Story by Gordon Mitchell
Directed by Gus Trikonis

Original Airdate - March 28, 1986
Tim Thomerson - Billy Diamond
Ray Buktenica - Max
Xander Berkeley - Dave
Jim McKrell - Marty



A funny comic name Billy Diamond, who is not a nice man, ends up doing his act all night, every night, in Hell, where it's always night.   Billy thinks of no one but himself.  When he's killed in a car crash, while struggling with the comic he stole some jokes from, he's not quite sure at first what's happened to him.  His agent in Hell, who is the first person he meets there, is happy to tell him that he's dead.  He also has to audition to find out where he'll be spending his time in Hell.  When he goes on stage to start his act, there is only one man out in the audience, but silently other people start to appear.  His jokes are bombing, but a voice from the audience, which sounds suspiciously like Billy's voice, asks him to tell them about the comic he stole the joke from.  The terrible story gets a laugh from the audience. 

Gradually we see that the worse his story gets, about what he's done in his life to others, the more the audience likes it.  When he's asked about his mother, he shouts "No!", but the crowd pushes him.  He says he couldn't get along with the old lady, so she went back to Detroit, and froze to death because she couldn't pay her heating bill.  At the end of this the crowd starts cheering and clapping; Billy is emotionally wrung out.  Suddenly he's back with his agent, who tells him he did great.  He's booked in the room for two eons.  Billy has to confess all the bad things he's done every single day, forever. 



"Take My Lifeā€¦Please!" would be nothing without Tim Thomerson in the lead role.  It would still be a superior episode, but just not as special as it is.  Another actor who is dreadfully underused, he deserved to be much more successful that he is.  I'm a big fan of "Trancers," the futuristic cop film he made one year before this new Twilight Zone segment, and I absolutely adored him in "Quark."  Here he's a low-down scoundrel who cares about nothing but himself, and he does it well.  For the ten minutes he's on stage he runs through an entire range of emotions and at the end is exhausted, which we can visibly see. 

The story was written by Gordon Mitchell, who did almost three dozen other TV series and a few films.  But it seems he was much more famous as a jazz player who played with greats like Benny Goodman, Pete Rugolo, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, and many others.  With that kind of background, he may have known several people like Billy Diamond, and they may have inspired this story. 

Ray Buktenica plays his agent, who is funny and pompous. He's got some very good lines and he plays them all well. An honorable mention goes to the woman playing the drummer while Billy is on stage.  Her antics add to the performance.

The lighting in this segment is particularly effective.  Deep shadows at the back of the club, with the patrons highlighted but not completely recognizeble, and the bright blue of the spotlight on stage, create an intimate setting for the story.  When Billy and his agent are standing in what looks like the only hall in Hell, since dozens of people walk by them, they're hit by a spotlight which shows all the crags on Billy's face, making him look as old as Methusaleh.

This is one of the best of the series, and shows that the new Twilight Zone was settling into its own rythym and gaining confidence.