As I’ve written here in the past, I’m a big fan of the ongoing, limited-series Miracle Workers, created by Simon Rich. The comedy stars Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi, with a wonderful supporting cast, most notably (for my taste) Geraldine Viswanathan, an Australian with a down-to-earth, sardonic, bone-dry comedy style and impeccable American accent. The first season was so successful that they’ve since done two more years – totally different stories and genres, but the same cast.
(The first year was about a hapless angel played by Radcliffe who tries to enlist the help of other angels to save Earth from a bored, annoyed, somewhat infantile God, played by Buscemi, who instead wants to move on to his next project for the universe, building a floating restaurant. The second season took place during Medieval times, and the third year was in pioneer days along the Oregon Trail.)
While I thought the first season was the best – smart, goofy, very funny and offbeat – I’ve enjoyed all three years greatly. And they’ve all been based on short stories by Rich. He was a long-time writer for Saturday Night Live, and among other things created the series Man Seeking Woman based on his book; wrote an HBO Max movie starring Seth Rogen, An American Pickle, based on his short story; and upcoming wrote the screenplay for the just-completed Wonka, about a young Willy Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet. He’s written two novels and six collections of short stories.
I mention his literary works as the jumping off point for this posting today. Last year, my friend Treva Silverman (two-time Emmy-winning writer for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, to give credit where it’s due…) sent me the link to a short story that Simon Rich had just written for the New Yorker magazine. I don’t think she even knew how much I loved the Miracle Workers series, she just found the story wonderful and really funny and thought I would like it. She was right all around. It’s a hoot. I never sat down to write about it here – and it slipped my mind for a while, but I came across my notes about it, and with the holiday weekend upon us, now seemed a good time.
The piece is a detective story, written in the vein of a Raymond Chandler hard-boiled, 1940s investigator, although (being Simon Rich) with an odd twist: the detective is a two-year old infant. And his client is an even-younger girl who mysteriously showed up at the house a year earlier and wants him to find her missing stuffed toy. It’s titled, “The Big Nap.”
Just to give you a sense of it, here’s some of the opening chapter from near the beginning –
He wasn’t sure about a lot of things. The only thing he knew was he was tired. Tired of this down-and-dirty life. Tired of trying to make sense of a world gone mad.
The client was waiting for him in his nursery. He’d seen her around before. She’d come onto the scene about a year ago, moving into the white bassinet down the hall. Some people called her Sweetheart. Others called her Pumpkin. But most people knew her by her full name: Baby Anna. She looked innocent enough, with her big, wide eyes and Princess Elsa onesie. But her past was murky. The detective had heard that she came from the hospital. But there was also a rumor that she’d once lived inside Mommy’s tummy. It didn’t add up. Still, a job was a job.
“So, what brings you here?” the detective asked.
“It’s Moomoo,” Baby Anna said. “She’s missing.”
The detective rolled his eyes. Moomoo went missing all the time. That was just the kind of unicorn she was. “Maybe she’s under your bassinet,” he said.
“I checked,” she said. “She’s not.”
Her eyes filled with tears. He handed her a tissue, but she didn’t know what a tissue was, so she put it in her mouth and tried to eat it.
“Please,” she said. “Moomoo’s all I have in the whole world.”
“Lost toys are small-time,” the detective said. “Why should I bust my ass to find some unicorn who’ll probably just turn up under the radiator?”
“Because I can pay you up front.”
It’s really a joy, wildly clever, and holds up as the mystery develops. I can’t swear that the charm, wit and quirkiness will be to everyone’s taste, but it sure was to mine. Links to the final two parts are at the top of the first chapter, but to make things easier for you, here are all three episodes.
Chapter 1 is here.
Chapter 2 is here.
Chapter 3 is here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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