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