Amarillo native Todd Briscoe survived 'Hotel Barf' and thrived with book, TV deals
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
(A well-coiffed Southern woman approaches the desk)
GUEST: For the thing in Times Square tonight… (leans in) Do they really drop an actual ball?
CONCIERGE: Yes, they do.
GUEST: Cuz we only ever watched it on TV. We didn’t know if that was real or not.
CONCIERGE: Yes, ma'am, it’s real. It’s a crystal covered ball, and it drops in Times Square.
GUEST: I just don’t know if I believe that.
CONCIERGE: (wanted to say) You caught us. It’s all a hoax. It was commissioned by the U.S. government and shot by Stanley Kubrick in Los Angeles. Please, ma'am, don’t tell the Russians.
CONCIERGE: (actually said) Yes, ma'am, it’s all real.
GUEST: I just don’t know that I believe that, Thanks, though.
That's a sample of the hilarious Tumblr How May We Hate You, cowritten by Amarillo native Todd Dakotah Briscoe and New Yorker Anna Drezen, recounting horror stories from their time as concierges at a combined 50 hotels in Times Square.
"It all started off as just us venting on our own private Twitter and Facebook accounts," Briscoe said. "When we realized something was there, we started assembling a blog, and once we had enough posts that we could be fired and still have enough content, we launched it."
Yes, that was a serious concern for a while, Briscoe said, until their employers were assured that customers and hotels alike would be granted anonymity.
Now, both have left the hospitality industry: Drezen is a comic, editor-in-chief of satirical women's website Reductress and writer for Saturday Night Live; Briscoe is a content developer for Little Things and general manager of sketch comedy troupe Political Subversities.
"I think we always thought of ourselves as visitors in the tourism industry," Briscoe said. "We had colleagues who wanted to do that professionally and were wonderful at their job who would never do this because of the fear of not getting another job at another hotel. But we kind of had the outsider's privilege of coming in and observing and being able to leave."
Briscoe, a 2003 graduate of Amarillo High School, attended New York University around the same time as Drezen, though they're not sure if they met there or after college.
"We became Twitter friends ... because we made each other laugh online," Briscoe said.
After several jobs in theater marketing, retail and food service, Briscoe joined Drezen in the hotel industry, though because the company they worked for supplied concierges to so many hotels, they never worked a shift together.
Right away, they saw pitch-black humor from their stations.
"There's this hotel right near Penn Station — in the book we call it Hotel Barf. It's notoriously the worst hotel in New York City, and as some kind of hazing ritual, it's one of the first hotels they train people at," Briscoe said. "There was a group of, I think, Italian tourists who came up and called me a Village Person. I guess it was a homophobic slur, but it was so random that it was hard to be offended by. I would have commented on my ugly tie."
And at that first hotel, "right off the bat, I realized how many people would come up to ask me for my advice and tell me my advice was wrong."
He was already prepared for that kind of disdainful treatment.
"Working retail, there's a bit of it ... (and) I taught preschool for a little bit in Amarillo," Briscoe said. "That really helped me prepare for the public."
Briscoe, who trained at the Amarillo College Theatre School for Children, left the city to study drama, but at NYU, "it became pretty clear to me that I only really liked performing things that I helped create."
"I think that comes from the stuff I did with Linda Hughes because so many of the classes were about making things together and not necessarily script analysis," he continued. "I realized that's what I love about theater — I love making it with people."
He found an easy collaboration with Drezen for the How May We Hate You project, as well.
From the start, the duo saw the material expanding from a website to a book and, eventually, to a television series.
"That's one thing in our favor: We're very driven people," said Briscoe, 31. "Part of the reason it has been so successful is that we've been able to tell the agent, the publisher, 'Here's the plan. Here's where we see it going.'"
The book was first optioned by NBC, which eventually passed, allowing the rights to revert back to the authors.
Now, Kapital Entertainment and CBS are behind a new effort by former Office executive producer Warren Lieberstein to translate it to a multi-camera sitcom.
"Right now, the pilot is being written, and if it sells, that's another step forward for us," Briscoe said. "We're not quite in the casting process, but that doesn't mean people haven't crawled out of the woodwork to ask if they could audition."
Neither Drezen nor Briscoe will be involved in the actual production of the show.
"We decided to forego our rights to run this creatively," he said. "Part of that is because they're scared of people attached to a project like that — we could be difficult people. And we've been doing this for three years and don't want to be pigeon-holed into just this project."
And this could be their last project together, thanks to their growing career opportunities elsewhere.
"We called it an arranged marriage the way we worked together," Briscoe said. "We were in the situation together, and it was just clear and helpful for us to have someone to be accountable to."