Rick Polito, sometime George Takei joke writer, finds that Internet fame doesn't always pay
Star Trek icon George Takei's profile photo on his hilarious, ultra-popular Facebook page features a smiling pic alongside a button reading, "It's OK to be Takei!" However, being him has been even weirder than usual since Boulder-based writer Rick Polito, author of the world's funniest one-line movie synopsis, casually mentioned that he's been paid for writing some of Takei's Facebook gags. Polito accidentally unleashed an online dust-up that's attracted plenty of attention but has yet to result in what he wants most: a regular, paying job.
The roots of the current kerfuffle can be traced back to this review of The Wizard of Oz. If you haven't seen it yet, be prepared to bust a gut:
Last fall, the blurb went viral on Reddit -- but the original image appeared to credit the line to the late Lee Winfrey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In truth, as revealed in this post by media blogger Jim Romenesko, the actual author was Polito. He penned it in 1998, back when he served as TV columnist for the Marin Independent Journal.
Polito worked at the Marin paper through 2007 before relocating to Boulder; as he told Romenesko, "I moved here to be a stay-at-home dad, but now I'm an unemployed dad."
Rick Polito's Twitter icon.
To make ends meet, Polito freelances his joke-heavy column to the Pacific Sun for $75 per -- to get a feel for his material, visit his Facebook page. He also told Romenesko he's been developing an iPhone app intended to assist parents when reading bedtime stories to their children.
Cut to last week, when Polito reached out to Romenesko again, this time to promote Dark Shift, a sci-fi kids book he describes as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Mad Max at The Breakfast Club," which is currently available in a Kindle edition. Along the way, he conceded that "I was never able to turn the Oz synopsis viral tsunami into a job. Believe me, I tried -- ew.com, Zap2It, TV Guide, etc. Every cover letter includes a reference to the 'quip that launched a billion tweets.'" But at least he'd added a new, high-profile gig to his freelance agenda -- writing jokes for Takei's Facebook page for $10 apiece.
This casual mention caused a stir among Takei Nation, since, presumably, the four-million-plus web surfers who've liked his page assumed he was the one coming up with the regular avalanche of quips that supplement funny memes like this one:
Soon, Polito's revelation became a thing, with everyone from Buzzfeed to Wired weighing in. In speaking to the latter, Takei downplayed the Internet tempest, saying, "What is this hoo-ha about my FB posts? I have Brad, my husband, to help me and interns to assist. What is important is the reliability of my posts being there to greet my fans with a smile or a giggle every morning."
We haven't been able to reach Polito at this writing -- but he's still looking for a job. If you've got one to offer, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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