Barfing Las Vegas — Part 1

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In my many years as a writer for The Simpsons, I’ve been nominated for my share of Hollywood honors. So I know well the heart-pounding unease of sitting in the cold audience of an award show, waiting for my category to be announced. That’s why winning my first Spike TV Video Game Award was so memorable. Because instead of sitting uneasily in a cold audience, I was on my couch, getting a call from a producer telling me I’d won — and the award show itself wasn’t for two weeks. (Also, I didn’t know I was nominated and I’d never heard of the show.) Now that’s a stress-free way to win an award.

I guess there are two kinds of award shows. The kind that wants to honor those who are truly excellent, and the Spike TV kind. Spike TV just wants to put on an awesome show. That means telling the talent well ahead of time that they have won, so they will be sure to show up. So when I got the chance to go to Las Vegas for free and pretend to be surprised when The Simpsons Game won for “Best Game Based on a Movie or TV Show,” I jumped at the chance. (Meaning, I told my wife that I “really wanted” her to go with me, but “the more I thought about it,” I realized that wouldn’t “work out,” and I guess I would “just have to go with the guys.”)

On the flight to Vegas, my seatmate was the charming, tattooed rock star Dave Navarro. Dave, it turned out, would be presenting our award. With this to bond over, we chatted amiably about Hollywood sushi places, the difficulty of keeping The Simpsons fresh, and the upcoming porno movie he wrote and directed. I confided in Dave a little scheme of mine: when called up to accept our award, I was going take off my jacket and reveal my red Writer’s Guild of America t-shirt. No self-important speech about the strike, just a visual shout-out for my cause. Dave agreed it was a cool idea. And I promised to buy his movie — one promise I intend to keep.

But… on the ride to the hotel, a creeping feeling of sickness started to bubble in my belly. And if there was ever a city not to be nauseated in, it’s Las Vegas. The city abounds with loud noises, buffet smells, and images of Carrot Top. (Have you seen this guy lately? He looks like the Joker’s Joker-ier brother.)

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By the time I staggered into a Mandalay Bay men’s room, I was spewing airport nachos with the velocity of someone who actually had seen Carrot Top’s show. It was food poisoning. I had to confront the unthinkable: I was going to miss out on the experience of pretending to be surprised to get an award someone told me for sure I was going to win.

To be continued…

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