When you go out to brunch with Terry Sweeney, expect the world around you to reorganize itself into a truly entertaining "Saturday Night Live" skit.
And not just because Sweeney used to be on "SNL."
People at the restaurant in Beaufort where we met Sunday might not have recognized the comedy writer and actor known for his sassy portrayals of Nancy Reagan in the mid-1980s, but the waitstaff certainly seemed to know he was Someone.
Here's what happens when the waitstaff certainly seems to know you are Someone:
A rotation of five servers will check on you every minute and a half.
And then they will stand and smile for 5 to 30 seconds more.
Sometimes they'll appear alone.
Other times, they'll be accompanied by a backup.
One time the backup will also bring a backup.
When the waitstaff knows you're Someone, you'll be given plates for the buffet.
Then you'll be given other plates for the buffet.
Then you will find that the buffet already has plates.
One server will give you two big empty glasses.
A minute and a half later, another server will take them away from you because "they aren't polished."
You will be asked about pre-meal bread three times.
At one point you will find yourself with a total of four napkin-rolled sets of utensils between the two of you.
This will be hastily fixed.
Then two extra forks will appear.
The chef will come out.
Finally, a server will ask the question.
"You look really familiar ..."
I met with Sweeney to talk about his new book -- his first book and definitely not his last book -- "Irritable Bowels and The People Who Give You Them."
It's a medical book that finally tells you the truth about why your stomach hurts -- especially around your family.
I'm kidding. "Irritable Bowels" is a short and raucous collection of stories from Sweeney's childhood, his adulthood and his eventual Beauforthood.
"It's a short book," he said, "so that people will actually want to read it."
And, boy, do I love a book that only takes a few hours on a Sunday.
And, boy, did I love this book.
Not that I should be surprised. Alec Baldwin, Margaret Cho, Jane Lynch and Pat Conroy said I would.
Conroy, in his foreword, even said he laughed out loud while reading it.
"Yeah, yeah," I said when I picked up the book. "We'll see about those Conroy standards for humor."
I lasted but a few pages before dying at Sweeney's memory of being asked to write a movie for the Lifetime Network about a serious story: a lone female firefighter facing adversity in an all-male station.
They're interested in him, a comedy writer, Sweeney thought, so they must want ... a comedy?
"Let me level with you, ladies. There's not one laugh in this thing so far," he told the network executives before pitching some plot lines that might liven it up, including one in which the protagonist is a prostitute with a heart of gold.
"We could call it 'A Change of Hose' ... or 'Hooker and Ladder.'"
I won't give away the ending, but let's just say that his business lunch ended swiftly.
I wonder how many waiters they had ...
Sweeney and his husband, Lanier Laney, moved from Los Angeles to Beaufort in the mid-2000s to live among people who would delight them as opposed to people who would say "I'm looking for a Terry Sweeney TYPE, not an actual Terry Sweeney."
Laney and Sweeney are longtime writing partners and worked on shows such as "SNL," "MADtv" and "Tripping the Rift."
They also wrote "Shag: The Movie." (Which makes them partially responsible for my own move to South Carolina because I adore that movie.)
One of my favorite stories in "Irritable Bowels" is the one about how Sweeney came to be employed at "SNL."
First, I will put the story in simple terms: He wanted to work there. So he did.
Second, I will tell you how he made that happen: The man wrote sketches. Then he went to 30 Rock. Then he saw there was security. Then he saw a delivery boy holding sandwiches walk past security. Then he went to the deli. Then he bought all the sandwiches he could afford.
Then he got past security by pretending to be a delivery boy bringing lunch to "SNL."
Yes, he basically stole a plot from "Bugs Bunny" to get ahead in life.
It's no wonder this man knows how to make people laugh.
When Sweeney and Lanier were looking at places to live in South Carolina, they first hit up Charleston, but found that the homes in their price range left a lot to be desired.
"They said 'Oh. This neighborhood will turn around,'" he told me between our waitstaff visits Sunday. "I was like, 'Yeah. Turn around and stab me.'"
So Beaufort it was, and Sweeney hasn't looked back since.
In fact, Beaufort -- and you might want to flip through the book to see if you're one of the people who give him irritable bowels -- is why his book came to fruition.
Turns out, when you tell your Southern neighbors and friends that you're working on a writing project, your Southern neighbors and friends will ask you about it until you either leave town for good so you never have to see them again or until you finally write the thing.
"I would go to the store and people would say 'How's that book coming?'" he told me.
Then he cupped his mouth for an aside before laughing.
"'It's a book, not a grocery list, sister.'"
IF YOU GO
Terry Sweeney, author of "Irritable Bowels and the People Who Give You Them," will sign books from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at a launch party at Newcastle Cottage, 415 Newcastle St., Beaufort (just behind The Rhett House Inn).
- Farrell: When your boss is a dog, you better be OK having chicken, Oct. 27
- Farrell: Hilton Head Island restaurant owners help keep Italian-Americans fed and happy, Oct. 26
- Farrell: Behind the scenes at Pat Conroy exhibit in Beaufort, Oct. 21