chris atchison/metro toronto
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Who knew that getting fired by Woody Allen would open so many doors for a young actor?
Certainly not Annabelle Gurwitch, who was dismissed by the neurotic director while working on the off-Broadway play Writer’s Block in 2003.
Gurwitch, a comedian and actress best-known for hosting TBS’ Dinner And A Movie, was devastated after being jettisoned by one of her comic idols.
But rather than wallowing in her unemployed misery, Gurwitch found inspiration and decided to write a book about what it’s like to get canned.
To put a reader-friendly twist on the theme, Gurwitch invited a range of her friends and show business colleagues to contribute their stories of workplace replacement.
The result was a collection of stories called Fired!, which has since spawned a documentary of the same name.
Gurwitch pulled together a diverse range of luminaries from former Clinton-era U.S. labour secretary Robert Reich, to comedians Tim Allen, Andy Dick and Sarah Silverman.
"The event itself was so small, but it was really just a catalyst for this whole project," Gurwitch says of being relieved of her duties alongside Woody Allen.
Fired! covers all of the new-age corporate terms for dismissal including downsized, made redundant, out-placed, outsourced, remaindered, recalled and the non-confrontational, "It’s just not working out."
Gurwitch’s favourite term is one she heard from a woman in Scottsdale, Az., whose boss told her she was being "unexpectedly leisured."
While these terms seem benign, Gurwitch feels they make a strong statement about the influence of major corporations on the workplace.
"I think the most corporate-ism is out-placed because it makes you sound like you’re going somewhere other than home to start drinking.
"I think it reflects the corporatization of our world where things are meant to sound impersonal and nicer than they are."
Whatever the term, for those who have felt the wrath of the pink-slip, getting axed is still a painful experience and one that Gurwitch hopes her book and documentary will help people overcome.
"My hope is that when people would hear the stories of other accomplished and well-known people, they wouldn’t feel so alone. Because that is really what I found the most common experience — people think they’re the biggest loser — when everyone’s been fired. At that moment when you’re fired, you feel isolated."
- Fired! is in theatres today.