Progress, and Laughs, Found in Tampon Jokes

The near-term fate of Leslie Bibb and Rachel Dratch, and the rest of the crew who made "Salem Rogers: Model of the Year 1998" is in the hands of the masses, or as many of the masses who have hit on Amazon's Pilot Season, the method by which the shopping/entertainment/cloud computing/et al conglomerate is sorting out the hits from the misses, and tapping one lucky program to transition to full-season mode.

I hadn't been aware of the Amazon program, and only picked up on it in random fashion. On a Friday night, boxing was over and I was dicking around on the Roku, trying to find something to whittle down some time while the melatonin kicked in. The premise of "Salem" appealed to me more than any of the 12 other contenders, with the descriptor of:

"After a decade in rehab, an abrasive former supermodel tries to recreate her success in a new world she barely recognizes, relying on the help of her browbeaten former assistant. Unfortunately, her world is no longer a place where people jump at her command or care about who she was."

I saw comedic possibilities in that, and even though I am a hard-to-make-laugh sort, optimistically hit play and gave it a shot.

Bibb, who off the top of my head struck me as somebody from a CW show I hadn't watched, played Salem. Right off the bat, the writing struck me as fairly fearless, with Salem managing to insult the "stupid Indians" who are getting her kicked out of the rehab facility she'd been in for the last ten years, because they wanted their sacred land back.

Promising, I noted to myself, as I signed off on Bibb's delivery.

Salem's glaring cluelessnes had me giggling, as she mangled the name of her sponsor, and then showed herself to be a breathing train wreck of a soul when she admitted in her adios speech that she'd vomited on every continent...twice.

This being the information age, and with an acknowledgement that my ADD makes it a problem for me to finish simple tasks, like this half hour program, I digressed on my phone. Who wrote this clearly demented material, because I must salute this warped and witty being?

Wait, what's this...What in the name of Jerry Lewis..A woman wrote this pilot?

That's what my poking around on the net told me. Someone named Lindsey Stoddart managed to, in the first two minutes, cram in about five politically incorrect zingers. I finished the rest of the episode, and then set about to find out more about this whacko, in the best sense of the word, Stoddart, and unapologetically, lobby to get people to watch the show, so Amazon would pick it up, so I'd get to enjoy more of Stoddart's dementia.

Who is, I wondered, this person who wrote, "Do I gargle a million dicks so I can feel something, like (fellow rehab patient) Shelly?"

She should be my Twitter friend, at the least...

No, more than that, I decided, when I heard Salem say, "Right on, tampon," to the head of the rehab, before peeling out in her convertible roadster, back on the road she is certain will lead her back to the place she was in 1998, when she was rat's ass in the modeling world. I must ask Stoddart about her brain, which must be, I figured a bizarre and wonderful place to be able to spew out a wondrous tampon crack.

She's a former model, it turns out, and someone who found herself, as an actor, at a tweener stage, where she was not of the "girlfriend" age, and maybe in between the "young wife" and "older wife" stage of getting parts. The Southern Cali native, who blew off college and instead, a la Salem, traveled the world and got paid to be stunning, while soaking up the opportunities for traveling and siteseeing and hijinks-indulgence, if not the cross-continent puke-a-thon, told me that she "wasn't very successful as a model.

"I enjoyed the partying, and the motivation was more to travel for free," said the married mom of two. "I saw it as a thing where I sometimes worked, and earned some money."

The modeling petered out, as a result of a lack of true-blue ambition, and Stoddart transitioned into the actor realm. She impressed higher ups and moved from being a PA on the MTV show "Singled Out," which featured Jenny McCarthy and Chris Hardwick, to getting into sketches on the show.

You may, or may not, remember her from her five lines in the sitcom "Shasta McNasty."

There was waitressing, and tending of bar, along with many of the strivers seeking on-camera fulfillment in Hollywood. She could sling a line with zest, as shown on "Scrubs," and "The Sarah Silverman Show," but an urge to more so steer the comedic vehicle, rather than be the vessel for the wordsmith, brought her to the keyboard.

She was mulling over the character that would be Salem, and cracking up her hubby, and her pals.

"My friend Wendy said, 'You should write that.' I said, 'I don't know how to write.' But I had read enough scripts."

And thus, the catalyst for what surely must be the most logical product placement landing spot for tampons, the originator of the catchphrase friendly "Right on, tampon," cranked out Salem.

Bibb, aka Salem, told me she was in love with Salem, and Stoddart's vision of the profane but not wretched past-her-prime model when she got a look at the script last August. The actress, who also started out in the modeling arena, immediately wanted to inhabit the role. "A female driven comedy, I didn't know another one like this," she told me in a phoner. "I'd never seen a show like this. If Amazon chooses this, it's a brave choice! Lindsey is a funny bitch, who writes really interesting women. That's hard to find, really interesting, really ballsy women," said Bibb, who kicked stereotypes in the balls being funny in "Talladega Nights."

Both women French kissed Amazon, for being a place where risks can be taken. I seconded the saliva spreading, being a fan of Amazon's "Transparent," a recent Golden Globe winner.

The presence of comedy vet Rachel Dratch, as Salem's past and then present right-hand-gal, is a nod to pragmatic casting. The ex SNLer told me that she isn't so inclined to treat the "Salem creation" angle of the story from a "comedy by a female" construct. "I think every woman  I know who's successful in comedy isn't thinking 'this is GIRL comedy' or something like that, they are just thinking, 'this is funny to me.' I do think it's important," Dratch said, "that women writers and directors get to take part in comedy as much as any guy would in terms of getting different perspectives out there."

I asked Stoddart if it doesn't make her reach for the Xanax when she ponders that whether Salem lives or dies relies on people responding to, or not, the Amazon survey process. She put her admirable perspective on the table when she told me about her kids, 6 1/2 and 4. Picked up or not, she will still be wiping noses and the little ones' butt for a spell.

"Is there an arbitrary feeling to have an audience judge us? You have to let it go. It's not scary, but I guess it is sort of gut wrenching, it is a rollercoaster. Not knowing whether it gets picked up, having zero fucking control of the outcome, I come back to this: if this is only a pilot, the only episode I get to make, I couldn't have asked for a better experience."

She is basically fine with the fact that her professional career could be summed up on her headstone with the "Right on, tampon" line, and applauded and acknowledged the strides made in the world of on-screen comedy, and her place in that. "There could be worse things on my headstone," Stoddart told me. "That someone's remembering something! And I'm perfectly happy with tampon humor! After all, how long have we been hearing dick jokes? Most of my life, there has been the occasional thought of, 'I shouldn't be the way that I am' in one way or another, I shouldn't tell such dirty jokes, I shouldn't burp or fart. One of the good things about getting older, past your 30s is, I don't give as many fucks. If it doesn't get picked up, will I cry, and drink? I won't be able to complain, because I've been lucky to get to have the chance to write this, and get it made. I say, 'Fucking A, thank God I got to make it."