Four Performers on Getting "Fired!"

Susan Gerhard May 19, 2006

They tell us that “pain plus time equals comedy.” But what writer-director-actor-blogger-NPR commentator Annabelle Gurwitch has found is that pain plus celebrity can equal a franchise — to date, a book, a number of live theater shows, and now, a documentary film — that can be uncomfortably funny at points, but also sobering and poignant as well. The “Fired!” project has taken many forms — and you can buy the written version tonight at A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, when Clinton-era U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich shows up at 7 p.m. in support of it — or you can get two for one (snippets of the live theater version within the documentary) when “Fired!” the movie plays Docfest tonight at the Little Roxie, and Saturday at the Women’s Building. What follows are four familiar performers who once found themselves in the “formerly employed by” category.

1. Anne Meara: Performing with husband Jerry Stiller in Cleveland, Meara says the act was going over “like a malignancy” when Stiller asked a man in the back listening to the ball scores to please kill the radio. The man agreed to turn it down, but as it turns out, he was sitting with the owner of the club. “We were fired from Cleveland. We were, in my mind, fired from the whole state of Ohio.”

2. Richard Kind: Working with Second City in Chicago, Kind took on a guest acting job for a TV series shooting there. He believed he did a great job, but later, the head of the network called and requested a re-shoot with a Midwestern Goy, saying “What the f&$# are we shooting in Chicago for?!”

3. Illeana Douglas: Paid as an Armani showroom model to wear slicked back hair, tons of makeup, and a poster-board, Douglas said Mr. Armani himself walked by and commented, “They look like clowns.” By her sixth hour on the job, Douglas was bored enough standing next to a mannequin with no upper limbs to alter her sign to say “Please Send Money for Arms.” “I hated that job.”

4. Tim Allen: Laboring in a tool and dye factory fabricating locating pins, Tim Allen once attempted to get a half-day off by speeding up his output to meet what he believed was some kind of daily quota, only to realize he’d — and probably everyone else — would now be required to double their output. “It caused a union insurrection.”