I don't really think it's appropriate to write about something so personal on the Internet, it certainly doesn't feel right, but nothing feels right today.
I lost a brother.
My friend Alan Kirschenbaum, who I met in 1974, when I was 14 and he was 13, was instant family. We laughed and ate and hung out, and played around with comedy, which he had in his blood. He inherited some of it from his wonderful, funny dad, the great Freddy Roman. (Freddy's joke: "When the family saw my act, they changed their name to Kirschenbaum). Freddy took us to the Catskills on some of his gigs -- and let us think we were helping "write" his routines with him backstage. I remember we ate whatever we wanted. Even though Alan was younger than me, he encouraged me to do comedy -- in high school, over the summer, and after college, when we were both struggling in New York. We took The Groundlings together, where Alan met the girl he would marry, the extraordinary Vicki Juditz, and together with the girl who would save me, we all ate and laughed together often.
Alan did what only my parents ever encouraged me to do -- to write. But he was more practical, and knowledgeable, and effective. Alan got a job writing for a sitcom based in New York. But he didn't forget about me, this struggling "comedic actor." One day in 1987, while we were busy struggling, he showed up at my apartment with a blue and silver metal box. "It's called a word processor," said Alan, "and we're gonna write a screenplay."
I agreed to do this for no other reason, certainly not any idea of how to write a screenplay, because Alan wanted to do it with me, and this meant we would have some laughs. Alan had learned about "structure," and we wrote about a fictional suburban detective who worked in the real town we grew up in, New City, NY. We named our detective after a guy who lived up the street from me because we liked the sound of his name, "Millard Shulman." the movie would be called Shulman and we wrote it for Alan Arkin, one of our heroes. We once had to stop working for the day because we watched the movie Big Trouble and could not continue. In this movie, Alan Arkin takes a drink of sardine liqueur, yes, and proceeds to do the world's greatest spit take. Go, take a look and tell me it's not. All I know is, Alan and I went back over this piece of video about forty times, crying with laughter, dissecting every second, hardly breathing, red faced, loving this the way only two idiots can. Two idiot brothers. We loved our little movie script and loved saying the name "Millard," and to this day, it's what we call each other.
We sold that script, my first sale ever, to HBO, for a gigantic fortune. Alan and I split $70,000. Nobody made the movie (we were told Alan Arkin doesn't "open" a movie) and we were sad. Then we heard somebody else read it and wanted to meet with us, and so we took that lunch with Jerry Lewis. And then that experience went into our anecdote bank, for withdrawals whenever we needed. Nobody made it with Jerry either, but Alan kept encouraging me to write -- he moved to Hollywood and started working on a sitcom with the great Ed Weinberger called "Dear John." When I got to LA a year later, with nothing, I slept on Alan's couch for a while, and one day Alan sat me down at a perfectly terrible seafood restaurant on Melrose and taught me the structure of sitcom -- took about five minutes, probably the most valuable five minutes of my life. Another friend, Oliver Goldstick, wrote a spec with me, Alan showed it to his agent, Adam Berkowitz, who became my agent, and Alan made sure that Ed hired Oliver and me on his very next show. Alan and Vicki and Monica and I all lived in the same building on Beachwood Drive, and even though we were now about 30, this new thing called Nintendo had come out and Alan and I would spend hours a day helping Zelda or Mario do some very important shit.
Over the next 5 years, we worked on "Baby Talk," "Man in the Family," a show Alan created called "Down the Shore" and "Coach." We laughed and ate a lot, including a holy Sunday ritual that started in 1990 -- every Sunday at 12:30, our comedy writer and comedian friends gather at Victor's, on Bronson Ave, and eat, and laugh, and complain. We love everything about Victor's except the food and the service.
That's a joke of course. Our world is filled with them, thank God. And thank God for my friend, a master of them. A connoisseur of the one liner and the spit take. One more thing: he hosted my 40th birthday roast, at the Friar's Club here, he and everyone on the dais slaughtered me and this remains one of the most hilarious, shocking, X-rated highlights of my life. At the end, as he intro'd me, he said, "I'm glad I get to say for I think the 26th year in a row, happy birthday to my friend." And then I insulted him as much as I could.
I'm not happy today, but I hope it's clear that I would literally not be here at all, I wouldn't have had the opportunity, the success, the money for this laptop without him, my dear and funny friend. I know he loved his friends, his wife, his parents, his sister, his incredible, beautiful and magnificently talented daughter Molly. He loved his work. He loved laughing and I loved being with him.
I love you Millard.