Maybe We’ll Have You Back: The Life of a Peren­nial TV Guest Star

NZ Today - - ON BOOKS - Fred Stoller Sky­horse Pub­lish­ing; 1 Edi­tion

Fred Stoller has been in hun­dreds of films and TV shows – he’s writ­ten for some of the big­gest names in com­edy, has worked as a stand-up him­self, a voice artist and even if you don’t know his name you’d know his face and voice from TV’s big­gest come­dies of the 1990s and 00s – Friends, Se­in­feld, Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond, Scrubs – or from cameos in films like Dumb and Dumber, Joe Dirt and The An­i­mal.

Stoller’s fan­tas­tic Kin­dle Sin­gle, My Se­in­feld Year chron­i­cled his de­press­ing run with what should have been a “dream job”; that’s in­cluded here in his full mem­oir, a doc­u­ment of a hard-work­ing ac­tor who never man­aged to get be­yond fea­tured-cameo artist on TV shows. He’s made reg­u­lar re­turn work on shows like Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond and even played more than one char­ac­ter on a hand­ful of shows but he never quite got that lucky break, never crossed over. That said he’s been gain­fully em­ployed more of­ten than not, more of­ten than most in Hol­ly­wood.

Stoller’s self-dep­re­cat­ing yarns are some­times painfully hi­lar­i­ous and for all the highs you would think he’s had – writ­ing the Soup Nazi episode of Se­in­feld for in­stance – he’s had some crash­ing lows. He continues to dust him­self off and turn up for work. He’s done the work, is do­ing the work, is a cham­pion in that sense. A hero on the gutsin­git-out cir­cuit.

Maybe We’ll Have You Back dishes a bit of dirt too – be­cause Stoller is happy to name names, to tell you that he was sup­posed to be in a break­away sit­com with a preFriends Matt Le Blanc, ex­cept Matt couldn’t act then or now, that some of the reg­u­lar cast mem­bers on shows are down-to-earth and lovely and that some are as stuck-up and rude as we prob­a­bly want to be­lieve is al­most al­ways the case.

It’s been an of­ten heart­break­ing grind to the mid­dle – but he’s made it. And stayed there. For pos­si­bly far too long. Not re­ally fa­mous but likely more fa­mous than most of us could ever know. For Stoller it’s about turn­ing up to work – but also, there were so many fin­gers-crossed mo­ments, can­celled sit­coms, failed pi­lots, prom­ises of fur­ther – fu­ture – work that were sim­ply never fol­lowed up, never of­fi­cially of­fered.

It’s a cold, cruel world. It’s tough at the top. Even harder, it seems, in the mid­dle.

Maybe We’ll Have You Back is some­times ex­cru­ci­at­ing to read – but it’s laugh-out-loud funny and hugely re­veal­ing. It’s a great read.

Si­mon Sweet­man

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