INVADER ZIM Fact #20

THE MAN. THE LEGEND. THE MONSTER.

I know I threw an entry focused on the writing for the show just a few days ago, but you really have no say in the matter and it’s not like you’re not a vegetable by now and I enjoy your company so much more now than when you were able to kick and scream and plead for mercy.

You know what, though?  I think that, even if you did still have any of your brain left, you’d give your cries for someone to please come help you escape from “this screaming hell” a rest and actually be pretty interested in what today’s ZIM FACT was about.  Woah…did you just move your pinky?  Hmmm…  Hold on while I go get the power drill.

Now, theeeere…isn’t that so much better?  Yeah, sometimes the brain tries to repair itself by assigning certain functions over to sectors not originally intended to perform said functions.  You read about it now and then, but you rarely see it in action!  Pretty amazing, the workings of the human body.  Either way, I just drilled the fuck outta that thing again, so you should be pretty quiet again.

So what’s today’s post about, the puddle of of mulch in your skull is maybe wondering in blessed silence?

FRANK.  FUCKING.  CONNIFF.

That’s right :  TV’S FRANK!

You don’t have to be a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan to appreciate this, but it’d help.  If you’re not familiar with the man, then you can still play along and laugh and fool your cooler friends into not punching you in the throat for being so out of your element here.

Actually, you know what…you should probably just leave now because, and this is nothing personal, there’s no way you’re gonna fool anybody.  It’s clear we’re coming from two completely different points of reference here, two vastly different social and cultural backgrounds, but you seem like a nice enough person and I’ve seen enough throats punched in today to put up with having to see that happen again anytime soon.  Uh, oh, what’s that?!  LOOK!

Yes, I just punched you in the throat, and yes, I did just deceive you so that I could do so.  I really did intend on helping you get out of here before anything bad happened to you.  Really, I did, but then it hit me just how awful you were for not liking the same stuff I do, and really, it’s like I still did you favor because I’m just one boney little jerk and not several of the friends your pretending to be like using the stockpile of some ex-boyfriend’s interests you’ve skimmed from your time with him.  He only liked you for your ass, you know.  Now go.  Run!  BE FREE!

What?  Speak up, you’re a bit far away now.  Ah, yes, I did throw a bottle at your head from over here.  It was unplanned, but even the back of your head was making me angry, and the bottle was just right there.  You understand.

Moving on – Did you know that Frank Conniff, THE Frank Conniff worked on ZIM?

FACT:

Frank Conniff, THE Frank Conniff worked on ZIM.

As I mentioned before, when the show first went into production, the network needed to be assured of the writing team’s smooth operation, and that meant putting established professionals in place as the show’s head writer.  In time I would end up taking that position, like a skinny Conan sitting upon a throne of lamentations.

I don’t remember just how we came to receive the head writers up to this point, but when we needed another one, the way Spinal Tap constantly needs to replenish drummers, I went through a process of being able to pipe in on just which one looked best suited for the job.

So I get this list of potential writers, and guess whose name is on that list?

That’s right.  SOUPY.  FUCKING.  SALES.

Just below his name, however, was Frank Conniff’s name.  ”Frank Connif!?” I exclaimed, and ran to the offices of the other writers to let them in on it.  Everybody there was crazy about the idea of getting to work with this guy that we all loved from our dorky MST3K obsessed days, and the guy was funny, and was apparently up for being head writer.  Long story short, I decided to go with Conniff and the rest was like waiting for a package of awesome to arrive from Amazon.  Conniff accepted the offer, and signed on.

The day came for Frank to put in his first day as head writer of the show, and I remember that day vividly as the day I got my first kid from that woman’s grocery cart at the Ralph’s Groceries.  The writers were all useless until getting to meet Frank.  I know, I know, it’s not cool to get all crazy about someone just because they’re more recognizable than others, it’s the talent and such that counts, but we were okay with making an exception for Frank.  In our minds he was just this goofy, lovable ball of silliness, and was able to get a fine pomp effect out of his hair.

We, the writers, pretended to need the lounge area for a quick writing meeting, but really we just wanted to be there for when Frank came in so we could welcome him to show and ask him about MST3K and being in space.  Trueheart was in the middle of doing a dance Frank’s character had done during a voodoo segment in his show, dancing on the still blackened spot of carpet where poor ol’ Powers Boothe got sucked down into Hell just months before.  We all got over being creeped out by that spot after I scrawled a happy face on top of it with a bit of white-out.  I drew tinier faces on the little dried blood stains that ringed the dark patch.

Eric realized we were no longer staring at him when he saw that our faces were looking to something just beyond him, grinning.  He turned to see what we already saw, Frank Conniff leaning against the wall having just watched the tail end of our little waiting party.  Eric smiled.

I stood up, everyone stood up, and walked to Frank to welcome him.

“Frank!  Sorry about that…we were just talking about you!  Glad to have you!” I said.  He looked exactly how I thought he would, his shocking white hair less towering, but I figured he only did that for the show.  ”Man, I gotta tell you, we all huge fans of-” my words choked off as he grabbed me by the neck and lifted me up along the wall.

“Here’s how it’s gonna go, Candy Boy” he began, his voice the sound of a dump truck unloading tons of shattered human skulls into a gravel pit. “I’m gonna walk into that there office,” he pointed at Trueheart’s office, “and I’m gonna sit down, and I don’t want to hear anything from anyone.”

“Oh…uh…Frank?”  That was Eric.  Conniff turned an eye on him, keeping the other square on me.

Eric took a step back, but continued.  ”That’s my office.”

I could see Conniff’s face redden slightly around the right cheek.  ”Uh, that’s right” I said, managing the best I could to speak with Conniff’s meaty paw around my neck, “Your office is actually across the way, and it’s actually a little nicer than-”

He punched a hole through the wall with his free hand, the sound of it like a shotgun gone off right next to my head.

“I said I’ll take this office, THANKS, and if you say another word about it you can kiss your cunt-dicks whistling dixie.”

“Cunt whats whistling what?” asked Eric.

“SHUT UP, ERIC.  SHUT THE FUCK UP.” I choked out, recognizing immediately that this wasn’t quite the Frank we expected.  This was the real Frank, and Frank was fucking insane.

At that, Frank dropped me to the floor and simply walked into Eric’s office.

Just then Rikki Simons, the voice of GIR and full time color artist on the show, rounded the corner into the lounge area, a dopey smile on his face.  ”Hey, is he here?!” he asked, obviously eager to meet TV’s Frank.

Nobody answered.  Some just looked back at him with frightened expressions, others just at their feet, powering down.

“What’s wro-” was all he managed to get out before Eric’s twelve inch collectibe Dalek toy smashed through his office window facing the lounge, shattering against the wall on the opposite side, bits of metal and plastic embedding themselves.

“WHAT THE F-” Rikki attempted again, silenced by the rest of the window blowing out as Eric’s entire couch flew out, shaking the entire building as it obliterated what remained of the Dalek.

“Yeah…he’s here.” I answered, not waiting for Rikki to successfully get an entire sentence out.

Life with Frank as head writer carried on in a mixture of terrified silences, and moments of terrifying violence.  How was this the same man we all expected to be working with?  How did they ever manage to get him to perform as the cherubic bunch of awesome on that show we all loved?  How?!  This was a man who punched doors open and yelled at the coffee machine until it did what he wanted, even if what he wanted was for it to make him a pie.

A rare writer's meeting photo. Frank in his usual outfit.

Why he came to the office at all made no sense to us at all.  He had little to no involvement in the actual writing operations, choosing instead to simply sit in his office, an office with no ventilation due to Frank’s having plugged up every possible source of air intake or venting with paper that he would chew up and spit out in a soggy mash into every nook and cranny, and smoke his ridiculously huge cigars.  The man had no need for blinds on his repaired office window for all of the thick smoke he’d belch out into the place.

After enough this sort of thing, the writers, sans head writer, decided to gather in secret over in the Cat Dog area, where only the saddest, soulless types worked.  We figured nobody there would have the drive nor the energy to report us for any questionable doings.

“What’re we gonna do, guys?” I asked, looking around at the faces around me, the tired, abused faces of a group of writers who had not known happiness in months.  It was Trueheart who spoke up.

“We have to kill him.”  he said, his face worse than the rest. Frank, for whatever reason, had taken the most dislike to Eric, and the months had been unkind to the guy.  One of the only things that would get Frank out of his office was a need to relieve himself.  The restroom was solely for urinating, a detail we all found oddly conventional considering his other function, ejections of demonically foul solid waste, was reserved for a corner in Eric’s new office.  Poor Eric had given up trying to clean that corner up entirely, as each time he tried, Frank would simply go into that office on his next visit and fill it up with exactly the same amount of horror that would have been there had Eric not tried to remove it.  It was like Conniff had a wormhole piped directly into some unending source of whatever that stuff was.  It sure as shit wasn’t shit, as you could hear people screaming inside of it.

“LET THAT BE A LESSON TO YOU”  he’d say to Eric as he’d leave the office, and Eric, sobbing while hunched over his laptop, still writing, still trying to write.

So of course it was Eric who spoke up first, Eric who wanted this nightmare to end.

We sat there, hidden behind strange cubicles, near a guy drawing props for Catdog and dreaming of shooting himself in the head, and went over how to kill a thing we didn’t even understand.  We had come to no solid conclusions other than that we al wanted this man dead and out of our lives.  TV’s Frank was a wonderful man, but that was just a character.  What we were dealing with wasn’t that man. Perhaps it wasn’t even a man at all.

The smell.  We all looked up, at one another and at the ambiguous office spaces around us.  There was a smell, a smell like hell cracked open and leaking through, that same smell that’d hit you in the face when Frank would choose to leave his office and let out some of that terrible smoke.  We all stood up and looked to the main hall that fed into this square of cubicles.  What we saw was a wall of smoke pushing through, moving down that hallway, and every now and then some evil flare of orange light at its core, driving that wall forward from within.

At the mouth of that hallway closest us, the smoke simply obeyed some unnatural law and stopped, and the orange glow, the cigar, and the man gripping it in his teeth stepped out to join us.

“You think you can kill ME?”  Frank accused, not asked.  He removed the cigar from his teeth slowly, then threw it straight up into the paneling covering the ducts above.  The studio was built on the cheap, with all of the money going into the cartoon character statues that lined the top of the building, and the rest being made from balsa wood.  the ceiling was all fire and sparks, and Frank never looked more like the devil himself than in that moment.

“WHAT DO YOU WANT?!!” cried, Eric.  ”WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT, TV’S FRANK?!!”

“Me?  Do I have to want anything? You huddle here, trying to understand what you just can’t.  Sometimes the butter’s just not on the muffins.”

“What?” I asked.

“See?”  Frank said, a smug look on his face.

“No, I don’t.  I actually don’t know what that could-”, and then I shut up, watching Eric run past me toward this monster that had turned his office into the unhappiest place on Earth.

“Looks like one of you finally got some balls to go with his snatchies.” Conniff  said as he held his arms out wide to accept the coming challenge.

“THAT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHH”  Eric screamed as he drove his head into Conniff’s stomach, moving the man not so much as an inch.  The sound Trueheart’s neck made as it twisted from the impact  made us all cringe.  Conniff laughed and with both hands simply shoved Trueheart through an empty cubicle.

We knew Eric was okay for now by the way he screamed out that he was dying.  Our attention was focused on Conniff, who just went on chuckling, his voice mingling with the rumble of the flames, one and the same, all burning and madness.

“I only wish I could stick around to enjoy what you think any of this meant.”  he said, pulling another of those damned cigars from his pocket.  The prop artist poked his head out from his cubicle, looking for an opening to escape.  We all saw him moving slowly behind Frank, making towards the hallway, but Frank just went on calmly handling that cigar, cutting off the ends and acting like everything was just fine and dandy.  At least one of us would get out of here alive, one of us who wasn’t a Frank.

Conniff spun faster than I would have imagined possible and did what I could only describe as ‘an Elvis move’, cocking his fingers like guns and snapping his head as though making some funky, soulful point.  The prop guy’s head went up like a torch and he began to fall.  Frank easily stepped up and caught the dying man by the throat, lighting his cigar on the man’s blazing, screaming head.

Frank walked to the hallway.  He didn’t turn around, didn’t look at us.

“I’m done with this place.  It’s been fun.”

He turned the corner, and we never saw him again.

I’m not going to say that there’s a message here, or that I understand what any of it means at all.  Some shit…some shit just happens, and you either do what you can to block it out or just accept it the way you accept storms or illnesses.

Frank Conniff came and went.  Frank Conniff the storm, the sickness upon our world.  is he gone forever?  I don’t know, but I sure as hell hope he’s someone else’s problem and not mine.

–ZIM FACTS. Here’s why—