Tuesdays With Ted
Original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE writer
It started with an Instant Message on Facebook. Russ Woody, whom I hadn’t even thought about in the twenty-seven years that had passed since we worked together on an alleged comedy series called “Good Sports,” wanted to know if I would read the galleys of his new book and possibly give him a blurb for its cover.
I remember liking Russ. And had been a big fan of his work on some of the best sit-coms in the history of television. And since I was in search of something, anything, to distract me from my own projects whose deadlines were bearing down on me like (Insert hackneyed “Chris Christie at a smorgasbord” joke here) I said, “Sure.”
So I gave him my home address figuring that since we lived on opposite coasts the chances of him dropping by unexpectedly in search of a hot meal were slim. And when the book arrived, the envelope sat on my desk for about a week while I made believe that playing Words With Friends and watching reruns of “Law & Order: SVU”) was actually cutting into my own workload. Eventually I grew tired of this self-delusion, opened the envelope, started reading “Tuesdays With Ted” and I was hooked.
Comedy writers, as a lot, look at the world from angles that seek out the funny in our existences. Yes, to make audiences laugh. But also as a personal salve for the pain brought by any unexpected turns that show up in our own existences. “Tuesdays With Ted” – about Russ’s dad’s bout with ALS while Russ was a writer on “Becker” – is one of those books whose theme resonates while you are reading it and lingers long after you’ve finished.
The Ted in the title is Ted Danson and this remarkable memoir chronicles the way he and the entire cast and crew of “Becker” embraced Russ’ dad when it was Russ’s turn to be a parent to his father. When Russ, while dealing with a story that would not have a happy ending was given a blessed opportunity to pay back. Heal wounds. And sum up with the man everyone affectionately called “Woody.”
Not since I read Phillip Roth’s Patrimony and had a hand in collaborating with Billy Crystal on his play "700 Sundays" have I been so affected by the expression of love for someone who loved us first. Read this book. Change the names and places and personalize it so the story becomes your story. That’s the beauty of comedy writing. When done properly, it will make you laugh. When done expertly as Russ had done here, it will also make you hug someone you don’t want to let go.