[Ed.: From one of our ghostwriting gigs. First published 1/16/13]
We were invited to drop 500 words on a website tied to a major player in the auto industry, about our experience at CES 2013.
Legal Department (butting in): … well, comedy is [something we usually squash] a kind of hobby of ours. Well– Well, actually, it’s a little more than just a hobby. Reader’s Digest is considering publishing two of our jokes.
Legal Department: Yeah. And perhaps some night we could maybe get together and swap humorous stories for-for fun.
Me: Oh, why not? Maybe play a couple of Adele records. That’d be a hoot.
Yay! Free publicity! Backlinks! Money raining from the sky! Hookers and blow!
Legal Department: That’s a joke right?
Legal Department: We get it.
However, writing for one’s corporate overlords is not like writing on your own site that no one will ever read. They have rules. They have a team of lawyers vetting every syllable.
Legal Department: “Good morning, Detroit.” What the heck is that supposed to mean?
My Editor: I don’t know, Legal Department, I guess it means good morning, Detroit.
Legal Department: And who gave him permission to link YouTubes?
So, to continue the story (as pitched)…
I strolled by an outdoor display featuring a 2013 Shelby GT500 and a sultry Russian spokesmodel explaining the internet radio integration. Helpless to resist my charm and smooth lines, I seduced her right out of…
Legal Department: What do you think you’re doing? You know you’re forbidden to write anything not checked by this office.
Me: What was there to check? I was there.
Legal Department: You know the rules. If this is a legitimate news story, it must go through proper channels.
Legal Department: And you– You are not funny, but you are a maniac… and you’d better start changing your life.
Me: Sirs? Thank you for that constructive criticism. It’s– It’s a privilege to take comedy notes from a department of your stature.
Legal Department: Fine. Just don’t let it happen again.
The [lies] story about the Shelby: Killed. NSFW footage of drifting down Las Vegas Boulevard to the cabaret with the model: Killed. Repeatedly. Punchline about Pandora’s box unlocking the Strip: DOA.
Legal Department: What the Hell was that? “unlocking the Strip?” “boxes?”
Me: Comedy, sir.
Legal Department: “Comedy?” No, no, this is not comedy. Comedy is funny, hysterical-type things.
Me: “Hysterical-type things?” We’re requesting you elaborate, sirs.
Legal Department: Antics, dammit! Comedy of error, like the Keystone cops falling down. General wackiness like that.
Me: Falling down? That’s a sight gag. How would anyone see you fall down on a blog post, sir?
Fine. On to the [golf carts] Hybrids and EVs. You can steer the Ford C-MAX Energi with one pinky. (Legal Department: No you can’t. Two hands on the wheel at all times. Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt.) It has an observed top speed of Warp 9. We made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.
Legal Department: [reads the story] This is not official news, you loon. As far as I’m concerned, it didn’t happen.
Me: It did happen.
Legal Department: You shut your mouth!
Legal Department: How can you have the gall to compare our electric vehicles with golf carts… and rear-end “collisions”?
Me: Well, I was– It just comes up. I was trying to be funny.
Legal Department: Funny is good. Funny is good.
Legal Department: But then do it by using comedy and humour… not “hooking into the rough” and “rear end” remarks. Furthermore, you are to stick to linking normal modes of YouTubes… not wild stuff.
Epilogue: After an actual attempt to pass corporate muster on the first pass, and several edits later, our work is scheduled to be posted on the internet, on a legitimate site, and without the usual tears and extortion that usually serve our publicity department so well.
Me: Sir, in my heart, I know I’m funny.
My Editor (after shopping the draft around): We got one email from a man who thought that your “comedy” was “visionary and interesting.” The other eleven hundred emails and texts say that you can’t do comedy to save your dick!… That’s a direct quote, dude.
Post Script. Of course, we’re kidding! The whole experience was great, and we’re grateful for it. Even for getting fact checked like we’re Mitt Romney.