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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

1.53 --- Take My Life...Please !

Directed by : Gus Trikonis
Written by : Gordon Mitchell
Starring : Tim Thomerson, Xander Berkeley
First aired : 28th of March, 1986.

While driving home from his latest national TV performance, star comedian Billy Diamond (Tim Thomerson, Trancers, Near Dark) is suddenly forced to fight for his life as another comedian, Dave (Xander Berkeley, who appeared in just too many hi-profile movies to list some), is holding him at gunpoint from the back seat where he was hiding. Dave's issue with Billy is that Billy stole his prime time act, and now he wants cash payment for it as it ruined his own comic career. Billy decides to try and overpower him, and starts manically swerving left and right in order to bring Dave off balance. He eventually succeeds, but hits the truck while doing it and dies on the spot.

He suddenly finds himself "up there", in a long, ill-lit hallway with parading extras and a sleazy looking guy introducing himself as his manager. He escorts him to a stage, where he is supposed to give a performance to the crowd whose reception will determine for which afterlife is he fit. Thinking this should be an easy job, Billy struts out on the stage in high spirits.

However, he soon finds out this crowd is not particularily receptive to what Earthlings would consider "usual" jokes. Billy is nearing despair, when a heckler from the shadows urges him to retell a sordid story about beating up a hooker. Unwillingly, Billy recounts that foul experience - and the crowd explodes ! Egged on by the heckler, Billy shares more sleazy personal details with the audience, who eventually send him off with a standing ovation.

Off-stage, Billy complains to his new agent how he had a horrible time out there, but is met by a puzzling look - he was a rousing success, and is booked for the forthcoming two eons to entertain the denizens of hell, three nights a day, seven days a week. As his agent wanders off chasing a skirt, Billy is left alone in the hallway, wondering if he maybe could have been a bit of a better citizen in his earthly life...


After thoroughly entertaining me with Cold Reading, Gus Trikonis returns with Take My Life...Please !, an even better viewing experience. Basically, this is a one-man show by Thomerson, who, not surprisingly, came into the acting from the standup scene. Trikonis is a dab hand at showing Thomerson labour through his hellish comedy act with his use of close-ups and angle shots - Thomerson himself responds by looking increasingly anxious and cornered, having to retell some of the worst moments of his life. Along with Dead Run, Need to Know and Profile in Silver, a definite standout in this 4th quarter of the first season.

Van Halen Trivia : is it just me, or Thomerson's character is majorly echoing David Lee Roth ? First of all, there is a striking physical similarity between the two, then there is the nickname/stage name "Diamond", and finally the guy from who he steals the jokes is called Dave. Not to mention that both are grade A jackasses. Hmmmmmm...


Hey you, my frequent (not to say loyal) reader from Japan - identify yourself, man ! Leave a comment ! I'm curious !

Comments on "1.53 --- Take My Life...Please !"


Anonymous John said ... (4:18 AM) : 

I believe you're right about the character mirroring David Lee Roth, and about them both being jackasses!

Interesting to learn that Tim Thomerson started s a stand up - never would have thought! I remember him best for his "Trancers" direct-to-video movies.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:16 PM) : 

I just realized this when watching this episode again. The heckler in the shadows was actually Billy Diamond, most-likely the part of him that realized how horrible he was. Here's some evidence: the voices sound the same. And if you look closely, the heckler is wearing the same white jacket. And if you look even closer, you can make out faint designs on his shirt, the same Billy Diamond has on stage. Even the hair looks alike. I thought that was kind of clever to make the heckler Billy's alter ego.


Blogger jared terry said ... (6:02 PM) : 

Just rewatched this episode, think its great. Its brevity is one of its great strengths. Would go as far as to say its almost the perfect 10 min Twilight Zone episode. There is no fat to trim, not a second is wasted. The performance scenes are really quite disturbing, particularly when they start chanting 'mum'.

I like that the previous poster mentioned that he might have been heckled by himself. I kind of like to think of the place he performs as purgatory and Bob Diamond as paying his dues, perhaps for eternity.


Blogger William Hunter said ... (10:25 AM) : 

Forget David Lee Roth, this could have easily been a great role for a young Jim Carrey.


Anonymous Adrock said ... (9:42 PM) : 

Ooh, the third ironic-Hell-punishment episode of Season 1, behind "Kentucky Rye" and "The Misfortune Cookie". This one is pretty funny -- although, in retrospect, they should have cast an '80s comedian who left a longer shadow than Thomerson. Still, this is a pretty sensitive script, and it's the only one of the three where the victim at the end actually learns what a horrible person he was in life.


Blogger IAmMelancholic said ... (6:48 PM) : 

Yeah, some people revel in the misery of others.


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