TV URBAN LEGEND: Bob Dylan nearly did a sitcom for HBO.
Reader Dave S., perhaps knowing of my affinity for Bob Dylan, wrote in with this one, which he heard years ago on Pete Holmes’ You Made it Weird podcast and it is so odd that I had to feature it.
Bob Dylan is one of the most famous musical artists in American history. He recently even won a Nobel Prize for Literature! Since 1988, Bob Dylan has been touring under the unofficial moniker of the “Never Ending Tour,” which simply means that Dylan has toured pretty much constantly since then, almost thirty years now. The longest break he has taken in touring during that period was when he was in the hospital for a heart infection in 1997 for three months. Otherwise, he just tours throughout the world all throughout the year.
Due to his constant touring, Dylan spends a lot of time on tour buses and in hotels and to pass the time, he often watches a lot of films and television shows. Dylan tends to grow obsessed with certain genres and for a while there he was obsessed with the slapstick film comedies of Jerry Lewis. Around this time, Dylan decided that he wanted to do his own slapstick comedy like Lewis.
He then contacted famed comedy writer, Larry Charles, who had recently expanded beyond his acclaimed comedy writing to also become a director of Larry David’s then-new Curb Your Enthusiasm series on HBO, to see if Charles would help him turn his idea in to a pitch for a slapstick TV series for HBO.
The two met and Dylan provided Charkes with a box of writings that Dylan had done on various pieces of hotel room stationery from around the globe, with lines of dialogue on some, character names on others and plot ideas on others still. Charles believed he could bring these ideas together into a sitcom and so the two put together a pitch that they could go to HBO with to pitch the series (amusingly, this was at a point in Charles’ life where he only wore pajamas everywhere, so the two made quite a pail). Charles figured that Dylan would have to go, because Charles figured that the odds were good that HBO would not turn down Bob Dylan face-to-face.
So they go to meet with the HBO executive and he naturally is a huge Bob Dylan fan and tells Dylan how happy he is to meet him. He then tells him that he has a framed pair of tickets to the original Woodstock in his office. Dylan, though, did not play the original Woodstock (he DID play Woodstock II, though). Dylan was so offended that he just turned his back on the entire meeting (Charles’ manager, who was also present, noted that Dylan was acting like a mentally handicapped child).
Shockingly, though, since this was still THE Bob Dylan asking to do a sitcom, HBO still approved the series. However, Dylan was now over it and decided not to do it. Charles’ manager told him to stop working with Dylan, but now that Charles had gotten “on board the Bob Dylan train,” he planned to ride it as long as he could. Charles then co-wrote (with Dylan) and directed a film that Dylan starred in in 2003 called Masked and Anonymous…
It was a bizarre little film.
So, anyhow, the legend is…
STATUS: Amazingly enough, True
Thanks to Pete Holmes and Larry Charles for the information and thanks to reader Dave S. for the suggestion!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
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