Nadelberg came up with the idea for Mortified five years ago, after he stumbled upon an old love letter he wrote when he was a junior in high school to a girl who didn't know him from Adam. It was a secret-admirer type of letter that he signed but, thankfully, never delivered. "I went home one year and dug up this old box," he remembers. "Inside was this horrific, embarrassing, mortifying letter written to a girl. It was a draft of a love letter. I saw a window into this kid's life, what it's like to hear someone come totally unhinged. It's so squirm-inducing because you feel so bad for him. Except I had the realization that that idiot was me."
Choice verbatim line from the letter: By now you may be wondering just who IS this dork, why exactly is he writing me, how did he know my name, is he emotionally and/or mentally unstable, how long is this sentence going to be, and what is the most popular internationally play[ed] nonprofessional sport?
Nadelberg brought the letter back to Los Angeles, where he was toiling away as a writer (he has actually sold television pilots to Comedy Central, VH1, and UPN, though none have ever aired), and read it to a few friends. They laughed their hind ends off and encouraged him to go public with it. You know what they say about the rest. Mortified struck a chord in a town full of failed and frustrated writers, all now kicking themselves for not coming up with such an obvious idea.
February 7, 1984: I asked Tommy if she would go with me (to her face) at the talent show. Do you know what she said? "Yes!" After the talent show, we kissed. Now that I did it the first time, I will do it a lot.
I'm standing in Nadelberg's living room, reciting personal accounts of my life, wondering how my first kiss could have warranted a mere one sentence in my diary. Nadelberg and coproducer Neil Katcher are listening intently. I willingly read my ridiculous words from 22 years ago that, when written, were never under any circumstances intended to be revealed in any way to anyone who was not me. More wine, please.
Nadelberg and Katcher occasionally crack up at how I would be pining away for Tommy in one sentence, then seemingly out of nowhere, toss in a hilarious non sequitur like, "Tonight Van Halen's 'Jump' takes on Billy Idol's 'Rebel Yell' on Friday Night Video Fights," and, "Tonight I watched the movie Footloose. It was really good." A story possibly fit for the Mortified stage was emerging, but my performance needed work.
Because this is Los Angeles, after all, it would make sense that many people who audition for Mortified have ambitions as stand-up comedians or actors. I mean, everyone in this city harbors those ambitions, whether they admit it or not. I'm of the latter ilk. I'm not here pursuing a career in television or movies or comedy clubs, and I'm doing just fine here as a writer, but anyone who lives in L.A. occasionally fantasizes about being plucked from the lip of their soy latte at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and put onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Anyone who tells you differently is lying.