yes. I can’t remember the rest of the conversation, except that KilBaby loudly demanded eggs in the middle of it.
That happened in a 23 hour period. Eleven hours later, my kid and I were on a plane to Tennessee.
A pickup truck sped down Brainerd. I scooted us in even further, I didn’t want to die in Chattanooga, “Truck Hits Road Comic.” No. The soonest I can die is Monday, Sept 20th, after 6 PM, so the the headline can read “Truck Hits Conan Writer.”