I created Bottom Rung out of my own experience doing document review in Los Angeles. Until I moved out to LA in 2010, I worked as a big firm corporate associate in New York and had never heard of document review. A former lawyer and TV writer told me that if I was short on cash, document review was an easy way to earn a stress-free paycheck, allowing me to focus on my comedy work. The reality? Some document reviews can be pleasant and a good fit for someone trying to focus on an alternative career. Other document reviews can be as bad as anything I’ve experienced as an adult.
When you get stuck on a project with a nightmare for a boss, it can ruin your life. I was on one project where the project manager—or warden— tried to make us sign in and out of the room every time we went to the bathroom. I was on another one where we were specifically taught the difference between a two and a five minute break. I’ve been on doc reviews with strict no talking, no internet, no phone policies. In others, the working conditions can be abhorrent—no windows, no ventilation, no personal space, sick people everywhere, no running water. Basically your standard third-world hospital waiting room. So, in this episode and during the entire season I am highlighting the doc review characters and the world of some of these darker document review projects. It’s all loosely based on the places I’ve been assigned and the people that I’ve met on some of the more hellish projects.
In the first episode, I play Dave, a doc review “dreamer” who thinks he’s passing through on his way to comedy greatness. He gets a rude awakening as he learns the rules of the workplace from his draconian boss, Nicole, played by Hailey Boyle. But he also meets his new crush, Paige.
Hailey Boyle is a tremendously talented standup comedian who dominates a room when she’s performing. Yet she’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet—so in a lot of ways this role required her to play against type.
Jess Garvey plays Paige. She also co-produced this episode with me. If you’re wondering what “producing” really means—especially on a small budget production—it means doing a little of everything. On shoot day it meant: if one of us were in a scene, the other would help the PA set up for the next scene, help the crew if they needed a hand, make sure everyone’s hair, makeup and wardrobe was done, make sure everyone is in the right place, keep track of shots, take care of craft service, etc. Basically, one of us needed to keep track of everything, and when I say “one of us” . . . I really mean her.
About the title shot: we made Locker the face of the show. He is the King of the Lifers, because he really represents what this world is about. The actor who plays him is a wonderful comedian named Eddie Pepitone, you may recognize him from appearances on Community, Weeds, Children’s Hospital, Last Comic Standing, the Sarah Silverman Program, Important Things with Demetri Martin, Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time, etc. Basically anytime someone is doing something in the comedy realm that requires a middle-aged guy to be hilarious, they call Eddie. He’s just that good. At first, he told me he was too busy to do it, but when he read the script, he loved the character, so he squeezed us in and we are grateful for that.