Charlie’s career hit the skids. One day, he was 28 years old, playing the teenaged older brother to a Miley Cyrus-type on a hit Disney Channel tween comedy; the next day, that show got cancelled, the tween queen did her first topless scene, and Charlie was unemployed. That was Hollywood.

It was never exactly his dream to play the goofy older brother on a comedy where the writing was so bad he needed to take Ativan to come to work. But he was young-looking, short, skinny, and lacked a Brad Pitt-body or a George Clooney-face. He took what he could get. And for several years, that insipid Disney shit paid the bills.

He rebounded with a guest spot on Law and Order, a nice one-off. A few more bills paid. Then he played a bad boy on a Netflix series about a college-aged serial killer. His character was killed. Finally, he made the transition to film. Well, if you call a Canadian shark movie where the characters get picked off one by one in really obvious ways—like by going into the water where everyone knows the shark is—“film,” then yes, Charlie transitioned to film.

Forgettable. That’s what his career became. So when his agent, in lieu of dumping him, suggested—without irony—that Charlie might consider making, and surreptitiously releasing, a sex tape, Charlie poured himself a tall scotch and gave the idea serious consideration.

“Try to get that girl from Disney,” his agent said, referring to the actress whose brother Charlie had played. “That would be some kinky shit. High curiosity factor.”

“Are there any actors who released sex tapes and then went on to have a career renaissance?” Charlie asked.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” his agent reminded him.

Charlie heard that Austin Taylor-Routledge, his onscreen little sister, was in rehab, and thus not available for a project that would definitely force the Disney Channel lawyers to draft an injunction. But he did manage to recruit an ex-girlfriend, Tara Gottlieb, whose career so far had ricocheted from a contestant on The Bachelor to one of those suitcase girls on Deal or No Deal. No one had seen Tara for a while, and she too was desperate for a comeback.

They hired a company—surprisingly easy to find—to shoot the sex tape, and it wasn’t even a horrible experience, considering Charlie and Tara were paying for it out of pocket.

“This film will really come together in the editing room,” the “director,” a 23-year-old named Griff, told them.

The sex tape came back a couple months later, and it didn’t look half-bad. Charlie was all set to let it slip onto the Internet. But in a plot twist worthy of Hollywood, he was suddenly hired as a lead on a new Amazon detective series. He shelved Charlie Wilson’s Whore.

Tara Gottlieb received no callbacks over the next few months, so she decided to release the sex tape herself. It was either that or head back to Wisconsin.

So Charlie, on his first invite to The Tonight Show in quite some time, found himself with two new projects to plug.

The day of the taping, he smoked a lot of marijuana. Talk shows always made him nervous. He knew Fallon was going to ask about the sex tape. It would come at the end of the bit, after they had discussed the detective show. Charlie even thought maybe he would take the humble, serious angle, and tell everyone—on television—that sometimes actors made hard career choices to stay relevant.

Charlie smoked more weed backstage, while Jimmy Fallon read his thank-you notes. The P.A. tasked with retrieving Charlie shook her head at the cloud of smoke in the guest dressing room. Charlie wobbled down the hall toward the stage.

“My next guest,” Jimmy Fallon said, jettisoning his thank-yous, “you might remember from the Disney Channel hit series, Austin’s First Crush(es). Now, all grown up and starring in the new Amazon Prime drama The Texas Roadhouse Murders, Charlie Wilson!”

No matter what the trajectory of your career, no matter how bad the mistakes, or how deep the trenches, no feeling was more revitalizing than the elation of applause from a studio audience. Charlie strode out onto the stage, shook hands with his old buddy Jimmy, waved at the crowd, and felt like a walking orgasm. He floated down into the guest chair.

“Good to have you back, man,” Fallon said. “It’s been a while.”

“Yes, it has,” Charlie said. “Good to be here.”

“You’ve been busy. Well, we know you’ve been busy, and we’ll get to that. But first, tell us about The Texas Roadhouse Murders.”

“Yeah,” Charlie said. “Texas Roadhouse Murders is a true-crime series—”

“Based on true events?”

“Inspired by true events. I guess there was a, ah, pretty grisly multiple-murder at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant a few years ago. Like six people were killed. They found a waitress’s head in the oven—”

“Charlie, please, Texas Roadhouse will pull their ads!”

The audience laughed.

“I’ve never eaten there,” said Charlie.

“Oh, dear God, neither have I. So you play…”

“I play Holt Smith. Not the lead detective, but the lead’s partner. I’m brought in because- not to spoil anything, I hope—but my character dealt with a very similar crime earlier in his career.”

“The Longhorn Steakhouse murders?”


“Now, Texas Roadhouse Murders comes out this week.”

“Yes, I’m very excited.”

“We have a clip here. Do you want to set this up for us, Charlie?”

Charlie spaced on what the clip was going to be, but he stuttered through it for a moment, then remembered. “So…this is Mark and I—”

“Mark Hamill plays the lead.”

Someone in the audience cheered.

“Mark Hamill is back, ladies and gentlemen,” Charlie said. “Fresh off his Star Wars resurgence. Mark plays the brooding lead detective with a dark secret in his past, and I play his edgy, somewhat unpredictable partner. In this clip, we’re bracing the first suspect, a guy who worked at the Texas Roadhouse, and his girlfriend broke up with him, so he’s angry—”

“His girlfriend broke up with him, so he might have murdered six people?”

“Right,” Charlie said. “It was a hard break-up.”

“He should have just gone to Ben and Jerry’s and murdered a pint of Chocolate Cherry Garcia.”

“That sounds pretty good right now…”

“Let’s show the clip.”

He always felt ridiculous watching clips, especially with hard-boiled dramas. Here you were with Fallon, laughing and joking, and then you’re onscreen growling at some extra, with blood all over the walls. There was always that awkward pause when the clip was over, when the audience just hung there for a moment, then started cheering, as if on some level they couldn’t handle the extreme changes of tone.

When it was over, everyone cheered.

“Texas Roadhouse Murders,” Fallon said. “Premiering this Thursday on Amazon Prime. Ten episodes in the series. I can’t wait to see what sort of meat shows up hanging in the freezer. And speaking of meat, Charlie, I want to ask you about another little project you’ve got coming out.”

The audience began to chuckle.

“Do you have to use the word ‘little?’” Charlie asked.

“Well, I don’t know, I haven’t seen, ah, this particular film, Charlie,” Fallon said. “But we might as well talk about it; everyone else is. You released a sex tape.”

Charlie felt himself flush. Thank God he’d smoked so much weed. He gave an effusive shrug.

“Let’s just say it’s not available on Amazon,” Charlie said.

“Now, I want to ask you,” Fallon said. “Because you’re not the first actor, obviously, to make a sex tape and then have it escape into the public arena. What, if I may ask, compels a celebrity—like yourself—to make a sex tape?”


“It’s like there’s some back-alley studio producing everyone’s sex tapes!”


“Does Mark Hamill have a sex tape?”

The lone audience member cheered again.

“I don’t know—”

“What’s going through your mind when you’re making this?” Fallon asked.

Charlie took a deep breath. “What’s going through my mind? Same thing as on any set, Jimmy: I want everything to look good.”

“Does everything look good?”


“We have a clip here—no! I’m just kidding. We haven’t sunk to that level. Yet.”

Someone in the audience catcalled.

Charlie stared at the floor. Fallon was really having a time with this. He wasn’t the third- or fourth-most-popular late night talk show host for no reason.

“I can give you a preview,” Charlie said.

“A sneak peek?”

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, Charlie told himself.

“That’s nice of you, Charlie, but actually we have to break—”

“It’s no problem,” Charlie said, standing up. “Everybody want a preview?”

A couple of people in the audience hooted encouragingly, perhaps because they thought Charlie was joking. Charlie unzipped his pants.

“Charlie, buddy—”

No one would ever forget the name Charlie Wilson. He would be the actor who whipped it out on The Tonight Show. Charlie decided to do the full Monty, dropping trou and thrusting his pelvis toward the audience. Fallon sat there with his mouth hanging open. The crowd started cheering. And Charlie felt super high, not just on weed, but on his own fatalistic courage.

Then everyone started laughing. It began as one or two awkward giggles, but soon progressed to full-bellied, deep-throated guffaws. Charlie glanced down at himself. Perhaps it was stage fright, or shrinkage from sitting in the guest chair with his legs crossed, but this evening’s performance, so to speak, was not a standout.

The audience exploded with laughter. Women wiped tears from their eyes.

The last thing Charlie noticed, before Fallon’s security guards dragged him offstage, was how many cell phones were pointed at him.


The backlash was swift and immediate. Amazon released The Texas Roadhouse Murders on schedule, but the day of the release Charlie was informed, via his agent, that his contract would not be renewed for season two, if there was a season two. The premier episode of season one garnered way more viewers than anyone expected, however, and Amazon reneged. Then viewership plummeted, as the show proved to be terrible, and they re-fired him.

Mark Hamill was not pleased, especially when all the questions on his own promo tour focused solely on Charlie’s exhibitionism. The star of Star Wars had his publicist send Charlie’s agent an email inviting Charlie Wilson never to contact Hamill again for any reason.

Charlie’s agent also informed him that “offers had dried up,” perhaps a snarky reference to the sex tape itself, where drying up, as seen from numerous camera angles, had not been a concern.

The brunt of the fallout landed on Tara Gottlieb. Scores of men with small penises wiggled out of the woodwork. They bombarded her social media with diminutive dick pics. She was forced to change her phone number. Twice. Lonely perverts showed up outside her apartment, waving their tiny offerings. Jimmy Dean Foods asked if she would become the spokesperson for their new line of miniature snack sausages. Eventually, her publicist had to release a statement, informing the public that “Tara was taking time off from her career to focus on her personal life.” The marriage proposals rolled in.

The Internet, however, loved Charlie’s stunt. The memes and GIFs were literally endless. Hundreds of new Charlie Wilson fan sites appeared. Charlie was hailed as “the hero of the little man.” Imitators started whipping it out all over the place, filming the action, and posting it, giving rise to the pop culture phenomenon known as “Charlieing.”

Charlie had known career doldrums before. Now it appears he had run aground. The whole ship was coming apart. Oil was leaking into the Pacific. People laughed at him whenever he went out in public. Fans asked him to sign printed screenshots of his own penis. The Disney Channel publicly denounced him.

Finally, he knew what he must do: end the madness with a public apology. He begged his agent to request another talk show appearance, any talk show, daytime or late night. The first reply came from Conan O’Brien, who had gleefully made fun of Charlie Wilson many times throughout Charlie’s career and had once even invited him on to mock him to his face. Perfect, Charlie thought. The Texas Roadhouse Murders’ ratings were in the dumps; Tara Gottlieb was hiding somewhere, fritzed on Prozac; Charlie’s parents had moved out of Los Angeles; there was nothing to lose.

He showed up to the Conan taping in his best suit. He did not smoke any marijuana. When he was called up onstage, following an interview with Corey Feldman, he waved at the audience through all of their elated laughter. He sat proudly down in the guest chair.

“Charlie Wilson, everyone!” Conan shouted. “The man who put the ‘wood’ in Hollywood, here tonight to set the record straight. Charlie, it’s nice to have you with us.”

“Thank you for having me, Conan.”

“Before we even start, can we first just make sure your zipper is all the way up? Your belt secured?”

“No need to inspect my pants, Conan,” Charlie said. “I’ve learned my lesson.”

“Thank God. And I was going to make Andy inspect your pants.”

“I still could,” said Andy Richter.

“So let me ask you, Charlie,” Conan said. “What has been the worst thing that’s happened to you since this whole scandal broke? If the Internet is any indication, things have been pretty rough for you.”

“I don’t go on the Internet,” Charlie said. “Anymore.”

The audience laughed.

“I thought things had finally started to die down,” Charlie said. “Then I was in Starbucks last week, and the woman behind me was talking to her friend, and I heard her say the last three guys she dated turned out to be ‘Charlies.’”

“’Charlies?’ Meaning they had small penises?”

“I guess so.”

“That’s not what you want to hear when you’re trying to enjoy your caramel macchiato.”

“Then I got to the counter and the barista asked me what size I wanted. I said I wanted a ‘Charlie.’ And she knew what I meant.”

Conan laughed. “At least people aren’t calling them ‘Conans’ anymore,” he said. “Finally, I can go on lifestyle cruises with a little dignity.”

“You’re welcome.”

“So everyone wants to know, Charlie,” Conan said, waving his hands above his head. “What were you thinking?”

“I’m not really sure—”

“Was it cold at The Tonight Show?” Andy Richter asked.

“That’s why we keep it so cold in the studio,” Conan said. “To discourage guests from Charlieing.”

“Is that a big problem?” Charlie asked.

“It was for Corey Feldman,” said Andy.

The audience cheered.

“Okay,” Conan said. “We’ve all been having some fun, um, at your expense, Charlie. But we understand you’ve come on tonight to make amends.”

“Listen,” Charlie said. “Everyone makes mistakes. We live in an age of cameras, and the temptation to use them for slippery purposes can be overwhelming. My choice to make a sex tape was an act of desperation. Most people don’t know how hard this business is. If you disappear from public view, your career is over. A lot of actors complain publicly about the tabloids and the paparazzi, but the secret truth is that those media outlets often help actors’ careers. If nobody’s making up things about you, it’s because you’re irrelevant. My career was on the rocks. I don’t have a college degree, Conan. I have nothing to fall back on.”

“Just a poor, lowly TV star.”

“I’m not asking for sympathy,” Charlie said. “I’m just telling everyone how it is. We don’t all get Tom Cruise money. For most of us, every project could be the last. I was willing to try anything.”

“And now you’re sorry.”

“Well,” Charlie said. “Here’s the thing. I am sorry. I’m sorry everyone in this country is so obsessed with body image. We all know women in Hollywood are held to terrible standards. But so are men. Men shouldn’t be judged, or shunned, or made fun of at Starbucks, just because they have small penises.”

“I agree,” said Andy Richter. “Some of us are proud of our size.”

“You, Andy?” Conan said.

“I’m a Charlie,” Andy Richter said. “I don’t care who knows.”

The audience cheered. Sort of.

“I was going to come out here and make a public apology,” Charlie said. “But instead, I’ve brought a little—no pun intended—gift, for everyone in the audience.” He turned to the studio audience. “If you each look under your chair tonight, you’ll find a special gift from Charlie Wilson to each and every one of you. Just like on Oprah.”

Conan O’Brien looked around, genuinely confused, as everyone in the audience reached beneath their seats. One by one, they peeled 8 by 11-inch glossy photos off the bottoms of their chairs. A wave of gasps swept through the crowd.

“What’s going on?” Conan cried.

“I snuck in before the taping,” Charlie said. “Check your chair, Conan.”

Laughter cackled from the audience. Gingerly, Conan O’Brien reached beneath his chair. He pulled out a glossy photograph.

“Oh my God!” Conan screamed. “What is this?”

“It’s my dick,” Charlie said. “You just got Charlied.”