May 10, 2011
Dan and his older brother are writing partners. They also live together. That information alone should give you a pretty good idea of who Dan is. If you put me in an apartment with either of my brothers for anything longer than a weekend, there’s a fairly good chance we’re walking out of there with a black eye and missing teeth. I love them very much, but to work together all day and then come home to our shared apartment would only happen in a sitcom. Maybe it’s because Dan and his brother are from Missouri. They’re a different breed from those of us from the East Coast. Gentler.
But that gentleness gets in the way of another important attribute — being direct. I developed a couple of projects with Dan and his brother, but the company where they have a production deal wasn’t happy with them partnering up with other writers. I would have understood, but the boys were embarrassed. Instead of telling me, they simply disappeared for a while. I couldn’t figure it out. And then, months later, I got a call, with both of the boys on the line. They told me what happened, explained their shame over being humbled by their bosses and asked for forgiveness. They were truthful, humble and direct — the hardest thing for them. They had learned a lesson. And I love a flawed character who works on his flaws.
The last time I saw Dan was at his New Year’s party … that took place weeks after New Year’s. The brothers had to cancel their actual New Year’s party because of “a family emergency.” In the Midwest they’re more private — I would have said, “My grandma died,” and then openly wept. They might be more gentle, but I’ll beat them in a crying contest anytime. Note to self: Start a crying contest.
I heard about the death in their family from Dan’s brother’s girlfriend. Dan’s not the type of person to bother other people with his personal problems. He’s generally smiling and joking — but not in that dark, sarcastic, angry comedian way. He’s laughing because he’s happy, and he makes others laugh because it makes him feel good to see them feeling good.
So we watched the pre-taped New Year’s ball drop on their TV, and we all counted down from 10. Dan had his arm draped around a girl, and he was blowing a noisemaker and wishing everyone a Happy New Year in such a happy, infectious way, it felt like New Year’s. When that kind of joy comes from a sweet, genuine guy who only wants to be surrounded by happiness, it makes you want to better yourself — and isn’t that what New Year’s is all about?