The title asks a loaded question, for with the exception of a few sparse moments, someone definitely “stole the funny” from this featherweight roman-à-clef.
The production staff of the sitcom I Love My Urban Buddies (a less-than-subtle allusion to Friends) is in panic mode because its director Jasper Jones accidentally shot himself in the head with a pneumatic nail gun. Called in to rescue the desperate situation is J. T. Baker, who agrees to direct three episodes, including the ratings-significant Christmas episode. The narrative consists of a week-in-the-life of rehearsal, rewrites, unfaithful spouses, cast members taking time off in Vegas and a maniacal and backstabbing assemblage of writers, producers and agents. Amidst the chaos J. T. tries to create some semblance of order and professionalism, but it’s impossible to locate in the loopy and deformed “reality” of L.A. To help the reader understand the nature of this alternative cosmos, throughout the novel Benson inserts a boxed “definition” from “The Hollywood Dictionary” (Example: “Oh, We Love It”: This sucks!”). J. T. accepted the limited contract because he needs just a few weeks of work to qualify for a desperately needed health-care benefit—he just wants to return to his farm and family—but his professional life constantly threatens to spin out of control. When on the set he’s asked, “Who’s in charge here?” he answers, “I’m the director, so that definitely would not be me.” The one genuinely funny moment in the book occurs not on the sound stage, in casting or in the green room, but at the bar mitzvah of agent Dick Beaglebum’s son, a secular extravaganza in which singer Phat Azz raps both “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a prayer from the Haphtarah.
Tinseltown characters with no glitter.