Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jealous Name Dropper

There must have been something in the water at Writers House, because at least three of my colleagues from when I worked there in the 90’s went on to be rather famous. The agency was relatively small at the time (about 12 agents and as many assistants), and although there was a fair bit of turnover in my six years, the odds of so many successes are still pretty impressive.

First, there’s the very talented writer, Hannah Tinti, whose book of short stories entitled ANIMAL CRACKERS was a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Hannah was also one of the founders of the literary magazine One Story. As I understand it, Hannah’s first novel, THE GOOD THIEF will be published by Dial Press this August. Go Hannah!

Next is Christian Finnegan. Christian is a stand-up comedian who has had his own special on Comedy Central and has appeared on Chappelle’s Show. He’s probably best known, though, for being a regular on VH1’s Best Week Ever. Christian was just as hilarious then as he is now, and he was always such a fan of pop culture that this must be a dream gig for him. Good on ya, Christian!

And then there’s John Hodgman.

On the off chance you don’t recognize his name, trust me, you’ve seen him. His Q rating skyrocketed when he starred in a series of Apple commercials with Justin Long. He’s the PC, as in “Hi, I’m a Mac….and I’m a PC.” Oh yeah, THAT guy.

John has accomplished so much, it’s amazing. He’s written a very funny, fictitious almanac entitled THE AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE, which has had a cult following. He’s appeared in numerous TV shows and is a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He’s had a cameo on one of my favorite shows ever, Flight of the Conchords. If that wasn't enough, a few weeks ago he was in Newsweek’s CW sidebar with an arrow pointing up, for cripes sake. And these are just the things I know about. I have a sneaking suspicion that John has an underground army of fans who are plotting at this very moment to help him achieve world domination.

All right, I’ll admit it…I’m a teeny, tiny bit jealous. Just a wee bit. I always knew John would do really well—he’s off-the-charts smart, charming, and very funny—but I thought he’d end up as a power agent, not a cultural phenomenon. I knew he’d be successful, but did he really have to go ahead and be that successful?

My point here is not just to drop names, but to address the issue of professional jealousy, which is something that hits most of us at one time or another. When we know someone of similar age and opportunities who suddenly breaks out in their field, it can leave us feeling a little lacking, like maybe we did something wrong. Or we didn’t do enough. Or maybe that there is only so much success and happiness in the world, and now there’s less to go around. Who hasn’t felt this at one time or another?

But if we really take time to stop and think, we know this can’t be true. It makes no sense to take another person’s success personally, because it has absolutely nothing to do with us. Nothing. It can’t diminish us, because it never had anything to do with us in the first place. Some people hit it big right out of the starting gate, others take decades. Most of us never hit it big at all, and that’s all right, too—fame is not the only measure of a person’s worth. One person’s happiness and prosperity is good for all, and takes away from least that's what I told myself the other night when I saw that he was in Tina Fey's new movie BABY MAMA.

Knock ‘em dead, John.

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