Monday, January 19, 2009

Week One, Day One - "Laid On"

Written by Joe Janes
January 19, 2009
1 of 365 Sketches Project

BOB CRANSTON – mid-30’s
MR. WILLIAMS – mid-50’s

(Lights up on Bob Cranston in his office cubicle. He is packing stuff from his desk into a cardboard box previously used to store reams of paper. He looks sad. Mr. Williams enters carrying a thick, but not cumbersome, stack of files.)


Yes, Mr. Williams?

What are you doing?

Just packing a few things. It’s all my stuff. No office supplies. Except, these binder clips (pulls box of clips from box) Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.

MR. WILLIAMS (not concerned)
Just binder clips, Bob.

Oh, so it’s okay if I…


BOB (putting box of binder clips down on the desk)
Right. Of course. Got to do the right thing here. Leave with a clear conscience.

Bob, you weren’t laid off.

I wasn’t?

No. We would have told you.

I thought you just forgot. I didn’t want to make it awkward for you.

Well, you’re not.

But so many people were. Good people. Digit Dave, in accounting, and he just bought a house. And Peggy, Pregnant Peggy. She’s pregnant. Kidney Ken – Does he know?

He’ll find out when he comes out of surgery.

And Married Mike –

Just got married. I know. These are difficult times. That’s why we need people like you, Bob Cranston.

People like me?

People like you who work really hard and don’t ask for much.

I don’t, do I?

When was the last time you got a raise?

Three years ago.

And for how much?

An extra 40 bucks a week. It’s really come in handy.

$40 a week’s what I spend at Starbucks. It’s only two grand a year.

Wow, when you put it like that, it’s like I’m robbing you.

Hardly. When was the last time you asked for a raise?

I’ve never asked for a raise.

What was your Christmas bonus last year and every year since you’ve been here?

A coupon for Crazy Bread from Little Caesar’s and a box of Clementines. I keep the crates the oranges come in and store audiocassettes in them.

You still listen to audiocassettes?

Right here in my cubicle. (He holds up a large portable cassette player from the cardboard box.) With my headphones on, of course (holds up large headphones).

MR. WILLIAMS (plucks a cassette out of the box)
Foreigner. Nice.

I know how to rock, Mr. Williams.

Bob, with the one raise you received and all that crazy bread, have you ever complained about anything?

No, sir. Never.

Precisely. That’s my point. The ten people we let go all asked for raises and promotions over the years and got them. They prospered and ambitioned themselves right out of employment. You, Cranston, you have no ambition.

I just want to do a good job.

Which is good enough for me. I like employees that don’t want much. (Bob starts thinking about this) Now, why don’t you go ahead and unpack that box and get back to work.

BOB (sans enthusiasm)
Right away, Mr. Williams.

Oh, and here’s Pregnant Peggy’s work folders. You’ll need to cover her load.

BOB (very matter of fact)
Sure thing, Mr. Williams.

(Mr. Williams turns to leave.)

Mr. Williams?

Yes, Bob.

BOB (avoiding eye contact with Mr. Williams, a little angry)
There is something I want.

Okay. (pause) What?

I want this box of binder clips. For my home. For my own personal use.

MR. WILLIAMS (leaning in)
You go ahead and take home a box of binder clips, big guy. But let’s just keep it between you and me (he slaps Bob on the back).

Thanks, Mr. Williams. You’re the best.

No, I’m really not.

(He exits. Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” plays as Bob joyfully gets back to work. Blackout)


Well, I notice that I am using actor signals more than I normally would. A signal is where I write in parenthesis after a character's name about how they are saying something, "sans enthusiasm," for example. In a production situation, I hate these. It diminishes the actor's opportunity to discover how the line could best be delivered. And quite often, the writer doesn't have the best take on it. An actor will often find a better more interesting way. However, I'm very aware that you are reading this, probably alone, and to yourself. I think in this case, it acts as a way of painting the picture more for a lone reader. Many screenwriters do this in even more elaborate depth because they know their first hurdle is one person sitting alone in a room, reading.

I started out the day anxious about what I was going to write. I had it in my head that I was going to start with a comic monologue. I was looking for clues for something that would get the wheels turning in my brain. I read a short article about Alexander the Great. Nope. I played an on-line Scrabble game. Nope. Just ended up challenging my brother on using the word "majora" and I won. It is not in the dictionary, foo'. While reading the list of news headlines on The Drudge Report, I had stuck in my head the image of a man packing items up from his desk. Timely, of course. And my billionth contribution to the plethora of office sketches out there. But I couldn't shake it, so I wrote it. The first draft was only two pages, unformatted and I was finished by 10am. The rest of the day, I putzed around, wrote a draft of tomorrow's scene, an extended blackout, and came back from time to time to tweak this scene. A major change was going from "staples" to "binder clips." My sole reason for doing this is because "Bob" was beginning to remind me of "Milton" from Office Space. Staples put him too close to stapler obsession. They are still not-so-distant cousins, but making that one change helped me make other changes, such as the end when Bob asks for what he wants. Silly, but binder clips made the man stronger.

Feel free to leave me questions or feedback in the comments section.


Joss Whedon did an interview recently where he ran down his top ten writing tips. Worth checking out, regardless of what you think of the Whedonverse. The dude's a crackerjack writer. You can read the article HERE.


Sketchfest is over and I saw some very fine shows. Don Hall and I vow to have a show in there next year. While I saw good stuff, I do need to add an 11 to my post title 10 Things You Should Please Stop Doing In Your Sketch Revue - NOW!!! Number 11 - Stop using an audience member to demonstrate how to pick someone up. I saw it three out of five shows.

365 Sketches

Well, I'm going to do it. Starting tonight.

It's such a huge undertaking, that I spent a lot of time talking to people about it. That's rather rare for me. Typically, I'll get a bug up my ass about something and just do it.

So, thank you everyone who endured me soliciting your opinion - Andrew, Fig, Mr. Hall, my Tuesday night goals group, my Writing 2 class. Especially everyone who commented on Friday's post - my brother Don, Chris Othis, MJ, Old Ned, Jill, Mr. B, Henri, Rob Beisenbach, Erica Reid, Greg Wendling and Alibear. I especially appreciated the folks playing devil's advocate. I'm not the kind of person to do something because people tell me not to. I try to consider all angles before committing. Everyone on both sides affirmed things I was thinking and made me think about a few things I wasn't.

At the end of the day, the discourse led me to the conclusion that for me to do this, I have to do it for myself. And so I am. As an artist, I love to paint myself into corners. I find I do some of my best work that way. This corner happens to be in a very large room with all the doors and windows on the other end of the room. (Actually, it's more like I'm painting the floor of some huge ballroom and I'm starting in a corner with a very small brush and a gallon can of paint that's only half full. I've got a year to paint my way to the to the door.) In taking this on, I hope to tap in to a flow of material that leads me to writing about things I have never written about in a style I have never written in. And I hope it to be entertaining and stage worthy, too.


1) I will post the first draft of one comedy sketch a night before going to bed. A sketch is anything you might see in a sketch revue, so that includes scenes, blackouts, songs and the occasional odd "bit."

2) Six nights a week will be original material generated specifically for this project. On Sundays, I will post a written piece that has never been produced on stage. Although, I suspect I'll eventually run out of those and will have to start writing original material for that, too.

3) I will also include my thoughts on the piece, how it was developed and internal and external updates on the project itself. This is the teacher in me. I want this to be a beneficial experience for other writers.

4) All material is copyrighted by me and may not be used in any form or media without express written permission by me or the baseball commission.

5) Feedback on material in the comment section is invited and encouraged.

6) These are to be considered first drafts. Works in progress. I am free to rewrite any or all material.

So, there you go. I think I covered all my bases. If you think of anything I should probably include or be clearer about, let me know.

This is a huge departure from Bite and Smile and I know some dedicated folks just aren't going to be interested in reading a sketch a day. Thanks for tuning in, BS will return, in its full form, 365 days from now.


Hey! You can donate to my and my soon-to-be moustache Zed's campaign for world domination. Actually, the money goes to 826, a non-profit educational organization, more subtly bent on conquering the civilized world. Click HERE to donate - seriously, any amount is welcome - and scroll down and look for my pretty face and then click on the PayPal link. If you want to make a contribution, but not through PayPal, shoot 826 an e-mail at They'll work something out with you.


On Friday, I asked...

"Skolu Isieskojimo Biuras, a debt collecting bureau in Lithuania, is now going after delinquent creditors using what?"

81% said "Facebook"
- It's the answer to all our life's problems, isn't it? Except here.

10% said "bogus lotteries"
- Those gag scratch off tickets will finally be useful!

No one said "debt-sniffing dogs"

Only 9% got it right with "witchcraft"

According to The Associated Press, a Lithuanian debt collector is offering an unconventional service to retrieve arrears: witchcraft.

The Vilnius-based firm has hired Vilija Lobaciuviene, the Baltic nation's most famous self-styled witch, to hunt down companies and individuals who are failing to pay their debts amid the credit crunch.

"There are certain people, who are using this crisis situation and refuse to pay back banks or other companies," said Amantas Celkonas, director of the Skolu Isieskojimo Biuras, or debt collecting bureau.

"Our new employee will help them to understand the situation, reconsider what is right and wrong and act accordingly," he said.

So, if I get this right, what they're saying is that if someone isn't paying off their bills, a witch is going to cast a spell on them? Not so sure this is a good way to go. I have enough trouble paying down debts as a human. I can't imagine trying to find work as a frog. "No, seriously, if you kiss me, I'll turn into a temp worker who can do data entry."