Posted: Sun 06/03/2012 10:00 PM
This blog (it’s my first, so be gentle) will give you a little bit of insight into how we came up with the questions for Are You Normal, America? and what it’s like being part of the AYNA team. On that front, let me start by saying that I have learned one thing while working on this show—and that is that I am most assuredly not normal. I have a sinking feeling that as this blog progresses that fact will become abundantly clear.
From early on, it was very clear that Oprah and [executive producer and host] Barry Poznick wanted Are You Normal, America? to be about things that happen in everyday life. The funny thing about everyday life is that it happens...every day. So, as a result, a lot of the questions we came up with arose from instances that happened right in the office. (Don’t get your hopes up. “Is it normal to have had sex in a public place?” is not one of them.) In fact, one of the questions from our very first show came from the phone call offering me the job. I’ll get to that in a second.
But first, a bit about me: I am 34 years old and originally from Texas. I spent many years as an improv comic and eventually segued into writing and producing for TV. My mother is a Methodist minister who would sometimes teach Sunday school as a clown named Yes-Yes. My father ran a hospice in our hometown and would dress up like Abraham Lincoln for local events. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes—they DID come to one of my little league games in their costumes. They actually got in a bit of an argument in the parking lot. You don’t know true humiliation until you strike out four times in a baseball game and then have to get in a car with Honest Abe and a clown while they’re having a spat. Like I said...not normal.
I started working with Zoo Productions as a host producer on Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? (I’d like to go on record and ask them to stop making shows with question marks in the title. The grammar checker on my computer is tired.) I’ve done 8 shows and pilots with Barry and the fine folks at Zoo. This one has, by far, been my favorite. I’m proud as heck of this show and I hope you love it and tell everyone you know and they love it, too.
Enough of that, I promised you some insight and, dagnabbit, I’m going to deliver. Back to that fateful phone call...
I’m always happy to get a call from Barry. It usually means that I get to work on an interesting project with people I genuinely like. This was no exception. He told me that Zoo was developing a series with Oprah based on a segment from her show. To be honest, I zoned out for a minute after he said “Oprah.” I can’t describe the feeling I had as I was being told that I had a chance to work with a true icon of our business. For a freelancer like myself, work is always good news, but this was incredible. Working with my favorite production company AND someone as inspirational and accomplished as Oprah was like hitting the jackpot. As Barry explained the details, I got even more excited. Not only did I know this would be a great, relatable show, I also knew it was going to be a heap of fun to work on.This was turning into one of my all-time favorite phone calls.
There was just one hitch.
I was sitting on the toilet.
That’s right. Barry had called me up in the middle of doing my business. I got some of the best news of my professional life while on the crapper.
John Lennon said that life happens when you’re busy making plans. I guess life happens when you’re busy making other things, too.
It got a little uncomfortable as the call kept going. I was...um...finished, but I didn’t want to...er...go through the “post-production” ritual while still on the phone. It just seemed, I don’t know, disrespectful somehow. So, there I am...Barry telling me all about this exciting opportunity...and all I can think is, “Would he be able to HEAR the toilet paper?”
I’m pretty sure Barry couldn’t tell what I was doing and I’ve never mentioned it (until now. Hi, Barry!). But 20 exhilarating/excruciating minutes later, when we got off the phone and I attended to my personal sanitation, I remember thinking “I wonder if THAT was normal.”
Thanks to Oprah and Barry...I got a chance to find out.
The very first question I submitted on my very first day was, “Is it normal to have talked on the phone while using the toilet?” and it made it into the show! I can’t tell you the answer (you can watch our contestants Scot and Charlë try to figure it out on our special premiere episode), but I can tell you this—if you have done it, you are not alone.
As you’ll see, many more questions sprang right out of our experiences in the office. I’ll be here all season to tell you more stories and pull back the curtain a tiny bit. (Don’t worry, it won’t always be me on the toilet behind that curtain.)
Enjoy the show and I’ll see you next time,