LETTER TO STEVE MARTIN
I had this idea the other day: I was thinking about old movies, old funny movies, which made me think of Steve Martin's "The Jerk." Damn funny movie. But I've always wondered why, with Steve Martin still alive, and still active in feature films, there has been no sequel to "The Jerk."
Doesn't this seem like the perfect age for the Jerk? If he made all that money putting the nose holder on glasses, just imagine how much money he'd make off the Net. I bet, even though Navin R. Johnson had to overcome many hardships (he was born a poor black child), he would have invented Amazon dot com long before that other guy, only his site would have been solely designed to sell cozies to Amazonians, so it probably wouldn't have gotten nearly as big. But he still would have gotten rich. Very rich. I bet he would have gotten so rich he'd have a butler for his butler.
I thought this seemed like a pretty good idea. With some work, maybe even great. But there was one thing I was absolutely certain of: I was not the only person in the world with this idea.
But I decided to check anyhow. So I immediately dailed into Registerdotcom to check on the availability of thejerk.com. Taken. Of course. What was I thinking?
Another thought came to me. The last thing in the world Navin would be on-line was thejerk.com. Simply not stupid-funny enough. Nope, not at all.
No, I bet the Jerk wouldn't have understood the computer, or the internet, all that well (which would have made him perfect for a computer executive position). I figured the Jerk would have screwed up the whole dot com thing somehow, so no way would he ever be thejerk.com. No, he'd be thejerkdotcom.com. What could be more jerky?
So I went back on register.com, checked to see if thejerkdotcom.com was available, and what do you know? Wide open. But still, a decision. Sure, it's open, it's available, but do I really want to pay $70 bucks to make it mine? What the hell am I ever going to do with it?
Then I thought of the potential of thejerkdotcom.com. Just think of the jokes that could be generated from it. I mean, of course he would keep insisting that he's the jerk.com, and they would have to keep reminding him that he's thejerkdotcom.com, to which he keeps saying, "That's what I just said." Which would get him into some pretty big trouble with the owners of thejerk.com, none other then Lefty (The Jerk) Speggetto, worldwide owner of Jerk Industries, and a complete Jerk.
Then I remembered another joke I had, a joke I'd written long ago, one that I always thought would be perfect for a Jerk movie. It happens right after the Jerk has made his billions, and while he knows he's rich, he cannot comprehend how much money he has. So his accountant keeps trying to explain it to him, and explain it to him, but Navin simply cannot understand.
Finally, the accountant figures out a way to explain it to him. He does some quick calculations, then he tells the Jerk, "You want to know how rich you are? Well, just think, every time you take a breath, you make another two million dollars."
The Jerk gets to thinking. "Two million dollars, huh? Every time I take a breath." So he start hyperventilating, really hyperventilating, taking quick short breaths, as many as he can fit in, dashing all over his mansion, racing past his swimming pool, trying to breath as fast as he can so he can make another two million dollars, another two million dollars, until he passes out.
Basically, a couple of plum ideas for a Jerk sequel. But so what? What am I going to do, write it down and drop it in a letter only so some person in Hollywood can steal it?
But no. I went right back to register.com and immediately bought thejerkdotcom.com. Now I can send it out to anyone I want -- even to Steve Martin -- because I own the joke. Which is exactly what I did.
What follows is the text of the letter I've sent to Steve Martin. I will publish the response as soon as I get it.
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February 29, 2000
Mr. Steve Martin
P.O. Box 929
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
Dear Mr. Martin:
I am sending this letter to you as both a big fan of your work and as a fellow writer. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about your film, “The Jerk,” and I’ve been stuck on the idea that an update of the film – a Jerk sequel – would be the perfect device to mine these rich, satirical times.
Essentially, I have been obsessed with thinking that if Navin R. Johnson made all that money off the eyeglass invention, imagine how much money he’d make off the internet. With that in mind, I tried to imagine the dot com that Navin would have. The most obvious choice would be thejerk.com. But after giving it some thought, I realized the name just wasn’t quirky enough. Thinking about it some more, EUREKA! the name came to me. His website would have to be thejerkdotcom.com. It could be a website for people who don’t really get computers.
Also, another joke I think would be perfect for the film, one I wrote many years ago, happens right after Navin R. Johnson has made his billions. He is talking to his accountant, trying to understand how much money he has, when the accountant finally tells him, “Look, every time you take a breath you make another three million dollars.” The Jerk confuses this to think the faster he breathes the more money he makes, which sends him into a paroxysm of hyperventilating while dashing about his dacha with everyone in chase until, BOOM, he collapses.
So with the idea of pitching this film to you, I registered thejerkdotcom.com on the internet. I think it would make the perfect title for a Jerk sequel.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Martin. I want you to know I have the utmost respect for your work, and love what you have written in The New Yorker. If you have any questions or interest, do not hesitate to contact me.
P.S. In the interest of total disclosure, I have published this letter on www.PeteTV.com
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I received the following response from the law firm of Gendler & Kelly:
March 23, 2000
Dear Mr. Schooff:
This law firm represents Mr. Steve Martin. In accordance with our advice, Mr. Martin's established routine and policy is not to review unsolicited material. Upon receipt, Mr. Martin's office regularly forwards all unsolicited materials directly to us, unread. As time permits, we then routinely return all unsolicited materials to the respective senders.
I hope you will understand that we would not advise Mr. Martin to deprive himself of the opportunity to review potentially interesting, new material, were it not for the risk he would assume acting otherwise. Sad to say, but we live in a world where merely reading one's mail may later give rise to misunderstandings, leading to conflicts, claims, lawsuits and liabilities.
Obviously, you did not create this unfortunate state of affairs, and neither did Mr. Martin. However, it is our responsibility, as Mr. Martin's attorneys, to anticipate and prevent potential worst case scenarios. If, in the exercise of utmost caution on our client's behalf, we have inadvertently made an already challenging task more difficult for you, please accept our sincere apology.
For the reasons described above, we are herewith returning to you the letter you submitted to Mr. Martin. It has not been read by Mr. Martin or anyone associated with him.
We appreciate your thinking of Mr. Martin, and trust you will understand the necessity of Mr. Martin's policy.
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Altogether, a pretty reasonable, well written, letter. But that doesn't mean I'm quitting. I feel my only recourse is to bring this web site to Steve Martin's attention. And how am I going to do that? I've just printed out a number of PeteTV post cards, and I'm sending one to him. I'll keep you updated.