7 Steps To Getting (And Losing) The Worst Job in Showbiz

Every Saturday we ask some of our favorite writers to fill in for us. Today, we have former Cracked.com writer Anthony Layser, who is now the deputy managing editor of Asylum.com.

Being a production assistant in the film and television business is tantamount to being a food service employee who empties the deep fryer and scrubs the urinals. It's a position I held with the TV Guide Channel--the entertainment industry equivalent of a taco stand. To call the work mindless doesn't appropriately explain the job; it was anti-mind. Yet like a lot of young people, I believed that being a PA would be my first step toward rising up the ranks, allowing me to one day achieve my goal of producing a sitcom featuring trained Komodo dragons. Here's how that went ...

#1. Accepting a Job I Knew Little About

Like any desperate comm. school grad, I applied for the job because I was told they possessed a studio that recorded moving images. At some point, a human relations rep probably explained that my position would essentially make me the entertainment industry equivalent of India's "Untouchable" caste, but apparently that seemed like a fair trade off to me.

What I Should Have Done:

It might have been advisable to actually watch the TV Guide Channel before signing on. Not only were there no exotic trained animal shows or sitcoms, but the entire programming philosophy was to have a sycophant fawn over network and cable clips in nearly identical segments with names like "Watch This!," "What's On" and "TV Circle Jerk!" Meanwhile, the advertisers were predominantly manufacturers of festive collectible plates and Elvis figurines.

#2. Assuming Others Were Aware of Our Product's Banality

After a week on the job, I was already becoming friendly with the staff, most of whom seemed genuinely disinterested in the pap we were creating. I soon felt comfortable enough to crack jokes about creating programming that's sole focus was to encourage its viewers to watch something else. Before I realized the production manager was not laughing along, she pulled me aside and said, "Some of us take our work seriously." I immediately felt sympathy for her.

What I Should Have Done:

Kept my head down, and did my job. If someone asked me what I thought about the TVGC, I didn't necessarily have to lie. I could have simply told them, I was using it as a source of income until I sold my teleplay inspired by a harrowing stint on Master Cleanse. (That was always my cover. I would never blithely reveal my Komodo idea for fear of it being stolen.).

#3. Not Watching American Idol

I was in my early 20s, so naturally I spent much of my downtime drinking with friends, attempting to convince women to sleep with me or both. This left little time for watching television after work, especially an aggrandized talent show sans juggling. Unfortunately, the TVGC's main objective was to fellate whatever was at the top of Neilson ratings.

What I Should Have Done:

I could have at least tried to find recaps of the shows online. As it were, I made no effort to understand American Idol and sat baffled as we shot segment after segment about the dramatic battle between an obese black man and a closeted gay elf.

#4. Ignoring the Directives of the Production Manager

I quickly grew to dislike the production manager as she continually ordered me to do things like make coffee, print copies of scripts and maintain a database of production information. At first I complied, but when I realized other, more motivated PAs would pick up my slack, I decided it best to get into a routine of getting stoned in the parking garage with the cute wardrobe assistant.

What I Should Have Done:

Perhaps I should have followed the production manager's edicts and been a more diligent employee. However, had this happened, I may have never been able to convince the aforementioned wardrobe assistant to hook up with me.

#5. Not Properly Embracing the Award Show Spirit

When the Emmy Awards rolled around, TVGC rolled out a huge marketing effort to publicize that they had recently acquired Joan Rivers and her daughter Melissa--via a multi-million dollar contract--to host the channel's red carpet coverage. Oddly though, I rarely saw the pair around the office during the long hours of preproduction… Did I mention that I was barely making enough to afford socks?

What I Should Have Done:

I should have relished the opportunity to be part of a red carpet production and been grateful that I was able to cavort with television celebrities. Instead, I attempted to recoup what I felt I was rightly owed at the craft services table. The indigestion was something awful, though it was no mistake when I passed wind in the direction of Joan's interview with the cast of According to Jim.

#6. Offering Suggestions for Improvements

Not long after the Emmys, the production staff was brought into the studio and told there would be a "restructuring." Each of us had to do an interview to beg for our jobs. When brought in to discuss my role and future with the company, I suggested that I would like to find a way to create a Curb Your Enthusiasm-type program for TVGC channel. It felt like a smart answer, because Curb was a hit for HBO and with a little tinkering the format could accommodate reptilian co-stars.

What I Should Have Done:

In retrospect, I should have characterized myself as a loyal servant, and aligned my personal mission with that of the TVGC's mission. For instance, a stronger response would have been to say that I've always dreamed of producing a less hip version of Entertainment Tonight hosted by the incomparable Billy Bush.

#7. Burning My Only Bridge

I was taken aback when the production manager explained that I was, "Not part of the plan going forward" with the glint of pleasure in her eyes. So over my final two weeks, I arrived at the studio around noon and ignored nearly all of her directives. My coworkers, many of whom were also let go, seemed genuinely impressed by my unwavering insubordination and blatant shiftlessness.

What I Should Have Done:

I suppose I could have worked even harder and shown the TVGC they had made a mistake. Even if they didn't take me back, perhaps I could've proved myself to be of value. I may have even been able to get references that could've helped land future jobs in TV production. Instead, I opted to return to writing and editing websites--where the real money is.

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