“First off, we’re not allowed to call him Tyler we refer to him as Mr. Perry.” were the words that perked my ears as I sat in the House of Payne writer’s room while the show runner corrected the girl next to me who dared to refer to Mr. Perry as simply “Tyler”. I smile, thinking that she’s hazing us and say, “You serious?” she doesn’t change the expression on her face – “I’m serious”. She makes a swiping comment about her boss, something along the lines of “He wants to always remind you who he is, that’s why I’m happy to be in LA away from his ass…” she laughs along with the rest of the staff writers, then looks at the ceiling and says “Just playing Mr. Perry” as if the room is bugged. Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into?
I wrote in a past blog about how I find Tyler Perry movies cliché and uninspired. I’ve felt that way since I first watched parts of Diary of a Mad Black Woman and was forced to sit through Why Did I Get Married. That’s not a knock at Tyler Perry personally, I had no preconceived notion like that Boondocks episode that he was some lunatic; to me he was just another bad film maker. So imagine my surprise when my boy calls me saying that House of Payne is looking for writers and he has a direct connect. We both laugh at the notion since we both feel the same way about his movies. But hell, a staff writer’s position on a show that’s already gone damn near 100 episodes is a no brainer.
PART ONE: TEMPTATION
The thing about the devil is that he’s not invisible, no boogie man under the bed. He’s in your face, you recognize him for what he is, and despite seeing the horns and pitch fork, you agree to converse with him. You see a smart person would say, “Wait, you’re the devil, I want nothing to do with you” and keep it moving. But humans are a flawed species.
So before I could interview for this House of Payne job I had to hand in a one act sample of the TV show. Now at this point, I knew something was fishy. Usually in order to get shot at a staff writer job you have to hand in a full length sample of something totally unrelated. For example, if I want a job on One Tree Hill I wouldn’t give the producers a One Tree Hill script; I’d give them something like Brothers and Sisters to read. They want to see if you’re a good writer, not just a person who has a good idea for their particular show. But I chalked it up to some secret insider Tyler Perry way of doing things outside of the Hollywood box. I DVR a few episodes of the show so I could familiarize myself with it. I couldn’t watch it. I got through half of two episodes and went to Wikipedia to learn the names and just wrote the shit like it was an episode of Family Matters, I know family matters like the back of my hand.
PART 2: Meet The Demons
If you met someone who sold their soul to the devil, you wouldn’t have to ask them why. You would ask them—for how much…
I get an email that was very cryptic. I wish I still had it, because my memory won’t do it justice. It was something along the lines of “We enjoyed your script. Meet me 8am on this day”. I had no idea what it meant. Was this for an interview? An offer? What the hell is going on? Turns out the place I had been summoned to was the Los Angeles headquarters of the House of Payne writers. Me and three other people were going to sit in on a session as they broke a few stories for the upcoming season. They tell us that they only have two slots open, and that it’s not for a staff job just a freelance job. Basically it’s competition between the four of us in the room and ten more people back in Atlanta who the show runner had yet to meet with. What the fuck? American Idol for this shitty show? I didn’t say that, I said, “How much do you guys get paid per script”. I’m a nigga, and that’s all niggas care about. She tells me some lowball number like 3 thousand an episode. Red light. That’s about 10% of what you should be getting. The other three people know this too, and they begin to rumble about the rate. The show runner explains that it’s non union so the rate is what Mr. Perry set. The girl next to me asks about residuals. She tells us they’re working on a deal with the WGA, but nothing is signed yet. If you’re keeping track you just learned that Mr. Perry pays his writers 3 thousand dollars an episode and doesn’t give them royalties. So all 150 episodes of House of Payne that air in syndication, the only person getting paid is – you got it—Tyler Perry. Remember this part.
PART 3: Sexy Devil horns
Why is the Devil always shown as some sexy woman in tight red leather with big tits? Because what she represents is suppose to invoke the greatest hard on in the world.
In my mind I’m thinking, okay. I’ll stay here for the day, help break the story. Get one of these scripts. Get to meet Tyler Perry and take that opportunity to pitch him something good. See, I’m a hypocrite. Although I think this show is shit, and the guy who created it is a hack. He runs a multimillion dollar production company which I could use to produce something I believe in. Me sitting in this House of Payne room was just the middle man. To put it in Scarface terms, I was Tony Montana trying to meet Sosa so I can gain access to his coke. So I’m on fire in the room, giving them jokes, story ideas, killing the competition, at lunch the others comment how I’m stealing the show—I don’t want a pat on the back, I want Sosa’s coke! The Showrunner ask if I could come back the next day, then maybe a few more days next week to help punch up some scripts—again this is all for free. I’m working on another TV show at the time and my boss didn’t mind if I took a few days off, he even agreed to pay me for my time away. Thank you mr. white man *uncle ruckus voice*
Now that I’m no longer the new person in the room, the writers open up about how bizarre Tyler Perry is. Again, nothing about cross dressing or gayness, just drunk on his own power. The Showrunner told us that down in Atlanta the show is shot like a Soap Opera. You ever wonder why shows like 30 Rock do 22 episodes a year, while House of Payne pumps out 60 in six months? They shoot an episode a day, four to five days a week. Throw on a laugh track and BAM you got Curtis and the family. It’s a smart way to work if you don’t have to pay anyone the rates you do in Hollywood. Tyler built his own studio down in Atlanta and runs it like Nazi Germany. The Showrunner told us a few strange stories of people being fired, and Mr. Perry overreacting to small things, but the most telling was her story about the hidden cameras. Apparently she was in a conversation with him and after they finished talking he walked to a back room. She pretended to leave. Then after a few moments crept back there to see where he had gone. Later that day she returned to investigate, and inside that room she discovered a wall of monitors. Audio and Visual of the actors, writers, and other staff. Tyler Perry secretly listens in on conversations. Another one of the writers backed her up by saying that someone was once fired because he made a joke about Tyler Perry. At the time no one knew why he was fired, but since the discovery of the “room” they understood. The Showrunner told us, “if you make it down to Atlanta, remember to be careful what you say even when he’s not around.”
Part 4: The Devil Always wins
I was sent packing, with a promise that I’d hear something in three to four weeks after they meet with the Atlanta writers. Cool, I kept in contact with a few of the writers and was sure I’d have as good a shot, if not better, than anyone else. A month and a half goes by. I don’t hear anything. One of the Editors on the show I worked on at the time came in my office and said “you hear what happened to your boy Tyler Perry; he’s getting sued by his writers”. I look up the story: Tyler Perry had fired All of the writers who I was in the room with except one. Even the Showrunner had been fired. Why? Because of those residuals. House of Payne was about to go into syndication, which meant that those writers, even if they were only paid 3 thousand an ep, were about to make a lot of money if they got a union deal in place. I talked to one of the guys who was fired via text and he said what I suspected, they pushed the issue too hard. They stood up for their money, and they lost. Of course the article I found claimed that the writers were “let go” because their work wasn’t good enough… Um you wait until you’ve passed 100 episodes of a show to tell the writers that they suck? I smell bullshit. So that answered my question as to why no one I knew had be given one of those freelance scripts. So I laughed about it, and chalked it up to bad timing. Maybe it wasn’t meant for me and Tyler Perry to meet like Sosa and Tony on that lawn in Columbia.
Part 5: Be Thankful
I DVR an episode of House of Payne, which title seemed familiar from the meeting. I watch it. Holy shit… that’s my joke… another one of my jokes. Okay. Cool. They got me. I watch another episode the next week. One of my storylines… another one of my jokes… o you fuckers really got some free shit out of me.
My mother says, “Sue his ass!” I say, he has several angry writers already doing that and I guarantee you they lose. And at the end of the day he can say “hey, it was the fired writers who stole your work, I wasn’t in LA to hear who did what” and besides, I think lawsuits are for pussies and old ladies who spill coffee in their lap and claim they didn’t know it was hot. Not my character. I learned a lesson from that experience. I went for something that I didn’t believe in just because I thought I could make a deal with a person that I don’t respect.
I knowingly whore’d myself for the luster of “Tyler Perry” and the power that he wields. I deserved to get fucked over. My boy Falcon always says Fuck Tyler Perry and lets the world know what went down using more curse words than I have this entire blog, but me, I don’t speak on it. I just say Fuck Tyler Perry. And that’s not me being bitter about the experience, hell the WWE did me dirty with a writing job for their shows, and I still watch and pay for their product. I say Fuck Tyler Perry because his product, TV, Movies, and Plays are utter SHIT. But that’s the funny thing about the devil, if he were to pop up in front of me right now with an offer, even after what happened, I’d still at least listen to his offer—Fuck, I’m only humanJ.